Category Archives: cravings

Ahimsa and Veganism

by Susan Craig

“The most violent weapon on earth is the table fork.” Mahatma Gandhi

I became a vegan nearly 30 years ago – long before I found Sri Dharma. My decision to stop eating animals was born out of a very hopeless period in my life when I was severely abused. During that darkest days of my life I made a pact with myself that, as small and inconsequential as my life seemed to be, knowing what it felt like to be abused and to be treated as if I had no value, I would do my best not to treat others as if they had no value. This decision included non-human animals; the least that I could do was to stop eating them. Little did I know that this decision, along with the beginnings of an asana practice, would take me on a most amazing journey which recently included finding Sri Dharma Mittra as my yoga teacher.

While the deep pain in my life did not suddenly dissipate as a result of becoming a vegan, I did experience some immediate benefits. My overall physical health improved quickly and dramatically (To this day, at nearly 60 years old, I am far healthier than I was in my teens  and twenties.). Along with that, issues around body image and eating that had been a source of personal torture since my teens disappeared and never returned. These were miracles!

With veganism as a non-negotiable core value, along with the beginnings of an asana practice, I began the slow and arduous climb out of the deep pit that I found myself in. While I have utilized many additional means of recovery support along the way, I believe that the deepest and most profoundly transformative decision that I have made has been to become a vegan. Sri Dharma’s core teachings around Ahimsa certainly support this.

It is a rare individual who has not eaten animal flesh, dairy, and eggs. We have been born into cultures that treat food animals as commodities meant to be eaten. From birth we have been indoctrinated into a culture that tells us that we must consume animals, that it is normal and necessary for health. Upon questioning this indoctrination, however, we find that it is based upon false information. The human body is designed to thrive on a vegan diet. Additionally, on a deeper, spiritual level, the simple act of changing what we put on our plates at each meal – the decision not to participate in the abuse and slaughter of food animals, is liberating  beyond words. The benefits extend far beyond one’s health and spiritual development. As the effects of climate change become become increasingly evident, numerous sources of scientific research indicate that animal agriculture is the leading cause of global warming. (Perhaps the law of Karma is at work here…as we reap, so shall we sew.) What a blessing that, by choosing a plant-based diet, we are improving our own health, we are ceasing to participate in wide-spread violence towards sentient beings, and we are drastically reducing our contribution to the environmental stress on the planet!

In June 2015, I participated in the deeply transformative 200 hour LOAY training with Sri Dharma Mittra. Prior to making the decision to go through the LOAY training, as I searched for my yoga teacher, I started with one screening requirement: I needed a teacher who practiced and taught veganism as a core requirement of being a yogi. This one requirement narrowed the field of potential teachers down to few enough that I could count them on the fingers of one hand. Out of these few, I found myself drawn to Sri Dharma – his wisdom, dedication to his practice and to selfless service, his humility and egoless presence, and his fidelity to practicing and teaching the Yama of Ahimsa or non-violence. Ahimsa literally means A=not, himsa= killing or violence. In the LOAY Teachers’ Manual (2015, p. 4) Sri Dharma says, “Ahimsa means love; ‘thou shalt not kill!’ This applies not only to human beings, but to every living creature.”

Sri Dharma is one of the only yoga teachers of whom I am aware who does not shy away from teaching the yama of Ahimsa to his students truthfully. He regularly states while teaching that one must extend one’s compassion beyond one’s pets and that when one eats animals one is engaging in cruelty. He talks about how when one consumes animal products, one’s body becomes a morgue. In Sri Dharma’s words, “Without taking on the yama of ahimsa, there is little benefit to observing the other four yamas or any other aspect of the holy science of yoga.” (LOAY Teachers’ Manual, p. 5) I know, from the center of my soul, that this information is true and correct. The decision to become a vegan as a core component of one’s practice of Ahimsa will deepen and strengthen one’s  yoga practice. It will simultaneously improve the quality of one’s life immeasurably while benefiting other beings and the health of the planet. I highly recommend it!

Note: For additional information on the benefits of veganism that this blog has room for, I recommend reading The World Peace Diet by Dr. Will Tuttle and viewing the documentary, Cowspiracy.

Susan Craig is a Berkeley, California native who participated in the transformational June 2015 LOAY 200 hour training. Susan strives to practice Karma Yoga each day in her job as a school district administrator where she oversees support services for marginalized youth, as an advocate for animals through vegan activism, and as a teacher of a weekly donation-based yoga class. She resides in Napa in the home of the four cats and a rabbit who rescued her. Susan is most grateful to have found Dharma Yoga and to have Dharma Mittra as her yoga teacher and spiritual guide.

Recipe: Raw Vegan Chocolate Caramel Dream Bars

by Karen Fan

raw-vegan-chocolate-caramel-bars

Makes 8-10 servings

For the base:
1⁄4 cup raw walnuts
1⁄2 cup sprouted raw almonds (soaked 24 hours in water and peeled skin)
6 pitted dates
1⁄4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2 Tbsp coconut oil, liquid

For the almond butter “caramel” filling:
1⁄2 cup spouted raw almonds
2 Tbsp coconut oil
9 pitted dates
2 Tbsp brown rice syrup
Pinch of Himalayan sea salt
2-3 Tbsp water

For the chocolate icing:
1⁄2 cup raw cacao powder
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
2-3 Tbsp water

1. To sprout the raw almonds, soak them overnight and then peel the skin. Set it aside for now.

2. To make the base, place the walnuts, almonds, dates, coconut flakes, and coconut oil in a food processor or high-speed blender and pulse until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Scoop the mixture into your hands, and if the ingredients hold together, your base is perfect. Press the mixture into a square pan.

3. To make the caramel filling, place the raw almonds, coconut oil, dates brown rice syrup and sea salt into a food processor or high-speed blender, and process until the mixture is creamy and smooth. Add 2 to 3 tbsp of water to help make the consistency smoother while processing. Spread over the base.

4. To make the chocolate icing, place the raw cacao powder, coconut oil and brown rice syrup in a mixing bowl and stir until the mixture is creamy. Add 2 to 3 tbsp of water to make the consistency smoother. Spread the chocolate icing on top of the caramel filling.

5. Freeze the bars for a few hours. Chill for half an hour before slicing.

Removing Desires and Rising to Raja Yoga

By Jerome Burdi

Of all the yamas, brahmacharya is the greatest struggle for me. It is, however, possibly the most important to really taste true freedom –freedom from desires. Even the gods admire the one who is free from desires.

Swami Sivananda mentions the importance of brahmacharya time and again in his book, Raja Yoga, detailing the Yoga Sutras. I read the book in preparation for the 800-hour Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Training in August.

The other yamas — non-violence, not stealing, non-greed, and truthfulness –are much easier practices for me and many other yogis. Curbing desires is the toughest and if it’s not done successfully, all the other yamas can be tainted.

Only when desires are quieted can one progress along the spiritual path.

This is also the essence of Lord Buddha’s teachings: Desire and ignorance are the root of all suffering.

I enjoy Sivananda’s technique of destroying the evil vrittis, or thought patterns. It’s a sort of meditation, an awareness that one must maintain to have success on the path of yoga.

When an evil thought arises, think of its opposite and all the benefits of the good vrittis. When the thought of lust arises, think of brahmacharya; when anger rises, think of love; when pride shows its ugly head, chop it down with humility.

Desires will keep you in a rajasic, overactive state of mind, always unsettled. One must work properly, from a calm, sattvic state of mind.

“When sattva increases, the mind becomes steady like the flame of a lamp in a windless place,” Sivananda wrote. “He who is sattvic can do real concentration and meditation, and can enter into samadhi easily.”

The difficulty is how to find that sattvic mind and finally concentrate.

“Have perfect trust in God and be steady in your sadhana,” is the advice Sivananda gives. “Faith sustains the yogi like a kind, affectionate mother.”

Faith is a crucial component as one moves along the path. Sometimes I feel like I’m getting nowhere in my practice, but then come those moments of holding a difficult asana or having a steady stream of concentration. And that’s it! There’s the bliss! It may not last long, but it’s enough to get me through to the next episode. There’s falling along the way, but the faith gets us back up again and back on the path. We can’t beat ourselves up over the past. We get up and keep moving forward.

“Everything is present for the yogi,” Sivananda wrote. “Everything is here. Everything is now only.”

When the mind is filled with passions and desires, you cannot sit still to do your sadhana. The mind is always moving. The asana comes easily for many, but we must remember this is only a preparation so we can sit and work on the higher limbs of yoga that lead to the goal, samadhi, complete union with all of creation.

When I read about the states of mind a yogi can reach, I am reminded of how much work I have to do to reach the goal. The distractions are always coming like hurricane rains, like waves in the sea, or wind atop a mountain. But with practice, the yogi finds stillness. That’s why we do our practice, why we have our faith, why we stay on the path despite the digressions.

Stillness.

In those blissful moments we are mountains. Desire cannot touch us. We are truly free.

 

 

Jerome Burdi is a Brooklyn native who discovered yoga during a shamanic retreat in Brazil in 2010. Since then, he’s been enveloped by the path of the yogi. He left his job as a newspaper journalist to go to Rishikesh, India, and become a yoga teacher. Upon returning to NYC, he discovered Dharma Yoga and has been hooked. Though Jerome grew up in NY, he had to go to India to come back and see Sri Dharma with clear eyes and to hear the truth that is Dharma Yoga. Jerome is also a Middle Eastern style percussionist and holistic nutritionist

Jerome Burdi is a Brooklyn native who discovered yoga during a shamanic retreat in Brazil in 2010. Since then, he’s been enveloped by the path of the yogi. He left his job as a newspaper journalist to go to Rishikesh, India, and become a yoga teacher. Upon returning to NYC, he discovered Dharma Yoga and has been hooked. Though Jerome grew up in NY, he had to go to India to come back and see Sri Dharma with clear eyes and to hear the truth that is Dharma Yoga. Jerome is also a Middle Eastern style percussionist and holistic nutritionist.

Have Your Sweetness Without the Guilt: Vegan Hot Chocolate Chai

By Sarah Eve Cardell

Do you sense the amazing energy of the New Year? I know I am. Creative juices flowing, rejuvenated desires to deepen my yoga practice, reconnecting with old friends…this year is already feeling magical.

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to renew, recharge, and evaluate all that you are and aspire to be.

As the holidays have come to an end, perhaps it is time to evaluate your physical health and diet. Are you getting sufficient exercise, sleep, and nourishing food?

The best way to stay balanced and well is to start with a healthy diet. It is nearly impossible to feel good without fueling your body well.

In the words of Sri Dharma Mittra, “If you eat dead, toasted, fried, or frozen food, you will feel dead, toasted, fried, and frozen.”

Instead of waiting until the spring (or even bikini season) to take the time to treat your body with love and respect, why not start now?

I have created a delicious hot chocolate chai recipe to keep you feeling warm inside and out. This hot chocolate chai is deliciously creamy, low in sugar and calories.

Traditional hot chocolate generally has 300-500 calories per cup and is loaded with sugar and fat. A comparable 16 ounces (grande) cup of hot chocolate at Starbucks has 400 calories and 19 grams of fat. Eeek!

This hot chocolate chai is low in fat and has only 100 calories. And no refined sugar.

Hot Chocolate Chai
Gluten-free • Vegan • Soy-free
Makes 1 serving

Ingredients:
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1⁄4 tsp. organic vanilla extract
1⁄4 tsp. ground cardamom
1⁄4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. raw cacao powder
2 tsp. coconut sugar (or to taste)
A pinch of Himalayan salt & black pepper (optional for spicier chai)

Directions:
1. Place all ingredients in a small saucepan.
2. Stir continuously on medium heat until bubbles begin to form and all ingredients are blended uniformly.
3. Pour into your favorite mug and enjoy!

 

Sarah Eve Cardell 2-9Sarah Eve Cardell is the culinary shaman, making magic in the kitchen and healing from the heart. She completed her 200 and 500-hour yoga teacher trainings with Sri Dharma Mittra, who deeply inspired her path to become a vegan chef. Combined with her shamanic studies, a student of the late Ipupiara a Makunaiman of the Ure-e-wau-wau Amazonian tribe, she uses the traditional wisdom from the yogic and shamanic paths to share modern day wellness. Sarah offers vegan and gluten-free cooking classes and catering up to 150 people. Whether in yoga classes, healing workshops and private sessions, or in the kitchen, she assists in creating a safe space in which you can heal you!  www.sarahevecardell.com

 

Yogi Favorites: Carrot Raisin Salad

Recipe:
2 tbs. sun-dried raisins
2 carrots
1 tbs. lemon juice or juice of half a lemon
5 tsp. raw honey, date, or brown rice syrup
2 tbs. cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil

This deceivingly light and simple recipe is an excellent dish for an antioxidant boost. Every single one of the ingredients in the Carrot Raisin Salad contains various forms of phenolic compounds that work to alleviate oxidative stress and cell aging. Phenolic compounds are characterized by a broad spectrum of beneficial antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, antimutagenic, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Besides increasing antioxidant activity, fresh squeezed lemon juice also adds vibrant Vitamin C, while high levels of monounsaturated fat in olive oil reduces inflammation, cholesterol, and blood pressure. Meanwhile, the natural sugar content in dates and honey make them great natural energy boosters. Dates are high in dietary fiber and rich in tannins, a type of flavanoid polyphenolic antioxidant, while honey’s anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties have been used throughout history to treat everything from respiratory problems to open wounds.

With all the superfoods in this dish, it’s hard to pin down one superstar, but among all the sources of Vitamin A, carrots boast the highest levels, making them an essential for benefits such as good eye health and clean skin. They also a great digestive aid, as they help cleanse the intestines, liver, and colon of ulcer and cancer-causing toxins.

Raisins are lower in phenolic content than raw red grapes, but still a great source of quercetin, the type of polyphenols found in this particular fruit. It is recommended to use dark raisins for flavor and also because they are available sun-dried, whereas golden raisins must be treated with sulfur dioxide to prevent oxidation and caramelization.

For an interesting variation of this salad, try steaming the carrots lightly.

Carrot&Raisin_Salad_@Marta_Simonetti2

Text: Lana J. Lee  Picture: Marta Simonetti

Recipe Source: The Dharma Yoga LOAY Teacher Training Manual

Yogi Favorites ~ Dharma Pure Tropical Bliss

Avocado and coconut, what? Yes! The avocado in Dharma’s Pure Tropical Bliss recipe is what gives this drink its smoothie-like quality, while the pineapple adds fruity punch to the tropical coconut water and meat. Coconut meat and pineapples are both high in dietary fiber, copper, and manganese.

Among its numerous benefits, copper helps the body utilize iron to form red blood cells, keeps thyroid glands functioning normally, and reduces tissue damage by free radicals. Manganese is a trace mineral that metabolizes amino acids, protein, carbohydrates, and cholesterol, providing the necessary chemical reactions to convert  food into energy.

Caution is advised when extracting coconut meat with a knife or spoon from a raw young coconut . It takes yogi patience and some practice, but can be done! Otherwise, it is readily available at most health food stores.

Tropical_bliss

Recipe:
1 ripe avocado
1 pineapple
1-2 cups coconut water
Meat from 1 young coconut
1 tbs of vanilla extract or vanilla bean seeds
Pinch of sea salt
Agave nectar, honey, maple syrup to taste (optional)

Prep everything. You can adjust how creamy or watery it is by adding more or less coconut water.

Place all ingredients in blender and mix until liquified to a smooth, creamy consistency.

Tropical_bliss

Try it with fresh mint if you have it! Voila!

Text: Lana J. Lee & Amy Stinchcombe Pictures: Amy Stinchcombe

Recipe Source: The Dharma Yoga LOAY Teacher Training Manual

Yogi Favorites ~ Dessert: Chocolate Mousse & Banana Ice Cream

Chocolate Mousse for a mood boost! 

Dark chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, mild stimulants responsible for its reputation as an aphrodisiac. Raw cacao is also rich in antioxidant flavanoids that can improve flow of blood vessels and calm inflammation.

Tofu is a great source of protein, calcium, and iron, but it’s advised to try and find non-GMO tofu if possible (found at most health food stores) because little is known about the effects of genetically modified foods on human health and the environment.

If you don’t have vanilla extract on hand, vanilla flavor non-dairy milk can also do the trick. This dessert could win over hardcore dairy-lovers, especially when garnished with colorful berries and mint leaves to visually stimulate the appetite even more.

Recipe:

1 cup non-dairy demi-sweet chocolate chips
12 oz. silken or firm tofu
1/2 cup non-dairy milk (soy/almond/rice/coconut/hemp)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Fresh berries and mint leaves, as optional garnish

Directions:

In a double boiler, melt chocolate chips. Blend the melted chocolate, tofu, milk, and vanilla together. Chill mixture for one hour before serving.

 

Banana Ice Cream

 Banana_Icecream

 

 Enjoy dessert guilt-free! This vegan dessert is a nutritious treat that proves that ice-cream does not need dairy or added sugar to taste creamy and delicious!

Bananas and dates both provide a good dose of fiber, while bananas and young coconut water are both loaded with potassium. Young coconut water also contains electrolytes, which makes it ideal for hydration (especially in hot, humid tropical weather where they are generally grown). The simplicity of the recipe lets the wonderful flavors of these few ingredients really stand out.

Recipe:

3-4 Bananas
1 cup young coconut water
4-6 dates
Raw Carob powder, cinnamon (optional)

Directions:

If you have an ice-cream maker, blend the ingredients first and run the mixture through, then serve and enjoy, or freeze for later.

If you have a Vitamix, you can freeze the bananas beforehand and the Vitamix will blend everything into the perfect ice-cream texture. Otherwise, you can do it the good-old fashioned way and scoop the mixture into a BPA-free glass container, then freeze for about half an hour and thaw before eating.

Text: Lana J. Lee  Pictures: Cayla Carapella

Recipe Source: The Dharma Yoga LOAY Teacher Training Manual

 

 

Five Ways To Conquer Cravings

By Sara Schwartz



I used yoga to quit smoking. I did so after I noticed that after my Power Vinyasa class I was less eager to grab a cigarette. It also turned out that I liked the taste of fresh air, so when I decided to give up smoking, I just figured I would do a ton of yoga and it would be easy.

Turns out that quitting smoking was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The craving struck and sat like a piece of lead on my throat and tongue. Sometimes, it settled around the center of my chest. The craving created a real physical ache as well as annoying mental repetitions. “If I only had… I would feel better…”

To break a habit you have to use the force of willpower and willpower is essentially the movement of the spirit. You need willpower to move through a craving. Logically, cravings just cause us mental pain, and this mental pain is the feeling of an old habit breaking. To pass through cravings is to be in touch with the divine force of will. In a craving you can sense the movement of your spirit, strengthening your connection to your spiritual anatomy.

The second time I came face to face with intense cravings was during my Dharma Yoga Life of aYogi 500-Hour Teacher Training when we were instructed to follow a fairly strict vegan diet.

“Food is a very emotional experience,” LOAY Director Adam Frei told us. I thought to myself: I don’t have any emotional issues with food – I’ll eat anything!  But then, I realized I couldn’t have my Chai Tea Latte and I cried! Chocolate cake, even though I never ate it, became my newest obsession. But I stuck with the diet; I ate my salads and drank my juices. At first my body didn’t feel very good. I was tired and hungry all the time. I realized I was detoxing. Then I adjusted and began to feel calmer, cleaner, and my yoga practice felt solid.

Overcoming my cravings meant I had to stake out uncomfortable territory. I had to re-visit what I had done when I quit smoking. 

Here are five ways to get rid of cravings and live a healthier life:

    • Make a list of why you want to give something up and allow that to become your mantra. Why would I want to follow a yogic diet? Because “healthy body, healthy mind”. So when I craved chocolate cake I asked myself “does this cake cultivate a healthy body better than a banana?” Of course the banana wins this round!
    • Take one day, one moment, and one breath at a time. This is what they say in Alcoholics Anonymous and I used it to quit smoking. Each morning I would think, “today I am not going to smoke.” If during the day the craving was bad I would think: “right now, I am choosing not to smoke.” If I was in front of a store ready to jump in and buy a pack of cigarettes, I would think “now I am inhaling; now I am exhaling” as I breathed.
    • Read spiritual literature. Sri Dharma Mittra recommends this all the time! When you are feeling uninspired and uncertain, the Bhagavad Gita can point you in a good direction. Arjuna also didn’t know why he was supposed to fight, and Krishna gives him a ton of reasons why he should. Sometimes you might not be sure why you’re fighting your cravings, so you too can apply Krishna’s counsel.
    • Practice Pranayama. It can be as simple as a square breath: Inhaling for a count of four, exhaling for a count of four. If the craving is strong you might try a stronger, more complicated Pranayama: like Nadi Shodana with Kumbakha (alternate nostril breathing with breath retentions). As Swami Sivananda said “the veil is removed by the practice of Pranayama. After the veil is removed the real nature of the soul is realized.”
    • Remove the tempters. Clean your kitchen of those culprit foods. When you shop at the grocery store first go to the fruit and vegetable section. When I tried to quit smoking I stopped going to the smoker’s corner on my lunch break and I went to the park instead.
These are just techniques to test out in the laboratory of your own experience. Don’t beat yourself up if you have a cigarette or a piece of chocolate cake. After I had decided to quit smoking I slipped up for a good year before I was actually able to buckle down and commit to a daily yoga practice. During the LOAY Teacher Training Diet one day I walked into a Starbucks and had a cup of tea and a scone and enjoyed every moment of the sugary and caffeinated goodness. But the next day I woke up and was back on track.
Over the long run the cravings get less and less. And now, three years later, if I smell a cigarette it makes me feel sick. Now, most sweets are too sweet for me since I spent half a year not eating sugar.

You can create the life you imagine! It just takes time, awareness, and as Sri Dharma says, a little bit of ‘angry determination’ to get back up again after you fall.

_____________________________________


Sara Schwartz lives in Queens, New York with her husband Yancy. She currently teaches at Yoga to the People, where she received her 200-hour certification in 2010. She recently graduated from the Dharma Yoga Center Life of a Yogi 500-Hour Teacher Training. “Offer up the fruits of your practice” is her favorite advice from Sri Dharma Mittra. She is very grateful for the guidance of Sri Dharma and all of his teachers.