Yoga-Inspired Nutrition: Applying the Yamas


September is National Yoga Awareness Month in the U.S. Though many people are most familiar with yoga’s physical practice involving poses and breathwork, this two-part blog series focuses on its more introspective limbs.

The term yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word yuji which means yoke or union. Fittingly, practicing the principles of yoga helps us to feel more connected with both ourselves and living beings around us. The Yamas and Niyamas, often described as yoga’s moral codes, form the foundation of a holistic yoga practice and help us cultivate more mindfulness around our choices and actions. Approaching nutrition from this perspective leads to a way of eating that is in harmony with nature, and also physically and emotionally satisfying.

Use yoga’s principles to guide you to a balanced way of eating. #yoga #nutrition #yamas #saslife Click To Tweet

The Yamas

The word yama is often translated as moral discipline. The five yamas traditionally focus on how we interact with the world around us, but we can interpret them as a guide of how to act towards ourselves too.

If aligning your eating patterns with nature and your body’s natural preferences sounds appealing, as you read on choose the interpretations that you connect with, and apply them to your own food philosophy.

Ahimsa: non-violence

  • Do not judge yourself or others.
  • What words do you use to describe foods or your eating behaviors?
  • Use this tool to help you cultivate a positive inner voice around food and eating.

Satya: truthfulness

  • Be honest with yourself about when, what and how much you eat, and notice if those patterns change in social situations.
  • Food logging can help us to become more honest with ourselves, our patterns and overall consumption.
  • Use the Hunger Fullness Scale and Mindful Eating Log to help you reflect.

Brahmacharya: abstinence; self-control; non-excess

  • What situations tend to lead to eating too much?
  • Recognize and address your triggers.
  • Practice recognizing your sense of satiety/fullness.
  • Abstain from or pre-portion foods that you are likely to overconsume.

Aparigraha: non-greed; non-attachment

  • Let go of attachments to a specific food or eating pattern, especially when it doesn’t work well for your body.
  • Eat what you need without overindulging.
  • Minimize food waste.

Asteya: non-stealing


For a deeper dive, check out The Yoga of Nutrition - Living the Yamas and Niyamas: Part 1. And for more on yogic philosophy, read Eastern Body, Western Mind.

Ready for more? Check out part 2 of Yoga-Inspired Nutrition for ways to apply a second set of yoga’s principles, the niyamas.


Sesame Peanut Tempeh

Makes 2 servings
Recipe adapted from: Eat with Clarity

8oz block/package of tempeh
2 cups chopped broccoli
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1-2 Tbsp avocado or toasted sesame oil, divided

For the Sauce
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
¼ cup tamari or soy sauce
1 Tbsp maple syrup or honey
2 Tbsp vegetable broth
2 Tbsp natural peanut butter
Juice from ½ lime
½ tsp red pepper flakes

For Garnish
¼ cup chopped scallions for garnish
½ tsp sesame seeds for garnish
Optional: ½ avocado


  1. Whisk together all of the ingredients for the sauce in a small to medium bowl.
  2. Cut the tempeh into squares, cut each square into triangles.
  3. Add the tempeh to a bowl and coat with half of the sauce. Let sit for about 15 minutes to marinate. Toss it halfway through to ensure the sauce is coating every side.
  4. While the tempeh is marinating, heat a medium pan with a dash of oil (avocado or toasted sesame) over medium heat, add in broccoli, and after 5 minutes, add tomatoes. Remove vegetables from the pan after 3-5 minutes.
  5. Once the tempeh is finished marinating, reheat the pan over low/medium heat with 1Tbsp of oil and add the tempeh, leaving most of the marinade in the bowl.
  6. Let simmer until the sauce starts to darken, then add in half of the sauce (save the other bit for drizzling on top of the bowls).
  7. Simmer for about 5 minutes to allow the tempeh to absorb the flavor. Flip halfway to ensure it is evenly cooked.
  8. Assemble the bowls with broccoli and tomatoes, tempeh, sliced green onion, sesame seeds, sliced avocado (optional) and a drizzle of the peanut sauce.

Note: Once cooked, this tempeh will last in the fridge for about 3-5 days.




About Author

Jen Sohl-Marion, MPH, RDN, LDN

Manager of Nutrition and Healthy Living Programs

Jen is the Manager of Nutrition and Healthy Living Programs at SAS Institute in Cary, NC. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and an Integrative and Functional Nutrition Certified Practitioner. Outside of work, Jen enjoys hiking with her family, practicing yoga and spending quality time with her dogs.

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