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Happy 2015!  Welcome guest blogger, Mohan Balakrishan. A gifted and skilled yoga teacher, Mohan will join us to share his knowledge of the sutras and how we can apply them to modern life.  So grateful for him and his knowledge!

Who doesn’t like to eat? Except a few picky kids I have known who resist putting anything appealing and edible in their mouths, everyone likes to eat. I am a foodie at heart and I love eating – a lot and lots of different things. Eating a good meal has always lifted my spirit and puts me at ease. As my grandmother often insisted, the way to man’s heart is through his stomach.

Growing up in Chennai, South India, food was the essence of our culture. Our household revolved around what and when to cook, all 3 meals were equally important with no one lesser than the other.  Be it Finger Millet Porridge for breakfast or pan roasted flat rice bread for dinner; every single meal was special in its own way. Snacks are a whole different story! No matter what the meal or food, people paid much attention to what was consumed and how they prepared it.

Harvested veggies

Most of our food came fresh the same day. We grew herbs, beans, okra, eggplants, peppers, and occasional gourds in our urban backyards.   Dairy, other produce, and meat came from local farms.  The food we ate had much life, nourished, and invigorated us. Spices were abundant and there was neither shortage of fresh seasonings nor methods to prepare one product ten different ways. We treated food with respect – how we grew it and how we prepared it. Talk about Ojas, we had it every meal, every day. Every bit was precious and we considered them divine.

In a way, my culture taught me to be mindful about myself and external factors, thus preparing me to live in the present moment and carry on beyond. My culture instilled mindfulness.  This mindfulness is the very essence of Ayurveda, the very old practice in Indian culture that teaches about the qualities of food and how one can use it to their favor to counteract negative influences. Through practice and perseverance we perfect our art of cooking food.  This truly is meditation in a way, a meditation that has been passed down many generations with the intention of well-being. To me, this is synonymous to what Patanjali quotes in his sutra 1:12

abhyāsa-vairāgya-ābhyāṁ tan-nirodhaḥ

“The state of yoga is attained through a balance between practice (abhyasa) and intention (vairagya).”

This sutra of yoga can be applied to every aspect of our lives. Be it eating or a casual conversation with a stranger. It is remarkable that through civilization and cultural evolution, the practices that were handed over to us bear significant knowledge. However we do not take time to question, assess, and analyze the truth behind them. Maybe we will realize this, maybe we can all start with simple things, like eating. Happy New Year!