Leave some room for pudding this Christmas. By Lexie Williamson
‘One should fill half the stomach with food, a quarter with water and leave the fourth quarter for the movement of air,’ Gheranda advises Chanda in the 17th century Hatha yoga text, the Gheranda Samhita.
This ‘measured diet’ is a necessity if Chanda’s yoga is to be successful and still makes total sense in 2014. Space is left in the stomach to aid digestion and stop us feeling stuffed and soporific.
In fact, reading on about the yogic take on diet, it is striking how similar it is to ultra modern ideas about ‘eating clean’ espoused by celebrities and personal trainers.
The yogic diet should be vegetarian, fresh, simple, unprocessed and nutritious. These foods are ‘sattvic’ or pure, clean and energising and are eaten in moderation.
The opposite is stale, processed or frozen food that has lost its energy. Even fridge-bound leftovers lose their sattvic status.
Oily rich or spicy food, on the other hand, is considered to be ‘rajasic’, too stimulating. Rajasic foods can make us over excited and aggressive or mentally restless.
According to ayurvedic principles, food can also be ‘tamastic’, having a sedative effect, making us feel drowsy and clouding the mind. In fact, overeating itself is considered tamasic.
Eating light, easily digested sattvic food, such as whole grains, fresh fruit as well as herbal tea, is said to keep the mind clear and calm and aid the journey towards higher consciousness.
Unfortunately, it’s Christmas.
I’m a yoga teacher and even my supermarket Christmas shopping list reads like a tamasic, rajasic banquet: meat, chocolate, alcohol, salted snacks and sweets. You get the idea.
To partake or not to partake? That is the question for the health conscious yogi. A mince pie proffered in the Dickensian spirit of Christmas suddenly might unleash a wave of inner disharmony and that third gin and tonic will definitely cloud the mind.
Then again, do you want to be the ‘bah humbug’ one turning your nose up at the mulled wine and Turkish Delight?
At Christmas, I stick by the tried and tested ‘a little of what you fancy does you good’ although as a vegetarian since the age of seven, a plate of turkey, ham and ‘pigs in blankets’ might be taking this too far. Before we know it, the January newspaper supplements will be bursting with recipes for quinoa stuffed kabocha or kale and ginger juice.
Until then, another slice of chocolate yuletide log anyone?
Lexie Williamson is a yoga teacher and health and fitness writer (pulseyoga.co.uk)