Why Yoga and not just dieting for holistic health

There is a very beautiful saying about Diet "We are what we Eat". In fact I would say, "We are what we Digest."

An explanation of this phrase would be answer to the question - Why Yoga and not just dieting for health.


Foods prescribed in India, thousands of years ago, are appropriate for each one of us. Actually diet is part of the ancient health science of Yoga and Ayurveda. Both play a vital role in keeping us healthy.


As per the Upanishads, “food is Brahman (consciousness)” meaning food is the divine reality. The right kind of food is an important factor for good health. According to Ayurveda food is key to our life because it contributes to growth and development of the body, mind and immunity.


Food can be divided into three types namely Sattvik, Rajasic and Tamasik food.


Sattvik food includes a vegetarian diet which is natural desirable and fresh. It is neither altered with spicy ingredients nor grown with the help of chemical fertilizers. For e.g. fruits, green leafy vegetables, water, honey and milk.


Rajasik food includes a spicy and stimulating diet. This creates craving and can distract the mind. Being hot in nature it can help in digestion. However, it promotes restlessness and prevents us to elevate our spirit towards higher goal. For e.g. alcoholic beverage, coffee, tea, eggs, onion, fish and chocolates.


Tamasik food includes non-vegetarian and spicy diet. This is non-desirable and food not fresh. It promotes heaviness in body and makes the mind dull. For e.g. meat, fried food, junk food, vinegar and overripe food.


Ayurveda prescribed diet according to the body constitution. It has specific goal to restores balance of "Tridosha"- Vat, Pitta and Kapha which help nourishment.


Therefore it is important for us to have a diligent attitude toward food. To understand this one has to understand the basic constitution (Prakriti) of the body and mind and its present state. One should also be aware of its Vikruti (imbalance state of prakriti) state. Accordingly we need to do modify our diet and start yogic practices too.


A controlled diet is beneficial. It would have greater benefit if we are disciplined and consistent. Yoga is the only way to cultivate the good habit of Awareness. It connects the body and mind which regularize the homeostasis mechanism. Yoga is not only about asanas. The scriptures also refer to Hatha Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Dhyan Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga.


Sage Patanjali formulated this knowledge on Ashtang Yoga into a treatise known as Patanjali Yoga Sutra.


The first sutra says. Atha yogaanushtanam! Yoga is discipline of mind.

The second sutra says - Yoga chitta vritti nirodha! Yoga is an instrument to streamline the thought process of Chitta (mind, ego and intellect) towards its main goal of peaceful state.


Yoga means to join, unite.

Chitta - It is a combination of mind, ego and intellect.

Vritti - If you throw stone into the pond the ripples created in water are like vrittis in our mind. So here Mind is like Pond and Stone is like any external stimuli which creates fluctuations of thoughts in mind.

Nirodhah - It is restraint.


Yoga is essentially your mental diet. It trains you gradually to develop an attitude of acceptance, look within to understand cause of the problem and then solve it. This requires us to streamline our thoughts and control the mind.


Ashtanga Yoga has eight limbs namely Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi that help you overcome. These yogic practices systematically train the mind and make you understand your true goal of life.


Here the key benefits of doing Yoga along with dieting.


One, Development of mindful & conscious eating habits.


This requires us to offer a prayer before starting meals, eating fresh instead of fast food- vegetables and fruits instead of meats and spices and lastly chewing food properly till we get abstract of all rasa (taste).


Two, eating food which is local, seasonal and in moderate quantity helps extract maximum benefits and nutrients from the food. This helps maintain harmonious functioning of the endocrine system with digestive system.


Three, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, ‘The best way to lose weight is to take it slowly, combining a healthy diet with exercise”.


According to a study led by researcher at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, “Regular yoga practice is associated with mindful eating and people who eat mindfully are less likely to be obese”. Therefore, a combination of diet and exercise are essential to reduce & maintain weight.


Four, Yogic breathing enhances function of the respiratory system and oxygenates your body well. This makes your metabolism function at a higher level.


Five, Yoga teaches to be patient with yourself and nature.


Six, Yoga guides towards rectification of dietary habits.


Seven, Yoga also improves the coordination of the nervous system with other systems of our body. It helps in purification of mind and body, burning extra calories, improving flexibility and muscle tone.


Finally, both help detoxify each cell of our body and rejuvenate it.

Therefore Yoga contributes in multidimensional ways to improving our physical, mental, emotional, intellectual and spiritual health.


Diet can help maintain and improve your physical fitness. When combined with Yoga it connects you with your inner self. This contributes to having a positive and pleasant personality which helps achieve holistic health and fitness.


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