Sunday, November 13, 2005

Yogic Eating; Half Full or Half Empty?

Imagine a photograph of you and your family, standing behind a table. In front of you is spread all of the food you collectivley eat in one week.

For at least 30 families, this picture isn't hard to imagine. Husband and wife, author and photographer, Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio traveled the world, 24 countries in all, to document just what families eat.

They compiled their findings along with the family food photos in a book, just released, called Hungry Planet: What the World Eats.

I listened to their interview a few days ago on NPR. You can hear it at .

They talked about vast differences between families of different parts of the world--differences in quantity, packaging, satisfaction, and more. They talked about their favorite meal, actic chard, which I still haven't figured out.

I liked most of all their tale about the eating habits of the people of Okinawa, where they have the highest percentage of centenarians in the world.

Okinawan men live to an average age of 78, women, 86.

Most of the elderly in that country live by the Confucian-inspierd adage "hara hachi bu," which means, "eat until your stomach is 80 percent full."

I've tried this over the last couple of days. It's hard. Not just because I like to eat. But because you REALLY must pay attention. You've got to tune in to even begin to estimate what 80 percent of "full" might be.

All this talk about food got me wondering what the ancient yogis had to say about filling up on food.

In the 5th chapter of the Gheranda Samhita, Gheranda tells Chanda "the skullbearer":
Should the yogi undertake the practice of Yoga without having a measured diet, he will get several diseases and his Yoga will in no way be successful. (16)
A measured diet is said to consist of food that is pure, sweet, rich, leaves half the stomach empty, and is eaten with love for the gods.(21)
One should fill half the stomach with food, a quarter with water, and leave the fourth quarter for the movement of air. (22)
Sounds like good advice to me.

Eat well, and it will sustain your practice.

Don't just read about it. Get up. Experience it. Experience yoga!

Kevin Perry

p.s., I've just done what I try never to do. I told you about something I've never experienced myself. I've never disciplined myself to eat routinely so that my stomach is never more than half full. So I don't know what results it produces. I don't know if it "works."

If you have or gain some experience eating this way, I'd like to hear about it. Please send me an email and tell me about your experience. Thank you. I'm at

p.p.s., The excerpts above from the Ghearnda Samhita are taken from a translation by James Mallinson that I own and like. You can "Search Inside" it if you log on as an user

p.p.p.s., Speaking of pure food...I can't say enough about how wonderful the food (and staff) are at the Hotel La-Gunita in Yelapa, Mexico. When we were there with our Experience Paradise Yoga Vacation group last January, everyone ranted about the food.

We had only fresh food for one whole week. It was extraordinary.

Every morning the bartender gave us pitchers full of freshly squeezed orange juice. He was standing there under the palapa cutting and squeezing oranges in the dark as we tip-toed across the beach to the yoga room for meditation and pranayama.

When we came out for breakfast we always had homemade yogurt, homemade granola, and freshly sliced mango and pineapple.

That's just breakfast. I haven't even spoken of pie yet.

And I haven't spoken about the yoga, either. You won't ever forget your yoga vacation in Yelapa. Register now at

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