It’s mindboggling to think that each of the 8 billion people in the world (source: United Nations) is a unique individual. Which means to say there are as many mind-body constitutions as there are people. That’s the reason why the Yoga Asanas that suit one person, may not suit another. And the same goes for that most basic of our needs — food. Let’s take a look at what Yoga has to say about diet.
For this, let’s take a look at how both Yoga and Ayurveda — sister sciences — see the human being. Both function on the concept of Prakriti and its qualifying attributes the Gunas — a Sanskrit word that means quality or attribute. The Gunas are three in number: Sattva (balanced and in sync with oneself & creation); Rajas (energetic, lively, worldly) and Tamas (dull, lack of energy).
The basic building blocks
Ayurveda says that everyone and every being is made up of 5 elements — fire, water, air, earth and ether. The levels of each of these elements combine to constitute our Prakriti, which is our innate constitution or our basic nature. Our Prakriti determines many things right from our character and personality to the subtler aspect — the mind.
Many factors such as altered food habits, lifestyle changes, climatic changes, age-related changes and stress introduce Doshas — the vitiated elements in the Prakriti, that disturb one’s fundamental nature, and manifest as diseases and disorders. The vitiating factors that cause the Doshas are referred to as Vikritis.
We mentioned that all beings are made up of 5 elements, and it is the combination of these elements that make up our Prakriti (innate nature). Depending on the levels of each element, we can classify individuals as having a Pitta (fire) dominant Prakriti; or a Vata (air) dominant Prakriti or a Kapha (earth) dominant Prakriti.
However, it’s more common to see people with a dual Prakriti — Pitta-Kapha or Vata-Kapha, etc. There are physical, mental and physiological characteristics for each type of Prakriti.
Coming to diet, this is the reason why Yoga and Ayurveda insist that we be conscious of what we eat, when, and how much. The foods that heal and nourish one person, may not do the same for another.
The aim of Yoga and Ayurveda is to help people regain their original Prakriti. How? By becoming mindful of the Vikritis that cause imbalances within the Vata-Pitta-Kapha complex. The imbalances manifest as Doshas — Vata Dosha, Pitta Dosha and Kapha Dosha. More the Vikritis, the more we are moving away from our Prakriti (our innate nature). When we return to our original Prakriti, we will be able to flow through life. We return to our original innate state of balance.
All Yoga is geared towards balance… it is in this state of equilibrium that we function at our optimum level. And just as all 8 branches of Ashtanga Yoga help us achieve this, what we eat also helps in achieving this balance at a very personal level for each person.
In our next blog we will look deeper into the doshas, and the imbalances in them that manifest in various ways. We will also look at the basics of a Sattvic diet.
Pratimoksha combines Yoga with Ayurveda to draw up customized Yoga classes for individuals and small groups. Our signature Beyond programs introduce students to holistic Yoga taking them step by step through all 8 branches of Ashtanga Yoga through a well-thought out combination of Asanas, strengthening and breathing exercises as well as short talks on Yogic concepts. Ayurvedic Body Type Analysis is also a part of the program, so that one comes to know our innate Prakriti and how through Yoga and changes in diet and lifestyle one can return to it.
The Beyond series of classes are ideal for someone who may not be interested in a comprehensive in-depth dive into Yoga and its philosophy (such as the Pratimoksha Yoga Alliance-certified Teacher’s Training Course) and yet retains a solid interest and curiosity about Yogic concepts. For more information call us at 00971-50-385-5613.
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