Live and Simple Eating

What are simple ways to make proper diets easier?

The best way is to think simple. Too often, diet plans are complicated, with ingredients we don’t normally eat, or don’t fit into our personal schedule. Most of us enjoy eating but not cooking, want the benefits of healthy food without the health food store price, and want meals we look forward to instead of dread (which makes us binge).

Yes, health is important, but it’s not something we think about until we’re sick – which is why thinking simple is important. Eating so that health is not a concern, having loads of energy, boosting our immune system, improving our cardiovascular health, having healthy skin, protection from inflammation, and fewer colds and flu, are all empowering things. And more importantly, simple to achieve and maintain!

As a Yogini, diet is part of my lifestyle. Many think of Yoga as just an exercise routine, but its far more. Yoga is a way to be fit physically, mentally and mindfully.

Eating like a Yogi meets all the nutritional requirements, builds health from the ground up .. at the cellular level, involves few calories, is inexpensive, takes little time to prepare, is nutrient rich, and no .. you don’t have to be a vegetarian! Told ya’ it was simple!

To begin, think “lifestyle”, not “diet”. Also think, “What do I really like to eat?”

A single day example looks like this:
~Breakfast:
-Green tea or coffee. If you normally add sweetener, consider using only half or one-quarter. In other words, don’t take away what you enjoy, just lower your portion size. Also consider a bit of spice, like cinnamon in coffee, or honey in tea.

-Grain and Fruit. ‘Grain’ is a carbohydrate, such as oatmeal, your favorite cereal, bread/toast, or a granola bar/cookie. Breakfast should always include carbs .. to give us that ‘full’ feeling. And ‘Fruit’ should be one you enjoy. So your breakfast ‘Grain and Fruit’ can be: oatmeal with berries, toast with peanut butter, cereal with a banana, or a granola bar with an apple. Finally, portion is important! One cup of oatmeal is a lot to me, but may be just right for you. So my portion would be ½ cup of oatmeal with ½ cup of berries. With commercial cereals, the suggested portion size is a great place to start. With toast and granola bars, start with on – remember, eaten with fruit! – but try not to exceed two.

Bottomline: Think whole grains, and consider bulgur, kasha or even brown rice for breakfast. And sweeten with cinnamon and cardamom, or vanilla or almond extracts.

Snack:
-Protein and Fruit. Just like carbs are the perfect way to start the day, so too is protein for your first after-breakfast-carb snack. Some ideas include: peanut butter and banana, yogurt and an orange, or nuts with raisins (yea! for trail mix).

Lunch:
-Greens and Protein. Think: taco salad, chicken or turkey salad, tuna salad, or Greek salad (with feta).

Bottomline: With greens consider yogurt instead of salad dressing, season with garlic and onion for additional flavor.

Snack:
-Fruit or Veggies. Lots of option here! Think one apple, an orange, a pear, a few slices of pineapple, or a mango. Or, think celery or carrot sticks, cucumber slices, broccoli bushels, radishes, or avocado.

Bottomline: Another great way to eat fruit is applesauce, or some other fruit sauce. They are easy to make at home because they only take a few minutes, and you can add nuts and your favorite spices.

Dinner: This should be your largest meal of the day, which is not a reason to pig-out, just to eat more than you did for breakfast and lunch.
-Veggies and Protein. This can be any combination, such as: salmon with sweet potatoes, chicken with peas, tuna with celery and onion, steak with homemade salsa, beans with Brussels sprouts, turkey and spinach, or hummus with celery and carrots.

Bottomline: Think more veggies, less meat.

Desert: Yes, you can have desert!
-Fruit and Sweetener. Think: grapes with honey drizzled over the top, berries with sweet nuts (like almonds), strawberries with grated chocolate, plums or figs with yogurt.

There it is, no fad diet (so no yo-yo effect), no counting calories, no wondering if and which vitamins you need to take. Always think ‘simple’, ‘tried, true and tasty’, and you can’t go wrong!

Be Happy, Healthy and Whole!

Yogini Valarie Devi
hamsayoga-shala.com

Wild Politics

Yoga does not encourage one to be unconcerned with the challenges of daily living.  Nor should the idea of Yoga detachment be confused with apathy to the world.  A life dedicated to Yoga (not just Hatha/physical practice) is one that allows freedom to pursue both mental and supra-mental ideas.  Detachment is the abandonment of illusion to better live in a way helpful to one’s society and world.

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The idea of Yoga simplicity is not relegated to the physical world but the mental realm, where one seeks the methods to be free of ego and its complexities.  Spirit and matter both are expressions of the Absolute, so to abandon one for the sake of the other denies the All.

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Yoga is the art of dynamic living, which is the true pulse of spiritual aspiration.  One may choose to confront the daily concerns of life, or one may denounce the daily concerns of life.  In all, it is best to Adapt, Adjust and Accommodate to daily living to better promote union (‘yoga’) with the Source. A course of action far superior to inactivity (tamasic).

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Through Yoga one purifies and integrates ones heart and mind – a practice akin to a research scientists intense focus on their particular field of study.  So that the Yogi, though not directly engaged in the world, is able to impact the world in beneficial and educational ways.

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Because Yogi’s seek to confront their individual samskaras (impressions) and so sooth the tumultuous waves of mind (vritti), who better to turn an adamantium (vajra) eye onto the realm of politics?

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Certainly, if political leaders at every level – from trash commissioners to school administrators, to senators and presidents – were to embrace but a modicum of Yogic ideas, they would be better able to promote shanti (peace), metta (loving kindness), and karuna (compassion) for all their constituents.  With Yoga they would be able to explore methods of namaste (mutual respect) and so diminish the need for ignorance (avidya) and injury (himsa).

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Yogis are well served to seek out areas where their philosophical dedication may assist others; for when one is not swayed by political ambition or fame, they are better able to be true servants of purity (sattva) and enlightenment (bodhi).

Wild Peaceful Warrior

“The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.” -General Douglas MacArthur.

This has long been a favorite quote of mind, and something I relate to both my life and Yoga practice.

I started the practice and study of Yoga when I was 11 years old. Being a vata bodytype, the Yoga lifestyle quickly soothed the nervous, restless and anxious child, allowing her to discover a creative, artistic, sensitive, playful and deeply spiritual self.

At all times, Yoga is a highly individualized practice, yet one we share with others, for who better to accompany one on life’s journey than those who are interested in self discovery?

So it is, that from early on, my Yoga practice became that of a warrior, a kshatriya. This Sanskrit word is rooted in kshatra and means “roof, umbrella, dominion, power, government”, likewise, “to rule, govern, possess”. Externally, this is the way of the warrior, the soldier, the fighter. And yet another definition is from the ancient Iranian language, where it means “holy precinct, a sacred field”, so that a kshetra is a place where the holy temple or sacred event took place. This is seen today in Buddhism where the word kshetra means, “the place of refuge”.

Tempered through the might of Yoga, the wild child grew into a fierce Yogini.

Over the years I have studied martial arts, enjoy weapons, and have served in the United States Army. Over those years (and still today), many have related that they consider this ‘odd’ or contrary choices for a Yoga practitioner. Which means that what Yoga is, is not clearly understood by many. Again, it is a highly individualized practice, one that aids all those who step on the tapas (Yoga mat, discipline), an opportunity to discover, explore, refine and hone who they are.

My Yoga path is that of the Peaceful Warrior. Used to be I didnt like this term; today I realize that I simply didnt understand it. The Peaceful Warrior is so bandied about that its meaning has come to mean anything the user chooses it to mean. From a Yoga perspective – from my view on the tapas – it has come to mean the transition from Kshatriya (ruler, nobility, warrior) to Brahmin (warriors, priests). Note for my Hindu readers: Not in the sense of a societal practice, but an inner transition from one level of personal understanding to another.

So it is that the term ‘Peaceful Warrior’ began to unfold its wisdom to me. From the beginning, Yoga was not something I did, but a way of living, waking, sleeping, sitting, eating – a way of both living and dying. Which doesnt make my practice of Yoga special or better than any one elses, for it is merely the manner in which it has manifested within me.

Yoga becomes what the practitioner brings. Yoga is only that which one makes it. And for me, Yoga is not what I do to become enlightened, but something I do because I am enlightened.

Yoga, like the tapas (Yoga mat) is empty, simply a space, a linear point. So that if one chooses to be attached or non-attached, that becomes one’s Yoga.

For me then, Yoga is both physical and meditative. Physically, my Yoga practice draws upon both ancient and modern forms from Yoga to martial arts and even dance. My personal practice, as reflected in my teaching, is rooted in precision, alignment and calm abiding. My students often describe my classes as ‘challenging’, yet agree that they explore the body’s full range of motion, that instead of focusing on but a few poses/asanas, I deliberately seek out those positions that allow us to experience strength, balance, agility, control, grace and power.

Then, Meditatively, my Yoga practice is not just a sitting practice, but mindful living. Meditation is not just about sitting still, quieting the breath, and “seeking” for something (calm, peace, what have you), for the more one looks for something in meditation, the more it slips through ones fingers and so out of ones life. Meditation is freedom from ones own ideas – which for those consumed with the importance of personal ideas, sounds frightening. Yet, this is the very pulse of Yoga, and if taken up bravely, manifests as deeply and richly fulfilling.

Free from preconceived opinions, impressions, and groundless supposition, I am able to reside in non-attachment, simplicity, patience, and compassion. In fact, it is the ability to be rid of ones sense of identity that allows one to not just transition from ‘warrior’ to ‘spiritual warrior’, but to wholly embrace the fluidity of that shift within the primal layers of being.

So yes, ‘the soldier, above all others, prays for peace’. The Peaceful Warrior challenges fear and uncertainty, which are battles fought within the heart. Like the beautiful examples in the Bhagavad Gita, the Peaceful Warrior flows through life with clarity and awareness, knowing that all wars are fought within, and that the only victory is loving kindness and Truth. It takes decades to secure the Peaceful Warrior, for it requires courage, discipline, and commitment, and in the end, there is no reward other than awareness of Self. But then, that is all that matters ..

Shanti and Metta!
Yogini Valarie Devi