One of the most rewarding things about practicing yoga is not the physical benefits of the postures on the body, but the way in which the practice of yoga helps to build awareness of oneself and how we interact in the world.
The practice of karma yoga, the yoga of service, is just as important as a physical asana practice.
As Alan Finger writes in his book, Chakra Yoga:
“The success of your yoga practice is not measured by how well you can do the poses or how long you can sit and meditate. It is measured by how well you are living your life.
Ask yourself: ‘Do I feel there is balance in my life and harmony in my relations to others? Can I experience unconditional love? Am I fulfilling my needs from the universe? Am I happy just to be alive?'”
Recently, my friend and fellow yoga teacher Marianne Elliott contacted me about an upcoming training she’s running. And if anyone knows about karma yoga, it’s Marianne.
Marianne is the regional leader for Off the Mat Into the World for New Zealand and Australia, and is the author of the beautiful and inspiring memoir, Zen Under Fire: A Story of Love and War in Afghanistan, which was released earlier this year in New Zealand, and will be released in the United States in 2013. It’s an incredible story of her work and life in Afghanistan, including her relationships and yoga practice.
Marianne is also someone who knows and appreciates good food. So when she asked me if I might be willing to design the menu and cook the food for the Off the Mat into the World training, I jumped at the chance.
One of the things that makes a yoga retreat special is the experience of eating healthy and nourishing meals that are different from the normal foods that we might make at home or find at cafes.
I couldn’t be more delighted for the opportunity to prepare the food for the Off the Mat training and ensure that participants have the pleasure of savouring warm, comforting vegetarian meals (with gluten free and dairy free options) to support the work of the training and their yoga practice during the weekend.
Getting off the mat and into the kitchen seemed like a beautiful opportunity to practice karma yoga, and the least I could do to support Marianne and the important and inspiring work of Off the Mat, Into the World.
But getting off the mat and into the kitchen is more than just the act of service of cooking for others. It’s making ethical choices about the foods we eat, and recognizing the labour that goes into producing the foods that end up on supermarkets shelves and in our kitchens, or on the table at restaurants. It’s also understanding the impact that the foods we buy and consume have on people globally and on the environment around us.
Ideally, it’s best to eat local, sustainable foods that are unprocessed and unpackaged. This creates the least amount of environmental waste in production and transport. It also facilitates eating in harmony with the seasons, which will be the subject of my next column– stay tuned!
In New Zealand, we’re fortunate to have a climate that is good for growing lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Eating local produce means having foods that are fresher, since they haven’t traveled to us from the other side of the world, and supports our local communities and farmers.
If you do eat meat and dairy, look for organic, free range products. It’s better for the animals, and much healthier for you, and for the environment. In Wellington, you can have them delivered right to your door by Urban Harvest.
If you eat fish, check out Forest and Bird’s sustainable fish guide, so you can eat fish responsibly, avoiding varieties that are overfished and under-populated, or high in toxins due to polluted waters. Forest and Bird also has mouth-watering sustainable fish and seafood recipes to inspire you.
If you drink coffee and tea, and eat chocolate, quinoa, rice, bananas, or other products, try to buy products that are labeled “fair trade” to ensure that the producers were justly compensated for their work. Trade Aid has a range of fair trade coffee, chocolate, and other food items. Fair Trade City has an online buying guide, which lists cafes, shops and restaurants in the region that offer fair trade foods and products.
For a good overview of sustainable eating, check out No Impact Man’s blog, where he outlines ways to eat that support the environment.
And, if you want to experience a taste of my cooking using predominately local, seasonal ingredients, and participate in New Zealand’s Off the Mat into the World training, the info is below:
12-14 October 2012
With Marianne Elliot, Kelly Fisher, and Nick Potter
Off the Mat, Into the World: Yoga in Action courses use yoga practice, group exercises, personal reflection and weekly homework to help you uncover your purpose, clarify your vision, face your fears and doubts, connect to your community of support, and work with others to plan and carry out your own form of service in your community.
It offers participants the opportunity to use the power and tools of yoga to help you get clearer on your purpose, and find conscious, sustainable ways to make a difference in the world.
You’re invited to join us at our next training—a special weekend workshop on the Kapiti Coast (Wellington region).
This workshop will suit you if you want to:
- Apply the qualities that are cultivated through yoga (e.g. clarity, courage, compassion and self-awareness) in your actions off the mat and into the world.
- Experience a personally transformative journey that clarifies your purpose and develops your communication and leadership skills
- Strengthen your community by harnessing the power of yoga to ignite grassroots social change.
- Explore new ways to mix your yoga practice or teaching with personal/professional development.
It’s designed for people who would like to experience the benefits of ‘Off the Mat’ and may be interested in being part of similar training or community initiatives in New Zealand. This includes yoga teachers, community builders, studio owners and anyone with lots of interest in what we do.
Friday 12 Oct (7pm dinner and opening)
Saturday 13 Oct (All day)
Sunday 14 Oct (4pm close)
32 Waihōanga Rd
This is a peaceful and secluded place overlooking the Otaki River, just over an hour from Wellington. It’s a wonderful environment to meet, explore ideas, deepen knowledge and unwind.
The price for this workshop is NZ$350.
You have the option to pay in 8 weekly installments of $45.
This includes 2 full days of facilitated workshops, a course guide, 2 nights accommodation and delicious vegetarian meals prepared by Valerie Love, food writer for the Yoga Lunchbox.
Please register by 14 September to conﬁrm a place as the workshop is limited to 30 people.
You can register online by using this form (your place will not be confirmed until you’ve paid)