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Abstinence v. TemperanceBy Dr Sara Gottfried Posted 20-Feb-2015


Loved this blog by our Yogawoman expert Dr Sara Gottfried about the ‘Yogic discipline of eating.’

“Abstinence is as easy to me as temperance would be difficult.”

Samuel Johnson

I have to agree with Sam that it’s easier for me to give something up completely than to indulge occasionally. One cookie dashes my good will and good intentions. Not everyone feels this way -- I've encountered many normal eaters who eat one bite of a dessert and their brain does not light up like they've just had a hit of crack. Others say they don't need abstinence, yet have some denial about their relationship with food. Where are you along the continuum?

Take sugar or chocolate or wine – I feel bad after I indulge. Not just guilt about my slow metabolism slowing down even further but I feel chemically off. My open channel to the divine gets clogged. I don’t feel lithe and joyous and peaceful, which is my usual state when I’m abstinent. I feel altered, toxic, sad, and anxious. Unfortunately, simple carbohydrates trigger the addictive process for me.

What I love about cleansing is that it gets me abstinent again, and reinforces my reasons and deeper wisdom.

Then, sometimes, I slip. I forget. I don't present-value how I feel after indulging or bingeing when faced with a glorious freshly-baked cookie at a friend's home. I forget the loathing, the self-retribution, the angry inner authoritarian.

I love to bolster my cleanse with favorite books, such as The Yoga of Discipline by Gurumayi. Her essays on the Discipline of Eating are extraordinary. Gurumayi is very direct. Let her wisdom wash over and guide you.

You must overcome your bad eating habits. You have to transcend the desire for food that makes you ill. You must develop new habits and practice them three times a day.

Sages and seers have placed great emphasis on discipline in eating. This means controlling the insatiable desire of the taste buds for sensation and controlling the impulse to keep the stomach full at all times.

When there is no respect for food, your body becomes a kind of haunted house. All sorts of fears and insecurities breed inside of you, and try to smother them with food, food, and more food. Whenever you experience fear, think of what you have eaten. Whenever you are indulging in insecurities, try to understand what you have eaten recently - not just that day, but the entire week or two preceding. You can keep a journal. In the beginning it may seem tedious or useless to keep a journal of what you have eaten, but if you do this, and then look at it at the end of the week, it will give you a very clear picture of how you treat food and how you treat your own body.

Discipline in eating is very relevant to a person's progress on the spiritual path. A seeker should keep contemplating these questions: Who is it that eats the food? Who is it that digests the food inside? Who is it that assimilates this food? Why am I eating? Who provides the food for me? Due to what good fortune have I received this food today? What is the deeper purpose of eating food?

When this new understanding about the sacred nature of food becomes strong, you can begin to bring about a positive change in your eating habits

Gurumayi (Swami Chidvilasananda

Reposted :


  • "Yoga teaches that the most effective way of increasing blood to the brain is to allow gravity to do the work for you"

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