Importance of Diet in Meditation and Yoga Asana
Balanced body, balanced mind.
In meditation we work to lighten the load – stress, anxiety, depression and overthinking burden the mind and have a negative effect on the body. To maintain focus in meditation one needs to be light, fresh and clear, yet we still require energy.
Yoga asana practices can be vigorous or mild, active or passive, yet each type of practice requires an energy reserve from the body. Equally important is maintaining mental alertness during practice, keeping focused will prevent the body from becoming injured. Furthermore, having a light quality to the body will allow for a deeper, more purposeful practice.
In each we can see that what we eat matters. Practices of meditation and asana require mental focus and energy both. By cultivating a balanced diet you can optimize the mind and body for meditation and asana.
If you sit to meditate after eating a large, heavy meal the body will be using its energy to digest and the mind will be disturbed. Conversely, the brain is 60% fat, when working with a meditation practice having healthy fats in the diet is essential.
Your nutrition choices help you stay active and energized, which is helpful when meditating or practicing asana for long periods. Being satiated from a nutritious meal can also keep you from being distracted during a time of concentration.
We are told that poor nutrition leads to an increase of toxins in our bodies that cause the mind to become lethargic. They say that if you combine the right diet with meditation, your focus will become razor sharp. A healthier body through nutrition means that you won’t be sluggish or tired.
To eat or not to eat?
For meditation this will depend on the time of day you have set aside for your practice.
Fasting is essential for a still morning meditation practice. When you consume foods, your metabolism wakes up and starts its work breaking down the eats to nourish the body. This takes great energy away from the actual meditation practice. When we meditate in a fasted state, the mind is relaxed, simply greeting the day light, still and quiet.
If your schedule only allows for meditation in the afternoon or evening consider a fasting period of at least 2 hours prior to starting your practice. This will allow the body time to digest and come into a state of equilibrium. If this is not possible try to limit yourself to a small snack, something light, fresh and healthy.
For asana practice this will depend on the type of practice you’re committing to. If you step onto the mat for asana practice too quickly after finishing a meal the digestive process will be impacted, leading to problems. However, if you approach a vigorous practice without essential nutrients the body might not have the energy to make it through uncompromised.
Similar to meditation there is an advised 2 hour window of fasting prior to stepping on the mat. Ensure that the meal you have beforehand is easy to digest and gives sustained energy, nuts, seeds, and fresh vegetables or juice are a good option. Always drink plenty of water and replenish electrolytes after a vigorous practice, coconut water is an excellent choice.
Ayurveda, the ancient knowledge of life, divides human body type and its doshas (bodily constitutions) into three broad categories – vata, pitta, and kapha. We also have gunas (mental constitutions) which are referred to as tamas, rajas, and sattva. A combination of these doshas and gunas define our personality type, temperament, body structure, and diet choices.
Prakriti is the original or natural form or condition of anything, original or primary substance. A simple change in your food habit conforming to your prakriti helps you to have a healthy and balanced life, and also experience a deeper meditation. An ideal diet is a sattvic one, conforming to one’s nature or prakriti.
A sattvic diet, consisting of fresh, light and seasonal foods will prepare the body for meditation and asana practices. Eating meals at a set time will regulate the bodily processes and allow for clarity of mind. Most important is awareness, paying attention to how the body attunes itself to any dietary or lifestyle changes. Through careful observation you can create an ideal diet which supports your meditation and asana practices.