1. Mind & Body Function Best on an Empty Stomach
You may think that eating something through the day will help you be more active. But if you look at how your body feels when there is food in the stomach and how the body feels when the stomach is empty, you will see your body and brain work best when your stomach is empty. If food is constantly being processed in your digestive system, a certain amount of energy is naturally allocated towards that, so both your brain and body will not function at their best.
If you want to function at your full potential, be conscious and eat that kind of food where within 1.5-2.5 hours, your stomach bag becomes empty and the food material moves to the intestine. The body does not consume so much energy from that point. And within twelve to eighteen hours, the food must be completely out of the system. This is what yoga always insists.
The stomach being empty does not mean hunger. You feel hungry only when the energy levels run down. Otherwise, the stomach must be empty.
If you maintain this simple awareness, you will experience much more energy, agility and alertness. These are the ingredients of a successful life irrespective of what you have chosen to do.
2. Cleansing the System for Physical and Mental health
When the digestive process is happening in the stomach bag, the purification of the body on the cellular level almost shuts down. So if you keep eating through the day, the cells retain impurities for a longer period, which creates various problems over a period of time. Even the excretory process from the intestines does not happen efficiently because the waste material will keep coming to the colon at different times instead of at once.
If the colon is not clean, you are asking for problems. In yoga, we say that an unclean colon and psychological disturbances are directly connected. If the colon is not clean, you cannot keep your mind stable.
In Indian traditional medical systems such as Ayurveda and Siddha, it does not matter what a patient’s ailment is, the first thing they will want to do is purge your digestive system because most of your problems may be due to an unclean colon.
The way people are eating today, keeping the colon clean is going to be a big challenge for them. But suppose you eat just two big meals a day and nothing in between, or if we are too active we may eat a fruit, then your colon will always remain clean.
In the yogic system, we say there must be a minimum of six to eight hours between one meal and the next. If that is not possible, at least a five-hour gap is a must. Less than that means you are causing trouble to yourself.
3. Assimilating Food into the System
What you call as your body and your mind is a certain accumulation of memory. It is because of this memory – or you can call it information – that this body has taken its shape. The food we eat transforms into the body depending on this memory. Let’s say I eat a mango. The mango gets into me and becomes a man. If a woman eats a mango, the same mango will go into her and become a woman. If a cow eats the mango, it goes inside a cow and becomes a cow. Why does this mango go into me and become a man and not a woman or a cow? It is essentially because of memory, a specific kind of memory that is there in my system.
And why is it that if I eat a mango, one part of it becomes my skin and it comes to the same skin tone? You don’t suddenly find one mango-colored patch on the hand. Because there is such a strong memory structure, whatever I put in, the memory will make sure it becomes this person, not some other person.
As you age, this ability of the body to integrate food starts to reduce because your genetic memory and evolutionary memory become less capable of transforming whatever you consume. You may be healthy and capable of digesting what you eat, but the body will not be able to transform the mango into a human being with the same vigour. Digestion happens but transformation of one life into another will not happen as well because the memory is becoming weak.
The body will adjust itself to this slowing down, but if you are conscious about how you eat and what you eat, you can adjust it more sensibly. Unless you are an extremely physically active person or have some medical issue, if you are over thirty-five years of age, two meals a day would definitely be healthier for you. If you are eating more, you are unnecessarily burdening the system. You no longer need that much food because your vertical growth is completely over. If you feel a little hungry or tired, a fruit in between should take care of you. If you can maintain this, you will live very well. It is economical and eco-friendly and you will be healthy.
4. Maintaining Integrity
One level of what the spiritual process means is that you bring a certain sense of integrity to your body and mind. By integrity, I mean when your system is not consolidated in a certain way, if it is loose, it becomes incapable of experiencing anything. Even if the greatest things happen, you will miss it.
The only instrument that you have through which you can experience is your body. You can say your mind, but that is also body. In opening up the body to something outside, you loosen the integrity of the physiology. This is something that people have not understood. How many times you open your body to receive something in a day will also determine how long you live. If you simply open up the system too often to outside things, you will loosen the system. A body like that cannot do anything because there is no integrity. When there is no integrity, there is no connectivity with anything. You will simply survive somehow. Nothing will happen beyond that.
Why yogis or those who are in sadhana eat only once or twice a day and nothing in between is because they don’t want to open the body for anything. No outside elements except air and water should enter the system too often because it will loosen the integrity of the system in terms of sensitivity. Sensation is the outermost layer of who you are. If you want to keep yourself very sensitive, it is important you do not open your body to anything and everything that comes your way. You must eat well, that’s not the point, but you should not be eating many times.
5. From Compulsiveness to Consciousness
Not eating when you feel like eating is one part of sadhana so that you take away compulsiveness for food, or for anything for that matter. Food is a very fundamental thing. Based on this, many other aspects of life become compulsive.
Many of you might have suffered this torture: it is the meal time, you are really hungry and you come to the dining area. There is food in front of you, you want to gobble it up. But people are closing their eyes and folding their hands for the invocation. The idea is that you are very hungry but you wait for two more minutes. Try to do this with everything that you are compulsive about. Whatever you are compulsive about, just wait for two minutes. It will not kill you. It will leave you very strong.
Taking away that compulsiveness in the body is crucial. Your body and mind are a composition. All kinds of past imprints have formed tendencies and those are compulsive. If you go by that, it means you have decided not to evolve. You have decided that you do not mind living in the pattern. You do not want to break the pattern and explore new possibilities.
Food is something very basic and simple but still, how you handle this aspect makes a lot of difference. This is a journey to a more conscious way of functioning by slowly distancing yourself from the information that is already there within you, which is ruling you from within. Bondage is on many different levels, but the foundation of all your bondage is your body, so that is why you work with the body.
Gautama the Buddha went to the extent of saying, “When you are very hungry and you are badly in need of food, if you give away your food to somebody else, you will become stronger.” I am not going that far. I am saying “just wait two minutes” – it will definitely leave you stronger.