When you live Yoga as a spiritual discipline, the practice extends even to your sleep. In Chapter 4, we give you a relaxation technique that's better than any sleeping pill for preparing you for sleep. You can make this technique even more powerful by repeating the same intention (samkalpa) that you also use upon waking; flip to "Turning your face toward a Yoga morning" earlier in the chapter for more on the samkalpa. Repeat your intention when your relaxation is deepest and before emerging from it or falling asleep.
What you eat forms your body. In turn, the condition of your body and especially the nervous system affects your mind, which affects your entire life. Thus the traditional maxim "You are what you eat" holds true to a certain degree. Yoga masters have typically been vegetarians, favoring grains, legumes, and fruit. In your diet, stick as close to Mother Nature as possible.
As important as what you eat is how you eat. Of all the recommendations made by Yoga masters, the single most important is to practice moderation. This habit is called mitahara (from mita or "moderate" and ahara or "food" in Sanskrit, pronounced mee-tah-hah-rah). Basically, you avoid both overeating and starving yourself.
Overeating not only puts pounds on you but also multiplies toxins in your body and makes you feel emotionally weighed down. Similarly, if you don't feed your body adequately, you weaken it and also risk causing disease. The best policy is to eat only when you're hungry (not just peckish). The right amount to eat varies from person to person and also according to climate and season. Find out for yourself by trial and error. Remember, though, that certain health conditions require frequent eating.
Another important yogic rule about diet is to eat with awareness. Here are some simple suggestions for changing unyogic or mechanical habits while you eat:
✓ Calm down first if you're agitated.
✓ Keep your attention on the task of eating.
✓ Eat slowly and chew your food well.
✓ Pay attention to the wonderful taste sensations in your mouth.
✓ Be grateful for your food.
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