For me, bringing some discipline to my dietary habits has been a challenge. I have always had a weakness for good food and that had been by undoing in my early years as I had put on a lot of weight. It took serious determination and psychological hacks to break that conditioning for my physical transformation. While a high protein, low carb diet with intermittent fasting may work for shredding fat from the body, it is far from ideal if one wants to journey deep within. I have tried different things with my diet and found out various empirical truths which work for me. I will try and share my experiences in this article. As with most things in life, it is best to experiment and see what works for oneself before proclaiming something as a universal prescription.
The biggest challenge for me early on was sitting still. For any meditative process, sitting still is the first step. However my habits of drinking a lot of black coffee , intense strength workouts and high protein low carb food made me very jittery. When I used to sit, my feet used to to shake and hands used to move. I now sometimes wonder at the excess energy drain these physical tics entailed. While I could deadlift 2 times my bodyweight and do weighted pullups with 30 kgs, I could not sit still for 5 minutes in a cross legged posture. It was a humbling experience initially.
As my sadhana became deeper, my dietary preferences switched to fruits, raw food and khichari (rice lentil preparation). Over time for physical fitness I just did basic hatha yogic asanas and dropped all strength training. The thought that one has to repress oneself and be perfect in all aspects before starting yoga is not really correct, the unnecessary stuff justs drops off over time. It is meditation and Guru’s grace that moves one towards yama and niyama almost without effort. Enforcing a set of yamas and niyamas on oneself without a Guru’s guidance will just lead to frustration. We all have it backwards.
I have also found fasting to be of immense help in clearing out the body and mind. Especially during certain times of the year like Navaratri or Mahashivaratri there is extra support from nature for fasting. As I move ahead in spiritual journey, I have become more and more sensitive to what I eat. The scriptures are correct on sattvic, rajasic and tamasic qualities in food. These do get imposed onto the person eating the food. In my experience if I eat pre- packaged food , my awareness drops almost instantly and I feel lethargic. Freshly cooked food or fruits work well for me. On the days when my stomach is light and I have eaten fresh food the previous day, it has been effortless for me to sit still. The best meditation sessions have always had this ingredient. So while food may not in itself be enough to support the spiritual practice, it is an integral aspect of the same.