It has been 10 months since the last blog article was posted. I was busy with translation of one of Masahiro Oki’s Japanese books, being assisted by Junko Furugori, Michael Cullingworth and Hiroyuki Mori. The book introduces ‘Daily Life Yoga‘. In reality, it will take a longer time before it comes to publication. And so, it may be better to publish some completed parts in this blog. Here is one part describing his idea about diet, which is in the book’s first chapter ‘How to Control Our Mind and Body through Yoga‘.
A Small Meal of Diverse Foods
In yoga, diet is as important as breathing for mental and physical health. Yoga teaches ‘Make your food your medicine’. Many people are unaware that it’s only natural to eat foods containing the nutrients that meet their needs in the correct quantities.
Medical drugs have side effects. It is said that the more effective the medical drugs, the stronger their side effects. However, when we take an appropriate amount at the right time they work brilliantly. Good doctors are excellent at adjusting the amount of medicine.
Young children, adolescents, old people and so on — as different people need different diets, everybody should eat according to their needs. If you think of food as medicine, you will understand that you shouldn’t eat or drink too much. Taking too much medicine can lead to death. Similarly, over-eating or over-drinking can lead to poor health.
In short, a yogic meal is a small meal of diverse foods. The energy left in the body by over-eating does not lead to improving physical strength but becomes energy to cause illness. Ideally, you should maximise your digestive, absorptive, and excretory capacities and eat when you are ready to eat.
In recent years, the life expectancy of Japanese people has become the highest in the world for both men and women. The reason is often said to be the rich variety of the Japanese diet. No other ethnic group eats as diversely as the Japanese. Japanese people eat both meat and fish, both food from the sea and food from the mountains. Food is cooked in various styles such as Japanese, Western, Chinese, etc. This exemplifies what yoga means by ‘diverse foods’ very well. However, when it comes to ‘eating a small meal’, the number of people who fail to do so is increasing nowadays.
By the way, it is important to have a balance between taking things in and getting things out. Many people are concerned about eating, but not many people put importance on eliminating. Many people disregard that their ability for excretion may be declining and neglect to maintain and improve it. This increases the residual energy in the body and is not good for it. You could say that the good time to eat is also a good time for your body’s excretory function.
The key to good dietary habits is not to enjoy fullness of your stomach, but to enjoy its emptiness. In other words, you should value a small meal.
So, what can you do to improve your dietary habits?
First of all, the basic question is what, how much, and how to eat. However, this depends on each individual and is not for others to teach. It is important to consult your own body. When you are excited or nervous, you will not get the correct answer. You should follow your dietary needs when you are in a relaxed and calm state.
In yoga, we follow a ‘natural diet’ in order to awaken to our body’s actual needs. This is a diet of whole and raw foods. The whole food diet means: for example, when we eat vegetables, we eat leaves, stems and roots, and, when we eat a fish, we eat its skin, body, and bones. Raw food means uncooked food.
As an even stricter measure, we reduce food or do fasting. By reducing or fasting, we can reflect through our experience how unhealthy our diet used to be, and we can smoothly shift to a diet consisting of smaller meals.
Then, how can you practise the diet of ‘a small meal of diverse foods? It is to eat by combining foods from the river and sea, foods which warm your body and foods which cool it (such as brown rice and wheat), foods which contract your body and foods which loosen it (such as salt and sugar), animal protein and vegetable protein, and so on.
By eating like this, you can take good things for your whole body. Don’t eat with a partial purpose such as eating because something is good for your liver or good for your eyes. You should aim at a well-balanced diet so that all the parts of your mind and body can fully exert their functions. Whether a food is good for you or not can be determined by its excretion. If it doesn’t suit your body, you may have constipation, or if it is extremely unsuitable, you may have diarrhoea. Also, even with suitable foods, if the amount is too large, the body will feel heavy and dull, which will make you sleepy from the morning. So, on the contrary, if you wake up feeling clear in mind and light in body and you want to move and work, then your diet is right for you.