Tag Archives: Healthy living

Food Sadhanas: 4 Practices to Keep Your Mind & Body Whole

Standard

After prenatal yoga teacher training a few weekends ago, I was inspired to reacquaint myself with Ayurveda (India’s traditional healing system). As a person who associates my primary dosha as pitta (fire), I reviewed the list of foods and spices that I am supposed to avoid according to ayurvedic principles. I quickly remembered why I didn’t pay much attention to Ayurveda when we covered it in graduate school–as a pitta I am to avoid or limit many foods that I love–like garlic, onions, and spices to name a few. Messing with a pitta’s cherished food is not a fun or an easy matter. In fact, it might be dangerous. If you are part-pitta, you know what I’m talking about. With this one fact in mind, it’s no wonder I decided against adopting this healing system into my way of life.  And yet, here I am blogging about it and thinking about my views and practices around food.  Maybe it’s a sign I need to revisit Ayurveda.

For today, I did not come here to discuss the particular foods as they relate to my body type and Ayurveda, but I came more so with the intent to speak about food sadhanas. To keep it simple, a sadhana (sod-a-na) is a special practice. This practice is typically a wholesome/spiritual activity that is connected to nature, and it is a pattern that is based on the memory of the universe. It is an action that can lead to those “a-ha” moments that some of us seek out and some of us avoid. According to Maya Tiwari, sadhana awakens our cognitive memory and replenishes the lost art of beauty, grace, and accommodation. Through sadhana we can better connect to the earth and to our own internal and external environment.

The simple act of cooking and eating can inspire and rejuvenate our body’s cognitive memory. Food sadhanas are so important to “waking up” and connecting to nature and others, because food takes us through the complete cycle of life and elicits universal memories. From seed to waste to seed, this central practice helps our whole life come into balance. Special food practices help us reacquaint with nature and with our own nature. And yet, today, confusion about food is the norm. People consult with dieticians and nutritionists to navigate their relationship with food. And who can blame us? With the way most food is produced, there is no wonder why we have “experts” who exist to help us with it all. However, if we look at it from a very basic perspective–from the perspective of a food sadhana or food practice, we all can agree that we know more answers to our questions about food than we realize. And we also know that many of us are guilty of not engaging fully or honestly in our food practices.

Some food for thought today surrounds some basic and timeless concepts that connect the individual to the greater community/world through simple food practices. We often think about what we eat as being important to our health but not about the practice of how we eat.

Practice #1 Expressing Gratitude 

When it’s time to sit down for a meal or food, how often are you grateful? How often do you think about the farmer or person who made this food available to you? And how often do you send a thank you note either mentally or physically to that person? By being thankful and grateful while we eat, we have a peace of mind, which leads to a more peaceful digestion. How do you practice gratitude as it relates to your food practices? Do you offer to clean up after a meal? Or do you inhale the meal and move on to the next thing? Unsure about who to thank when you eat your food? Think about that for a minute. Investigate.

Practice #2 Emotional Eating–How do you feel?

A sweet meal can turn sour really easily if you are feeling in a dumpy mood. Never eat when you are upset. It is an insult to your body, the food, and the food-maker. How often do you eat when you are upset? Unfortunately, this practice is a habit many of us know too well or maybe even do without realizing. What would it look like if you did not eat when you were feeling down? How would your relationship with food change and how would your body change if you were not eating to fill a void?

Practice #3 Savoring the Flavor

Part of eating is for sustenance, but it’s also for enjoyment. Are you actually tasting what you are eating? Or are you checking your email? Or thinking about what you have to do or what you should have done? Are you chewing your food? Are you being present with your food and surroundings? Research has shown the importance of chewing food and being present. We all very well know that when we take our time eating, we usually feel better afterwards.

Practice #4 Eating in Community 

How often do you eat with your loved ones? Sharing is such a gift, and to share a meal with someone is a very healthy and necessary food practice. Through shared meals we cultivate friendships and make connections that are greater than ourselves to those around us which is important to our well-being. When we do not fulfill the human need to bond with others, we tend to try to bonding or attaching ourselves to other things, like the food itself, drugs, or possessions. When was the last time you shared a meal with someone? Were you fully present?

Main source: Ayurveda a Life of Balance by Maya Tiwari

Properly Building Core Strength: A Reminder About the Dangers of Sit-ups

Standard

We are told that having a strong core will prevent back problems. So what do health-conscious people do? They engage their core, putting themselves through tireless workouts that pair countless sit-ups with the beat of music. The problem with this picture is that standard sit-ups actually do more damage than good to the back.  That’s right. Word on the street is the traditional sit-up is NOT good for you.

Dr. Richard Guyer from The Texas Black Institute explains that the “crunch” part of crunches will strain your back at its weakest point. The segment of your spine with the most nerves (and therefore most potential for nerve damage) is the actual section that bends and strains during a traditional sit-up.

Now, I know for most of us, we are not sad about this news. When we first heard it, we maybe incorporated this tidbit into our concept of reality a little too readily. After all, now we have scientific support to back our unpopular choice to lay on the mat during the sit-up part of the exercise routine, hoping the instructor didn’t notice our lack of participation. Wrong. Just because traditional sit-ups are hard on your back does not mean that you are off the hook for toning and sculpting that abdomen of yours. We all still need to support our back through a proper and safe core building exercise regimen.

This five minute video by Stuart McGill  demonstrates some functional and safe core workouts that can get you started.

My favorite core workout exercise highlighted in the video is the balancing one, where you alternate your arms and legs.

Another favorite abdominal muscle-building exercise I enjoy is the Plank Pose.

What is your favorite core building exercise?

What do you do to protect and support your back? 

How to Keep Your Holiday Tradition and Skip the Food Coma

Standard

Mandala Reflections is excited to introduce guest blogger, Elisabeth Meyer. This post will hopefully be the first of many, because Elisabeth is an amazing cook! But most important, she is real. Read on to hear how she finds balance amidst extravagant holiday eating.    

For many of us, the holidays are a time to celebrate with loved ones…and lots of indulgences come along with all of the celebrations!  If you’re trying to eat healthy or stick to a specific diet, this time of year can feel stressful.   I know it always has been for me:  I would obsess over all the unhealthy food I was eating.  Mind you, I still ate it – but I felt terribly guilty about doing so.

I have a new, more balanced philosophy this holiday season:  I am going to eat the foods that are special treats for me, eat healthy when I’m at home by myself, and stop worrying so much about all of it.  For me, this means I will eat the special foods that my family makes at this time of year (lasagna on Christmas Eve, my grandfather’s homemade kolache, my dad’s French toast the day after Christmas) and any special foods that are offered at other celebrations (homemade Christmas cookies, for example) without guilt or regret.  I’ll skip the treats that I don’t get too excited about but often eat anyway just because they’re available (candy canes at the office, store-bought cookies and cakes).  And when I’m home alone in between the merriment, I’ll make the healthy foods that I’m accustomed to eating the rest of the year.  I can’t tell you how much better it feels to eat the foods I love and allow myself to really enjoy them, and consciously pass on all the extra junk that I never enjoy that much anyway.

In between the indulging and the abstaining, one of the things that keeps me grounded and tied to my commitment to eating healthy, whole foods is having whole grains for breakfast almost every day.  Breakfast is an easy meal to commit to eating healthily during the holidays, because most of the partying happens later in the day, and hot cereal is such a great way to start off the morning in the wintertime.  I like to cook a large batch of grains at the beginning of the week, and keep them in the refrigerator to reheat in small portions all week long.  A couple of my favorite recipes are below:

Cinnamon-Berry Quinoa

(makes 4 servings)

1 cup milk

1 cup water

1 cup quinoa (tip:  if you rinse quinoa before you cook it, it will eliminate some of the bitterness that people often associate with quinoa, and make it taste much better!)

2 cups frozen berries (fresh berries are great too, but not seasonally available for most of us in December!)

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Chopped pecans and agave nectar or honey, to taste

Combine milk, water, and quinoa in a saucepan.

Bring to a boil, reduce to medium-low, and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Turn off heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.

Stir in berries, cinnamon, and pecans.

Add agave or honey to taste just before serving.

Cranberry-Ginger Oatmeal

(makes 3 servings)

1 cup old-fashioned oats

2 cups water

¼ cup raisins

¼ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup sunflower seeds (shelled and unsalted)

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Bring water to a boil.

Add oats, raisins, cranberries, ginger, and a pinch of salt.

Reduce heat to low.

Cook until water is absorbed and oats are creamy – about 7 minutes.

Add sunflower seeds and syrup.

Serve with milk if desired.

Elisabeth Meyer owns and directs an early childhood center in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, where she teaches cooking classes for children and families that focus on natural, whole foods cooking.  She is also a holistic health graduate student at St. Catherine University, where she focuses her studies on child nutrition and a (lapsed) blogger at Cooking in Cathedral Hill, where she blogs about her favorite recipes and experiences in her own kitchen.