Feeding Vegetarians by Swami Nirmalananda

food3It is one of my greatest pleasure, feeding yogis.  While I had done my stint producing meals as a mom, I never mastered any type of cuisine, not even vegetarian, so it came as a complete surprise that I feel so strongly about feeding people.  At one point, after opening the Ashram, I jokingly threatened that I was going to set up tables and soup pots on the front lawn, so I could feed passersby.  This neighborhood doesn’t have any passersby who would need the food, so it wasn’t a realistic plan, but the urge had begun uprising in me since I took sannyasa (became a swami).

My Baba used to love to feed people.  In the years I lived and studied with Him, I supported the food services, so I was one of the army of sevites it took to feed the hundreds and thousands who came.  Now, following in Baba’s footsteps, I want to feed all of you!  This is actually part of what the sutras document:  the types of things that happen to a yogi doing deep practice:

Jnanam annam — “Siva Sutra 2.9

Pure knowledge is the only real nourishment, that which gives satisfaction.

This sutra explains my experience before I became a swami, an experience that always confused me.  When I ate with people whose discussions left me cold, I ate more food, even too much food, but never felt full.  I yearned for the nourishment of real connection and meaningful discourse.  Once I found that real connection and meaning, in its inner source, it threads through all my discourse, and I am not focused on food any more, except that I love to feed people!  This of course means that writing a blog, teaching a class, holding a phone satsang, sharing a sutra — these are all different ways of feeding you.

I began the Yogi Meals in Exton so I could feed everyone taking the courses then offered by Master Yoga.  We made the meals very affordable, but ended up not covering the costs, so the program needed to change its form in order to be viable.  Still, it meant I was able to offer high quality foods, organic (whenever possible), from our back yard and CSA (in three seasons) and cooked to individual adaptations when needed (gluten free, etc.).

Our meals at the Desmond are the next step in the natural progression of bringing these trainings in underneath the sacred umbrella of the Ashram.  It’s been wonderful to see the effects on the students — less pressure, less anxiety, more camaraderie, more rest at night, and so on.

I’ve recently discovered that some of the yogis are not eating vegetarian at home, so this eating plan is a big event for them.  When (or if) you become a vegetarian, you need to learn to balance your nutritional flow, so I recently prepared this information for the yogis as well as for the Desmond chef:

Your protein needs are fully met at any meal that includes one of the following:

  • Beans (small beans cooked with hing are easier to digest than large beans)
  • Corn and any grain, served in one meal
  • Cheese (for those who eat dairy)
  • Tofu, tempeh or seitan (for those without allergies)
  • Nuts (but you usually need ¼ cup to get enough protein)
  • In addition, protein in present in everything you eat, even fruit!  Read labels and you’ll see you’re gathering protein “points” every time you put something in your mouth.

In addition, we are careful with our full day of lesson planning, to allow for both your eating as well as your digestion.  Here’s how we take care of your belly in a yoga immersion:

Breakfast — usually served at 6 am, which gives you one hour to eat and have a short digestion period.  Eat lightly, as you will be doing some poses, chant and/or meditation, so you need a light belly.

Morning Recess – this is not a snack break, though some snack items are always available to you in the food service area.  You are returning to working in poses, so please limit your food intake.

Lunch — this is a hearty meal!  Around 12:30 pm, you will do japa (mantra repetition) and then have 1:20 for your meal and recess, plenty of time for digestion as well as important “down time.”  Please enjoy to your stomach’s capacity (which might be different than you think it is).

Afternoon recess — around 4 pm, you’ll have a recess.  Usually you have 30 minutes for a real snack, with wonderful treats prepared by our chefs, but please remember you are returning to work in poses again.  Also, dinner is right around the corner.

Dinner — around 6:00 or 6:30 pm, you have 45 minutes to an hour for a light dinner, ideally soup plus a light side dish, so you can eat your fill and still not have too much food in your belly.  It’s important because you’re returning to work with your body again.

OM svaroopa svasvabhava.h namo nama.h

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