My Pan-Fried Yoga: Yoga Off the Mat
Posted by: Leili Learning Life
What do you do when you feel disconnected?
When I've spent too much time in my head (working, on the computer, scheming and dreaming), I know I'm overdue for some yoga: focused attention to the present moment, noticing the senses, and suspending thoughts about past events or future worries.
But for me, yoga isn't always making funny shapes on my mat. Actually, it isn't for many people. We all find ease in presence through different means — that "thing" you love to do where time and activity seem to flow together. Maybe for you it's running, or journaling, or gardening.
For me, my "yoga" off the mat is cooking. When I feel like my head and body have become completely separate entities, cooking is what brings my mind's creativity and my body's sensing intuition together. Cooking guides me through color, and aroma, and balance, and taste. Through my clumsiness of chopping onions on a bamboo cutting board. Through the feeling of sesame oil all over my hands as I massage the bitterness out of curled kale leaves.
I let myself become enveloped in the process, the scent of garlic weaving itself into my hair as I lean in to drink up the scent from the stove. Just as I might on the mat, I continually check in while I cook — rooting the balls of my feet onto the linoleum for a kitchen tadasana, rolling the jaw around to release any tightness. As thoughts start to creep in and I find myself distracted from the food in front of me, I take a few moments to watch the breath. I often tell classes that when the mind offers up distractions, there's nowhere the mind can take you that the breath can't bring you back. So I breathe.
That's the beauty of yoga, whatever your "yoga" may be. It's an active practice of being in the "now" instead of our habitual preoccupation with what's not. As we cultivate this presence, we find greater ease in the "real world" of working from a place of being/sensing/knowing rather than thinking/worrying/reacting.
So my practice is in cooking. I breathe in my work and give thanks for the opportunity to feed myself — in belly, but moreso for nurturing myself. Cooking connects me to my senses, focuses my mind, and gives me space to be creative. This is my yoga off the mat.
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Two quick non-recipes. If you're new to my non-recipes, they're meant as rough recaps of dishes that I like to cook. I won't usually specify measurements, since I don't cook with them. Thus, take these guidelines more as inspiration for creating your own recipes. Let yourself be guided by your own tastes.
leftover rice that you really, really need to use up (I used brown rice)
mixed frozen veggies (corn, carrots, peas, green beans, lima beans, etc.)
crimini mushrooms, sliced (optional)
minced or crushed garlic
1. Heat frozen veggies in pan* over medium heat. Add sesame oil, mushrooms, and garlic. Sauté until fragrant.
2. Stir in rice, adding additional oil if dry. Flavor with soy sauce, adding a little at a time to taste.
3. If using sriracha, clear a space in the middle of the pan. Squirt a little sauce directly onto the pan itself (not the rice), then quickly stir rice over sauce.
4. Realize you used more sriracha than you should have. Oh well, drink some iced tea.
*I love cooking with one pan as much as possible. If you're cooking both recipes, choose a large enough pan. You can cook the fried rice first, then put it in your serving dish so that you can cook the kale in the same pan.
Teriyaki Tofu with Sesame Kale
kale, leaves separated from ribs
Wildwood Organics Teriyaki Baked sprouted tofu, cut into cubes (link)
soy sauce (or lemon juice)
minced/crushed garlic or garlic powder (optional)
1. Heat tofu cubes in sesame oil over medium heat.
2. While tofu starts to brown, place kale leaves in large bowl. Sprinkle with soy sauce or lemon juice. Drizzle sesame oil over kale, then massage with hands to coat leaves completely. Add sesame seeds and garlic as desired.
3. When tofu is thoroughly heated, add kale.
4. Steal bites of fried rice while you wait for the kale to cook down, stirring frequently.
Final steps: Load up your plate. Give thanks for the earth that grew the food, for the work that brought this food into your kitchen, and for the ability to feed yourself in body and spirit. Happily and hungrily devour.
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Comment conversation time!
- How do you know when you need to reconnect? What are the signs/what do you notice when mind and body aren't jiving?
- What's your "yoga"? Maybe you ride your bike, or watercolor, or go fishing. You tell me — how do you come back into balance?
- Got a fried rice recipe? I used to shamelessly make fried rice all the time from leftover bits of veggies (and meat, when I was eating it) a couple years back, and forgot how much I loved it until now. I called it "recession cooking." It's incredibly satisfying to put a super tasty meal together out of nothing. Fried rice for breakfast was my absolute favorite. Check out another fan of breakfast fried rice, Mon Mon's Nom Noms. In her blog, she mentions sinangag, Filipino garlic fried rice, a traditional dish eaten for breakfast. A recipe with beautiful photos can be found on Cook's Hideout.
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