Monthly Archives: November 2011

Nourish Yourself with Homemade Soup

By Martha Marcom

One of the great comforts of November-through-March weather in Ohio is a warming bowl of soup. Soup is truly simple to make, cost effective, and healthy--the minimal time and energy is time beautifully spent. One needs a healthy body to be able to do yoga! Keeping a few winter vegetables on hand will insure that you always have the ingredients to whip up a nourishing bowl of soup for yourself and your friends and family. Plus, it warms your home and is a treat for the senses.

Wonderful winter vegetables to have on hand--and these all keep well:
• onions
• garlic
• cabbage
• carrots
• celery
• potatoes
• sweet potatoes
• winter squash
• beets
• parsley
• leeks

Pantry items:
• canned beans
• canned tomatoes
• pasta
• dried mushrooms
• dried herbs
• grains--quinoa, rice, etc.
• tamari (soy) sauce
• olive oil
• salt

Other additions to consider
• cheese
• miso
• tofu

Use organic ingredients whenever possible; this supports your health and that of the earth. Although they may be more expensive, organically grown food prices reflect a truer cost to the consumer and the earth if you factor in such things as chemical contamination of the soil and water by industrial farming methods.

Basic technique for making soup:
Peel, chop and saute an onion in a bit of olive oil. Stir the onions around occasionally for a few minutes until they begin to soften and brown and smell delicious. Then add some peeled and chopped garlic.
Meanwhile, scrub, chop and add the longer cooking, denser vegetables such as carrots. Keep adding vegetables and when everything is in the pot, add some water, a pinch of salt and a few herbs—perhaps basil or a bay leaf. Cooked or canned beans can be added near the end if you want a heartier soup.

Serve your soup with bread and butter or crackers and humus. You could double the amount you prepare and serve it again--soup often gets better the next day--or freeze a portion to pull out for when you’re in need of soup.

Dried herbs and mushrooms should be added early on. Fresh herbs can be added near the end or as a garnish.

Once this simple preparation becomes familiar, you can begin to play with flavors and explore some traditional ethnic fare. To the basic recipe, you could add canned tomatoes, cannellini (white kidney) beans, oregano or rosemary and some cooked pasta. Float some crusty bread on top, finish with parmesan cheese, and you have made minestrone, my friend!

Or add beets early on--they are quite dense--choose cabbage, carrots and potatoes perhaps some dried dill as other ingredients and top with yogurt or sour cream--you’ll be able to serve borsht for dinner. Offer it with rye bread and you’ve fortified yourself for winter weather.

A very easy and hearty bean soup uses lentil; lentils are the fastest cooking beans. The little red lentil beans cook in less than a half hour.

Another avenue to explore is the making of broths. They add nutrients to your soup by extracting the vitamins and minerals from the vegetable peels you might discard otherwise. And when you’ve invested in organic produce, you’ll want to use every bit of it. Making broth is a small extra step that pays off big in flavor. A broth can take a soup from the realm of good to very good indeed!

Technique for making broth while you make soup:
Put a pot of water on to boil. As you’re peeling the veggies, throw those peels into the boiling water. Almost everything can go in--onion and garlic skins, ends of carrots. Avoid potentially bitter vegetables, such as turnips, in the broth. But you can add such things as stems of parsley or cilantro and the seeds of winter squash along with dried herbs, the outside stalks of celery that seem a little dried out, carrots that are too small to bother peeling, or a bit of leftover wine.

When you reach the step in your main pot where your vegetables are nicely sauteed--hold a strainer or colander over the soup pot and pour the broth in, catching the stock ingredients in the strainer.

Have fun making soup and be deeply nourished!

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Restlessness

By Marcia Miller

“Your restlessness is important!”
This was the entire content of the cryptic email I received this week from my meditation teacher, Lorin Roche. To my mind, this one line had nothing to do with any of the previous conversations we had been having, and it hit me like electricity. I felt like the Zen student who had just been whacked with a stick by his teacher and been enlightened in that moment. How could he have known that I was in bed the night before, wide awake and more restless than I had been in months? And how could he know that unlike other nights when I might have led myself into deep relaxation, spoken kindly to myself, or simply watched my breath, I was lying there physically uncomfortable and psychically beating myself up?
One of my main practices and goals these days is to welcome and honor all parts of myself, especially the parts that seem difficult to enjoy. Lorin calls these challenging parts “packets of prana,” meaning that every single thing is filled with the creative life force energy. This acceptance practice is not only deeply affirming for me, but it brings me into the deepest alignment with my students so I can see the precious life force energy enlivening them as well. On this restless night, however, I was caught in the mire of my mind and could not remember any of my practices or intentions. I was tossing and turning and just wanted comfort and ease—not an unreasonable request. But that wasn’t happening that night.
Finally, I had a flash of inspiration and began thanking my body for all its good work on my behalf. While I had 3 specific areas of pain, when I looked closely most of me felt fine. I actually had to look part by part to see where exactly the pain was. To each part that I named I offered my thanks. Thank you toes for helping me walk and stand each day. Thanks to you, eyes, for helping me to see the beauty of this world, etc. Even though I was not feeling all that hospitable to the parts in pain I could thank them for at least trying their best. It was not an easy practice that night and I fell back into my internal grousing several times, but as I persisted a deep sense of relaxation began to come over me. It was true that I was grateful for the overall health and well being I experience much of the time and focusing there brought a palpable sense of relief. I finally fell asleep.
When I awoke I felt somewhat rested, but I was disturbed by the intensely critical nature of my thoughts about myself during the night. The judgments seemed so harsh and unnecessary. When I got to my computer and read Lorin’s message, a thread of ancient tension inside me suddenly and deeply relaxed. Maybe being restless isn’t something to be rejected after all; maybe my restlessness is an important packet of prana to be unwrapped. I started feeling buoyant. I didn’t need to get rid of the restlessness; I just needed to listen to the longings that the restlessness could reveal. I could use self-criticism as clues to what was under the surface trying to be heard and seen. My job is not to be the bouncer who eliminates all dissenters; my job is as a translator and a mediator. And my job is to tenderly and gratefully unwrap each package that arrives from my unconscious. I am still unwrapping that present from the other day. It’s as if there are many layers of tissue paper hiding the treasure inside. But now I’m confident that I will find a message or a longing sent from my soul that didn’t know any other way to ask for what it needed.
I am grateful for Lorin’s words, which came at just the right time for me. It’s been a long time since I have had a teacher who is so involved in my day to day awakenings. But today, I had the wonderful thought that if Lorin hadn’t reminded me that all my thoughts and feelings are acceptable, workable and even IMPORTANT, someone else in our community would have. That gives me even more relief! There is so much wisdom in the people around me—some of whom are YOU!

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Changes

By Linda Oshins

When I started studying and practicing yoga in earnest, there were a handful of yoga teachers in Columbus, 5 that I know of, and most of them taught a small class or two in their home basements or the basements of churches. Thirteen years later, when I started teaching, we could still all sit around one table for lunch and hold a group conversation (13 women by that time). A core of us was known as the Mid-Ohio Yoga Teachers Association or MOYO—Mid-Ohio because one of us was from Mansfield. That was our first professional organization.

Both milestones in my yoga life, beginning a dedicated practice and beginning teaching, were more or less forced upon me. I started practicing after a diagnosis of breast cancer at the age of 40. I called Marcia Miller on the phone and asked her if yoga would give me back mobility in my shoulder after a mastectomy, but I kept up the practice in order to answer the question, “What can I know about myself?” I had just discovered that I had been walking around with a potentially fatal disease for years without realizing it. What could happen if I listened to my body/mind?

I started teaching yoga after selling the business my husband and I began and then losing him to a heart attack in his early 50s. The loss devastated me. Up until that point, I had numerous meaningful activities and discrete but populous circles of friends organized around them—the biking group, the gardening group, the yoga group, the gourmet cooks, the parents of kids like mine, the art appreciators, the old friends from the dawning of adulthood, and so on. None of the activities mattered to me any more. Large groups of people were too much to handle. Life was like ashes in my mouth. And yoga answered the question, “What makes a life meaningful? How can I give something of value to others?”

Now I’m retiring from teaching classes on the public schedule, and I’m stopping without being forced. Change is difficult for us humans and the more rapid the more difficult. Within minutes, I went from forgetting that I was mortal to believing death was imminent, and from waking up every morning loving one man beyond reason to an empty house, again in the blink of an eye. This time I would be pleased if the world turned more slowly, if I worked, and studied and taught, but not full time. I’ll work behind the scenes for Yoga on High, writing, editing, planning and offering up as many talents as I have half-time. I’ll teach in the teacher training programs and in special weekend workshops or short series of evening classes. And I’ll continue my studies and my practice. My path leads more to pranayama and meditation than asana now. Now is the time to read philosophy, write, and offer up what arises out of the moment to the community of which I am a part.

Bittersweet, but with a dash of wisdom in the pot.

And I don’t miss the old days. It was wonderful being a part of the nascent yoga movement and of being part of its maturity. I love the fact that talented yoga teachers are abundant in Columbus (and mid-Ohio) and that the teachings are varied and embrace all limbs of yoga. Instruction on pranayama and meditation in the yoga tradition is much more available now as is recognition of the mind-body connection, and the community of yogis is strong and self-sustaining. Just at Yoga on High, there are 37 talented teachers on staff!

I’ll see you around the Center.

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The Vegetarian Question

By Martha Marcom

Occasionally I am asked if yogis are supposed to be vegetarian. It’s a juicy question, with multiple dimensions--there’s the moral issue, the ecological impact of your food choices, and the nutritional component along with practical considerations regarding what is realistic for your life.

In a nutshell, my answer to the question is simply bring consciousness to your food choices. If you’ve never tried a vegetarian diet, it can be a grand and healthy adventure--some cooking required! The impact to the earth of eating lower on the food chain is profound. It takes vast amounts of water to produce a pound of beef in factory-type farms, for example. *

Pattabhi Jois, my teacher, would not even discuss the nutritional aspects of diet. For him it was a matter of ahimsa, pure and simple. It worked well for him, it was part of his DNA and culture, but for some very sincere people, it is not that simple. I remember a frail young woman from the US surreptitiously eating an egg after practice in Mysore, India. Her body required more protein that the South Indian vegetarian diet could provide. That image of her points to a dilemma--we strive to be good yogis, but we are wise to take into account our distinct individual dietary needs, our cultural heritage, and our health history. Much is still being discovered about what nutrients the human body needs to thrive.

We have the luxury and confusion of having to navigate food choices. Many among us did not grow up eating a thoughtful, balanced diet. We came of age along with convenience food, fast food and food specifically created to addict us. And when we ask the experts what to do, we find that there are multiple theories of what constitutes a healthful diet, and some of these plans directly oppose one another.

Eating food is our most profound relationship with the external environment in that what we ingest then becomes part of ourselves--becoming our blood and tissues. Buying food directly from a farmer, choosing what is most beautiful and appealing, figuring out how to prepare the bounty--this can all be a sort of sacrament. All the more when you get to know the farmer and are certain that the growing methods used are respectful of the earth.

My awakening around food came in 1970 when, as a student at OSU, I attended a talk by Dick Gregory, a well-known comedian. Nothing he said was funny. He spoke with tremendous passion about waking up to the food we choose, the methods by which meat is grown and slaughtered and the profit motive that takes complete precedence over nutritional quality. This talk was my turning point into becoming a vegetarian. Back then, going meatless was taking a giant step out of mainstream culture. The act of omitting meat caused concerns in social situations, and it was challenging to find food to eat. There was not a context for meals without meat--there was no tofu or soymilk and no vegetarian options at restaurants. You ate plain pasta at peoples’ homes. But this prompted me to question and rethink cultural choices in general and was a first step in becoming more conscious overall. Transcendental Meditation and yoga soon followed as the natural evolution of vegetarianism.

Disclaimer: though I was a vegetarian for many years, and my husband and I raised our three children as vegetarians, there came a time when it seemed appropriate to add chicken and fish to our diet, and we did. At the time, we were several years into a Macrobiotic diet. This system excluded dairy and eggs, but some teachers recommended occasional poultry and seafood. Our son and youngest daughter were longing for chicken. Three pregnancies and extended nursing as an over-30-year-old mother had taken a toll on my bones. We embraced change and in the process discovered the North Market as a source of high quality fish and chicken.

Increasing numbers of people are choosing veganism these days; veganism is no animal products whatsoever, including dairy products and eggs. This decision is usually a heartfelt desire to practice ahimsa. But choosing veganism is to adopt a diet that has not stood the test of time over generations. It can be done well, and it’s less and less challenging to eat this way, but it still requires thought, planning and knowledge of what’s required by the body. Many traditional cultures are vegetarian, and that is a far easier path. Now I choose organic whole foods, favoring the ones that are grown locally as much as possible. I remain mostly vegetarian, but include fish and fowl in my diet, especially when dining out.

As an inviting way to begin to explore dietary choices, I recommend “Meatless Mondays”. Designate a day of the week where you consciously avoid eating meat. This day can be a time to enjoy shared meals with friends or family, and regular time to experiment with new recipes, new vegetables and new preparation techniques. Here is the link to a wealth of inspiration, dietary information and vegetarian recipes:
http://www.meatlessmonday.com

*In their landmark book Population, Resources, Environment, Stanford Professors Paul R. and Anne H. Ehrlich stated that the amount of water used to produce one pound of meat ranges from 2,500 to as much as 6,000 gallons.

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