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Ahara, Anna, Annam: Food

Vedas tell the importance of Anna (food) food.

See the shloka:

Annam pranamannamapanamahuh |

Annam mrtyum tamu jivatumahuh |

Annam brahmano jarasam vadanti |

Annamahuh prajananam prajanam ||

"Anna (food) is said to be both, Prana & Apana; the two forms of the breath of life that permeate the body. Anna is the giver life, and also the extinguisher of it. Those who know Ayurveda, the science of life, know anna (food) to be the cause of aging. Anna is said to be the progenitor of all progeny."

Essence is that the food is Prana of all the living beings, without food we can not think about the existence of life.

Vedic/Yogic scriptures tell not only the importance of the food but also the impact/influence of the food on our body, mind, feelings...

See the shloka of Upnishads - Chandogya Upanishad 7.26.2:

Ahara shuddhau sattva suddhih

Sattva suddhau dhruva smritih |

Smriti lambhe sarva-grandhinam vipra-moksah ||

"From purity of the food comes purity of mind, from purity of mind comes constant remembrance of God, and from constant remembrance of God one becomes free from all bandages: one becomes liberated."

Here Upnishads is emphasizing on the purity of the food.

Purity of Ahara leads to purity of the mind.

Sattvic ahara helps for meditation. The discipline of Ahara is very necessary for the Yogic Sadhana (spiritual practice).

Many of the Yogis emphasize the control of the tongue. Because they know that if the tongue is controlled, all the other sense organs (indriyas) are controlled easily.

See another Yogic text - Bhagwad Gita(6/17). Yoga practitioners should take this shloka as a Definition of Yoga.

Yuktahara-viharasya yukta-cheshtasya karmasu |

Yukta-svapnavabodhasya yogo bhavati duhkha-ha ||

"Yoga becomes the destroyer of all the pains for him/her who is moderate in eating and recreation, who is moderate in exertion in actions, who is moderate in sleep and wakefulness."

Please give the attention to this shloka. In Bhagwat Gita, Lord Krishna tells the moderation of the FOOD first then the rest of the things.

Even the Hatha text "Hatha Yoga Pradipika" clearly tells about which food should be avoided/prohibited 🚫 and which food should be consumed by the ideal Hatha Yoga practitioners.

In yogic culture, before taking the meal, we use to chant the food mantra/mantras. One Mantra is very common. See it:

Om Brahma Arpanam Brahma havir Brahmagnaou brahmanahutam.

Brahmaiva tena gantavyam brahma karma samadhinam.

In short: the anna/food is not just materials/substances that you eat/put/thro in the stomach. It's Havir means holy offerings (in form of God) that we offers humbly to the God (that's inside of every one).

So eating anything merely for taste (satisfying the tongue) is actually disrespect of the food & also for your inner self (God).

Modern Definition of food:

Food, substance consisting essentially of protein, carbohydrate, fat, and other nutrients used in the body of an organism to sustain growth & vital processes and to furnish energy.

So, before eating or purchasing the food from market, think about three three qualities: sustenance growth, maintenance of vital processes & furnishing of energy.

Now point is this:

What kind of food should we take or avoid ?

There is a long list of the food, but here for grossly understanding I would like to share few shlokas of Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

See -1/59: "Food that is well lubricated, sweet, leaving one fourth part of capacity, consumed for pleasure of God in side is said to be balanced diet."


At least one fourth space of your stomach should remain empty.

Quantity is also very important factor. Doctors of naturopathy are telling clearly: you can minimize the aging process, first by eating 25% less of food in quantity & second by fasting few hours (8 to 16 hours according to your work & body condition) every week.

can read my article on fasting.

One more important thing, you should feel peace & happiness while eating. Don't eat anything if you have the feelings of sorrow, anger, lust, jealousy, hatred, guilt... etc. If you eat anything in those moments, your system refuses to digest & assimilate.

Another one shloka- 1/62: "Food items that are considered to be conducive for a yoga practitioner are: wheat, rice, barley, good grains like a variety of rice crop grown in sixty days, cow milk, ghee, jaggery, butter, sugar, honey, dry ginger, cucumber, seasonal fruits etc..., five leafy vegetables, greengram lentil etc..."

Note: Here sugar means not the white sugar.

Another one, see the shloka 1/63: "A yogi should consume the food that is contributing to health; sweet, lubricated, made of cow milk, nourishing to the fundamental element of the body (called Dhatus), agreeable to one's own mind or taste and which is conducive and fulfilling all conditions (of Yogic food)."

Which food should a practitioner avoid?

Hatha Yoga Pradipika 1/60: "That food should be understood not conducive which is heated again & again, dry, too much salty, acidic and not conducive leafy Vegetables are prohibited."

Hatha Yoga Pradipika 1/59: "Food that are said to be not conducive are: bitter, acidic, pungent, salty, hot, green leafy vegetables, mustard and sesame oil, wine, fish, flesh of goat etc..., curd, buttermilk, onion, asafoetida, garlic etc."

Note: Nothing is useless in this nature but also we should accept that all food items are not good for everyone. Yoga practitioners require different foods that can help to walk on this path successfully.

Why is it forbidden to eat these oils?

Actually, Ayurveda is also telling same fact that oil is not for eating, oil is made for massage. Then what should you use to cook the food? Answer is Cow ghee. Personally, I am not in the favor to roast/cook any fruit or vegetables in the oil or ghee. To get best benefits of it, you should add it in prepared food.

Curd (yogurt) & buttermilk are very useful, beneficial. Both have special qualities to restore the ecology of your digestive system & help to improve the quality of the sleep. So, in current scenario, it's not a wise decision to leave it.

In Naturopathy, buttermilk is considered a nectar for digestive system.

Should you leave the Onion, Garlic & Asafoetida?

Answer: you should eat them wisely.

Yoga practitioners, students, teachers, poets, writers, scientists... or any field where have only mental work, or very less physical work, should avoid or minimize the use of it. I know how beneficial garlic is but again, I am telling it's not for everyone & for every day use.

If you want to know about the different kinds of Ahara (food), see the article about Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic food.


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Hari 🕉!!!

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