Cultivating Reflective Awareness 1

In chapter two of the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali presents Kriya Yoga as a starting point for practice. According to this procedure the practices of Kriya Yoga will prepare us for the Ashtanga Yoga described later in the text. Kriya Yoga is three things.

· Reduction of distraction, control of senses.
· Study of texts pertaining to Yoga.
· Spiritual practice appropriate to your own situation and religion.

Some personal self-reflection and the development of self-awareness is essential to engage with these practices.

It is beneficial initially, to bring our attention to the body & mind in three important areas, eating, speech and thought. I am going to offer a few simple practices that you can do to cultivate mindfulness in your daily activities.

Lets first have a look at eating.

‘It is always because of indiscipline in food that the agitation of the mind and imbalances in the body appear in a fearful form.’                                          Yoga Rahasya Sloka III-5

‘The body is the outcome of food. Even so, disease is the outcome of food. The distinction between ease and disease arises on account of wholesome nutrition or the lack of it respectively.’                                                  Charaka Samhita Sustrasthana 28:45

Yogi’s recommend eating moderate quantities of food that are nourishing and conducive to harmony. Food is ideally fresh, tasty and light. A Yogic diet is sattvic and supports a sattvic mind state and disease free body.

The first step towards making beneficial changes to our diet is to become more aware of our relationship with food and the choices we make. These mindfulness practices (along with a well thought out Yoga practice) help us to start mastering the senses.

Mindfulness practices for eating

· Look at your food for a short time before starting to eat. Take a mouthful of food, put down your cutlery and chew slowly. Swallow and then take another mouthful.
· Eat a meal in silence. No reading, music or TV. Be mindful of chewing, tasting and swallowing. Stop eating before you feel full.
· Miss a meal (evening is best to try first), and just have a glass of warm water. Observe your mental, emotional and physical reactions to this. Do not do this without medical advice if you have diabetes or a similar condition.
· Keep a food diary for a week, record everything you eat and drink and review it at the end of the period.
· Try making a new vegetarian dish that you have not had before.
· Replace something you eat or drink habitually with something different. For instance have a completely different breakfast to your usual menu. Or just replace a morning coffee with a warm water or herbal tea.

Try out these exercises and see what you find out.

To find out more about Yoga & Ayurvedic diets these books are a good start:

The Yoga Cookbook – Sivananda Yoga Centres. Gaia Books.

The Ayurvedic Cookbook – Amadea Morningstar. Lotus Publications.

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