A Question of Yoga Diet

 

We started with a food-blog over 10 years ago. We called it ‘Yogi’s kitchen’. The recipes and pictures chronicled our new-found Veganism and exposure to the classic ‘health-food’ movement in North America, where we had recently moved. It was never really meant for anything other than as a record and sharing of what we were up to with fellow friends and yoga-students.

We really got into it for a while; weekends, we used to go to the public-library and take out armfuls of books, cycling home with them all stacked-up in Theresa’s front-basket. It was an exciting time and we were really inspired. That is, to cook and learn, for our photos were rudimentary at very best. We were soon quickly overshadowed and overwhelmed by more ‘professional’ production, which looking back is a shame. For I always get questions more on diet than any other topic in Yoga Q&As when I teach. It’s a contentious and confusing subject, yet something everyone has to make choices with.

For this reason, I think there is still a place, and relevance, for a sensible and honest sharing on Diet. This will include a few recipes, probably some fairly bad food-styling, along with a few suggestions, thoughts, and reflections. It’s not meant to be the last word, just a straightforward presentation of the way I relate to food, what I cook and eat and the considerations behind these choices. Generally, It’s food that is simple and healthful and doesn’t take long to prepare. Nor does it demand exotic ingredients or cooking methods.

The idea is that this may inspire some readers with a little more confidence and interest to cook for themselves. To try different approaches with diet, to see what feels and suits best. To be more open and creative to something that is our most basic daily requirement, yet can often become simply a chore, or, further still, perhaps, not be serving us all that well. For, as much as it’s nice eating out, having worked in restaurants as a chef before I taught yoga, I can safely say it’s much healthier to take care of your own nutrition. I reckon, if we have a few go-to staples that we actually enjoy and don’t take forever, under-our-belt, we are more likely to be confident to cook for ourselves. Then, maybe even share with others too..

This is also much better for the environment. We are all becoming much more conscious about waste; and the food-industry is a huge factor in this. Just consider for example how much is thrown- away when huge menus, simply to gratify our need for huge variety and choice, have to be made up ready for customers. Not to mention, that with greater competition and narrow profit margins, restaurants cannot afford to use the quality of ingredients and ethical-sourcing that we can do at home.

So, this feature will be re-introduced as a source of inspiration and an idea of the kind of diet that has sustained quite a dynamic and active lifestyle (as well as Yoga-Practice) over the course of my adult life. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have experience, or a history of cooking; I didn’t either; I left home without even being able to boil an egg – quite literally. But, it’s quite obvious to me, having worked in the health industry for so many years, that, it indeed, does make all the difference what kind of fuel you put into the body. Neither is it ever too late to start experimenting with your diet, being more thoughtful, so as to better ascertain what suits you best.

For, no two bodies, in my experience, are made quite the same. Thus, we don’t necessarily all thrive on the same diet. This is why I am deeply reluctant to post definite rules around eating. It does vary, and it must be our decision. Furthermore, over the years, what suits us, and our feelings as to the way we choose to eat, will also change. This happens with age and lifestyle. For example, I used to be able to subsist quite well eating bread and cheese everyday. In the last 5 years, since I turned 35, I noticed I required a slightly simpler diet. I am also not exclusively vegan anymore; though mainly so, having suffered with an unexpected challenge to my health a few years ago, I felt I needed to make some amendments to what had previously worked, as it blatantly wasn’t any longer.

For this reason, as well as the stress that it creates, I think it’s not at all beneficial too become too fixed to a certain regime or perspective around food. There are no conclusions, it’s always a work-in-progress, in which we constantly need to ‘trim the sails’ of our attitude. Moreover, If the whole subject makes you tense, that will greatly detract from how the food is digested and assimilated. I have encountered quite a few people with an absolutely ‘pure’ diet, yet, still strongly complaining of poor digestion, bloating, IBS, and the like. Our approach to food shouldn’t, can’t, be completely controlled by our reason. It’s more than rational, it’s also an emotional and energetic subject.

Most instrumental in all this is that we enjoy what we eat. Treating our food-choices with as light a touch possible, consistently trying to find a ‘middle-ground’ between over-indulgence, or, a sloppiness with our diet, and, a life-denying rigidity. Here, our work is never done; it’s always a balancing act, and, in this we are always evolving. We never get it ‘perfect’, or, if we do, only to lose and seek balance once again. So, it’s a bit of a game, and should be approached with this kind of feeling. A relaxed experiment involving trial and error; in which, sometimes we get it badly-wrong too. This is also okay. It’s fine to make mistakes, or give into temptation now and again. But, this is as long as we can learn from our experience; then all choices are rendered worthwhile, in the light of our learning about ourselves and life. All isn’t lost; simply, reflect, consider and move on.

However, sometimes, we all beat ourselves up about the food choices we make. We physically do not feel great with them, yet continue regardless. This is not an ideal scenario, but also inevitable, and, highly understandable, for most people at times. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone with this; everyone has ‘stuff’ around food, issues and past-history. It’s our most elemental relationship to the world outside it, so it has, necessarily, to symbolise many things , for, and, to us. This cannot be avoided, nor should it.

Hence, maybe, the recourse to sugar as a stimulant, sometimes, or, fats and carbs for comfort should be allowed to happen. So what? it’s not the end of the world if we haven’t got the will-power all the time. Just as emotions should be allowed the time and respect they need to be processed, similarly, we could also acknowledge and accept the food-choices that mirror-them. Generally, given time and awareness, instead of trying to deny, or, fool ourselves, emotions and food-cravings will pass through quite naturally.

In the same manner then, strong judgements on ourselves and the choices of others around food are never useful. They benefit nobody, least the person making them. Each person must be allowed to decide for themselves, as this is to accept and respect them as an individual. Of course, in an ideal world, this would be with as clear a vision as possible as to the implications of their decisions. That is, not only for themselves, but the environment and the animal kingdom we all inhabit together. Still, our moral-compass must be allowed to be of our own making. So, if we still feel the strength of our belief as objective (which , honestly, we cannot help but do) it’s better simply to present a shining example, rather than criticise or dictate the judgement of others. This will only serve to alienate and close people off from opening up to new possibilities or ways of thinking that we might hope they might.

Therefore, the attempt here is not to be the last-word in dietary advice. In fact, the longer I live, the more I am reluctant to throw my weight behind any conclusions. Instead, I will try to shed some light on the subject, offer some suggestions, and in sharing, open us all further to the realm of further creativity and awareness on the very fundamental aspect of life itself. For, as is said in various Yoga-texts, life is itself food; the body is created, quite actually, by what we take in. Hence this whole process of nutrition is far from mundane or obvious, in fact, it’s a potentially profound spiritual-Practise in itself.

 


 

Pad Thai (serves 2)

This is a a refreshing and light whole-meal salad for spring-summer. Don’t worry If you don’t have everything, or, don’t have time to do it exactly. The recipe is there as a guideline and inspiration for your own creativity.

  • 3/4 cup long-grain/basmati brown-rice
    (If possible, rinsed and soaked overnight, which renders is more digestible)
  • 150g tofu chopped into 1 inch cubes (squeezed to release excess water)
  • 1/2 cup peanuts or cashews (lightly roasted if you have time – brings out the flavour)
  • Veg; whatever you have, but suggestions are 1 tomato, carrot, celery, cabbage, cucumber. All chopped small (try chopping in different ways, also grating)
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste
  • 1 tablespoon honey or sweetener
  • 1 tbs each of finely minced fresh ginger and chilli
  • 4 tablespoons Tamari or Soy Sauce
  • Handful of fresh coriander leaf
  • Juice of 1 lime to taste

—————————————————-

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Drain and cook the rice in 2 cups of water on a low-heat, until absorbed. About 30/40 mins.
  3. Toss the tofu 1 Tbs of the oil and 2 Tbs Soy Sauce. Place on a baking tray and, turning once, bake for 30 mins.
  4. In the meantime, bring one cup of water to a simmer, add the ginger and chilli and stir in the tamarind and sweetener. Simmer over a low-heat for 15 mins until reduced and a little thickened.
  5. Finally, add the remaining oil and sauté the veg in a large frying pan. When softened but still retaining some bite, stir in the rice and tofu. Then pour in the tamarind Sauce and toss gently together. Garnish with the toasted nuts, lime and coriander.

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