Updated: Jan 3, 2019
BODY-POSITIVE RE-SET. No guilt, no judgement! I personally love to indulge over the holidays. I embrace my inner Bacchus! But I also love using the New Year as a ritual to re-set. I get back on my healthy eating, movement and mental health schedules because I love my body and self, not because there is something "bad" about me that I need to "fix."
I know I am not the only one who craves a little balance after all the sugar and cocktails over the holidays! (In our house, the both come together in Jamaican Christmas Rum Cake!)
I explored aggressive fasts and cleanses in the past, and I know they have worked well for many. They don't work well for me. Many are are fussy, expensive, and may even be harmful. They can mess with your blood sugar and metabolism, interfere with focus, and lead to binging later. What works for me? Develop a few days' worth of meals that are healthy, balanced, and a little . . . unexciting. We get so addicted to stimulation! We want big sensations and entertainment all the time. The simple can sometimes seem meh. When I eat a simple, less exciting diet for a few days, I become much more sensitive to the natural, good flavors in foods. Suddenly, I need way less salt and sugar (and hot sauce!) than I did a few days ago. Everything tastes so much more fresh and nourishing!
This is all part of the traditional yogic diet! This is an excerpt from the subtle energy section, which I lead in the mang'Oh Teacher Training program.
Yoga “Detox” or “Re-set”: Gunas and Diet
[nuts and bolts explanation] Gunas are energies that every body is made up of. Tamas is restful, heavy and slow. We need it to rest and digest. When it is out of balance, we are sluggish and foggy-minded. Rajas is fast and active. We need it to move in life. When it is out of balance, we are restless and impatient. Sattva is pure, calm and clear. One could argue that Sattva is never out of balance, but rather, is a state we want to achieve. That said, when one is always sattvic one becomes a holy person rather than a layperson. Not all of us have this goal. This is something to explore in your own meditations.
One of the easiest ways to work on your Gunas is through staying calm and watching what you eat. Here is a basic explanation of Gunas and Diet. It’s very intuitive.
Sattvic Food: Sattvic food is clean, plain, pure and close to nature.
Eat the whole fruit instead of drinking the juice. Eat whole grains like quinoa instead of bread or pasta, which are refined.
Nourishes the body and maintains it in a peaceful state.
Not too spicy, mostly clean and plain.
Calms and purifies the mind, enabling it to function at its maximum potential.
Leads to true health—an easeful body, a peaceful mind with a balanced flow of energy between
Sattvic foods include:
fresh fruit and vegetables
whole grains like brown rice and quinoa
legumes (soaked and cooked from dry)
whole fruit is better but pure fruit juices acceptable (no sugar added)
milk (in small amounts)
butter (ghee is better)
herb teas (decaf)
mostly plainly cooked, not too much spice
Note that Sattvic food is not necessarily vegan. The yogic system of healthy eating originated in India, and dairy products are commonly a part of the diet. Additionally, milk, butter, ghee and honey have energetic properties which the ancient yogic tradition believes bring health when used in small, conscious proportions. Drinking 3 glasses of milk a day would probably not be considered sattvic, but one glass per day is believed to have its benefits.
A very sattvic meal would be a warm homemade bean soup, served with brown rice and lightly steamed greens.
A sattvic mindstate is calm, clear, balanced, and in flow.
Rajasic food is stimulating and makes self-nourishment joyful. For optimal balance, use these flavors as treats and enhancers in a more sattvic diet. You can also add chili peppers to things if you need more get-up-and-go. Note: black pepper is considered balancing, not stimulating. Red peppers/chili peppers are stimulating.
Hot, bitter, sour, dry or salty food
Too much rajasic food will over-stimulate the body and excite passion and mental restlessness
Eating in a hurry is also considered rajasic
Rajasic foods include:
sharp spices or strong herbs, chili peppers
stimulants such as coffee and teas
onions & garlic (count as rajasic & tamasic)
A typical tex-mex style meal is very rajasic. It has chili peppers (hot) cilantro (sour) and salt. Yum!
A rajasic mindstate can be productive. When out-of-balance it can lead to being overstimulated, overwhelmed, hyper, immature, irritable, impatient, angry.
Many tamasic foods have health benefits in small amounts. For example, fermented foods are considered tamasic, but many fermented foods have health-giving probiotic properties (e.g., Kombucha and Sourkraut). Garlic and Onions are considered tamasic, but they are fantastic blood purifiers and help you ground when you’re feeling flighty. Including fermented foods and garlic and onions every day is probably fine. The key is to not eat tons of vinegar, processed/packaged foods, or full-on junk.
Tamas dulls the mind and body, making you sluggish and sleepy
Tamas squelches your prana. You may notice after eating something like potato chips, you suddenly have no energy, even if you ate healthy all day before that. The theory is that the potato chips have not only not given you energy, they took your energy out, leaving you with a greater deficit than if you had simply fasted
With too much tamasic food, the body's resistance to disease is reduced. The liver is busy processing the preservatives out of the food, leaving it too tired to process other impurities, such as smog and germs
Tamasic food can lead to dark emotions and thoughts (e.g., “I will never get out of this situation”)
Overeating is also considered tamasic.
Tamasic foods include:
fried foods (even samosas)
onions & garlic (counted as rajasic & tamasic)
refined foods (bread, pasta, cereals)
fermented foods such as vinegar
stale, overripe substances
preservatives and packaged foods
A cheeseburger and french fries with a soda, beer or milkshake is the perfect tamasic meal. Feeling sluggish yet? A samosa is vegan and has many good cleansing spices in it, but it is still fried in ghee and quite heavy.
A tamasic mindstate can be restful. An out-of-balance tamasic mindstate can be sluggish, foggy, dull, lazy, depressed, stuck, blocked, hopeless
The Gunas are natural and cyclic
An already mature apple tree loses its leaves and becomes inert in the winter. This is tamas—the dark, inert, resting state. In the spring, the tree begins to green up and grow leaves. This is rajas—growth, movement and activity. The blossoming of the flowers on the tree is still rajas until the flowers reach full bloom. Then they are Sattva—purity and maturation. But now the Sattva becomes tamasic again—the flowers cannot become fruits until they are pollinated. The waiting flower is tamas. The flower that is not pollinated is also tamas—it wilts and dies. The bees are rajasic—they buzz and fly and dance around. They bring the pollen. The pollinated flower begins to grow into an apple (rajas). The ripening of the fruit is rajasic until it reaches the perfect ripeness, at which time it is sattva. The over-ripening of the fruit is tamas. It falls off the tree and bursts open on the ground. The seeds also are tamas—they are inert. The fruit and seeds are eaten by an animal and the seeds are spread elsewhere, but they remain tamas until they begin to sprout, at which point the become rajasic.
So you see, every guna exists within the other gunas and they move in cycles.
Winter/early spring—tamas (little growth)
Summer, early fall—rajas (growth)
Late summer-fall—sattva (harvest)
Excerpt from Online Article: The Three Gunas: How to Balance Your Consciousness
We live in a magical universe filled with great forces of life and death, creation and destruction. Divine powers can be found everywhere to lift us into a greater peace and understanding. But undivine forces are also ever present, working to lure us down further into confusion and attachment. Truth and falsehood, ignorance and enlightenment form the light and dark, the illumination and shadow of the world. In this basic duality of creation we struggle not merely to survive but to find meaning in our lives.
Want some more healthy, simple RE-SET ideas?
Check out this classic ayurvedic food called kitcherie. It is a meal you eat to "cleanse." It is easy to digest and balancing. Kitcherie is tasty, easy to make, and keeps your blood sugar stable. It is still food, so you can focus and live your life. https://www.ayurveda.com/recipes/kitchari