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Yoga Meets Cuisine

Yoga posture systems in studio or book-driven packages are now practiced by over 16 million people in the US. That's about one out of sixteen Americans, a pretty good slice of the American quiche. And half of the general population (110 million) would like to try yoga to some degree. Next to gardening, yoga is the most preferred expression of low-impact exercise. Millions more spice up their exercise efforts with a few yoga stretches and twists that generate a nuerochemical buzz of vitality, toned muscle and organ health and a rather surprising sense of transpersonal centeredness.

If you combine gardening and yoga, you sum up with a culinary synergy that is pretty potent: the spirit of yoga and food. Sort of like the first time Christian monks who, following the fad of flavored alcohol, fiddled around with combining liquors with medicinal herbals. Thus was created two very prized formulas that are served as digestives in all fine restaurants and bars: Benedictine (devised to combat malaria) and Chartreuse.

Food and yoga is a marriage of many facets, both ancient and contemporary: spices and bodily health, liquids and body temperature, dairy products and quality of mind, whole foods and metabolic performance, carbohydrates and joint flexibility. Are all of these solid truths? No. Many are myths—as identified in articles in several yoga magazines—that have cropped up in the somewhat fickle fields of yoga and food. For example, there is the admonition: don't eat pancakes or potatoes or pasta because you will stiffen up. Or don't drink iced tea or coffee, or in fact, don't drink any chilled liquid—it won't cool you down, but will heat you up. But, in fact, as many yoga practitioner nutritionists or diet guides point out, these are diet guidelines unique to each individual. Many yoga practitioners can eat a ton of potatoes and still have knees and ankles as flexible as ball-bearing joints. Others will definitely feel a stiffening. And therefore need to moderate a bit. Many people who practice yoga love to cool down by a chilled favorite beverage. And they do feel a lot cooler afterward, a wonderful whole body somatic/psychologic chilling down. If you want to test this out, try drinking warm water when you are really hot, and see if it cools you down. Then try drinking a chilled beverage. Which works?

If you rummage around any serious yoga texts, you find diet recommendations are moderately to intensely spartan. This is because serious yogis, or yoginis, were serious disciplinarians. Many would only drink milk each day. Others just some pea soup (dhal in India). Think of St. Anthony on top of the pillar and you get the idea of this kind of discipline. So, what grew out of the contemporary (1890's to present) yoga community is a very accommodating let's-be-balanced approach to diet and a yoga lifestyle. It is pretty much a vegetarian or semi-vegetarian, whole food diet that in some schools may include using Indian-origin spices along with European spices as change catalysts to certain body/mind types (Ayurveda—science of life—a medicinal model from India). The American Yoga Association has developed a food pyramid that nicely illustrates this diet paradigm. The pyramid includes the critical proportions of protein necessary for daily regenerative health.

There are many artisan businesses that now cater to the great variety of people who practice a variety of yoga system. These are individuals who like to enjoy gourmet dining, but are also conscious of their lifestyle that includes the subtle body/mind responses of yoga. Organic purveyors of spices, such as Om Organics offer the full range of spices that create blended magic in Indian curries or Euro-sauces.

Many of the yoga studios and body work studios around the Bay Area integrate diet guidance into their course work in a formal or informal way.

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