Nutrition and the yogic lifestyle

This evening I attended a book launch at the headquarters of the wonderful Modern Baker. The Modern Baker A New Way to Bake has some great recipes such as sourdough chocolate cake and maple sugar and blueberry scones. You can find out about the health benefits of sourdough on the Modern Baker blog written by Melissa Sharp who also collaborated with Leo and Lindsay to write the Cookbook. Sourdough can be helpful for celiacs. But also consider that you may be intolerant to wheat, sugar or dairy without even realising it. Sometimes we think we are running on normal when we have nothing better to compare it with. Twenty, thirty or forty years on habitual diet may be hiding your potential energy levels, possibly much higher, much more consistent, and everything much easier.

It was not until I stopped having dairy products that I realised I was naturally much more clear headed, energetic and positive than I had been for forty years of my life. Now at 47 from what I see on YouTube real videos of the ways animals are treated in dairy farms I understand there are many good reasons to decline dairy products, and I am glad my body told me “no” before I saw the horrid truth. 

Apart from my distaste for dairy and refined sugar, I share something else with Melissa: we were both diagnosed with cancer in the same year. I didn’t know Melissa then. I only knew I wanted to survive, and from the books and research I read I knew that green leafy vegetables, broccoli and garlic were the best way to go in terms of a daily bolster against cancer cells thriving. Surgery, chemo, and yoga training later, teaching and living in Summertown I was excited to see that a new healthy bakers was due to open. I used to work at a bakers, getting up at dawn and baking early, I ate a lot of wheat working there and did not feel too well on it, so I wanted to know what the Modern Baker would have to offer. I watched keenly and on the morning of opening I took in a bunch of flowers, met Melissa, and immediately it was evident that the Modern Baker would be a valued element in the neighbourhood. 

It wasn’t just Melissa’s gorgeous dogs Bo Bo and Silla that kept me returning to the Modern Baker – nicknamed Posh Baker by some, Mobo by others – It was the healthy products, satisfying and nutritious. I learnt to make some of my favourites and now I am delighted to be able to try out the new recipes in the book. I have been teaching regular yoga classes, retreats and workshops for six years now, and I am sure the tasty sourdough loaves, cakes and salads have helped me stay well.


In the yogic approach to nutrition, food is defined in three main types: Sun foods, Ground foods and Earth foods. Ayurvedic tradition talks about the need for balance between Vata, Pitta and Kapha to have a healthy system and different types of food reflect these qualities. Sattvic, Rajastic and Tamasic.

Food is categorised as nutritious which gives energy and strength; and sustaining which heals the body and maintains health. Raw foods are required for the fibre and enzymes that help us absorb vitamins and some foods require cooking as then minerals are released and become easier for us to absorb – tomatoes for example.

There are six main flavours: sweet; sour; salty; pungent; bitter and astringent. Each have their own qualities: sweet foods can nourish but can cause mucus and obesity (refined sugar inhibits the chemical in our bodies that signals to us that we are full, and it causes inflammation forming dangerous free radicals in the body); sour foods stimulate appetite; salty foods aid digestion.

Alkaline diet is important for the body which is naturally 75% alkaline. Alkaline foods build nerves, organs, glands and keep them toned. Calm us. Leafy vegetables, fruit, pulses, legumes and lemons are alkaline. Acid foods give bursts of energy, but can cause chronic illness and ageing. Meat, eggs, butter and sweets are acidic, as well as coffee and alcohol.

Trinity roots: garlic can be used to heal gastric, septic, typhus, cholera, bacterial infections and cancer. Stimulates semen production. Onion for earache, colds, fever, laryngitis, cancer, purify blood, balance blood sugar. Ginger digestion, menstrual cramps, nausea, nourishes nerves and helps them carry more energy. Keeps spine and cerebrospinal fluid healthy.

Yogi Bhajan reminds us of the importance of preparing food with love and gratitude, eating in a pleasant environment and eating consciously. To eat when hungry only and not snack, stop before full and rest the digestion once a week. 

Sugar, salt, nicotine,white flour, alcohol and caffeine are not recommended.

Good foods for women are: Ginger, sesame oil, mangoes, aubergine, almond oil, turmeric. For men are: figs, banyan tree milk, nutmeg, saffron, pistachios, pears, plums, ghee, garlic and onions.

That was a quick low-down about how yogis use food. If you would like to know more you can always email me.

A wise Greek* once said “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food” I couldn’t agree more.

*Hippocrates, of course!

Hippocrates also said “The soul is the same in all living creatures, although the body of each is different.”