Yoga, like its cousins, classic Sāṃ̣khya and Buddhism, is a collection of practices that takes us to a place where pain ceases to affect us.
The ancient yogis understood that the mind cannot cease its endless obsessions if the body is in pain. They taught that in our journey towards a more enlightened way of life, we must begin with the body. This is very relevant for the modern yoga practitioner since our lifestyle creates many of our bodily pains and diseases.
Yoga is built upon the practice of disciplines (yamas) and constructive actions (niyamas). In other words, Yoga describes how to lead a life that eventually creates harmony and balance in all of our interior and exterior relationships.
According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Svātmārāma’s classic encyclopedia on Hatha Yoga practices, yoga does not begin with dozens of sun salutations. First, Svātmārāma warns that over-eating, over-exercising and unnecessary fasting (austerities) kills a yoga practice. Secondly, he says having a moderate diet is the most important discipline (yama) to practice.
The masters know that Siddhasana is the best of all asanas, just as moderate diet is the foremost yama and nonviolence is the fundamental niyama. Chapter 1 Verse 38
There it is, the basic principle – how we sit, how we interact with food and how we act in all of our relationships with other beings directly affects our Yoga.
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika has seventeen verses (slokas) related to food and diet reminding us to have balance in our relationship with food. I write about the Yoga of Food with the hope that you, dear reader, will be inspired to embrace the first yama as described in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika in your yoga journey.