Friday, June 9, 2023

 Food Sadhana: Part 4 of 4

The Sattvic or Yogic Diet

by Gary Gran, CYT, D.Ay.


            Sattva is defined as the quality of purity and goodness. Sattvic food is that which is pure, clean, and wholesome. A sattvic diet is food that gives life, strength, energy, courage, and self-command. In other words, sattvic food gives us more than the gross physical requirements of the right mix of proteins, carbs, and fats, etc. It also gives us subtle nourishment for our vitality and consciousness. Food is seen as a carrier of the life-force called prana. Food is judged by the quality of its prana and by the effect it has on our consciousness.

            These are important considerations in the practice of yoga. Yoga is defined as those practices that lead to “anushasanam”, that is the governing (shasan) of the subtle nature (anu). (Yoga Sutras 1:1) The goal of yoga is described as “chitta vritti nirodha”, the quieting of the mind-field (YS 1:2). Yoga practitioners advocate the use of the sattvic diet to support these subtle aims.

            A beginning practice in both Ayurveda and yoga is to simply observe the effect of each food choice we make. From our experience and awareness, we can begin to make small changes. As we progress in this practice, we can recognize three broad categories called the gunas. Some foods leave us feeling tired and sluggish. This is called the tamasic effect. Other foods leave us feeling agitated or over-stimulated. This is the rajasic effect. The third category belongs to foods that leave us feeling calm, alert, and refreshed. This is the sattvic effect and the basis of the sattvic diet.

            If we persist in this practice, we will arrive at our personal version of the sattvic diet. The Bhagavad Gita describes the sattvic diet as “promoting life, virtue, strength, health, happiness and satisfaction.” (Bhagavad Gita XVII:8) Sattvic foods are “savory, smooth, firm, and pleasant to the stomach.” (BG XVII:8). By contrast the Gita describes the rajasic diet as “excessively pungent, sour, salty, hot, harsh, astringent, and burnt,” leading to “pain, misery, and sickness.” (BG XVII:9) The tamasic foods are described as “stale, tasteless, smelly, left-over, rotten, and foul.” (BG XVII:10)

            The true test of our foods comes when we meditate. All meditators know that there are two main problems. One is falling asleep. This is the tamasic effect. The other is an over-active mind. This is the rajasic effect. If we want to be able to quiet the mind and maintain our alertness to explore our subtle nature, we need to follow the sattvic diet. “When sattva predominates, the light of wisdom shines through every gate of the body.” (BG XIV: 11)

            Although it has been suggested that one can arrive at the sattvic diet through trial and error, it can be most helpful to consider what other practitioners have described as the sattvic diet.

            In general, the sattvic diet consists of pure foods which are rich in prana. Organic foods are therefore recommended for both their purity and vitality. The food should be fresh and freshly prepared. Leftovers are decidedly tamasic. There are some exceptions, but most people understand that if you make a beautiful meal one day and feel great from it, that is no guarantee that you’ll get the same effect or pleasure the next day. 

            Sattvic foods are light (as opposed to heavy) in nature, easy to digest, mildly cooling, refreshing, and not disturbing to the mind. They are best prepared with love and awareness. On this last point, please note that you can take the best food, but if it is prepared or eaten in anger, it will have a disturbing effect. The subtle nature of the food is affected by our emotions and vice-versa. That being said, you can sometimes take less than pure food and bless it to overcome its impurities. Yes, our food affects our mind, but our mind, or what we hold in our mind, also affects our food. The idea ultimately is to absorb that which is nourishing and eliminate that which is not.   

            Pure sattvic food needs to be chewed carefully and eaten in modest portions. Overeating is definitely tamasic. The food should be enjoyed for its inherent taste and quality, not for the amount of spices and seasonings that are added. Too much salt and spice have a rajasic effect. “When rajas predominates, a person runs about pursuing selfish and greedy ends, driven by restlessness and desire.” (BG XIV: 12) The idea, rather, is to refine the sense of taste. This leads to increased pleasure. Indulging oneself in strong flavors fuels desire and leads to over-satiation, the loss of taste and the loss of pleasure.

            Fresh Organic Fruits: Most fruits, including apples, apricots, bananas, berries, dates, grapes, melons, lemons, mangoes, oranges, peaches and plums are considered especially sattvic. Sometimes yogi’s go on fruit fasts when doing a special sadhana, an advanced practice, or have undertaken a vow. Fruit is also considered symbolic of generosity and spirituality and is often exchanged as an offering or a gift. Three dried fruits known as triphala are used to keep the digestive system operating optimally. 

            Fresh Organic Dairy: Dairy is considered controversial these days, but the yoga tradition insists on the value of a wholesome food freely given by the symbol of motherhood, the cow. We need to use the highest quality organic fresh dairy to benefit from its sattvic qualities. Milk, butter, clarified butter (ghee), fresh home-made cheese (paneer), whey, and fresh yogurt (especially lassi) are all recommended. They benefit from careful preparation, and the extra effort to learn the recipes is well worthwhile. For example, milk can be diluted and warmed with mild spices (i.e., fresh ginger, cinnamon and cardamom) and served with raw honey to overcome any mucus-forming tendencies. Traditionally, if a yogi is doing advanced practices, the dairy provides needed lubrication, grounding and nourishment. In fact, dairy along with fruit have been described as the epitome of the sattvic or yogic diet. 

            Nuts, Seeds, and Oils: Fresh nuts and seeds that haven’t been overly roasted and salted are good additions to the sattvic diet in small portions. Good choices are almonds (especially when peeled and soaked in water overnight), coconut, pine nuts, walnuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds. Oils should be of highest quality and cold-pressed. Good choices are olive oil, sesame oil, and flax oil.

            Organic Vegetables: Most mild organic vegetables are considered sattvic, such as beets, carrots, celery, cucumbers, green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes and squash. Pungent vegetables like hot peppers, garlic, and onion are excluded, as are gas-forming vegetables like mushrooms and potatoes. They are considered rajasic and tamasic respectively. Sometimes, the short-comings of these foods can be overcome by careful preparation. An excellent practice is to drink freshly made vegetable juices for their prana, live enzymes, and easy absorption.

            Whole Grains: Whole grains provide excellent nourishment when well cooked. Consider organic rice, whole wheat, spelt, oatmeal, and barley. Sometimes the grains are lightly roasted before cooking to remove some of their heavy quality. Yeasted breads are not recommended unless toasted. Wheat and other grains can be sprouted before cooking as well. Favorite preparations are kicharee (basmati rice cooked with split mung beans, ghee, and mild spices), kheer (rice cooked with milk and sweetened), chapathis (non-leavened whole wheat flat bread), porridge (sometimes made very watery and cooked with herbs), and “Bible” bread (sprouted grain bread). Sometimes yogis will fast from grains during special practices.

            Legumes: Split mung beans, yellow split peas, organic tofu, bean sprouts and perhaps lentils and aduki beans are considered sattvic if well prepared. In general, the smaller the bean, the easier to digest. Strategies include splitting, peeling, grinding, soaking, sprouting, cooking, and spicing. Legumes combined with whole grains offer a complete protein combination.

            Sweeteners: Yogi’s use raw honey (especially in combination with dairy) and raw sugar (not refined) in small quantities.

            Spices: Sattvic spices are the mild spices including basil, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, fresh ginger and turmeric. Rajasic spices like black pepper, red pepper and garlic are normally excluded, but are sometimes used in small amounts to keep the channels open (rajas is used to counter tamas). But beware, taking rajasic spices with tamasic food does not equal sattwa. A teacher once said you are more likely to fall asleep and have restless dreams.

            Supplemental Protein: Yogi’s are advised not to indulge in flesh foods. It is said that the fear and anger of the animal being killed is transferred to the person eating the flesh. Fresh meat is considered rajasic, and old meat is considered tamasic. Another approach is to avoid the flesh of mammals, especially if one is using dairy products. How can one eat the flesh of one’s (symbolic) mother? This approach allows for some high-quality fish, poultry, or eggs. Even then it is recommended to abstain from flesh foods a minimum of three days a week with at least two prolonged periods of abstention from all animal foods every year. Purists rely on dairy for supplemental protein as it is given freely and is considered non-harming. 

            One problem of the vegetarian diet is that it can become too cooling. For this reason, yogis of the Tibetan plateau sometimes include meat for warmth. One can also learn to promote bodily warmth through yoga practices centered on the navel region. An ayurvedic approach is to include warming and strengthening herbs in the diet like ashwagandha, astragalus or ginseng. Special combinations include masalas (based on cumin seed, coriander seed, and turmeric root), hingashtak, draksha and chyavanprash. There are also mineral and ash preparations used called bhasmas. One that is favored in the Himalayas to keep the body warm in cold weather is a preparation of deer antler called sring bhasma.

            Sattvic Herbs: Other herbs are used to directly support the mind and meditation. These include ashwagandha, bacopa, calamus, gotu kola, gingko, jatamansi, purnarnava, shatavari, shankhapushpi, tulsi, saffron and rose.

            According to the Charak Samhita, one of the classic textbooks of Ayurveda, “The persons having the sattvic essence are endowed with memory, devotion, are grateful, learned, pure, courageous, skillful, resolute, free from anxiety, having well-directed and serious intellect and activities and are engaged in virtuous acts.” (CS III-8:110) 

            The ultimate goal of yoga is to pass beyond even sattva however. The Gita tells us “...they are unmoved by the harmony of sattva, the activity of rajas, or the delusion of tamas. They feel no aversion when these forces are active, nor do they crave for them when these forces subside. They remain impartial, undisturbed by the action of the gunas. Knowing that it is the gunas which act, they abide within themselves and do not vacillate. Established within themselves, they are equal in pleasure and pain, praise and blame, kindness and unkindness. Clay, a rock, and gold are the same to them. Alike in honor and dishonor, alike to friend and foe, they have given up every selfish pursuit. Such are those who have gone beyond the gunas.” (BG XIV: 22-25)


Suggested Readings: 

Robert Svoboda: The Hidden Secret of Ayurveda

The Bhagavad Gita

Food Sadhana: Part 3 of 4

Expanding Mindfulness

by Gary Gran, CYT, DAy.


            In Part 1 of this series, we explored the benefits and practice of mindful eating. This time we will expand our mindful eating practice to include all five stages of the nourishment cycle. They are procurement, preparation, eating, digestion and elimination. 

            Procurement: Over the passage of time, procurement of food has evolved from simple gathering and hunting, to growing, manufacturing and retailing food as the end product of an industrialized food chain. We may have no idea where our food comes from or the conditions under which it was grown or processed. 

            A direct way to practice mindfulness of procurement is to grow some of our own food and watch it come into being. This deepens our appreciation of the life-giving power of nature and provides us with the freshest possible food. Ayurveda advocates choosing fresh foods to maximize prana, the life force. 

            Another method is to procure our food from local providers. In this way, we can develop a mutually supportive and mindful relationship with those who grow our food. Sometimes it’s possible to visit their farms and gardens so we can see first hand the conditions under which the food is grown. Ideally, the providers demonstrate their own mindfulness and concern regarding the health of the soil, plants and animals under their care. 

            The industrialized food chain has been criticized for using violent and unnatural methods including poisons in the form of pesticides, additives in the form of preservatives, genetically modified seeds, etc. Ayurveda warns us that we receive the negative fruits of these unwholesome actions when we eat these types of foods. 

            Instead, we are advised to procure natural, wholesome, fresh and pure foods. We recommend using seasonal, fresh, locally sourced and organically certified foods as much as possible, staying informed on your food sources, and learning to read the labels on packaged products. 

            Preparation: Ayurveda recommends preparing food with love. Our love will then pass to those who eat the food. To do this we must make an effort to remain mindful of our own thoughts and mood when preparing food. We first notice our mood without judgment. Then we introduce the intention of being loving. This becomes our focus. 

            Conversely, Ayurveda tells us that even the best quality food can become poison when prepared in anger. Or, if we ever have the chance to observe a kitchen staff during a retreat or at a restaurant, notice their mood while preparing the food. Then notice the mood of the dining room after the meal is served. We may be surprised to find a direct correlation.

            Eating: Before eating, remember with gratitude all the elements that are coming together at that moment as in this traditional Zen reflection: 

“This food is the gift of the entire universe- the sun, the earth, the rains and the work of many hands. 

May we eat in mindfulness so as to be worthy to receive it.”

It may also be helpful to become aware of outer cues that may encourage over-eating. Swami Veda Bharati once said: 

“Your problem in America is big cups and bowls.” Big cups, large portions, fast music and bright colors may unconsciously stimulate us into over-indulging. So take a few moments to relax your body, slow the breath, and calm your mind. Once settled, begin eating mindfully, being aware of each bite or sip.           

            Digestion: Ayurveda teaches that digestion proceeds in three stages. We are advised to practice mindfulness of each stage to notice our tendencies to fall out of balance. These tendencies are called doshas and there is one dosha for each stage of digestion.

            The first stage of digestion begins with tasting the food and ends with the food in the stomach. If we notice a heavy feeling in the stomach, excess mucus or phlegm, nausea or gagging, we have developed kapha dosha. We can then make adjustments to our food choices and eating habits until these symptoms clear up. This usually means avoiding too much of any one thing, not falling into patterns or ruts and eating less food less often.

            The second stage of digestion begins about an hour after eating when food passes from the stomach and travels through the small intestine. If we experience excess heat, heartburn, acid reflux, itching, pimples or a rash we have developed pitta dosha. By noticing the inter-connection between our food choices, our eating habits and our heartburn we are developing the fruit of mindfulness practice - wisdom. We learn that we benefit from moderation and eating calmly with thankfulness, rather than analyzing or criticizing our food.

            The third stage of digestion lasts from about two to five hours after eating when food passes from the small intestine and travels through the large intestine. If we experience excess gas, bloating, twitching and restlessness we have a classic case of vata dosha. We will benefit from avoiding mindless eating and by eating smaller portions on a regular schedule. 

            Elimination: Being mindful of our elimination will also reveal clues as to the state of our doshas. Constipation with gas is the hallmark of vata dosha. Burning diarrhea is the sign of pitta dosha. Watery stools with mucus are the signs of kapha dosha.

            Perhaps the most important mindfulness practice that follows eating is to simply notice the effect of each meal on our mental state using the three gunas - tamas, rajas and sattva - as a gauge. If the meal makes us feel tired and sluggish it is called tamas. If the meal makes our mind race and we feel distracted and unable to focus, it is called rajas. Ideally our mind feels refreshed, clear and bright. This is sattva. 

            To sum up, the practice of mindful eating can be expanded to include all that has come before the meal and all that will come after. By expanding our focus in this way, we can develop greater insight into our health and well-being. Or, as said by Thich Nhat Hanh: “When practiced to its fullest, mindful eating turns a simple meal into a spiritual experience, giving us a deep appreciation of all that went into the meal’s creation as well a deep understanding of the relationship between the food on our table, our own health, and our planet’s health.”


Suggested Readings: 

Swami Veda Bharati: Whole Hearted: Applied Spirituality for Everyday Life

Thich Nhat Hanh: How to Eat

David Frawley: Yoga & Ayurveda


Food Sadhana: Part 2 of 4

Moving Towards a Balanced Diet

by Gary Gran, CYT, DAy.


"In the Ayurvedic tradition it is said: 'If you have a good diet, of what use is a doctor? 

And, if you don't have a good diet, of what use is a doctor?'" - quoted by Dr. Ballantine in 'Radical Healing', page 217


            Many of us eat on the run or simply eat what is convenient. Others try various diet plans with varying results only to go back to our old habits. Or perhaps we consider food as a tedious chore to be gotten over with as quickly as possible. So how do we move towards a balanced diet? And exactly what is a balanced diet? 

            In this article we will attempt to answer these questions according to the time-tested advice of Ayurveda, the science of healthy living.

            First understand that the diet plan that is right for you is unique to you. And as you change, your diet will also change. 

            Secondly, it is not necessarily helpful in the long run to follow a diet plan from a book or piece of paper. You could use such a plan as a guideline or a starting point, but it should not be followed blindly. The key is to slow down just enough to practice a little self-awareness. Simply watch what and how you eat, and how you feel from eating. Then introduce positive changes gradually. It is rarely helpful to change your diet all at once.

            Moderation is the key to a healthy balanced diet. Not too much, not too little. Not too hot, not too cold. Avoid extremes like too much sugar or too much salt. Instead try to eat a variety of foods from all the traditional food groups. 

            And finally, to insure good nutrition, quality counts over quantity. So, choose fresh, wholesome and pure foods whenever possible. Avoid junk foods.

            Here is the step-by-step process:

1.         Before analyzing your diet or attempting to make any changes, simply keep a food journal for a week or two. Record everything you eat and how you feel day by day. You may be surprised. For example, you may realize that you’re eating more sugar than you thought. 

2.         Reduce snacking. Too much snacking between meals disrupts the normal process of digestion and prevents us from noticing how individual foods are affecting us. It is better to let one meal digest, noticing its full effects, before eating the next meal.

3.         Regulate your meal times. Your physiology works on circadian rhythms. Eating at regular mealtimes helps to reset your natural rhythms and strengthen your digestion.

4.         Simplify your meals. Eating too many foods at once also confuses the picture. The goal is to be able to notice which foods are best for you.

5.         Don’t overeat. Too much food overwhelms the digestion and the mind. It is best to stop a few bites short of being full. Chewing your food well also helps prevent overeating.

6.         Notice the effects. How do you feel? Then put two and two together. For example, if you feel sluggish and headachy after a meal, think back. Next time, eat something different. Gradually you will discover which foods are best for you. This process has been called 'bio-food back'.

7.         Make changes gradually. It is no use to make wholesale changes in your diet, they rarely last. Besides, if you change many things at once, there is no way to separate the effects.

            In this manner you will begin moving towards a healthy balanced diet. Slowly discover which foods have negative effects and reduce them. Notice which foods leave you feeling well and accentuate them. Ultimately, you can learn to choose your foods intuitively on a day-by-day basis. What do I need today to feel more balanced?

            Now that you understand this process, we can take a look at the six traditional food groups that are recommended for a balanced diet. If you find one is noticeably lacking, you can slowly introduce foods from that group into your diet. 

1.         Whole grains. There are many nutritional advantages to whole grains over refined grains. However, some people have trouble digesting whole grains. So be sure to try different preparations until you find a few dishes you enjoy. Start with one serving a week, and move towards at least one serving per day.

2.         Beans & legumes have many health protective benefits and combine well with whole grains to form complete proteins. As they can also be hard to digest, cook them well, try different preparations, and remember that the smaller the bean, the easier to digest. Split or ground beans are also easier to digest. Keep the portions small. Try for two to four servings per week.

3.         Fresh cooked vegetables are essential for a healthy balanced diet. Try for at least one cooked green or yellow vegetable every day. Also, try to find a cooked leafy green vegetable, which are nutritional power-houses, to enjoy from one to four times a week.

4.         Raw food is also important. Ayurveda recommends primarily cooked foods, but raw foods are essential for their vitality and their enzymes. Fruit digests quickly so it is best eaten alone. Salads and fresh juices are other excellent choices. Try for one serving per day.

5.         Animal foods are considered as supplemental protein to be enjoyed two to four times per week. Our protein requirement is split between vegetable sourced proteins (mainly whole grain and bean combos) and animal sourced proteins. It is best not to mix more than one animal protein at a time. Small portions are best. Being high on the food chain, and therefore potential carriers of environmental toxicity, eat only the highest quality animal foods. Vegetarians can enjoy some dairy or perhaps eggs. Non-vegetarians might include some fresh fish, poultry, or game. Red meat is not recommended. Vegans, who choose not to eat any animal foods, must find a reliable source of vitamin B-12 as a substitute.

6.         Essential fats. Many people are deficient in this category. Traditionally, this category is filled by eating a variety of nuts and seeds and the oils derived from them. One of the best vegetable sources of essential fats is flax seed. High quality fish oil is also excellent. 

            In summary, remember to go slow, notice the effects, and make only gradual changes. Enjoy the process. Take an interest in your food, but don’t become obsessed. Simply try little experiments by adding foods or taking foods out of your diet. Remember the goal is not to eat a prescribed diet from the outside, but to develop a diet that is personal, flexible, and intuitive.




Suggested Readings: 

Rudolph Ballantine: Diet & Nutrition, Transition to Vegetarianism, & Radical Healing

Food Sadhana

by Gary Gran, CYT, DAy.



Food Sadhana in four parts is dedicated to all students of yoga in the Himalayan tradition. 

Blessed by Swami Veda Bharati for publication, this series details various food practices as passed down to us in the traditions of Yoga and Ayurveda. If you find the suggestions helpful, please pass them along so other students can benefit. This writer's hope is that you will be inspired to be more mindful of your food choices, and you will thereby create a strong foundation for good health, happiness and long life. In gratitude to the many fine teachers who inspired these offerings. 

Om shanti, shanti, shanti.


"The yoga approach to health is extremely simple, logical, and practical. It lays stress on the words Yuktahar viharasya - eating and living as they should be done. By simply studying one's own capacity and learning how to regulate one's dietary habits, external activities, and thinking process, it is possible for one to gain control over his life and remain healthy. This does not mean that one must do anything unnatural or impossible; there need not be restrictions, but given the information in these lessons, one can decide what is best for himself, and implement whatever changes he chooses, practicing them according to his own capacity." - Swami Rama, A Practical Guide to Holistic Health, pp. 5-6


Part I: Mindful Eating

            Been feeling rushed lately? Do you find yourself eating at your desk or grabbing a bite as you run for the train? Or maybe, you’ve been feeling bored. So you sit on the couch watching TV with a snack, and before you know it, you’ve eaten the whole bag. Maybe you’ve been following a diet plan but your heartburn is still acting up and your energy level isn’t what it used to be. What can we do? 

            Ayurveda teaches us that how we eat is as important as what we eat and when and where we eat. We can make better choices and improve our relationship with food through the practice of mindfulness. 

            Modern research concurs. The practice of mindful eating has been shown to reduce over-eating, provide better weight management, improve digestion and help prevent chronic disease. Mindfulness training is currently being prescribed for people with eating disorders, type II diabetes and for cancer survivors. There are many excellent resources on-line for anyone wanting to incorporate the practice of mindful eating into their daily lives.

            When individuals begin to practice mindful eating they report better digestion, better energy and more enjoyment. They find it easier to make healthy choices and manage their weight without resorting to the latest diet fad. Overall, mindful eating can lead to a healthier relationship with our food, with ourselves and with our world, as they are all interconnected.

            To get started, try the following experiment. Set aside about 20 minutes when you will not be interrupted and you are hungry but not starved. Choose an apple (or one of your favorite foods) and place it on a table. Sit down, close your eyes and become aware of your breath for a short while in order to relax and clear your mind. Then open your eyes and look at the apple. Notice and appreciate its appearance. Then reach out and touch the apple, feeling its texture. Bring the apple to your mouth but pause to smell the apple. Now take a bite, noticing the sound it makes. Then be aware of the taste sensations in your mouth as you begin to chew. Does the taste change as you continue to chew? Continue eating the rest of the apple with mindfulness. Then rest and reflect on this direct experience. What happened? How did you feel? Did you enjoy the experiment?

            The next step is to eat an entire meal with mindfulness. Here are some tips on how to practice:

1.     Eat sitting down in a settled environment. This means stop multi-tasking, turn off the electronics, and clear away clutter. The idea is to reduce distractions and create a pleasant environment.

2.     Take a few moments to relax. Sit down and practice breath awareness for a few breaths. Be aware of your surroundings. Relaxation is a prerequisite for good digestion.

3.     Set your intention. You are choosing to practice mindful eating. 

4.     Be grateful. Say grace or thanks for the food you are about to eat.

5.     Be mindful of all the senses as you take your first bite. 

6.     Chew your food well. Notice how the taste changes as you chew.

7.     Set down your utensils between bites. The idea is to savor your food.

8.     Proceed at a moderate pace, not too fast and not too slow.

9.     Notice when you first begin to feel full. This is a good time to stop eating.

10.  Rest after eating. Rest for a few minutes at the table before moving on to the next activity.

            The beauty of mindful eating is the focus on direct experience, not some abstract idea of what we should be eating. Over time we begin to notice things. We connect to our inner wisdom. We realize that how we eat affects how we feel. There is no rush to make changes. The advice is to just notice without judgment. Let the process reveal itself.  

            It may seem difficult to maintain your mindfulness throughout the whole meal. When you realize that your attention has wandered, simply bring it back to the next bite of food and begin again without judgment. When finished, take some time to reflect. Then decide how often you want to practice. Some people choose to practice just once a week, or once a day at first. Others practice just at the beginning of each meal. However you proceed, you are following your own wisdom. After some time, you may find yourself altering your food choices or eating less. Let the process proceed naturally. Follow your gut!

            The science of Ayurveda recommends that we eat when hungry after our previous meal has been digested. The rationale is to honor our digestive capacity. If we eat too often, we can overwhelm our ability to digest. The same goes for overeating or eating on the run. Here is a mindfulness practice to help us gauge our appetite.

            Before selecting the food for each meal, check in and gauge your appetite on a scale of 0 to 10 with zero being famished (empty of food) and ten being stuffed (full of food). The same measurement is then used to gauge when we’ve had enough to eat. The idea is to eat when the appetite is around 2 but stop when the appetite is around 7 or 8 (when we are approximately 70-80% full). This is called staying within your comfortable capacity. 

            At this point, let us recall the five-fold method advocated by yoga science (see Yoga Sutra I.20) as can be applied to mindful eating:

1.     Faith - Hearing the benefits of mindful eating increases our faith or conviction.

2.     Effort - Next we set our intention and give it a try.

3.     Mindfulness - The whole process is facilitated by mindfulness.

4.     Concentration - Over time mindfulness becomes relaxed concentration. We learn to focus on our direct experience without being distracted. According to Swami Veda Bharati, when we are “mindful of each bite or each sip, then each sip can be samadhi.”

5.     Wisdom - Our inner wisdom grows as we make new insights. We are continuously refining our relationship with food. 


“Thus one casts suffering far away by the continual close application of mindfulness.”

-Tibetan Blue Beryl Medical Tantra



Suggested Reading: Swami Rama: A Practical Guide to Holistic Health