My friend leaned backward in his chair, tapped his belly, and let out a sigh. “I’m as full as a five-day old tick on a dog.”
I’m home in the Midwest, and we love to eat here. Food is abundant, inexpensive, and there’s a wide variety. Golden arches are almost as prevalent as gas stations, and our senses are bombarded with constant marketing messages to eat more now. There’s a new favorite in my family, an all-you-can-eat buffet that just doesn’t stop.
The Hatha Yoga Pradipka advises eating a moderate Yoga diet in several of its verses.
HYP 1:58 A moderate diet means eating satisfying, sweet food for Shiva’s pleasure, while leaving the stomach one-quarter empty.
The Gheranda Samhita gives similar advice.
GS 4:21,22 A measured diet is said to consist of food that is pure, sweet, rich, leaves half the stomach empty, and is eaten with love for the gods. One should fill half the stomach with food, a quarter with water, and leave the fourth quarter for the movement of air.
The Shiva Samhita (3:35-37) proclaims that overeating along with too much chatter, cruelty to animals, and untruthfulness – are things a yogi should definitely give up.
It’s hard to imagine what life was like hundreds of years ago when those words were written, but I don’t think they had McDonalds on every street corner and all-you-can-eat buffets. They couldn’t have had the wide variety of foods available that we have with modern transportation and refrigeration. And still the Yoga gurus felt it was necessary to recommend against overeating.
People love to eat no matter where they are in the world or on a time line. Food is an almost irresistible temptation. It’s instinct to want to eat when it’s available. That’s our basic drive for nourishment.
Our minds, with reason and proper judgment, need to lead. It’s tough not to overeat, especially in our modern culture, but for good health on all levels – mental, physical, and spiritual – we’ve got to stop.
Around the world, we’re all getting fatter. Overeating creates obesity, and that’s killing us slowly through chronic disease.
In the United States, two of every three adults and one of every three children are overweight or obese. The number of U.S. adults that are obese has doubled since 1980 and the number of obese kids has quadrupled since then.
Eating too much is one part of this epidemic. Yeah, it’s more complicated than that. We don’t move as much, we eat way too much refined sugar and hydrogenated and trans fat, we don’t get enough sleep which makes us put on weight, and maybe environmental chemicals are contributing to our tendencies to just keep packing on the pounds.
But we eat too much.
Take the old yogis’ advice. With a Yoga diet, leave at least one-quarter of the stomach empty when you’re refueling.
Be the Witness. Watch yourself and what you choose for your bodily temple and contemplate the why of it.
And surrender. The fifth niyama, isvarapranidhana, asks for surrender to a higher power through the consecration of actions, feelings, and desires. Accept a little in each decision to eat or not to eat.