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.