The Yoga Sutras say: “Yogas’ citta-vrtti-nirodhah” or as translated by Edwin Bryant, “Yoga is the stilling of the changing states of the mind.” Yoga is also commonly defined as the union between individual consciousness and cosmic consciousness, or, you could say between the everyday self, including; our mind, sense organs, emotions, and intellect, and, our deepest true Self. Finally, as stated in the previous post, Yoga is the act of bringing into union our feminine and masculine energies. From a Vedic perspective, all of these ways of understanding Yoga are essentially one. When our mind becomes still, our everyday self, which is both masculine and feminine, experiences integration and wholeness, as it unites with our deepest cosmic self. In this sense, Yoga opens pathways to an awareness of our true nature. As we discover the serenity within, we manifest the potential to unveil and realize the deepest truth of our being.
There are many traditional Yoga practices including Hatha Yoga, Japa Yoga, Nada Yoga, and Raja Yoga charged with thousands of years of practice sustained through transmission from teacher to student. It is a great blessing to learn any Yoga or Vedic science in this manner. For me, learning Vedic cooking in a traditional way has been an indescribable blessing, enabling me to create something extraordinary out of something ordinary. But in many ways, Yoga is not about performing a particular activity, but the sacred art of engaging an activity with focus, devotion, and in alignment with the rhythms of nature, that is, as sadhana.
In Women’s Power to Heal, Maya Tiwari describes sadhana as “the ancient bedrock of nature’s seasons, cycles, rhythms, and sustenance from which Ayurveda sprung.” Affectionately known as Mother Maya, Tiwari says the tradition of Wise Earth Ayurveda teaches the potency of Inner Medicine…the transformation of everyday routines into sacred rituals that awaken our intrinsic forces of healing (12).
I recall learning how to make ghee, kichadi, chutneys, and masalas years ago in a traditional Vedic fashion. Mother Maya taught us from a low table holding a gas stove as we sat in front of her in a meditative posture. I loved the experience of blending meditation with preparing food. It was nurturing and strengthening. I also realize learning these practices in such a way transformed my relationship with cooking. Yoga and meditation teachers often instruct students to practice asanas or meditation everyday in the same space and the same time to benefit from a mind that loves conditioning. In a similar way, learning Vedic cooking as a traditional sadhana guided my mind to absorb the notion that grinding spices, cutting vegetables, and making ghee and kichadi is a form of Yoga.
Cooking is an amazing sacred practice, offering plenty of opportunity to develop focus and concentration through repetition, leading one to a state of tranquility. Since preparing food is part of our everyday lives, we do not necessarily need to take time away from our family and loved ones to practice cooking sadhanas; they naturally flow out of the everyday rhythms of life. Whether caring for children, partners, elderly parents, or other loved ones, transforming cooking into Yoga sadhana creates harmony and community within the home.