Category Archives: vegetarian

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.

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: Spinach Salad

Since the Popeye days, spinach has always been associated with iron and great energy and strength. We now know that this was due to an accidental but significant misplacement of a decimal point when German scientist Emil von Wolff was measuring iron levels in spinach in 1870 (this date was eventually corrected in 1937 – but by that time the myth had already taken hold).

Additionally, iron from plant sources are rich in non-heme iron, as opposed to heme iron found in animal sources. Non-heme iron is not as readily absorbed by the body, but Vitamin C can help increase levels of uptake so adding the lemon in this salad is truly essential.

Sun-dried and raw tomatoes are also both rich sources of Vitamin C, and together with lemon, they boost spinach’s nutritional power and add great benefits of their own.

Mushrooms are low in calories and  sodium, yet they provide important nutrients including selenium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D and more.

Spinach_Salad_@Marta_Simonetti2

 

Recipe:

-1 large bunch of spinach
-1 cup sun-dried tomatoes
-4 oz. chopped mushrooms
-Sea salt to taste
-1 squeezed lemon
-1 tsp. cumin (optional)
-Olive or flax oil (optional)
-Chopped avocado and tomato (optional)

Spinach_Salad_@Marta_Simonetti 4

Add the tomatoes and mushrooms to the spinach and toss. Add the dressing and toss to combine. Serve immediately and enjoy!

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

 

 

Yogi Favorites (4) Dharma Salad

Avocados and tomatoes are both superfood fruits in their own right, but together they make a true power couple! 
 
The Dharma Salad is a great example of how good food combining can provide even more nutritional benefits. Tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene, which is better absorbed by the body when consumed with fatty foods like avocados. Lycopene is a pigment-rich nutrient from the carotenoid family that gives tomatoes, among other fruits and vegetables, their red hue. Studies have shown this powerful antioxidant’s potential to reduce risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease. 

For the purest benefits, try to purchase organic and locally grown tomatoes. 

Here’s how to do it:

Cut one avocado into cubes.
 

 

Slice two large tomatoes.

 

Mix a splash of cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil with a splash of Bragg’s liquid aminos or sea salt. Add the sprouts (any kind). Stir all ingredients together and enjoy!  (Serves 1-2)

Text: Lana J. Lee Pictures: Cayla Carapella & Enid Johnstone
Recipe Source and Sprouting Instructions: The Dharma Yoga LOAY Teacher Training Manual

Yogi Favorites (3) ~ How to make Sprouted Almond Milk


Why sprouted almonds? Seeds and nuts contain vital energy forces that enable them to grow into trees and plants, given the right conditions. With the life essentials of water and sunlight, inhibitor enzymes built in to protect the seed are released and begin to germinate, increasing the power and bio-availability of vitamin and mineral content. 

Note: During germination, the skin becomes toxic, so always peel your sprouted almonds! The germination process transforms the chemical composition of the almond, giving it a nutritional profile more like a living plant than an inert seed. 

Sprouted almonds are anti-inflammatory, diabetic-friendly superfoods packed with protein, fiber, omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins – the perfect Dharma yogi food! 

Here is how make it – easy, a little time consuming, but 100% worth it every time.

1 ½ cup sprouted almonds or brazil nuts

4 cups filtered water

3-5 dates 

1 Tbs vanilla (or fresh vanilla bean seeds)

Pinch sea salt, agave, honey or maple syrup to taste

It takes about 10 minutes to peel the sprouted almonds. Hold the large end in your finger tips and squeeze, the nut slips out of the skin pointy side first into your palm. Rinse after peeling to remove any lingering toxins from the skins. 
About the dates, if you remember to do it, soaked is better, if dry however, they soak themselves in the milk after blending and dissolve away leaving only skin that falls to the bottom.
Pour the nuts and water together into the blender. Close the lid and blend on high for a couple of minutes.

The better blended the more nutrition you will gain from the nut pulp.


Any linen type cloth or very fine cheese cloth will do for straining. It doesn’t have to be a bag but that will make squeezing it easier.  Make sure your bowl is large enough.

Pour the milk through the cloth into the bowl.

When the sprouted nut meal pulp is still in the cloth you can dip, wet it again and squeeze with your hands. This will yield more of the vital essence of the nut. You can add a little more fresh water into the bag as well to help with this.

You can also pour the milk through a second time, again its like squeezing milk from coconut pulp, the more you work it, the more comes out of the pulp. Once you’ve done this to your satisfaction, then you are ready to pour the milk back into the blender without the pulp now, and add the dates (pitted), vanilla and salt.

Store your Almond Milk in a glass container and shake well before consuming. It will last three plus days in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

Text: Lana J. Lee & Amy Stinchcombe Pictures: Amy Stinchcombe, Enid Johnstone

Recipe Source and Sprouting Instructions: The Dharma Yoga LOAY Teacher Training Manual

Yogi Favorites (2) ~ Sprouting Almonds & Making a Dharma Sun Salute Blend



“I think it’s the best food.” ~ Sri Dharma Mittra on sprouted almonds

Five facts about Almonds:

  • Almond oil is excellent for the skin and almonds build muscle, reduces cravings, fight obesity and can prevent heart disease;
  • Almonds make for a good flip side to dairy and is officially the healthiest of all nuts;
  • If you plant an almond tree it will be covered in lovely light pink flowers in the late winter or early spring;
  • In Greek mythology the almond tree is represented by the beautiful princess Phyllis. Left at the altar on her wedding day, Phyllis waited for years before finally perishing of a broken heart. In sympathy, the gods transformed her into an almond tree, as a symbol of hope. When Phyllis’ fiancée returned to find her as a leafless, flowerless tree, he embraced it and the tree burst into bloom – a demonstration of love not conquered by death;
  • Almonds are a Yogi staple and Dharma Yogisare great consumers of Almonds.

Sprouting Facts:

Most raw seeds, nuts and beans should be sprouted to reap their maximum potential.  Sprouting changes the entire chemistry of the seed, nut or bean, flooding it with the Prana (vital life-force), thus turning it into a mature, healthy plant that is easy to digest.


A sprout is a complete food and can supply the physical body with vital nutrients in promoting life and radiant health.  Once seeds and beans are sprouted, they can be placed in direct sunlight for 30-60 minutes.  The sprouts then become a green vegetable, a wondrously complete Superfood.


Sprouting instructions:

Soak the almond for 12 hours and then rinse every three to four hours for a period of 18 hours.  Sprouted almonds should be covered in water and placed in the refrigerator.  The water should just cover one half inch over the top of the almonds.  Peel the skin off before eating, as it becomes toxic during germination. Enjoy!


Using sprouted almonds:




Dharma Sun Salute Blend


Instructions:


Add the following ingredients to a blender and blend until creamy:

2 large bananas or 1 avocado
1 cup of sprouted almonds (peeled)
1 to 2 cups of the fresh juice of your choice or rice/soy/almond milk
Agave nectar to taste (the bananas are naturally sweet if ripe so you may find you do not need an additional sweetener)

While making your blend, chant the Mantra for Purification at least three times.


“I said to the almond tree, ‘Friend, speak to me of God,’ and the almond tree blossomed.”  ~ Nikos Kazantzakis


Post written by: Enid Johnstone Pictures: Lorenza Pintar

Recipe Source and Sprouting Instructions: The Dharma Yoga LOAY Teacher Training Manual

3 Ways To Cultivate Compassion In Your Life

By David Jozefczyk 
Ahimsa (non-violence/non-killing or compassion), the ethical guideline that stands in the forefront from the others, is life’s law of non-harming

Once this ethical guideline is mastered, all other ethical guidelines fall into place. Also true, is that the more compassion is studied, the more layers of understanding appear.



Most people understand Ahimsa in regards to non-killing or not causing physical pain to other human beings or pets.  But Ahimsa goes beyond that. Prior to learning about Ahimsa, I fell into this category.  The first time that I had the honor to receive Sri Dharma Mittra’s teachings regarding Ahimsa, it changed my life.  This intricate ethical guideline (Yama) was explained to me with such simplicity and in such a compassionate manner that it brought tears to my eyes and struck a chord deep within me
A vegetarian lifestyle is a great way to practice Ahimsa as it covers three areas – through thought, word and deed. 

1.    Thoughts

With thoughts, for example, when eating with friends and family who are not educated in Ahimsa, my thoughts do not judge or think bad of them.  I have realized their true Self does not mean to harm, it’s just their physical mind is not ready at this point in their evolution and so I feel compassion for them.



Ahimsa of thoughts not only applies towards others, but towards the self as well.  Negative thoughts can manifest themselves, so any negativity or harm towards yourself (as well as others) should be avoided.  A good amount of bad karma can be accumulated in this regard and no one wants that!

2.    Deeds
In regards to deed, leading by exampleand consistently living as a vegetarian is a very powerful way to influence and it may eventually change another person’s outlook on diet.  

3.    Words

Lastly, being vegetarian and practicing Ahimsa in regards to word, conversation arises from time to time and I am asked “what made you become vegetarian?”  I always choose my words carefully, as some friends and family members love to play devils advocate by mentioning plants.  I answer that it is impossible for most people to be completely non-harming due to the physical body needing sustenance, so I chose what I feel to be the lesser of two evils.  This type of conversation has the ability to transform others not aware of Ahimsa.

Words can be very powerful and life changing in both a positive and negative way.  Even a simple “hello” with the right intention to someone passing by can brighten his or her day! 

I feel it is a good practice to keep your words to a minimum and positive and uplifting in nature.  Many yogi masters teach that if you do not have anything good to say then this is a good time to practice silence or Mouna, which Swami Sivananda describes as “Tapas of speech.”
I am still learning from the masters to eradicate negative traits and to bring more compassion into my life by practicing Ahimsa.  Through a steady and consistent practice this can be mastered and then applied towards all Yamas and Niyamas!


_____________________________________

Dave Jozefczyk began practicing yoga in 2006 by taking class with his wife ‘chelle in his basement.  Having a consistent flow of friends who attended three days per week made it an official class.  The next chapter in Dave’s spiritual journey was experiencing a long weekend immersion with Sri Dharma Mittra at Kripalu in 2008 with his wife.  Since that transformative weekend, he has been faithfully practicing Dharma Yoga.  During these five plus years of practice and observing his wife’s transformation after completing her 500-hour LOAY Teacher Training, Dave realized that he also had the ability to help others and serve in so many different ways. In June of 2013, Dave was very humbled to experience the 200-hour LOAY TT at the Dharma Yoga Center in NYC.  He is currently teaching at the CNY Yoga Center (Dharma Yoga Syracuse) to fulfill his internship credentials.  It brings him such joy to be able to share the Dharma Yoga teachings, which he continues to learn from Sri Dharma and the Dharma family.