If you’re not a yogi (someone who is proficient in the practice of yoga) you probably have a friend who is. Either way, you know about that radiant aura the yogi typically emits: one of happiness and healthfulness. This comes from a blend of the yogi lifestyle — practicing yoga, of course, but also embracing the yogi approach to all aspects of day-to-day living, including food. Learning how to eat like a yogi means looking at not just what you eat, but the attitude and habits you bring to the art of eating.
Step 1: Learn the principles of Ayurveda.
Translated to “the science or knowledge of life” (Ayur means life; Veda is science or knowledge), Ayurveda is too complex to be captured in one paragraph — people can spend a lifetime working to more fully embrace Ayurveda — but you can click to this primer later on when you have time. In short, though, this is a centuries-old concept through which individuals come to understand him/herself better and, in doing so, to make lifestyle choices (including diet) that will be beneficial. We’ll come back to this in Step 5.
Step 2. Practice Ahimsa.
Ahimsa is the practice of non-violence, in all its manifestations — physical, mental and emotional. Many people mistakenly believe this means yogis must be vegetarian or vegan, but this is not the case. While many yogis do choose the path of diets that consume no animal byproducts, others may find such dietary restrictions to be harmful to their own health — and self harm is contrary to the objectives of Ahimsa. So, Ahimsa can mean eating any diet so long as one is being selective in his or her food choices. This can involve, for example, eating only animal products proven to be procured through cruelty-free means.
Step 3. Be deliberate and grateful.
Your attitude about food matters. Before you eat, pause to express gratitude for it — whether it’s a meal you’re excited to eat or something crummy you pulled together at the last minute. It is by gratitude that food can be most nourishing. Appreciate that you have this sustenance and the ways in which it will serve your body. As you eat, chew slowly, truly feel and taste the foods. Minimize distractions; this isn’t the time for television or scrolling through your phone. Give your full attention to the present.
Step 4. Eat the right foods.
Ah, you thought this section was going to be a grocery list, didn’t you? Nope. A diet based in Ayurvedic principles means knowing your dosha (here’s a quiz you can try) and then choosing foods that balance out your constitution and state of mind. For example:
- Vata is balanced by cooked (fresh) whole foods that are rich in protein and fat, seasoned with warming spices.
- Kapha is balanced by fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes; kaphas favor pungent, bitter and astringent tastes.
- Pitta is balanced by cooked or raw whole foods that are relatively dry, high in carbs and hearty.
Most importantly, know that success lies largely in your intention. If you are being thoughtful and deliberate and moderate in your approach to food, you’re already eating like a yogi.