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A Balanced and Healthy Diet of Yoga

Yoga Teacher - James Bryan

Written by James Bryan

The dietary practices of the most stable population groups (transcultural) in the world have evolved certain recurrent patterns. Whole grains constitute the bulk of most of these diets and are consumed in the largest quantities. The ever-present legume, which is taken in approximately half that quantity, complements the grains, and together they provide the proper proportions of the essential amino acids. This grain/legume combination is the core of the meal, but the vegetables give it flavour and vitality. The amount of fresh vegetables which are consumed varies according to availability, included in sizable quantities. Generally, this means that they are taken in larger portions than the legume but in smaller portions than the grains.

In addition to this basic trio of grain, legume and vegetable, most traditional diets contain varying quantities of a fourth group of foods which includes dairy products, meat, eggs, fish, fowl and certain fermented bean preparations. This group might be referred to as the B12 group since all the foods included in it contain this vitamin whereas foods in the other three groups do not.

A small daily serving of raw foods constitutes the fifth group found in traditional diets. This may be fruits, though they are often regarded as a luxury. When in season they are generally taken separately, serving as a light breakfast or supper rather than a routine part of the meal. If they are absent, small amounts of some other raw food which can be easily digested is added to the daily menu.

List of the traditional five foods groups in order of quantity:

  1. Grains
  2. Legumes
  3. Vegetables
  4. Fruits
  5. B12

Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga follows this five group diet.

For yoga practice to be balanced it must contain all the eight limbs of yoga as handed down to us by the sage Patanjali in his classic the Yoga Sutras:

List of the eight limbs of yoga:

  1. Yama
  2. Niyama
  3. Asana
  4. Pranayama
  5. Pratyahara
  6. Dharana
  7. Dhyana
  8. Samadhi

We can reorganize these into five groups following Patanjali’s recommend sequencing:

  1. Philosophy (Yama & Niyama)
  2. Postures (Asana)
  3. Breathwork (Pranayama)
  4. Relaxation (Pratyahara)
  5. Meditation (Dharana & Dhyana)

(Please note Samadhi is a state of mind and is a result of the consistent practice of the preceding seven limbs).

List of traditional five yoga groups in order of quantity from Knoff Yoga:

  1. Philosophy 5%
  2. Postures 66%
  3. Breathwork 12%
  4. Relaxation 12%
  5. Meditation 5%

If we then compare the traditional food groups to the yoga groups in order of quantity in the diet / practice we have:

Food Groups and Yoga Groups:

  1. Grains Postures
  2. Legumes Breathwork
  3. Vegetables Relaxation
  4. Fruits Meditation
  5. B12 Philosophy

The modern trend in yoga is to focus almost exclusively upon asana. This is like eliminating four of the five traditional food groups and eating only grains, which will not allow for the development of a healthy and long-lived individual or population. We need to listen to the wisdom gained over millennia, from both the collective insights of the most stable population groups in the world, and our yoga sages.

With Knoff Yoga, we have developed a sensible and stable practice that honours the traditional teachings of yoga. This comparison of a balanced and healthy diet with a balanced and healthy yoga practice can give us insights to better our practice and well-being.

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