Yoga and eating food with hands

Eating  food with the hand is a part of tradition, Culture, ritual and health based on the concept of Pancha Karma Indriya ( five organs of action ) and pancha janana Indriya (five organ of senses ) of yoga and Ayurveda in INDIA.

Eating is supposed to be a sensory experience and it is said to evoke emotion and passion. According to the Vedas, hands are the most precious organs of action. The scriptures reveal how every finger is an extension of the five elements. Through the thumb comes space, with the forefinger comes air, the middle finger is fire, the ring finger is water and the little finger represents earth.

Hence, eating with one’s fingers stimulates these five elements and helps in bringing forth digestive juices in the stomach.

The nerve endings on our fingertips are known to stimulate digestion. Feeling your food becomes a way of signalling the stomach that you are about to eat. You become more conscious of the taste, textures and aromas.

Eating food is not merely a way to satisfy the hunger, but to sublimate the senses and infuse satisfaction. It is a way to nourish the inner self.

Traditionally, the six tastes (Sweet, Salty, Pungent, Astringent, Sour and Bitter ) and varied food items are served all together on one platter(called Thali )which immediately pacifies the sense of vision, smell, taste and touch.

Silence is observed, in order for the sense of hearing to be as less stimulated as possible and take the stimulus from the sub vocalization of the sound of chewing. All of this help in the activation of salivary glands and salivary amylase (the enzyme responsible for aiding in the catabolic action on the food). The five sensory organs ( eyes ,ears, nose , tounge and skin ) when engaged in the activity of eating food in the above said traditional method .Have minimal outgoing tendencies and the senses go into the anabolic or energy conservation mode so that this energy is utilized for digestion .

The five organ of action – hands ,feet, organs of reproduction, organs of eliminaton and vocal cords have the tendency to respond according to the information collected by the five sensory organs and are generally catabolic in nature.

  • The use of hands allows one to feel the texture and temperature of the food , which further stimulates the salivary glands using the sense of touch, smell, and sight. it also prevents one from eating very hot or very cold food as these extreme temperatures are not pleasing to the human body and  neither is good for the digestive fire.
  • As we use hands to eat food, we tend to bring the fingers and thumb close to each other , which forms Sumana Mudra. The center of the palm is the seat of digestive organs as per acupressure. When we use hands for eating food, we naturally trigger these pressure points, which help in the release of digestive juices from the liver and gall bladder.
  • The center of the palm is also one of the most therauptic Marma points that activate the release of pranic energy in the entire body, which is triggered in the use of hands
  • The general habit of using the dining table for having meals may lead to overeating. When we sit cross legged on the floor to eat food, every time we bend forward to break a morsel it puts pressure on the stomach and once the stomach being happily full and anything more would be over eating.  While sitting completely upright we supress this natural urge/ sign from the body’s innate intelligence.  As per Ayurvedic principles, the stomach should be only 3/4th filled with food and the rest 1/4th space should be allowed for the free movement of gases and for the process of digestion.

                                   Vedic ritual of eating food

Pancha Pranopasana Mudras can easily be practised by one and all before meals. They invoke a feeling of gratitude and connection with the process of eating (Anna Grahan) . In addition, they help in balancing the main vital current known as Mukhaya Pranas .

Practice this short exercise for revising this set of Mudras before your lunch / dinner . This is known as parishinchami  (encircling with water), and the eating of small helpings of rice is  known as pranahooti ( offering to the vital breeths ). It is performed twice a day before the meals .All other meals are  considered “extra ” or secondary (upa bhojanam ). Parisecana mantra is sort of a “protection”for the food we are about to eat .

1.Parisecana: Take a comfortable seated posture  , preferably cross legged position  (sukhasna)on the floor .Chant the mantra : Satyam tvartena parishinchami (O Food !you are true . I encircle you with divine righteousness.) And circumambulate the food with a sprinkling of eater. This sprinkling of  water is known as “parisecanna.” At night, this mantra is :Rtamtvasat yena parishinchami.

2.Pranahoothi: Perform the following Pranahoothi . Use only the thumb ,index finger and middle finger of the right hand take a very little amount food and swallow it without touching the teeth . The idea is that by first making an offering to the Pranas we pay homage to their life-giving power by virtue of their performing the bodily activities that are crucial to our survival. In this way , this ritual recognizes that  not only is food important to survival, but the very bodily function that we take for granted are essential, and we owe all of this to the supreme. who sits as the superintending power behind all bodily activity, no matter how mundane

  • Om pranaye Savaha ( Hold Prana Mudra in left hand) and meditate upon the mouth regime
  • Om Apanaya Savaha ( Hold Apana Mudra in left hand) and meditate upon the lower body below the navel
  • Om Vayana Savaha ( Hold Vayana Mudra in left hand )and meditate upon the limb (arms, hands, legs, and feet ) and heart
  • OmSamanya Svaha (Hold Samana Mudra in left hand)and meditate upon the navel region
  • Om brahmani ma atma amrtavaya. This means,” May my self be united in the supreme, so that i may attain immortality “

Dr Naveen Shukla

Founder Director Nature Care Ayurveda

State Rep. For AAA (NSW) Australia