The Correct Yogic Diet & Satsang on Food and Diet

Many people ask what the ideal diet is for yoga practitioners. During the Kriya Yoga Course held at Satyananda Ashram, Barcelona in September 1981 Swami Satyananda Saraswati gave the following reply.

A great misunderstanding has taken place in the last 20 to 30 years regarding the diet which is most suitable for the yogic aspirants. It is believed by many practitioners that a yogi should take milk, fruit and raw vegetables. However, this is not correct and I never recommend it because of my own observations and experiences on this point. Through many trials and errors I have concluded that there are certain foods which are not meant for the human body at all. If you analyse the secretions in your digestive tract and the secretions from your gums, teeth and saliva; if you examine the strength of the mucus membranes throughout the alimentary tract, and the length of the small and large intestines, and make a comparison with other carnivorous animals, or those animals who live on fruits, you will find there is an absolute difference. The length of our intestines is proof that the human body should be fed on cooked food alone.
From time to time I have mentioned the yogic diet, however I will give some additional ideas now. The best thing is that you stay in the ashram for a few days and follow the diet that we take there. Of course, this does not include butter and fat, raw foods or even fruits. The food that yogic aspirants eat should be cooked and it must contain condiments. I don't use the word spices, I use the word condiments, because condiments contain certain items that are identical to the enzymes inside the body. For example, coriander, aniseed, black pepper, green pepper, red pepper, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and others. All these are not spices for taste; they are condiments with properties that are the same as the enzymes inside the body.
This subject of diet definitely pertains to the higher stages of yoga. When the phenomenon of kundalini awakening is taking place in ajna and sahasrara chakras, then the digestive system undergoes a change. It is not able to digest the food properly or to create what we call hunger. So, what happens when you eat a little food is that the hydrochloric secretions and enzymes are not engaged. Therefore, whatever food you take, the best procedure is that you cook it first and add the necessary condiments.
The science of diet is an independent science, but definitely it is related to every system of yoga. The diet also differs from yoga to yoga. Here I am talking about the diet for awakening of kundalini, and consequently uniting with Shiva. I am not talking about the diet you have in hatha yoga, which is totally different, because if you practise shankhaprakshalana, and then go on eating all these red and black peppers, you are definitely going to suffer. Therefore, the diet regime for a karma yogi, a bhakti yogi, a raja yogi, hatha yogi and kriya yogi will not be the same.
A bhakti yogi's diet is very free. He can eat and eat. He can take cheese and butter, and all kinds of sweets and confectionery, because the path of bhakti yoga does not slow down the digestive processes. The same thing applies for the karma yogi. He can take everything because he is working hard all day in the guru's garden or kitchen. Whether he eats raw food or cooked food, everything will be all right, because in his case, the metabolism is fast, so he does not have to be very careful about diet.
In raja yoga, when you sit for long periods of meditation, the inner body temperature, which is responsible for digestion, comes down. A heavy diet requires a higher metabolism and body temperature for the proper functioning of the digestive process. If the practitioner of raja yoga takes to these heavier foods, in the course of time, he will suffer from dyspepsia, high blood pressure, rheumatism and coronary problems.
So when we talk about diet, let us not discuss it in terms of puritanism. We must remember only one thing in this case, whether the body is capable of digesting all the food. To digest the food you eat, you need five digestive secretions in proper balance, and you also need a specific group of enzymes. Besides this, you need the correct inner body temperature, which varies in different areas of the body.
From the mouth to the rectum there are different zones. In the small intestine a constant temperature is required for a long period of time. In the stomach you need a higher temperature for a maximum of three hours. If there is a higher temperature for longer than three to four, hours, you will develop hyperacidity and stomach ulcers. If you have a reduced temperature in the small intestine, then you will have gastric troubles. And if you have a higher temperature in the large intestine, you will have diarrhoea, dysentery or colitis.
So, these temperatures are affected by the prolonged period of meditation and sadhana, and if this is part of your daily routine, you will have to adjust your diet. Firstly, your vegetables should be properly boiled so the low temperature in the body will not disturb your digestion. Secondly, you will need to add something to the, vegetables to aid the functioning of the digestive enzymes and acids and to thereby conserve energy'.
Some foods, such as papaya, pineapple and bean sprouts, actually contain enzymes. Coriander, pepper, turmeric, aniseed, cayenne, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, oil and garlic are all called digestives because they help the process of digestion to proceed smoothly. Some allopathic medicines for indigestion are actually made out of these substances. Also, there are many herbs which aid digestion. Peppermint, alfalfa and camomile are probably the best known.
Having made a thorough study of natural foods and having tried them on myself, I have come to the conclusion that a combination of natural and macrobiotic foods is best. I have also discovered that instead of cooking the food in your stomach, it is best to cook it properly in the pan. Five or six digestives should be added to the food while it is cooking. They mix into the food and the cooking process liberates the enzymes and chemicals which aid digestion. The combination of heat, digestives and enzymes breaks down the food into smaller and more basic components, thus making it easier to digest and conserving energy.
There is a wonderful food which I have evolved myself in the course of many years, because in the ashram it is not possible to have different types of diets for everybody as we don't have that much time or money. So I have tried to evolve two simple types of food- one for those who like wheat and the other for those who like rice. It is called integrated khichari. First you cook the rice and dhal and then put all the vegetables into it. You can put anything in and it will be all right. This is the cheapest and most satisfying meal I have eaten anywhere, in any part of the world. There is nothing you can compare it with. It is best for those people who like rice. For those who prefer wheat, there is another way to prepare it using cracked wheat. This must be boiled until soft, then add the dhal and all the vegetables to that and cook it well. And when you eat this khichari, you must feel free to eat as much as you want without any fear. This is the diet for a person who is ranging high in spiritual life and is about to merge into the ultimate state.
In recent years many seekers have taken a keen interest in diet, and various systems have been analysed and tried. 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.

Satsang on Food and Diet

With Paramahamsa Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati

I have read that one should not eat stale food or food which is not freshly prepared. Nowadays, many people keep most of their food in refrigerators and deep freezers. Is this practice advisable?

All over the world people do not know what they should eat. Most of them depend upon advertisements and they are ignorantly being misled. However, people are gradually waking up to the situation and they have become aware that the tinned and preserved foodstuffs are dangerous for health. These foods are proving to be the carriers of the greatest diseases that mankind has ever suffered. The western countries, including America, have the largest number of deaths due to cancer and coronary diseases. According to medical statistics, 80% of Europeans suffer from rheumatism, and a large number of people suffer from psychological and mental diseases. This is mainly due to the fact that the food we are taught to eat is commercially good but lacking in nutrients.
Not for yoga, but for good health and a sharp mind, it is necessary to have freshly prepared food. It is a matter of common sense that all vegetables undergo a state of chemical transformation, a process of decomposition. Some vegetables also develop fungus. Even if you keep vegetables in air conditioned rooms or freezers, they will definitely develop fungus because they are out of touch with the root, the earth and the heat. Tinned foods contain additives and a lot of preservatives which, according to scientists, are one of the most significant causes of cancer and tumour. Man cannot conceive the dangers that will result if he continues to eat foods grown with artificial fertilisers and preserved with dangerous chemicals.

What do you think are the best foods for the digestion and health of the body?

For the practice of yoga and keeping the mind in a tranquil state, the optimum diet does not necessarily follow the modern dietary system. When the great yogis and saints of the past such as St. Francis, St. Xavier, Ramana Maharshi, Aurobindo, etc. were practising yoga, they fixed their diet in such a way that the food did not stimulate the 'monster' in the mind.
We have made certain observations and have found that most people who follow modern dietetics are very active mentally and emotionally. Therefore, when the question of diet is considered, it is necessary for the aspirant to decide what is more important, peace of mind or physical strength. Shall we eat to live or live to eat?
In spite of all the ideas on diet, I have found that people are not keeping good health anywhere.. We stuff our bodies, but our knowledge of diet is based on propaganda which is always dependent on a commercial purpose. It is important for everyone to know that the simplest diet is the best. Therefore, the yoga practitioner should simplify his diet. He should not be too fussy about it because when we practise yoga we alter the inner chemistry and all the digestive enzymes and nutritional properties are renewed.
Another important point to remember is that the food of one region and climate becomes poison in another. In the arctic climate we have another system of diet altogether because the body reacts differently there than in the semi arctic and temperate climates. Therefore, the diet goes along with climatic conditions, and nature itself produces the right things according to this order. For example, you have mangoes in India but not in Norway and Sweden.
I have been considering this question of diet for at least thirty years. I have practised yogic diet on myself and on many others. I have read about practically every system of diet including macrobiotics and have come to one conclusion. The food that burdens the body least, that keeps the temperature right, that allows elimination without difficulty, and that does not stimulate the rajasic tendency, is the best food for the yogi and any sort of yoga practitioner.
For optimum digestion and health, a sattvic diet is best. A sattvic diet is not just simple or vegetarian food. Sattvic foods have a kind of vitality which increases peace, bliss, lightness, clarity, intelligence and illumination. Rice, wheat, vegetables and fruit are sattvic. Anything which makes you physically strong, increases your dynamism and excites the sexual hormones, is rajasic. Milk, meat, onions and garlic are rajasic.
The best food for a yogi is khichari. It is so light you don't know you are eating it; the stomach never knows it is there, and when it leaves the stomach you never know it has gone. That is the definition of the best diet. The worst diet has the opposite effect: when you are eating it you know it; when it is in the stomach you feel it, and eliminating it is a job. Khichari is easy to prepare, it is the cheapest food, and it is available from the north to the south pole.
What is it? A combination of rice, lentils, vegetables and other enzyme producing constituents all cooked together.

How important is diet to a yoga practitioner?

Some people think that a yogi must have a well balanced nutritious diet, and to these people I say, 'Why practise yoga at all?' Yoga gives you nourishment through prana shakti. If this is not true, then there is no need to practise yoga. Yoga conserves vitality and, more important, by concentration, it controls the natural secretion of the hormones from the pituitary body. When the hormones are controlled at their basic root, at the top in the pituitary, they don't come down. These hormones are then transformed into vitality or ojas.
In yogic physiology, the pituitary is associated with sahasrara, the highest chakra, and hormones are called retas. Normally, these hormones flow into the body and cause different kinds of reactions, destruction, catabolism, anabolism, metabolism, etc. By concentration, however, they can be controlled and kept from flowing downwards. In this way, they are then transformed into prana shakti, the power of vitality, which nourishes the body of a sadhaka. So the belief that a yogi has to take a special diet of fresh vegetables, raw fruits, etc. is not altogether true.

What is your opinion about fasting?

Fasting is usually done for the body, but if the mind is very turbulent then you can also resort to fasting. Buddha and others took to long fasts to purify the mind. When food is in the body it affects the mind, and when the body is not pure, the tranquility is disturbed. While fasting, the nervous, glandular, digestive and eliminatory systems are at rest. Therefore, you can concentrate or meditate with greater ease.
Fasting purifies the digestive system and gives rest to the coronary system. The heat conserved within the body during fasting helps to eliminate toxins and speed up the process of catabolism. If fasting is carried out correctly, it can influence the structure of kundalini at mooladhara chakra.
I personally believe fasting is good for everybody, but I don't suggest that people undergo long fasts unless they have the guidance of an expert. For those who want to follow the path of yoga and meditation, the best way to fast is to take food only once a day. When you eat only once in twenty four hours, you will conserve a lot of mental, physical and spiritual energy. You may find it a little difficult at first, but in a short time, you will be completely used to it.

Is it essential for a yoga practitioner to give up meat, alcohol and cigarettes?

You must remember one thing - yoga is part of tantra, and in the tantric system nothing is prohibited. This does not, however, mean that one should indulge in meat, wine and other things indiscriminately. You must always do according to the condition of your health. Instead of thinking whether you can take all these things, you should be considering whether they are good for your health, whether they are necessary for your physical growth, and do you really need them? Therefore, the practitioner of yoga must make a survey of his personal health and if he feels he needs meat, there is no reason why he should not take it. But if he finds that meat is detrimental to his health, increases the blood pressure, causes more toxins in the body, etc. then it is up to him to use his discrimination and give up meat.
Those who have a tendency towards high blood pressure, high cholesterol and excess uric acid in the system, must try to avoid a meat diet. Secondly, those who are suffering from nervous problems, nervous breakdown, depression or traumas, should also avoid meat completely in the interest of their health and not just because they are practising yoga. Thirdly, those who have a very bad liver and are not able to digest properly, should also avoid meat. When you are unable to digest your food properly, during your yoga practices you might have hallucinations and you will misunderstand them for spiritual experiences. When your stomach is bad, you will have a lot of dreams, sometimes horrible dreams. In the same way, a bad stomach influences the experiences of the psychic body.
Similarly, if you are taking intoxicants like marijuana, LSD or alcohol, they will definitely interfere with your psychic experiences. These things influence the nervous system and the brain. When you take intoxicants, your brain does not function at its normal level. When you are practising yoga, this will be a great barrier to the psychic experiences. In short, in order to allow your psychic body to function independently and in order to have true visions and not just hallucinations, it is important that you keep your brain normal, your nervous system strong, and your coronary system intact. Therefore, the practitioner of yoga and anyone who is concerned about their health, should think twice about taking meat or alcohol.

What are the spiritual dangers of eating meat?

Manu Smriti has it that there is no harm in eating meat, in drinking or in having sexual interactions, because these are the tendencies of every being. Nature has created them, but if sometimes you are able to leave them, this will give you speed in spiritual life. Meat eating does not kill spiritual potential, but correct vegetarianism will increase the spiritual experience. It is something like removing a heavy load from your car. Then you'll find it can travel at a greater speed.




Know Your Foods - Taoshobuddha




"The Vijnanamaya Kosha consists of the intellect in conjunction with the fiveorgans of knowledge or the Jnana-Indriyas. During sleep it gets involution or Laya along with Chidabhasa or the reflection of Pure Consciousness. Duringwaking state it is the doer. It is an effect like a jar and is inanimate. It shinesin borrowed feathers. It borrows its light temporarily from its source, just asthe moon borrows its light from the sun. It is not the eternal Self. The Pranamaya, Manomaya and the Vijnanamaya Koshas constitute thesubtle body. The subtle body is composed of the five quintuplicated elements.There is neither breathing nor talking, neither seeing nor hearing in the deadbody. There is also no warmth. The self-cognitions such as ‘ I speak; I hear; Iam hungry; I am thirsty;’ and the like appear distinctly in the subtle body. Thesubtle body operates in the waking and the dreaming states. Ghosts andapparitions are the manifestations of the subtle body only.The ego is hidden in the intellect and the memory (Chitta) is hidden in themind. The subtle body thus, contains nineteen principles or Tattwas. It is also called the ‘Puri Ashtaka’ or the eightfold city. The five organs of sense, thefive organs of action, the five vital breaths, the five subtle primary elements,the fourfold  Antahkarana, ignorance, desire and action are the eightfold cityof the subtle body.The physical body is only an instrument in the hands of the subtle body. Whenthe subtle body is disciplined through Pranayama, abstraction and concentration, the physical body also becomes very healthy and strong.Whatever the subtle body is that physical body also becomes. The mind whichis the ruler of the subtle body gets fattened by worldly affections, by avaricefor wealth, by the acquirement of women and gold and by attachment to theexternal fleeting forms of beauties. The mind is thinned out by eradication of the Vasanas and egoism. The subtle body is the distracted expression of the self through Avidya-ignorance, the causal sheath. Therefore it is not the Truth. Truth is Brahmanand all else is false. One should meditate that he is not the subtle body and that he is the self-effulgent Atman.


The Anandamaya Kosha or this Bliss Sheath is Avidya or ignorance, amodification of  Prakriti. It is the effect of past deeds. It is endowed withchanging attributes. It is Jada or insentient. Therefore you are not the  Anandamaya Kosha. You are the witness of this sheath. Understand, therefore, ‘I am not the Anandamaya sheath I am Brahman.’  The  Anandamaya Kosha is made of Mula-Ajnana–or causal ignorance Karana Sarira or the causal body which is the substratum of all other sheathswhich are external to it. Its three attributes or Dharmas are Priya, Moda and Pramoda affection, delight and intense happiness. It is the indescribablebeginning less Avidya, the nescience of the Atma, and is composed of MalinaSattwa It is inanimate, and beginning less, but has an end in Atma-Jnana The ignorance of the real nature of the Self constitutes this causal body orseed-body. It contains the potentialities or the seeds for the subtle and grossbodies. It projects the appearance of the whole universe through the subtlesheath. It is the food of ignorance for the hungry ego. The mind has come outof this ignorance and gets involved in it during deep sleep. In the sleepingstate there is a vigorous functioning of this ignorance in which everything islost as in pitch darkness. The Karana Sarira screens the SatchidanandaBrahman.


He who knows the ignorance or the negation of the existence of the Atman andthe denial of its appearance is the true Self, the Atman. He who knows the effects of ignorance, such as ‘ I am a man, I am the doer and enjoyer, I am happy, I am miserable,’ is the witness and the Atman. Hence in reality the Self is the seer, knower and the witness of the causal body or the ignorance. The Self is the Knowledge and the Light itself. As the light that enlightens the jar is different from it, so is the Self different from the bodies witnessed by it. Therefore the Self is Consciousness itself and not the bodies.


The aspirant should endeavor to rise above the five Koshas to realize the identity with Pure Consciousness. Just as one draws out the thin stalk from the Munja grass by stripping off its upper layers one by one, so also one should take out the innermost essence of the Atman from all objects of perception,i.e. the five Koshas , by the ‘neti, neti’ doctrine of negating unreality.Just as butter is removed from milk by churning the mixture of curd, so alsothe butter of the Atman should be taken from the mixture of the five Koshas by the churning of constant meditation on the Immortal Brahman which fictitiously appears as the sheaths, the world, etc. When the identification with the sheaths ceases, the self realizes the Infinite Being and gets liberated beyond death.Therefore I follow the integrated approach to the Development of Human Consciousness and the Birth of New Man who is totally aware and blissful.It is therefore my so much emphasis is on food its choice and You must be able to select the foods necessary for the good working of the organism in order to be able to achieve a balanced diet and to put the best of menus together. Balance is exemplified by the harmonious intake of the nutrition…”