For spiritual progress I want to know the role of food intake. Which type of food is suggested in scriptures for one who want to approach the path of Yoga? In other words, do Shastras recommend or instruct particular foods (to be taken) which helps one's spiritual journey be smooth?

Looking for answers from scriptures or from speech/sayings of personalities like Swami Vivekananda who believed to be perfect Yogi.

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    In decreasing order of ideality/strength of aspirant - 1. Nothing. 2. Air (vayu bhaksha). 3. Water (jal bhaksha). 4. milk (satvik, must be obtained following many rules). 5. fruits/vegetables (many must be avoided, especially onion/garlic/mushroom). 6. grains - obtained using aja-gara vritthi (whatever falls on your plate), kapota vritthi (only obtaining what's needed for 1 day, no saving for tomorrow), uncha vritthi (only grains fallen on ground after harvest). 7. of the 6 tastes - sweet,salt,sour,spicy,bitter, thuvarpu (can't find good english word) - only sweet.
    – ram
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 15:23
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    @ram post an answer instead of comment.
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 17:05
  • I would like to add to this Q instead of a new one. Can one consume broiler eggs which are sterile? Because there is no "Himsa" (killing) involved. Answers below say about giving up fish, meat; but no mention about sterile eggs. Any pointers? Thanks.
    – Vineet
    Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 5:00
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    @Vineet, ahimsa is an important goal, it is not the highest goal. even eating onion/garlic is ahimsa (no animal harmed) yet it is regarded as worse than meat for yogi because of its sensory-inciteness. we are not discussing vegetarianism, but satvik-ism. and by definition, satvik food is ahimsa (not other way around). egg is not satvik even though it's not himsa. Still, it's only avoiding direct himsa, not indirect himsa, because egg-industry and chicken-industry are literally like pregnant mother and unborn child. Feeding mother helps feed child, and Buying eggs helps kill chicken.
    – ram
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 3:39
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    @ram , Thanks. You have got a valid point. I need to introspect on this point.
    – Vineet
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 6:17

5 Answers 5


Hatha Yoga Pradipika (1.61 to 1.70) gives the list of foods that are fit for the Yogi as well as those foods which a Yogi must avoid.

Recommended foods are rice, wheat, milk etc.

Varjayeddurjanaprāntam vahnistrīpathisevanam
Prātahsnānopavāsādi kāyakleśavidhim tathā ||

Wheat, rice, barley, shâstik (a kind of rice), good corns, milk, ghee, sugar, butter, sugarcandy, honey, dried ginger, Parwal (a vegetable) the five vegetables, moong, pure water; these are very beneficial to those who practise Yoga.

Kshīrājyakhandanavanītasi hāmadhūni
Mudghādidivyamudakam cha yamīndrapathyam ||

A Yogî should eat tonics (things giving strength), well sweetened, greasy (made with ghee), milk, butter, etc., which may increase humors of the body, according to his desire

Now, the list of food which a Yogi must avoid while practising Yoga. This list includes foods like meat, liqour, sour, bitter foods etc.


Bitter, sour, saltish, hot, green vegetables, fermented, oily, mixed with til seed, rape seed, intoxicating liquors, fish, meat, curds, chhaasa pulses, plums, oilcake, asafœtida (hînga), garlic, onion, etc., should not be eaten.

A Yogi must also always eat food which is first offered to Lord Shiva.

Bhujyate śivasamprītyai mitāhārah sa uchyate||

Abstemious feeding is that in which ¾ of hunger is satisfied with food, well cooked with ghee and sweets, and eaten with the offering of it to Śiva.

So, these are some rules about eating to be followed by a Yogi from Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

  • Can you also include what recommended in Tantra ?
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 17:06
  • I never read anything like that in Tantras so far.. @TheLittleNaruto
    – Rickross
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 17:42
  • No problem; I know what is recommended in Tantra. Just don't have any reference; So thought you might have.
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 17:44
  • You can't eat green vegetables? Aren't almost all vegetables green?
    – Ikshvaku
    Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 11:49
  • There are many vegetables which are not green,, for e.g. root vegetables (potato, carrot, beetroot, etc).. Yes while practicing Yoga a Yogi shd not eat those veggies. That is for him to follow not for any other persons. @Ikshvaku
    – Rickross
    Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 14:35

Yogatattva Upanishad (3rd paragraph ) gives a small glimpse of it with generally healthy vegetarian food is enough for a Yogi

The proficient in Yoga should abandon the food detrimental to the practice of Yoga. He should give up salt, mustard; things sour, hot, pungent, or bitter vegetables; asafoetida, etc., worship of fire, women, walking, bathing at sunrise, emaciation of the body by fasts, etc. During the early stages of practice, food of milk and ghee is ordained; also food consisting of wheat, green pulse and red rice are said to favour the progress

  • Good answer. My upvote. Can you pl give any url or scan for my study purpose? and also cite exact verse from "Yogatattva Upanishad"?
    – Vineet
    Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 7:14

The Upanishadic advice is to eat food that keeps your body healthy. Treat food as a type of medicine.

After saying thrice, ‘I have renounced, I have renounced, I have renounced’, he shall take up the bamboo staff and don the loin-cloth, uttering the mantra: ‘Let all beings be devoid of fear. Everything originates from me. You are my friend and [you] protect me. You are the strength, my friend. You are the vajra of Indra that killed Vrtra. Be pleasant to me and remove all my sins.’ He shall pertake of food as if it were medicine. He shall eat as if taking medicine. He shall eat as and when food is obtained. ‘Oh [disciples], protect brahmacarya, non-injury, non-possession and truth with care.’ 1

1 The outer and inner aspects of these qualities are: brahmacarya (outer) = celibacy, (inner)=the dwelling of the mind on Brahman; ahimsa=not injuring others, non-injury of oneself; aparigraha=non-possession of anything other than what is needed for bare subsistence, non-concern with all but Brahman; satya=truthfulness, realization of the true nature of the Self.

Arunyupanishad translated by Prof A A Ramanathan

Chandogya Upanishad says that some spiritual aspirant takes a vow to not eat fish and meat for a year or to permanently stop eating non-veg food. The exact shloka is:

He who thus knows this Yajnayajniya Saman, woven in the limbs of the body, is endowed with all the limbs, and is not crippled in any limb; he reaches the full length of life, lives gloriously, becomes great with offspring and cattle and great also with fame. His holy vow is that he should not eat fish and meat for a year, or rather, he should not eat fish and meat at all.

Chandogya Upanishad 2.19.2

Swami Vivekananda has also discussed the question of food for Bhaktas.

The question of food has always been one of the most vital with the Bhaktas. Apart from the extravagance into which some of the Bhakti sects have run, there is a great truth underlying this question of food. We must remember that, according to the Sankhya philosophy, the Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas, which in the state of homogeneous equilibrium form the Prakriti, and in the heterogeneous disturbed condition form the universe — are both the substance and the quality of Prakriti. As such they are the materials out of which every human form has been manufactured, and the predominance of the Sattva material is what is absolutely necessary for spiritual development. The materials which we receive through our food into our body-structure go a great way to determine our mental constitution; therefore the food we eat has to be particularly taken care of. However, in this matter, as in others, the fanaticism into which the disciples invariably fall is not to be laid at the door of the masters.

And this discrimination of food is, after all, of secondary importance. The very same passage quoted above is explained by Shankara in his Bhâshya on the Upanishads in a different way by giving an entirely different meaning to the word Âhâra, translated generally as food. According to him, "That which is gathered in is Ahara. The knowledge of the sensations, such as sound etc., is gathered in for the enjoyment of the enjoyer (self); the purification of the knowledge which gathers in the perception of the senses is the purifying of the food (Ahara). The word 'purification-of-food' means the acquiring of the knowledge of sensations untouched by the defects of attachment, aversion, and delusion; such is the meaning. Therefore such knowledge or Ahara being purified, the Sattva material of the possessor it — the internal organ — will become purified, and the Sattva being purified, an unbroken memory of the Infinite One, who has been known in His real nature from scriptures, will result."

These two explanations are apparently conflicting, yet both are true and necessary. The manipulating and controlling of what may be called the finer body, viz the mood, are no doubt higher functions than the controlling of the grosser body of flesh. But the control of the grosser is absolutely necessary to enable one to arrive at the control of the finer. The beginner, therefore, must pay particular attention to all such dietetic rules as have come down from the line of his accredited teachers; but the extravagant, meaningless fanaticism, which has driven religion entirely to the kitchen, as may be noticed in the case of many of our sects, without any hope of the noble truth of that religion ever coming out to the sunlight of spirituality, is a peculiar sort of pure and simple materialism. It is neither Jnâna, nor Bhakti, nor Karma; it is a special kind of lunacy, and those who pin their souls to it are more likely to go to lunatic asylums than to Brahmaloka. So it stands to reason that discrimination in the choice of food is necessary for the attainment of this higher state of mental composition which cannot be easily obtained otherwise.

The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 3, Bhakti Yoga, The Method and the Means

A note of caution

Food suggested in any Hatha Yoga book is not accepted by all Yogis. This is because some Yogis think that Hatha yoga is bad for spirituality.

It is bad according to Sri Ramakrishna.

A DEVOTEE: "Sir, what is hathayoga like?"

MASTER: "A man practising hathayoga dwells a great deal on his body. He washes his intestines by means of a bamboo tube through his anus. He draws ghee and milk through his sexual organ. He learns how to manipulate his tongue by performing exercises. He sits in a fixed posture and now and then levitates. All these are actions of prana. A magician was performing his feats when his tongue turned up and clove to the roof of his mouth. Immediately his body became motionless. People thought he was dead. He was buried and remained many years in the grave. After a long time the grave somehow broke open. Suddenly the man regained consciousness of the world and cried out, 'Come delusion! Come confusion!1 (All laugh.) All these are actions of prana.

"The Vedantists do not accept hathayoga. There is also rajayoga. Rajayoga describes how to achieve union with God through the mind — by means of discrimination and bhakti. This yoga is good. Hathayoga is not good. The life of a man in the Kaliyuga is dependent on food."

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, With the devotees at Dakshineswar (II), December 9, 1883

MANILAL: "And what about hathayoga?"

MASTER: "The hathayogis identify themselves with their bodies. They practise internal washing and similar disciplines, and devote themselves only to the care of the body. Their ideal is to increase longevity. They serve the body day and night. That is not good.

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, The master in various moods, October 2, 1884

  • Do we have Sanskrit Mantra too for bold texts ?
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 17:07
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    I have renounced (3 times) means this is about some Sannyasa ritual.. it probably has nothing to do with Yoga.. it is an instruction for a Sannyasi
    – Rickross
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 17:44
  • No, the English translation does not give anything in Sanskrit. Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 10:17
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    No one is asking whether Vedantins accept Hatha Yoga or not.. Who cares? When people fall ill they go to learn Yoga and not to Vedantins.. Empty doctrines don't bring solace to anyone.. Apart from that Hatha and Raja Yogas are complementary to each other and not enemies like you're trying to prove by quoting one line. Hatha Yoga Pradipika itself says this- @PradipGangopadhyay
    – Rickross
    Commented Nov 2, 2018 at 7:03
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    Hatham vinā rājayogho rājayogam vinā hathah Na sidhyati tato yughmamānishpatteh samabhyaset|| No success in Râja Yoga without Hatha Yoga, and no success in Hatha Yoga without Râja Yoga. One should, therefore, practise both of these well, till complete success is gained
    – Rickross
    Commented Nov 2, 2018 at 7:03

As per Ramana Maharshi



Question : What about diet?
Ramana Maharshi : Food affects the mind. For the practice of any kind of yoga, vegetarianism is absolutely necessary since it makes the mind more sattvic [pure and harmonious].

Question : Could one receive spiritual illumination while eating flesh foods?
Ramana Maharshi : Yes, but abandon them gradually and accustom yourself to sattvic foods. However, once you have attained illumination it will make less difference what you eat, as, on a great fire, it is immaterial what fuel is added.

Question : We Europeans are accustomed to a particular diet and a change of diet affects the health and weakens the mind. Is it not necessary to keep up one's physical health?
Ramana Maharshi : Quite necessary. The weaker the body the stronger the mind grows.

Question : In the absence of our usual diet our health suffers and the mind loses strength.
Ramana Maharshi : What do you mean by strength of mind?

Question : The power to eliminate worldly attachment.
Ramana Maharshi : The quality of food influences the mind. The mind feeds on the food consumed.

Question : Really! Then how can Europeans adjust themselves to sattvic food only?
Ramana Maharshi : Habit is only adjustment to the environment. It is the mind that matters. The fact is that the mind has been trained to think certain foods tasty and good. The food material is to be had both in vegetarian and non-vegetarian diet equally well. But the mind desires such food as it is accustomed to and considers tasty.

Question : Are there restrictions for the realized man with regard to food?
Ramana Maharshi : No. He is steady and not influenced by the food he takes.

Question: Is it not killing life to prepare meat diet?
Ramana Maharshi : Ahimsa [non-violence] stands foremost in the code of discipline for the yogis.

Question : Even plants have life.
Ramana Maharshi : So too the slabs you sit on!

Question : May we gradually get ourselves accustomed to vegetarian food?
Ramana Maharshi : Yes. That is the way.

Question : Is it harmless to continue smoking?
Ramana Maharshi : No, for tobacco is a poison. It is better to do without it. It is good that you have given up smoking. Men are enslaved by tobacco and cannot give it up. But tobacco only gives a temporary stimulation to which there must be a reaction with craving for more. It is also not good for meditation practice.

Question : Do you recommend that meat and alcoholic drinks be given up?
Ramana Maharshi : It is advisable to give them up because this abstention is a useful aid for beginners. The difficulty in surrendering them does not arise because they are really necessary, but merely because we have become inured by custom and habit to them.

Question : Generally speaking, what are the rules of conduct which an aspirant should follow?
Ramana Maharshi : Moderation in food, moderation in sleep and moderation in speech.

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    Beautiful! Bhagwan(Ramana Maharshi) also suggested same as recommended in Tantra.
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 16:48

Sanatana Dharma aka Hinduism has 4 sects of people depending on their duty

Brahmin (one whose life is of knowledge) ex:- Teacher, priest, doctor, scholar, architect, judge..

Kshatriya (one whose life is of a warrior) ex:- soldier, king, cop, fireman etc.,

Vaishya (one whose life is of trade) ex:- shop owner, trader, businessman

Shudra (one whose life is of labor) ex:- construction worker, engineer, driver etc.,

Brahmin and Vaishya's profession requires their mental health, alertness and well being to higher than any of their other well being (physical, social etc.,). So the foods suggested are satvik --> vegetarian, dairy, honey and so on. There are a lot of aphrodisiac vegetarian food and they are to be avoided too. It is common knowledge that those who are sexually more active always involve in those thought are less capable of being rational in dealings with those to whom they are sexually attracted. If you are a straight heterosexual business man or a priest with your diet involving a lot of aphrodisiacs then your chances of getting compromised with those of opposite sex are more. vegetarian food which doesn't affect your mood, rationality, alertness etc are recommended. Coffee is vegetarian, mushrooms are vegetarian and so are many drugs. So anything that doesn't affect the natural state and well being of your body and mind is fine.

Shudra and Kshatriya's duties require that they prioritize their physical wellbeing. That is why tamasic food (meat, aphrodasiacs, alcohol etc.,) are not forbidden or ill advised for them.

If you are following the satvic (hatha, pranayama etc.,) way of yoga then eat satvic food. If you are following the tamasic way of yoga (kundalini, tantric) then you can even go for the tamasic food too but strictly under a guru's guidance.


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