March 2022: On Diet

Today, 7am on 7 March 2022. Finally light!

On Diet

There are two reasons why someone might be drawn to yoga: health – what Swami Kuvalyananda calls the physical culturist – or awakening – the spiritual culturist. To achieve either of them, attention to diet is essential.

I am shocked by the way food looks when I go to a modern British supermarket: usually it comes in a plastic wrapper and it is unrecognisable as anything the earth would have given us. It is created for maximum comfort and to enhance productivity, not nourishment. The other day, I saw two boiled eggs, peeled, inside a plastic wrapper, with chemicals that will make them last a reasonable amount of time and retailed at a ridiculous price. Who is this for? Surely the person who does not have 10 minutes to boil and peel an egg has something very wrong with them. And when I find vegetables in the supermarket, they are not much better: perfect shapes and colours, homogeneous and also wrapped in plastic.

Diet is one of the three forbidden subjects, together with politics and religion but I am going to be transgressive and write about it. In fact, I am even going to share the two pieces of advice by which I make my choices. There is so much to consider when thinking about food and the ayurvedic principle of ‘what is medicine for one is poison for another’ stands. I will not evangelise a paleo diet, fasting or veganism. I think it is important to make personal choices when it comes to nourishment, getting to know oneself, and changing when something does not enhance vitality.

So here are my two pieces of advice. The first comes from my husband, who does all the supermarket shopping in my household: don’t buy things withingredients, buy the ingredients. Some of the healthiest, satisfying and delicious food I have ever had has been at Kia’s retreat in Spain, hosted by Las Chimeneas. We see the food grow, it is right there, surrounding us, sharing time and space with us, present. It is not flown from another continent, or made to last artifically. The nutrients of this food, together with the love with which it is cooked, transfer directly to us. This is the best way to eat.

The second piece of advice comes from a nutrition session I had the fortune to attend on my first Yoga teacher training course at Merchant City Yoga. You can imagine that this was a fiery debate, with contested positions over whether we should eat animals or not … but the nutritionist would not fall into any camp, as he could see different things worked for different people. Apart from telling us to eat at 80% capacity he said that the only nutrition advice he would give generally is to eat the rainbow. Nature is wise in where she puts nutrients and we need a variety of them, in different combination for the different seasons and geographies. One does need to be an expert. Just follow nature! I spent most of my childhood rejecting food that was not white: I only ate bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, cheese … I know in my own flesh what it feels like to have a monochrome diet. It is devastating for the system and I had a relatively sick childhood.

Have you noticed tendencies towards a colour? Is there any colour missing from your life? Think of this next time you shop for food.

Laura x

What I have been dreaming about

It is true when I say that Las Chimeneas’s food is one I have felt most nourished by. I have been dreaming about it all winter and, luckily, I get to spend a month in Mairena this summer. You should travel there to experience it first hand, see the beauty of the village and be soaked in the healthy mountain air. David and Emma are incredible hosts.

If you can’t, you can find some of their recipes in their book Las Chimeneas Recipes and stories from an Alpujarran villageHave a look at some of the photos here. I will be surprised if they do not make you hungry!

What I have been pondering
Nourishment of food, for ayurveda, begins with taste and it is important to combine tastes according to one’s constitution. Your constitutions shows, generally, what you already have in excess and is manifest in preferences and blindspots when it comes to diet. The tastes are related to elements. Like the colour, how food tastes shows its nutrients and properties:
  • Sweet (Madhura):  Earth & Water: moistens, relieves inflammation and irritation, clears phlegm
  • Sour (Amla): Earth & Fire: moistens, promotes bulk, holds fluid in the tissues, relieves inflammation and irritation, promotes the healthy flow of bile
  • Salty (Lavana): Water & Fire: stimulates appetite, clears phlegm, moistens
  • Pungent (Katu): Fire & Air: prevent formation of gas, induces perspiration, opens blood vessels
  • Bitter (Tikta): Air & Ether: Stimulates the nervous system, promotes healthy flow of bile
  • Astringent (Kashaya): Air & Earth: Tones tissues, reduces sweating, cools excess heat, narrows blood vessels
There is even an order in which you should eat your food which, to my surprise, is not how we usually do it. A little sweet taste before a meal, for example, will enhance your sense of satiety and allow for better digestion. You can read more about the 6 tastes here.
What I have been reading
I have been re-reading Gregor Maelhe’s chapter on mitahara, diet, in his book on Pranayama. Only the fact that there is a chapter on diet in a book about breathing should be a reason to pause and consider. With his usual precision, he gathers a lot of information from a variety of ancient scriptures. On page 114 he writes:

There are three ways of looking at mitahara, three different aspects to it. The Bhagavad Gita (17.8) describes mitahara as consuming only sattvic food. On the other hand, the Vasishta Samhita (I.50) measures mitahara through the number of mouthfuls the yogi takes, meaning a yogi takes les than the average person. A third way of looking at mitahara is described in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (1.58), which states that one’s food needs to be offered to God before eating it.The Gheranda Samhita (V.21) combines two of these aspects when suggesting eating with love for the Divine, and leaving the stomach half empty. For maximum effect, a wise yogi will practice all three aspects of mitahara simultaneously.

Certainly this is food for thought! The bad pun, though, reminds me that diet is not restricted to food consumption, it can extend to company, media, reading … For all, luminosity (sattvic), never going to excess, and gratitude apply.

Kia is coming to Glasgow!
Final three places left29 April – 1 May 2022

NADI SHODHANA: Moving into Unity with Duality – Entering the Sanctuary Within
Pranayama & Ashtanga Yoga Intermediate Series Intensive

Kia returns for a fantastic weekend of three masterclasses, two pranayama and satsang sessions, meditation and brunches in our beautiful Arlington Baths.

Check here for more information and booking.

Image: Kia’s retreat in the Spanish mountains.


My classes are now off for a month as I am traveling and training. I return to Yoga Moves Glasgow on Tuesday 26 April. Kat and Kate will cover my love classes in the meantime!

After that, I resume a normal schedule ONLINE on Tuesday mornings and LIVE at the Arlington on Thursday mornings. If you want to come to a LIVE class, please book in advance as we are still restricting numbers for safety and comfort.

From 26 April:

Tuesdays, 07.15 – 08.30/09.00, ONLINE | Yoga (Led into Mysore)* 
Thursdays, 07.15 – 08.30/09.00, LIVE | Yoga (Mysore)*PRANAYAMA (Breathing) first Tuesday of every month

3 May
31 May
21 June
07.15 – 08.30 ONLINE ON ZOOM

£5 ONLINE | £11/£9 LIVE

I am also available for pranayama one-to-one sessions online (introductory or following up your practice). Reply to this email if you want to find out more.

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland classes for staff are taking place online. Contact HR for details if you are staff or check RCS sport’s facebook page if you are a student. 

Staff: Mondays, 1 – 2
Students: Wednesdays, 5 – 6 // Fridays, 1 – 2