These Are the 4 Main Differences of a Yogic Diet Versus an Ayurvedic Diet

The most common questions I get in my Ayurveda classes come up due to a confusion between the yogic and Ayurvedic diet and although they are very similar and rooted in the same philosophical and physiological basis, they do have some differences.

First, it’s important to define each type of diet and what they each constitute.

The yogic diet’s main focus is on food that is sattvic. Something that is sattvic is considered pure and light in energy. Sattvic foods include whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes.

Yogis believe what we eat has a direct affect on the quality of our consciousness, so when we eat sattvic food our consciousness also remains pure and uncluttered.

The Ayurvedic diet also recommends eating a primarily sattvic diet but also takes into consideration an individual’s constitution or dosha – vata, pitta, and kapha – so it is not a one size fits all.

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For example, someone with a dominant vata dosha (air and space) would be advised to consume more grounding vegetables such as sweet potatoes and beetroot and be moderate in their consumption of lighter, more bitter vegetables such as celery and kale.

An Ayurvedic doctor may even prescribe a foodstuff or substance that is not sattvic in order to correct an existing imbalance in an individual’s constitution.

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The following information speaks for itself, so without further ado, let’s jump right in! Read on to learn the main differences between a yogic diet versus an Ayurvedic diet.

Here Are 4 Important Differences Between an Ayurvedic Diet and a Yogic Diet:

1. Purpose

Here lies the key in understanding the difference. Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences and I believe they can work harmoniously together to create balance and health. However their aims are different.

The goal of yoga is transcendence or awakening. The diet of yoga is therefore concerned with keeping the mind pure and focused and away from substances that can alter and distract the mind so that you are able to meditate and act mindfully throughout the day.

This is why when following a strict yogic diet you would only eat things that are considered sattvic or energetically pure. Eating this way also helps one to become more accustomed to their true energetic state without the influence of caffeine or alcohol.
Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences that can work harmoniously together to create balance and health.

Ayurveda is also concerned with keeping the mind balanced but also takes into consideration the imbalances of the physical body and what occurs on the material plane. Some say one must balance yourself first through the practice of Ayurveda before you can reach the heights of yogic liberation.

For example if you are trying to become mindful but you have a physical ailment that is constantly taking your attention it becomes very difficult to concentrate.

Ayurveda helps us to prevent and treat imbalances within the body so that we have a strong and sound foundation to eventually find our higher purpose. So even small amounts of caffeine or even alcohol can be recommended in treatment or maintenance of the physical body.

2. Meat

Many people assume Ayurveda is a vegetarian or even a vegan practice, the truth is, it is not. One of the most important things you can learn about Ayurveda is that ‘it depends.’

While Ayurveda does not encourage a heavy meat diet it can recommend including some forms of animal protein within the diet to help ground and nourish those that need it. This is especially true of the airy vata dosha (one of the three main ayurvedic types).
One of the most important things you can learn about Ayurveda is that ‘it depends.’

Whether yoga is strictly a vegetarian practice is up for debate. However many yogis argue that through the teaching of ahimsa (non-violence) that meat eating goes against the ethical precepts of yoga. Meat is also considered tamasic, which means that it has a dulling effect on the mind and so should be avoided.

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3. Coffee

Oh the black nectar of life! Thankfully in Ayurveda ‘it depends’ so with coffee it depends on how you drink it. To know how you should drink your coffee it is important to know your dosha, if you don’t you can take a quiz here.

Vata: add some fat like milk or coconut oil and some sweetness
Pitta: add a little sweetness and a little ground cardamom to lower acidity
Kapha: black and unsweetened (a drop of milk if you need!)

According to yoga, coffee is highly rajasic, which means that it is highly stimulating and disturbing to the mind and therefore should be avoided all together. If you think about it, meditating after a double espresso is not ideal.

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4. Fasting

A complete fast, of no food, is very rarely recommended in Ayurveda as it can weaken your digestive fire and strongly increase vata dosha, the air and space type.

However, Ayurveda does not recommend eating your last meal of the day very late, you should leave about three hours between eating your last meal and going to bed. This naturally gives your system a rest until the next day.

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When undertaking an Ayurvedic cleanse, rather than cutting out food all together, the cleanse would consist of a mono-diet, usually kitchari which is a simple, easily digestible meal of rice and mung dhal. Complete fasting is considered extreme and can make certain imbalances more deeply rooted.
Fasting within yoga is a traditional practice, not just to cleanse and purify the body but also as a practice of spiritual discipline and as an offering to the divine.

Fasting within yoga is a traditional practice, not just to cleanse and purify the body but also as a practice of spiritual discipline and as an offering to the divine.

The teaching of Tapas, which means discipline, in The Yoga Sutras can be related to practices such as fasting, where the needs of the physical body are controlled in order to reach new spiritual levels.

Want to brush up on the other observances outlined in the Yoga Sutras? A Guide to the Niyamas: The Second Path of Yoga’s Eight Limbs

Yogic Diet and Ayurvedic Diet: Both Paths to Wholeness

It is important to understand one approach isn’t necessarily better than the other, it all comes down to the purpose and intention. Both a yogic and Ayurvedic diet encourages natural, fresh foods that allow us to come closer to our own natural balance and true nature.

Remember in Ayurveda it always depends on the person and in Yoga it is for the quest of a higher level of consciousness.