Have you ever noticed the effects of the food you have eaten on your yoga practice? Obviously some foods create more internal commotion than others, with bloating and other digestive disturbances. However, it can also be interesting to notice how some foods have more subtle effects on the mind and your mood. Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, offers us an intricate understanding of how different foods affect our physical health, mental well-being and even our spiritual strength. According to Ayurveda, Sattva is the pure quality of spiritual goodness and equanimity, manifested as intelligence, awareness, virtue, and joy. Sattvic foods promote purity of both body and mind. In particular, a sattvic diet is intended to cultivate a calm, clear and compassionate mind.
Sattvic foods are soothing, nourishing and promote and maintain a quiet, steady mind as well as help to sharpen your intellect and give you a greater sense of empathy. Sattvic foods are vegetarian and do not include foods derived from animals that have been harmed in any way. It is important that foods are grown naturally and do not contain preservatives, artificial flavors, or additives.
A sattvic diet generally consists of:
- fresh, organic fruit and vegetables
- whole grains and nuts
- dairy products such as milk and ghee
- beans and lentils
- plant-based oils
- mildly sweet foods (natural, unrefined sugars), honey, molasses
- spices such as cinnamon, basil, coriander, ginger and turmeric
In addition to fresh, organic, whole foods, a sattvic diet requires the energy and intention within your kitchen to be a calm and pleasant atmosphere for food preparation. Preparing your food with mindfulness, care and love will create energetic vibrations that are absorbed by the food you are preparing and will enter your body during digestion. The quality of your food is greatly enhanced by loving attention, including how the vegetables are cut, how the spices are ground and the way you add ingredients to the dish you are preparing.
It is important to remember that a sattvic diet is intended to improve the mind. If you consult an Ayurvedic practitioner, you might be advised to follow a diet specifically for your dosha or a doshic imbalance. Ayurveda distinguishes the sattvic diet from a rajasic diet, consisting of food that is spicy, salty and sour in taste and a tamasic diet, which includes food that is stale, overheated, oily, heavy and often canned or preserved in some way. Aspects from each of these diets may be recommended to help correct a doshic imbalance or physical illness. However, as a general rule, Ayurveda recommends a sattvic diet for people who are, by and large, healthy and balanced.