Modern Diet & Prana
This article sees us discuss the ‘modern diet & prana’ (or lack of prana in most cases). However, before such, we’ll briefly mention the gunas. According to Yoga and Ayurveda there are three inherent qualities, which on one end can manifest as wisdom (expansion) or at the other end ignorance (contraction). 1: Sattwa (purity); 2: Rajas (activity, passion, the process of change) & 3: Tamas (darkness, inertia). These gunas are extremely subtle qualities of nature that consist of matter, life & mind. Once energy manifests towards form, one quality of the three will begin to prevail. Thus with fresh fruit, some of the fruit is ripe (Sattwic), some already ripening (rajasic) and some overripe (tamasic). But no matter which quality dominates an element of each of the other two will always be present as well. Even if the fruit appears entirely ripe some of it will be rotten, even if not detectable by the naked eye whereas the remainder will be changing from one state to the other.
Everything that exists within this universe can be perceived through various combinations of the three gunas. Evolution depends on the mutual interplay between such & can assist us towards recognising our mental patterns, spiritual nature & our relation to perhaps a bigger picture? The gunas determine our spiritual progress as well as maintain bondage to the external world. So what have they to do with the ‘modern diet & prana’, most are probably wondering by now? Here they will be used to describe certain food groups / types or diets, to give us a general understanding how they affect the physical body & hence pranic field; thereby our thoughts, feelings, emotions & even our spiritual nature.
Sattwic diet – fresh energising foods; pure & wholesome; natural; mildly spiced; savoury; plant based oils; neither over or undercooked: e.g. [organic] sprouted whole grains, fresh fruit, land and sea vegetables, pure fruit juices, nut / seed milk, cheese, legumes, nuts, seeds, sprouted seeds, honey & herb teas. Sattwic foods are highly concentrated with prana & tend to be those which do not agitate your stomach at all.
Rajasic diet – bitter & sour; salty; steaming hot / burning; rich; creamy; hot & spicy: e.g. green chillies / red peppers; sharp spices or strong herbs; stimulants – like coffee & tea; fresh meat of animals & fish, eggs, salt & chocolate. Rajasic foods still contain prana but are more likely to create imbalances within the nervous system due to their stimulating effect; eating too quickly is also considered rajasic & causes indigestion.
Tamasic diet – stale (canned / stored); tasteless; cooked overnight; preserved / fermented foods (vinegar); foul smelling; left-over food; contaminated / overripe substances; onions; garlic; treated meat of animals & fish; alcohol & cigarettes; stimulants. Tamasic food is practically devoid of prana & makes us sluggish, irritated & tired. Overeating is also regarded as tamasic.
As by now you’ll already be aware that the modern diet is predominantly lenient towards a tamasic diet & occasionally rajasic, very rarely sattwic. With the pressures of modern living, most people don’t take time to cook meals with fresh ingredients; the preferred option is reheating prepared meals / pre-cooked meals. Not that this type of food is off in any way but it has already been cooked or prepared, therefore several hours later once cooled it becomes devoid of prana & then either packed or frozen, eventually becoming tamasic (stale & past it’s best). Nowadays we even buy fresh veg & meat but then don’t eat it as such, we then freeze it again!? However, we don’t usually detect how bland this food actually tastes, as our awareness is usually on some form of media or engaging the palette verbally, rather than assimilating food.
Additionally, most prepared or processed food is laced with additives / preservatives / flavourings etc (basically chemicals), which over prolonged periods of time begin to decay within the body & contribute to chronic disease (when combined with lack of exercise, mental stress & tension). Such toxins circulate within the body, irritating the endocrine, nervous & immune systems until secreted.
Dietary supplements with added vitamins / minerals barely provide the body what they require in terms of energy & vitality. These are again chemically processed which could be easily substituted by fresh food alternatives, revitalising the body & providing it with all its various quantities of vitamins & minerals, enzymes, proteins & fats etc – alongside prana. What are we actually doing to the molecular structure of our food? How can it retain its ‘original’ energetic compounds after being stressed by such process e.g. cooking / cooling / freezing / defrosting & reheating – even at times using a ‘mild’ form of radiation to defrost & reheat? (microwave). Why, since these types of foods were introduced & modern methods of cooking changed, have chronic illnesses increased epidemically?
We’re not talking about being a ‘vegan’ or ‘vegetarian’ or even a ‘non-carnivore’; we’re not even encouraging one to become a tree hugging / hippy loving yogi, all we’re suggesting is going back to basics & back to fresh food daily – which ever food we choose to eat. To many none of this may be of any particular concern, but as Yogi’s we strive to incorporate much of the above within our daily dietary requirements; more importantly, increase the prana intake through the foods we eat – which we’ll look at the necessity of next time.
“ Correct diet is a help to the spiritual aspirant at any stage. Diet is as important as yoga. But if you are only concerned with your diet and are not practising yoga, then you are a food fanatic. So, in relation to diet, there is one important point which you must also remember. Consciousness is above diet. Whether you eat fruit, cooked or raw vegetables, cheese, butter, beef or ham, it makes no difference to the consciousness. “ – Swami Satyananda Saraswati