What is a Sentient Diet?
Vegetarian diets have become popular during the past 40 years, but the vegetarian diet that is important to those who practice yoga and meditation is still not well understood.
The yogic vegetarian diet is centred around foods that affect the mind as well as the body, which makes it different from other types of vegetarian systems.
Gauging the effect of food on the mind requires an understanding of the philosophy behind yoga. According to yoga philosophy, the force of nature works in three primary styles, and the different foods are governed by each one of these alternating styles. Thus the yogic diet has three food classifications:
Nature’s sentient principle dominates foods which are beneficial to both the body and the mind. These foods include most fruits and vegetables, grains, legumes (beans), organic milk products, nuts, herbs and mild spices. Note that there are some vegetable products which are not sentient: lentils (taken at night are static, during the day they are mutative), red lentils, onion, mushrooms, garlic and white eggplant are static; the durian fruit (of South East Asia) is also static.
The natural force that creates motion and change in the universe is predominant in some foods. Mutative foods are beneficial to the body and may or may not be beneficial to the mind. These foods are stimulants, and some examples are: coffee, tea, chocolate, ginseng, carbonated drinks, and strong spices. Taken in moderate amounts, mutative foods are not harmful to spiritual progress.
There is a static force that creates inertia in the universe. This force solidifies and binds consciousness. A static quality characterises some foods, and when eaten, they make the mind dull and drowsy. These foods are detrimental to mental concentration and meditation. They also stimulate the lower chakras (psycho-physical controlling points) of the body and the mental propensities controlled by these centres, making it more difficult for the aspirant to maintain mental purity.
In terms of vital energy static foods are harmful to both body or mind, and they are not eaten by yogis. Static foods include meat, fish, eggs, onions, mushrooms and garlic. Alcohol, tobacco, drugs, as well as rotting or spoiled foods, also are static.
Those who want to succeed in meditation and yoga will get significant benefits by following a diet that includes foods from the sentient category, and by avoiding the static foods. A sentient diet is especially important for those who wish to perform yoga postures on a daily basis.