Applied to multiple areas of life, macrobiotics comes from Greek – ‘macro’ meaning great, and ‘bios’ meaning life. It’s not only a diet but a holistic lifestyle.
Everything on the planet, including our bodies and food are made up of yin (outward moving) and yang (inward moving) energies. Both of these energies are apparent, although either yin or yang will be in excess. Our western diets are generally wildly out of balance, and tend to be acid forming – often leading to illness and disease.
Macrobiotics is based on an adaptation of eastern philosophies.The term as it is known today is the result of the tireless work and vision of George Ohsawa (1893-1966). The two main figures who sprouted from Ohsawa were Michio Kushi and Herman Aihara, who founded the Vega Centre in California. Michio Kushi was one of Ohsawa’s students and one of the most well-known contemporary macrobiotic teachers, helping introduce it to the United States in in the early 1950’s. Through the 1970’s he and Aihara were the key individuals to bring it to the west and teach it through residential study centers, lectures and books. Mr. Kushi died in 2014, but his teachings continue to be spread through the Kushi institute and his numerous followers.
Macrobiotic principles stem from an ancient Oriental philosophy, which suggests that all of life is a constant balance between yin and yang elements. Neither side is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but macrobiotic followers aim for a balance of five parts yin to one part yang, in their life and in their diet. Yin foods are made up of vegetables, grains, beans and seaweed. But also, alcohol, sugar, some fruits, soft cheeses, processed breads and honey. In life, expansive, lightweight and airy are elements that indicate yin. Yang foods meanwhile are animals and animal products, including fish, meat and eggs and salt, as well as hard salty cheeses. In life, actions that are condensed, contracting, hot, heavy and material are yang. Yin and Yang can be viewed the same as the atom and proton, as well as being equal to the medical terms of anabolic and catabolic reactions.
Cravings are a message the body is sending telling us its not in balance. Drinking cold beer (yin) brings a craving of salty dry foods (yang). There’s a reason those bags of crisps and nuts are available behind the bar! Any extreme yin or extreme yang is considered excess.
Every front has a back, and everything exists in opposition to each other. Actions we take and foods we eat have opposing and complementary aspects. Macrobiotics does suggest that extremes should be avoided, which is why sugar, extremely yin, and meat, extremely yang, are often shunned in the diet.
As well as diet, there are a few universal life principals that are observed by those wanting to adopt a macrobiotic lifestyle.
– The Principle of Opposites: Everything exists in opposition
– The Principle of Change: Nothing is static
– The Principle of Cycles: All beginnings have an end
– The Principle of Non-Identity: Nothing is identical
– The Principle of Front and Back: Every front has a back – the greater the front the greater the back
– All things are differentiations of One Infinity
The owner and founder of Down To Earth Bali, Liat Solomon studied at the first macrobiotic school in NY, the Institute for Integral Nutrition. She then lived in Mr. Kushi’s house for a year as his scribe and apprentice. She has brought these principles and teachings to the food served at Earth Café, which has served organic and macrobiotically balanced dishes since 2002.