The human body is constantly undergoing change. Atoms of bone, tissue, flesh, muscle, fat and fluids are constantly being wornout and removed from the system, and new atoms are constantly being manufactured in the wonderful laboratory of the body, and then sent to take the place of the wornout and discarded material.
Let us consider the physical body of man and its mechanism, as a plantâ€”and, indeed, it is akin to the life of the plant in its nature. What does the plant require to bring it up from seed to sprout, from sprout to plant, with flower, seed and fruit? The answer is simpleâ€”fresh air, sunlight, water, and nourishing soilâ€”these things, and all of them, must it have in order to grow to healthy maturity. And Man’s physical body requires just the same things-all of themâ€”in order to be healthy, strong and normal. Remember the requisitesâ€”fresh air, sunlight, water and food. We will consider the matter of air, sunlight and water in other chapters, and will consider the matter of nourishing food first.
Just as the plant grows slowly, but steadily, so does this great work of discarding wornout material and the substitution of new material go on constantly, day and night. We are not conscious of this mighty work, as it belongs to that great subconscious part of Man’s natureâ€”it is a part of the work of the Instinctive Mind.
The whole of the body, and all its parts, depend for health, strength and vigor upon this constant renewal of material. If this renewal were stopped disintegration and death would ensue. The replacing of the wornout and discarded material is an imperative necessity of our organism, and, therefore, is the first thing to be considered when we think of the Healthy Man.
The keynote of this subject of food in the Hatha Yoga Philosophy is the Sanscrit word, the English equivalent of which is “NOURISHMENT.” We print the word in capital letters that it may make an impression upon your minds. We wish our students to associate the thought of Food with the thought of Nourishment.
To the Yogi, food does not mean something to tickle the abnormal palate, but instead it means, first, Nourishment; second, NOURISHMENT, and third, NOURISHMENT. Nourishment first, last and always.
To many of the Western people, the ideal Yogi is a lean, lank, scrawny, half-starved, emaciated being, who thinks so little of food that he goes for days without eatingâ€”one who considers food to be too “material” for his “spiritual nature.” Nothing can be further from the truth. The Yogis, at least those who are well-grounded in Hatha Yoga, regard Nourishment as his first duty towards his body, and he is always careful to keep that body properly nourished, and to see that the supply of new, fresh material is always at least equal to the wornout and discarded matter.
It is quite true that the Yogi is not a gross eater, nor is he inclined to rich and fancy dishes. On the contrary, he smiles at the folly of such things, and goes to his plain and nourishing meal, knowing that he will obtain there full nourishment without the waste and harmful matter contained in the more elaborate dishes of his brother who is ignorant of the real meaning of food.
A maxim of Hatha Yoga is: “It is not what a man eats, but the amount that he assimilates, that nourishes him.” There is a world of wisdom in this old maxim, and it contains that which writers upon health subjects have taken volumes to express.
We will show you, later on, the Yogi method of extracting the maximum amount of nourishment from the minimum amount of food. The Yogi method lies in the middle of the road, the two opposite sides of which road are traveled, respectively, by the two differing Western schools, namely the “food-stuffers” and “starvationists,” each of whom loudly proclaim the merits of their own cult and decry the claims of the opposing sect. The simple Yogi may be pardoned for smiling good naturedly at the disputes raging between those who, preaching the necessity of sufficient nutrition, teach that “stuffing” is necessary to obtain it, on the one hand; and at those of the opposing school, who, recognizing the folly of “stuffing” and overeating, have no remedy to offer but a semi-starvation, accompanied with long continued fasts, which, of course, has brought many of its followers 4own to weakened bodies, impaired vitality, and even death.
To the Yogi, the evils of mal-nutrition, on the one hand, and over-eating on the other, do not existâ€”these questions have been settled for him centuries ago by the old Yogi fathers, whose very name have been almost forgotten by their followers of to-day.
Remember, now, please, once and for all, that Hatha Yoga does not advocate the plan of starving oneself, but, on the contrary, knows and teaches that no human body can be strong and healthy unless it is properly nourished by sufficient food eaten and assimilated. Many delicate, weak and nervous people owe their impaired vitality and diseased condition to the fact that they do not obtain sufficient nourishment.
Remember, also, that Hatha Yoga rejects as ridiculous the theory that Nourishment is obtained from “stuffing,” gorging, or over-eating, and views with wonder and pity these attributes of the glutton, and sees nothing in these practices but the manifestation of the attributes of the unclean swine, utterly unworthy of the developed man.
To the Yogi understanding Man should eat to live-not live to eat.
The Yogi is an epicure, rather than a gourmand, for while eating the plainest food he has cultivated and encouraged his natural and normal taste so that his hunger imparts to these simple viands a relish sought after, but not obtained, by those who hunt after rich and expensive triumphs of the chef . While eating for Nourishment as his main object, he manages to make his food yield him a pleasure unknown to his brother who scorns the simple fare.
In our next chapter we will take up the subject of Hunger and Appetiteâ€”two entirely different attributes of the physical body, although to most persons the two appear to mean almost the same thing.