Throughout my adult life, every few years or so, I would start to look like I ate all the pies. The reason for this, is that I ate all the pies. And most of the pizza and also, a lot of the potatoes.
Every few years I would suddenly start to wonder if all my clothes had somehow been shrunk as some sort of joke, or if I had someone else’s jeans on and then I’d realise “Oh, no, I’m just getting fat. Again.” So I would reactivate my gym membership and try to lay off the crisps and pies and within a few months, I could wear actual clothing without feeling like the oros man.
But then, it would happen again. “Are these my jeans? Oh.”
And I knew about calorie counting, carbs, sugar, fat, chemicals, banting, paleo, eat for your blood type, preservatives, vegan etc. I got all this stuff. But it’s all just too much and none of it resonated enough to prevent the next wave of chubbiness.
UNTIL a couple of years ago, when I attended a breathing course, and learnt a simple, ancient philosophy that actually did resonate with me, and has helped me to understand the link between food and the rest of my life. And I’d like to share with you what I learned.
According to Ayurveda, every living thing has a universal life force flowing within it. You may know this as Chi, or Qi or Ki. In ayurvedic or yogic principles it is known as Prana. Prana is good. We want as much prana as possible, and we can increase our prana through breath, water, exercise, sleep, the environments we choose to be in, the way we think and of course, the food we eat.
This philosophy also states that every living thing, including animals and plants are made up of three energetic qualities (known as gunas), which are present within us in varying degrees with one guna dominant at different times. What we think, do and eat all contribute to how much of each guna we possess. These three gunas are sattva, rajas and tamas.
I would like to invite you to try to figure out which guna is most dominant in you.
Sattva is related to lightness, creativity, clarity, harmony, peace and truth… The best parts of you are sattvic. Nicest you. Happiest you. Most grateful you. Healthiest you. A DOLPHIN is an example of a sattvic animal. On an apple tree, apples that are just ripe are sattvic and contain the most prana.
Rajas is about activity and movement - it’s what gets you to an early morning spinning class or makes you work towards that promotion. Too much rajas and we become restless and hyperactive, overly competitive, materialistic, talkative, frenetic. Think TIGER. Aggressive, swift, a force to be reckoned with. On an apple tree, the apples that are in the process of becoming ripe are rajasic.
Tamas relates to inertia, dullness, heaviness, boredom, moroseness, depression, oversleeping, obesity, laziness. An example of a tamasic animal is the HYENA. On an apple tree, apples that are over-ripe or rotten are tamasic.
Which guna do you think is most prevalent in you, right now?
The Good News is - You can influence which guna you allow to dominate, through the choices you make and particularly the food you eat.
Sattvic foods are fresh, light, easy to digest, and eaten as close to the source as possible – spinach fresh from the garden is sattvic and contains more prana than pre-chopped and packaged spinach. Organic fruit and veggies. Organic unpasteurised milk, raw, organic honey. Nuts and seeds. sprouted lentils, chickpeas. Foods that are as close to LIVING as possible.
Rajasic foods stimulate and irritate the mind and system and include excessively sweet, spicy, bitter or salty foods. Chilli, most spices, coffee, sugar, pickles, eggs, fish are rajasic and should be consumed in limited quantities with sattvic foods. Eating too many rajasic foods, and doing rajasic activities (martial arts for instance), is said to increase emotions like aggression, and the need for power.
Tamasic Foods have no prana and do not support life. Alcohol, tobacco and marijuana are tamasic. Pork, beef, lamb. Anything leftover, fermented, deep fried, canned, frozen, processed or over-ripe, including over-ripe fruit! Also, no matter how healthy the meal, overeating is also considered tamasic. We should really avoid tamasic foods completely.
NOW YOU KNOW the 3 gunas - sattva, rajas and tamas, along with the foods you can eat to increase your sattvic qualities and thereby increase your prana.
Understanding prana and the gunas hasn’t turned me into a skinny vegan yoga instructor who ends arguments with namaste (yet), but it is slowly changing the way I see food. These rules are not given to me by advertising or labels or on boxes. This is about energy. It’s about love, rather than fear.
This knowledge has made me make better choices more often, and I realise I am out of balance way before I start to suspect a clothes-shrinking conspiracy. These days, instead of finding myself at the Charlys Bakery counter wondering if two pies is too much for lunch, I find myself in the fruit and veg wondering - Is that spinach sattvic?
Is there prana in this banana?