What is food? The answer to this question is very simple: whatever you eat is food! There is a saying in India, “you are what you eat”, but it is not entirely correct! What we smell, see, hear, drink, read, the relationships we keep, our work environment… all of this is also food, as it nourishes us! There is more than one way to nourish the ‘Self’. The ‘Self’ is not just the physical body (Annamaya Kosha), it is also breath (Pranamaya Kosha), emotions (Manomaya Kosha), intelligence (Vijnanamaya Kosha) and soul (Anandamaya Kosha). These layers are like dust over the mirror. How can you nourish the ‘Self’ merely by what you eat?
Food for Koshas/ Sheaths
1. Annamaya Kosha/ Physical Sheath: The joy and experience of a healthy body is beautiful when it comes through the right choices of food. A unique concept in Ayurveda includes all of the six tastes in our food on an everyday basis. Each taste has different energetic effects on the mind and body; either aggravating or pacifying the Vata, Pitta and Kapha doshas. These six tastes are: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent.
Tastes for balancing Doshas
Vata: sweet, sour, salty
Pitta: sweet, bitter, astringent
Kapha: pungent, bitter, astringent
2. Pranamaya Kosha/ Energy Sheath: Lightness, energy, vitality, and alertness is the experience and beauty of the energy body. Observing the simple routine of giving enough rest to the body by taking 7-8 hours of sleep can be an excellent way to recharge. Chronic sleep deprivation leads to a depressed immune system, physical weakness and a decreased tolerance of mental and emotional stress, all of which ultimately lead to illness. The Soma Mandala of Riga Veda refers to “Chandrama Vai Somaha”, which means moon or lunar energy. Someone with a beautiful mind or body is often called Saumya which means “moon-like.” There is a deep connection between night, beauty, sleep and soma.
3. Manomaya Kosha/ Emotional Sheath: According to the Tantra Rasa Shastra, we experience a total of nine emotions on an everyday basis. These nine emotions are Shringara (love), Hasya (laughter), Karuna (compassion), Raudra (anger), Veera (courage), Bhayanaka (terror), Vibhatsya (disgust), Adbutha (surprise), and Shantha (peace). Beauty is experienced in the dissolution of all the emotions in the emotion of Shringara (love) to finally elevate as Shanta or peace. Watch the emotions behind your thoughts!
4. Vijanamaya Kosha/ Intelligence Sheath: Knowing is joy and knowledge is nourishment. The churning of knowledge into wisdom is the beauty of intelligence. The entire goal of the practice of yoga is to develop a sense of discrimination (viveka-khyati) by building the power of concentration to separate the seer and the seen. Resulting from this systematic discrimination, the seer or ‘Self’ is eventually experienced in its true nature, revealing the beauty of Vijanamaya Kosha through the food of viveka-khyati.
5. Anandamaya Kosha/ Blissful Sheath: The Sanskrit word for beauty is “saundarya”, derived from the root word “unda” which means to soak, to immerse. “Su” means the goodness or the pleasantness. If we combine the root and the prefix, the meaning of “saundarya” is a pleasant soak, delight or even bliss. Beauty is the experience of bliss, of pure joy. The self inquiry is the deepest inquiry and is the food for Anandamaya Kosha.
These simple guidelines can be a very good start to establish food as medicine, beauty and freedom. May we be beautiful inside and out, may we attain Yogi/ini’s glow.