The Ayurvedic principles of food

According to Ayurveda, everything we put into our physical bodies has a direct impact on our minds.

by Kevin Afuso — 

When cooking meals for students during yoga teacher training programs, it is important to be strict about the ingredients used in the meals. Adherence to this decision often causes much confusion among the students.

The answers lie in understanding the connection between the physical food we eat and the effect it produces on our energetic bodies. According to Ayurveda, everything we put into our physical bodies has a direct impact on our minds. Ayurvedic cooking is designed to nourish and support the mind, as well as the body.

To understand this body-mind connection, we must understand the three qualities of mind and nature, known as the Gunas — sattva, rajas and tamas. The Gunas are the attributes used to understand and conceptualize ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Foods that support sattva are deemed sattvic. Sattvic foods are pure and calming, promoting clarity, peacefulness and equanimity. They encourage and support our connection to our higher spiritual selves. These include most fresh fruits and vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, ghee and virgin organic cold-pressed oils.

Foods that encourage rajas are called rajasic. Rajasic foods are stimulating, but often distracting, promoting and activating emotional experiences. Think passion and aggression. Examples include coffee, peppers and hot spices.

Finally, foods that increase tamas are called tamasic. Tamasic foods are heavy, numbing and devoid of prana and chi, or life energy. Tamasic foods encourage confusion, disharmony, inertia and a separation from the oneness of our true nature. Tamasic foods include frozen food, fried foods and meats. Many followers of Ayurveda believe that rajas and tamas are the causes of illness and disease, whereas sattva is the path toward enlightenment, and the sole cause of health. Therefore, we should strive to eat sattvic meals.

Yogurt is an interesting food that can demonstrate all three qualities. Freshly made yogurt is sattvic. Processed, preservative-laden, store-bought yogurt, which is not freshly made, is rajasic. Frozen yogurt is tamasic.

Homemade yogurt is simple to make and far superior in taste and nutrition. Follow this easy recipe for homemade yogurt; eating it will bring more sattvic energy into your life.

Centers Yoga Arts Homemade Yogurt Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3-1/2 cups organic whole milk
  • 2 heaping tablespoons yogurt culture or high-quality organic whole “live culture” yogurt

Preparation:

Heat the milk, stirring constantly. When milk begins to boil, stop stirring. After milk has boiled, remove from heat and let cool to between 118 and 115 degrees. Place cooled milk in mixing bowl or directly into mason jars or storage container. Add the culture and stir until mixture is smooth.

Remove any “skin” that forms on the surface. Incubate the milk, undisturbed, for 6 to 8 hours (no longer than 10, or it will go sour), holding the temperature at about 110 to 115 degrees. For precision incubation, place in a heated dehydrator or someplace where the temperature hovers between 110 and 115 degrees. You may also prefer to go “au naturelle” and let it sit outside in the bright sun for a day.

If your yogurt does not thicken after 6 to 10 hours, something went wrong. Remember, however, that this method usually produces a “runnier” yogurt, like the kind you find in foreign countries. Getting that thick, creamy American-style yogurt requires a special yogurt culture — or using powdered milk (which is not sattvic). Also, the yogurt will firm up even more once it cools in your refrigerator.

 

Kevin Afuso is the cook for the Ayurvedic Kitchen at 7 Centers Yoga Arts in Sedona, Ariz. He both educates and nurtures the teachers and students with ayurvedic meals during yoga trainings. www.7centers.com or 877-603-4400.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 25, Number 6, December 2006/January 2007.

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