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Yoga and Ayurveda Diet History
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December 1, 2010 - 12:43 am
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Diet of an Ancient Yogi
By Manjit Sandhu

To understand the diet of an ancient yogi, we will need to step back into ancient times and live a day in the life of one of them. There were three types of yogis in ancient times. The first types were nomads and traveled on foot between villages, carrying their message to the people. The second type of yogis established a residence outside a cluster of villages while teaching their art to village residents. The third category of yogis was fortunate enough to have a wealthy patron, either a member of the royal family or the otherwise wealthy. The diet each of these yogis followed depended on the category to which they belonged.

The nomadic yogis would eat what they could find while traveling, essentially living off the land. We can assume they lived mostly off wild-growing fruits and berries. When they reached a village, it was customary for the villagers to receive them as guests and offer them meals based on the traditional diet of that village. The diet of the nomadic yogi was therefore similar to that of a poor villager, made up of wheat bread and lintel soup. These yogis ate no fats, dairy products, or meats. Food was not available in abundance, so nomadic yogis did not often eat to their full capacity.

Life was better for the yogis who lived outside a cluster of villages. Each household took turns giving them food as an offering. When their meals came from richer villagers, the yogis would eat wheat bread, homemade butter, buttermilk, cooked vegetables, and desert. When food came from poorer households, yogis received wheat bread and lintel soup. These yogis also did not eat meat, but they partook in the rest of the diet the villagers followed. They did not believe in wasting food, so they often overate to finish all they had been offered.

The royal yogis received money from their rich patrons and often maintained "ashrams", or secluded meditation retreats. These yogis grew their own vegetables and fruit; they also kept cows and made butter from the cows' milk. They grew wheat for their own bread as well. They would start the day with fresh stream water and a fresh piece of fruit. They also ate fruit, cooked vegetables, and wheat bread with butter during the day. Royal yogis abstained from meat but ate a desert equivalent to rice pudding; instead of refined sugar, they would add a brown sugar known as jaggery.


Manjit Sandhu

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