Monday, 6 December 2010

'...the pandava's like the Yogi's, were eating once a day.'

I wanted to pick up on a short exchange from the comments to the last post, concerning diet, and expand on it a little.

In his December Newsletter Ramaswami tells of the Pandava's magic pot from The Mahabharata.

'ThePandavas were in the forest incognito as per the conditions of their exile. The Pandavas with their mother Kunti were hiding in the forest for a year. They prayed to lord Krishna for food as they were not wanting to be seen openly in the forest looking for food. The Lord gave them a vessel which had the ability to give one meal a day for the family. Kunti used it to feed her sons, the Pandavas, every day with the limited food from the vessel. The cooking vessel would be washed with water and thereafter they could get food only on the following day. So the Pandavas, like yogis, were eating once a day.

roselil ask this question, in my comments section to this post,

"So the Pandavas like yogis were eating once a day."
Are yogis only eating once a day? Did Ramaswami elaborate on this fact or anything else regarding yoga practice and food during your TT?'

and my rushed response,

'He did indeed roselil, lots of little bits here and there. He told us that Krishnamacharya stressed taking control of your diet and that came up too in Krishnamacharya's's Yoga Makaranda,

'Food must be eaten in measured quantities'.

Ramaswami mentioned the next bit from the Makaranda a couple of times,

'... fill the stomach until it is half full. After this leave a quarter of the stomach for water and the rest empty to allow movement of air'. then he (K ) writes something interesting, ' For example, one who normally has the capacity to eat 1/4 measure of food should eat 1/8'.

So I guess he's suggesting we eat half as much as we used to. K then goes on to talk about satvic foods and avoiding Rajistic foods. ( I was wrong here, it's actually not that we eat half as much but that we eat half our capacity....of course if we usually fill ourselves up every mealtime then it would mean eat half as much).

Ramaswami mentioned that yogi's would eat once a day, in fact, I seem to remember he said they they would eat every third meal. So I guess, one day it would be breakfast, the next lunch, the next dinner. We found that funny because there was hardly any food on campus so we often ended up skipping meals.

Recently, on her blog, V quoted her teacher (certified) as saying ' You should eat enough to sustain your practice'. I thought that was nicely put.

My eating habits haven't been good recently, you've got me thinking perhaps I'll go back to eating once a day, maybe even the one in three thing and post on it.'

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Ramaswami writes a little about diet in his excellent book, Yoga for the three stages of life. In the Mantrayoga chapter he writes about Kriyayoga which he says is '... a purification process of the aspects of body, speech and mind.' Diet, I guess, comes under the purification of body. He refers, too, to Tapas, which can refer to a '...well planned regimen of purification.' But he notes that '...tapas as austerity, should not be such that it does affect the humours of the body; one does not want to throw out the baby with the bathwater'. He also mentions that some yogic texts warn against extreme fasting, occasional fasting is OK, but not, say, forty days, not for a yogabhyasi. He sums it up thus, 'In short tapas in relation to food is taking satvic food in moderation and offering it to God'.

Moderation
I've been concerned with my own diet recently, I used to eat in moderation and there was the short lived Macrobiotic experiment a little while ago, abandoned when I had to have a back tooth removed and couldn't chew. I didn't go back to it because, frankly, I wasn't that impressed. I'd hoped it would be of benefit to my practice but I actually felt heavy, uncomfortable, I was glad to abandon it. Perhaps if I'd stuck with it longer... , I know of a couple of Ashtangi's who seem to practice quite happily on a macrobiotic diet but it's not for me.

With the tooth being removed I lived for a few days on Sainsbury's trifle and Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche Ice cream. Since then, for some reason, I've been eating a lot of junk and have been thinking that it was time to 'take control of my diet' again. The 'Yogi's eat once a day' quote was another reminder.

So as an EXPERIMENT/exploration

Step one
Cut out the junk, the eating between meals, the snacking

Step two
Eat twice a day, breakfast and dinner

Step three
Eat once a day.
Hmmm, what do you think a late lunch or early dinner?

Step four
Eat every third meal (very curious about exploring this).
So I'm a little Confused how this works and need to check with Ramaswami, I think it means that one day you eat Breakfast, the next day Lunch and then the third day Dinner. Something like that but can't remember how it was worked out as one in three meals.

Step five
Somewhere between step two and five work on cutting down to the 1/2 full, 1/4 water, 1/4 air idea.

Like I said, just an EXPERIMENT, as well as imposing a little discipline to take control of my diet again. Not recommending or suggesting anyone else try it.

If this is going to be an experiment I suppose I should mention weight. I've tended to be around 76/77 kilo for the last couple of years ( on the TT course I went down to 75 kilo but that was due to a lot of Yoga and very little food on campus). I noticed on Tuesday I'd crept over 78 which surprised me until I thought about it and realised I'd been eating a lot of junk recently. After a couple of days of the two meals a day step I'm back to 76.7 as of this morning. Oh, before I started yoga three years ago I was 94 kilo. Must say, practice felt great at 75 but I'm not sure I'd want to drop much below that.

Only three weeks until Christmas, be unsociable to practice this then. I started eating just twice a day Thursday so, switch to once a day this coming Thursday and then the once every three meals the following week. Bit of a short experiment, should have waited until the new year. Perhaps this will be a preview and I'll explore it again in the new year.

Anyway, I've gone ahead and lumped Step one and two together, cut out the junk and snacking and cut down to two meals a day (except for Sunday).

Satvic foods?
I've never really looked that closely at the whole satvic, rajistic food thing, glanced at it and figured that, as a vegetarian, my diet was satvic enough to be going on with and left it at that. Ramaswami mentions a commentator on the Yoga Sutra's who says 'Tapas is partaking of food that is hita or nourishing, easily digestible (that eleiminates macrobioics surely), and basically satvic.'

Here's a straight forward, one page, link to what is and isn't satvice, rajistic and tamastic. I'm pretty much OK but for the eggs, which I don't plan on giving up without a fight anytime soon, oh, and fishfinger sarnies.

My best tip so far for eating just the two meals a day? A bowl of Jumbo rolled oats for breakfast, been keeping me going until dinner since Thursday without too much effort just enough discipline called for to allow me to feel a little pleased with myself for resisting the work chocolate machine.

15 comments:

  1. Boy, oh boy.

    The yogis who ate only once every third meal were probably not householders with a day job and family duties.

    Do you really think this is a responsible thing to do?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hmmm food, what a loaded topic. Macrobiotics, great idea, but I think it a little strange, as the basic tenets are whole, local, seasonal foods right? So why does that involve residents of britain eating miso soup and brown rice, wonderful things to eat, but not local, shouldn't be onion and barley soup or something? Eating seasonally and unprocessed is definitely the way, this goes unspoken in countries where seasonal produce is all that is available, but in our supermarkets full of imported produce it get's tricky, not to mention busy people and fast ready made processed foods. Actually was just reading the head cook at a Zen temples book, now there is a perfect yogi diet, for Japenese yogis anyhow.. Before I moved to Japan I would eat generally the same vegetables all year, but with a vegetable growing husband, and living next to local markets, all I get is seasonal fresh veg and lots of tofu products, and feel great for it. Funnily enough I just had a bit of a basic food rant on my Japanese blog. For food to be vital and prana filled is important don't ya think? As for eating once a day, personally, with my busy work schedule and level of activity I don't think that would sustain my pratice. Although I must say I eat a lot less frequently that I used to. There are so many factors involved, age, lifestlye, activity level, body type/metabolism, I don't think there is one answer for all, but we all need to experiment to find what works best. As for Satvic food, well ghee, milk and sugar seem to fall in those realmss..it's all a bit of a quagmire. I always take sattvic as light, health sustaining food. Good luck with your experiments, I'm still working on mine, but for now, roughly three meals a day, when my stomach growls, brown rice, miso soup and vegatables seem to be working wondefully ; )

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh my, that dulce de leche ice cream picture got me salivating from the beginning, hard to concentrate... but yes this is fascinating, every third meal, wow!, I am not sure I can do that but it is a good thing to keep as a goal in the horizon one of those "when the time is right for me" thanks for posting. Although I have to admit that when I do the oatmeal extravaganza in the morning it is not hard to go on till dinner

    also was interested in the link to the raja satvic etc but it says the article not found... strange

    Thanks for this, enjoyed reading

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi V
    No, and not Ashtangi's either, with that kind of a practice to sustain. Just as with monks they supposedly would have a bowl and ask for offerings of food, and have to eat whatever they were offered that day. I seem to remember they were only allowed to visit three houses and couldn't visit the same house twice.

    I'm not suggesting for a minute that we should be doing the same or recommending that we only eat once a day, for me, for now it's just an experiment, an exploration of a little what that was/is like.

    I seem to be quite comfortable eating twice a day at the moment and will probably go back to and settle on that after the once a day experiment .

    Time for practice.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Loaded topic エスタ? You're probably right, always surprised how seriously people take it, there was all that fuss recently over the charming Tara Stiles's book recently, lot of yogi's getting bent out of shape about it and being most unyogic.

    Was amused about the the strangeness re Macrobiotics you pointed out, The book I had was probably 90% japanese despite claiming to be more cosmopolitan. Not a bad thing as I love japanese food but didn't really get on with all the weird grains, although Spelt is a keeper.

    What's the Zen temple cookbook you have, we have Tassajara Cooking, nice little book.

    I miss the seasonal aspect of japan, how excited everyone would get about the first peaches or Kyoho, the different vegetables coming into season and being put in pride of place in their little blue baskets in the Shotengai's

    I'm curious about eating once a day and I love the idea of it being breakfast one day lunch the next etc but I think you'r right it's probably not enough for this practice. besides if your aiming at eating less, 1/4 belly full then you probably need two meals a day to cover your food groups.

    I think I love white rice too much to switch too brown, I remember finding it a little strange that Japanese would eat a plain bowl of rice when i first came to Japan, too k about five years before i began to crave it.

    Had Omrice last night : )

    I didn't know you had a food blog too, must check it out.

    Thanks claudia, will check the link

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Grimmly,
    It’s my first comment and I want to say that I am a keen reader of your blog, that I’ve been reading for a couple of years now. It has been a great source of inspiration and motivation, and also my first introduction to vinyasa karma.
    My main practice is still the primary series though, which should keep me busy for another year, or 2!
    My diet is definitely my biggest “concern” after my practice. I am always curious to read what yoga practitioners but also people involved in physical activities (dancers for example) eat.
    I am not a vegetarian, but I try to eat more and more fish instead of meat.
    I feel that when I eat pastas or rice I don’t feel tired or hungry during my morning practice. So my evening meals are around pastas or rice at least 5 days a week, and I try to balance with vegetables for lunch. I used to live in England, hm have I been influenced by those “5 a day” campaigns that were flourishing everywhere?? Anyway, nutritionists seem to agree that a healthy diet is to eat a little bit of everything, little red meat, of course vegetables and fruits everyday … I’m sure you see what I mean. Why would you want then, to experiment to eat only once a day? That sounds very unhealthy? Sometimes, I wonder, why would we “rely on” our yoga teachers for “everything”? Even when their advice is the complete opposite of what specialists say? An important part of why we practice asanas(me at least), is for our health isn’t it? so why would we start doing something unhealthy (and moreover not funny at all!)? because it’s supposed to be “yogic”?
    This makes me think of a comment from Richard Freeman, I heard him in a video saying : “the West has a lot to learn from the East, but the East has also a lot to learn from the West”. I don’t remember why he was saying that, but I think it’s kind of appropriate, it’s also the way I see things.

    Kind regards,
    Alesk

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thx for so much elaboration to my question. Lots of interesting stuff to read.

    But are you sure about the "one day you eat Breakfast, the next day Lunch and then the third day Dinner"?

    Too me it does not sound very yogic. A regular lifestyle is usually emphasized as an important ingredient to maintain a regular (daily) practice.

    My guess is that the one meal a day would be midday then, just like the pandavas did in the story.

    In relation to this, I discovered that participants at vipasana retreats are asked not to eat anything after 12 noon. (Precept no 6 here: http://www.dhamma.org/en/code.shtml). However, they are in a retreat setting focusing solely on their practice and hence not dealing with everyday life + they also enjoy breakfast.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hello Alesk, Thank you for commenting and for coming back to the blog for so long.

    I wanted to clear something up right away. Ramaswami isn't suggesting/recommending that we eat once a day or every three meals, he's just refering to how some of the old yogi's went about things in an aside. That said I think he would recommend moderation in our diet and I do seem to remember him passing on Krishnamacharya's recommendation that you only eat half your fill, the 1/2, 1/4, 1/4 thing I mention.

    No, the one meal a day 'experiment' is my idea, just curious to see what practice is like eating so much less ( I ate a lot less than usual on the course due to circumstances and felt good on it). I pointed out myself that I saw a problem in this in that if your eating so little then it would be hard to cover all the food groups perhaps, ie the five a day you mention.

    But I wonder if perhaps the focus on a day rather than a week is a mistake, perhps we should be thinking about balancing our eating over a week ( like our asana perhaps)and making sure we eat a wide range of foods. Not really my area but would be interested to hear others thoughts on this.

    I too find rice and pasta good to practice on but I probably end up making too much of it. More interesting than the eating once a day experiment is the eating 'till your only half full idea , perhaps a couple of times a day. Don't some nutrisionists recommend more 'grazing' rather than relying on big meals?
    Thanks again for your comment.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Roselil your comment just came in as i was posting my reply to Alesk.

    No not sure about the details of the every three means, need to get clarification on how that works, i remember being very curious about the idea. I thought at the time though that the iregularity was strange.

    I think breakfast and a late lunch or early dinner would suit me best, late lunch is a problem though for my evening practice, perhaps the Vipassana 12 o'clock idea makes sense, although perhaps at 1pm rather than 12, must try it.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thank you for answering my comment. I understand that you have your own reasons, but, I don’t really get what you expect to discover? This experiment sounds to me contradictory with asana practice and indeed an extreme way "to take control of your diet" :)
    Also, I find we see so many things on the internet or in magazines, around yoga and “the healthy natural organic lifestyle of yogis” like for example, all those detox diets, which are, it seems, most of the time, unhealthy. I’m glad when I read teachers promoting “moderation”, that’s a simple and almost obvious advice, but that will have for sure a long term positive impact on the people who follow it. I don't see why you should do something else?

    Kind regards from Paris
    Alesk

    ReplyDelete
  11. Sorry, I wanted to add, I’ve been tempted to leave a comment on your blog many times – I don’t know why I chose this particular subject ? Hope it doesn’t sound offensive…

    ReplyDelete
  12. No, I don't find it offensive Alesk, feel free to challenge me on anything I put up.

    What do I expect to discover? I'm sure there's a sense of 'there's a mountain lets climb it and see what the view is like or what's on the other side. Yogi's ate once a day, OK, lets see what that's like.

    Yogi's of course were great experimenters and they used their own bodies in their experiments, exploring different asanas to access every aspect of the body, kriya's, countless pranayama techniques, different approaches to meditation. if yogi's thought eating once a day or every third meal was worth doing then they probably had a reason for it.

    But lets face it, we're not talking about some extreme fast here, just eating less, I hope to discover how little I do actually need to sustain my practice, I imagine it's a lot less than I think. The practice is a good gauge, will I feel lethargic, tire more easily, lose stamina or perhaps find that I seem to have more energy. Plus I'm going into this in stages, not jumping straight in to half a meal a day.

    And of course once you find yourself comfortable eating less, making the most of the little you do eat will become another experiment.

    There's also the mental discipline of course, which always appeals.

    Mostly though, if I'm honest, I'm just curious about climbing the mountain and checking out the view.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I guess I’m not really an explorer,
    I need some kind of approval : “this is good”, before making trying something.
    I’m curious to read how it will feel though, and if it will or not affect your practice.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Dear Grimmly
    I would not advise eating every third meal. That could have the effects of what in calorie restriction circles is called intermittent fasting. It definitely is not a way to lose weight, because when you eat you compensate for the fast. Fasting is great for health, but the binging cycle is not. I would advise 2 meals a day, and earlier, not late in the day. I would also not go into that quickly, but ease into it, or you can shock your body. I've written a lot to one of the leaders of the CR society who is a yoga teacher. She gave me a lot of advise. She is a hardcore CR practitioner but said in essence what V's teacher said, that you have to eat in a way that is necessary for your practice.
    (will come back to read the elaboration on the subject later- need to study mandarin.)
    hugs
    Arturo

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hi Arturo, thanks for commenting, know you've looked into this kind of stuff.
    Intermittent fasting? Why intermittent I wonder, I mean your eating once a day just taking the meal at different times of the day. Actually come to think of it, if your eating every third meal then one day would be twice a day, Breakfast and dinner, the next only once a day ie Lunch and then back to twice a day again with breakfast and dinner. That would explain the intermittent aspect you mention. Too complicated, think I'll settle on exploring eating once a day and the 1/2, 1/4, 1/4 thing.

    I'm not seeking to lose weight Arturo, mine has stayed pretty constant the last couple of years whatever I've eaten, give or take a kilo. Nor am I Binging when I do eat, I'm eating less. The idea is to find out how little I do actually need to sustain my practice and yet feel comfortable and healthy. The challenge when eating so little is for everything you do eat to justify it's place on your plate.

    I think your right about twice a day too, I'm feeling good on it, still want to explore the once a day for a couple of weeks but will no doubt come back to twice

    So far so good, will do a post update tomorrow as it will be a week.

    ReplyDelete

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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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