When most people think of nutrition, especially in Western culture, they think of calories in versus calories out, i.e. consuming more calories requires burning more calories.
In yogic tradition, nutrition can be thought of in a more spiritual kind of way, believing that food is the creator of life force, prana or kundalini energy, bringing vitality and health.
Yoga, meaning “yoking” or union of mind, body and spirit, is practiced as not just a means of gaining strength and flexibility but as a means of cultivating an inner awareness, self-realization, and enhancing an inner energy or life force called “kundalini,” allowing one to experience more joy, peace, feelings of ecstasy and love, as well as minimize the mind’s anxieties and quiet emotions, ultimately allowing one to feel a sense of purpose in their life.
If you are a regular yoga practitioner, you may have experienced some of these effects or some of the feelings, leading towards these effects, including a sense of calmness.
Much scientific study has acknowledged the force of the Kundalini energy, including work by the famous psychologist Carl Jung and much by Dr. Lee Sannnella, MD.
So how does nutrition come into play?
We cannot only live but also eat in a way that enhances the kundalini experience.
This includes incorporating more nutrient dense, highly mineralized foods, including lots of dark leafy greens and an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Healthy fats from foods like avocados and more easily digested proteins like plant based proteins, including beans and chickpeas, or hemp seeds allow for this lighter feeling in the body, ultimately enhancing the kundalini energy.
This is where excess weight and poor diet can have an effect on moods — it’s essentially blocking the flow of this energy.
Individualizing the diet is also important. From an ayurvedic standpoint, this means discovering your own “dosha” or mind-body type to determine which foods would be most beneficial to you.
The three doshas are pitta, kapha, or vata. Personality traits, including your temperament, physical body type, sleep patterns, and even your complexion all play a role in determining which foods should be consumed. For example, someone with strong pitta influences have powerful intellect and a strong ability to concentrate. Good balancing foods and seasonings to incorporate are ones with soothing and cooling effects, such as cardamom, cilantro and fennel. Hotter spices such as chili peppers and cayenne are suggested to be avoided.
There are questionnaires you can take online to determine your own “dosha.”
Eating modestly and not in excess is important to maintaining a lighter feeling in the body. Avoiding processed foods and stimulants such as sugar, caffeine and alcohol, which are said to deplete the kundalini. This is where many can experience brain fog, lowered energy and feelings of inadequacy.
Staying optimally hydrated with purified water is also important to maintaining this vital life force within.
Like yoga, nutrition can be thought of as only one per cent theory. The other 99 per cent is practice. You can only read so much, but to experience for yourself is when the true wisdom of how food, lifestyle, and incorporating a regular yoga practice can play an integral part to our wellbeing and ultimately our liberation.
Kristin Fraser, BSc, is a holistic nutritionist and local freelance writer. Her column appears every second Thursday. She can be reached at email@example.com.