Yogi Diet: No wheat, partly to mostly raw, and a little annoyed

When I first switched to a raw diet six years ago, it was out of desperation. My immune system was so weak, pneumonia was an annual occurrence. My bones were leaching calcium. Although I was a faithful Ashtangi, I was constantly sore, and any improvement in my practice cost me days of extra extra soreness, and I just couldn’t keep on muscle. My doctor was baffled. After informing me that I had early signs of osteoporosis, she suggested I try a raw diet. Why not? I thought. Nothing else had worked.

It worked. My energy increased. I spent my very first winter ever without getting sick. Retests six months into the diet revealed I had stopped losing bone mass. My good cholesterol soared above normal. My low blood pressure had normalized. Anemia was gone. And I’d gained muscle mass and lost fat.

Then, when Steve decided to go partially raw, the whole system got taken up a notch, since we could do raw for two. Fruit really dropped off the radar. Steve saw great results as well, but he wasn’t satisfied. He decided we should stop eating grains, either raw or cooked—wheat in particular.

Things have been going swimmingly since, right up to about three months ago, when I started practicing the complete Second Series. I started feeling a bit…peckish. Especially after practice. Sometimes I would wake up hungry in the middle of the night. I was gaining strength and endurance very, very quickly. And I felt like I couldn’t eat enough.

On a raw diet, “more” can be difficult to maintain, since quantities are high to begin with: Our refrigerator would be stocked with Costco-sized bags of spinach and broccoli. The VitaMix was working like the workhorse it is. Still, I felt peckish.

You might be thinking “duh” right about now. But try to remember I don’t have any experience with this sort of thing. I’m nearly 48. How is it possible that I’d be getting stronger?

The mystery was solved in one almost tossed off comment by Tim Miller during his last teacher training. Someone asked him about diet (which someone inevitably does). He said when he started Ashtanga, like the rest of us he became immediately aware of what he was eating. He tried a “no mucus” diet, which involved increased intake of vegetables, no grains, no dairy, etc. But when he started a more advanced practice, he started to feel like that wasn’t enough. So he asked around, and started a “strengthening” diet. Nothing extreme, he said, but First Series is about purifying and cleansing. Second is about strength.

I thought immediately of Nancy Gilgoff, and the week-long adjustment workshop I’d had with her months before. The workshop was at Jodi Blumstein’s shala, which is also Jodi’s house. Every day, after practice and during our breaks, Nancy would go into the kitchen an have eggs in ghee.

So I started asking my fellow practitioners, who had way more experience in Second Series than I do, “What do you eat?”

“I have to eat meat, but it’s mostly fish.” “Lots of kicheree. I follow an aruvedic diet.” “I’m raw, but I eat raw dairy and meat.” “No starches, no grains, no dairy.” “Pretty much a normal diet, but no red meat.” “Lots of meat, all kinds.”

Tim described the diet as “strengthening,” but I learned that means something different to everyone.

The answers were all different, but everyone I asked could go into great detail about their diet choices and how they got there. The lesson I took away from this was a little painful. In becoming more aware in our practice, we become diet dilettantes—mini-experts in our own food intake. As you may be aware, this can make for some tedious conversations. You might even be thinking that it can make for some tedious blog posts. I know I am.

So, what does this mean for my own diet, and the food I share with Steve at home? I still believe that modern hybrid wheat is a very bad thing, and alternatives (“gluten free” processed products) are just as bad. Relatedly, processed foods (even “raw” ones) are bad. I still believe in mega quantities of things with color that come out of the ground, and I’m lucky to be able to afford them. But, I’m going to once again tune in to my body when I walk through the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. Goat milk kefir? Why not. Chick pea curry? Sure. But the VitaMix is still working overtime.

Posted by Bobbie

Published by


Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

15 thoughts on “Yogi Diet: No wheat, partly to mostly raw, and a little annoyed”

  1. Curious what you mean by: “processed foods (even “raw” ones) are bad.”

    Also, when you use “strengthening” as it relates to diet, are you suggesting increased proteins and fats? What exactly do you mean by “strengthening diet?”

    Very good posting, btw!

  2. I do second regularly, and need more than a strictly vegan diet to maintain my strength. I noticed feeling famished and depleted soon after I started the practice, too.

    One of my meals each day is just a fresh/raw green veggie juice. My other meals include legumes (mostly lentils, black beans or chick peas) and rice or quinoa with more veggies, raw, steamed or sauteed in oil or ghee. If I feel hungry between meals, I drink warm water with lemon, or herbal tea or I snack on dried fruit, spiced chick peas or raw almonds.

    About three times a week, I have eggs, which seem to help me maintain my strength for second.

    Eggs in ghee are excellent, served on top of wilted spinach, with sea salt and cracked pepper – it’s delicious. Great on brown rice, quinoa or steel cut oats, too, for those who eat grain, that is.

    Another favorite – chopped kale in ghee or olive oil with a bit of garlic, then scramble a couple of eggs in with it. Salt, pepper, so simple. Green eggs! Fabulous.

  3. I think Michelle’s response might answer the first question, but part of the point I was trying to make is that “strengthening” seems to mean something different to each person, but Second Series practitioners seem to all share this sense–the need for more of something. I find that in and of itself kind of fascinating.

    There are a lot of odd raw foods on the market. I see a lot of raw protein powders, raw bars–raw fast foods, basically. The raw diet is really demanding, and it’s tempting to buy these things because you feel like it’s an easier (but expensive) way to go. But if you look on the ingredients, they’re often just simple, ground up sprouts with some cacao added. I’ve learned to suspect anything in a package. If it needs a package, it’s processed in a way to preserve it. There’s really no reason to eat a dehydrated sprout in mylar when you can just eat a fresh one!

    Coconut water is my favorite example. You could drink it from a package. Or you could drink it from a coconut.

  4. Well, I’m eating eggs. They’re free range, fertilized eggs from chickens that had their own rooster, and that’s as close as I can get to raising them myself, which will stop me from eating the neighbor’s children, as I don’t have any of my own to eat.

  5. Oh snap! too funny with the eggs situation, yikes! Thank you so much for your candor Bobbie, it’s always so nice to see other practitioner’s trying to find their way. I know for me, diet is always a tricky deal. As of this moment, i stick to a 75% raw diet, lots of juice and greens(salads), I was completely abstaining from all grains(I am Celiac/Crohne’s Disease) nice combo huh? And I am Vegan. But lately, i have been allowing some whole grains, quinoa, millet, brown rice, maybe like 1 cup per day, if that. I will tell you that it had made a huge difference in my stamina and energy! My one weakness is Tofu and I eat a ton of it, I know, it’s in a package, but it is organic and non gmo, the combo of tofu and grain has been wonderful for me:) i stay away from breads/gluten free crap and the like. I do not eat a lot of fruit, maybe a good peach or some watermelon if the craving arises. Just like you, I did notice that i just needed “more”:) Don’t hate me for saying, but, i am only 2 yrs younger than you and my mother never forgets to remind me that Menopause is waiting around the corner to attack me:) Although, I have a completely different lifestyle than she did at my age, she may have a point(slightly:)). Be well Bobbie!

  6. That quote from Sharath is interesting. Why?

    Yes, eggs may not be considered strictly vegetarian, in the sense that you are eating an ovum that has been naturally expelled from a living being as part of it’s reproductive cycle. I guess fertilization is a factor here – if it’s fertilized, is it now a living being?? (Does life begin at conception!?)

    An unfertilized egg is simply a product of a living being – as is milk from a cow (which is also a by-product of the cow’s reproduction cycle). Or honey from a bee.

    Last I heard, drinking milk, eating ghee is part and parcel of the Indian diet, and I’m certain honey is eaten, too (although it aggravates Pitta and you should never cook with it.)

    So…I don’t quite understand Sharath’s logic, to be frank. Anyone know why he says this?

    Of course, if you are vegan, than no products from any animals, of course, which includes no milk, no eggs, no honey, no bee pollen – nor even yeast – which means no wine nor beer nor leavened bread – if you’d like to take it that far, for consistency’s sake. And, I know vegans who do – more power to them!

  7. ‘Listen to your gut’ is the best advice I’ve ever heard about a lot of things. It’s nice to read it being put to practice in yoga. thanks for the post.

  8. Very good post, Bobbie, and so interesting to hear about this and see all the comments. I have had the same issue while focusing on practicing Second this summer. I’ve complained about this a few times myself – the feeling that I just need to eat, or that I am getting worn out easily during practice when I usually feel strong – something akin to “hitting the wall.” I’ve bemoaned the wisdom of practicing at 5 a.m. on a very empty stomach and felt generally a little irritated. I’ve returned some foods to my diet lately – more goat cheese, greek yogurt, ghee, eggs, some milk…and I’ve been eating a little more in general. I’m feeling much better (though not necessarily at my fighting weight). Thanks for sharing, as usual.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s