It’s great to be in the news, for the right reasons! Om Yoga Magazine recently featured my ‘yoga of food’ article. Read all about it, below.
The Yoga of Food (Anna Yoga) By Keith Squires
Never before has so much information about food been available through books, the internet, TV, my blogs and courses. But the most important thing has been almost totally overlooked. Hardly anyone realises that the way food is cooked, is just as important as the recipe and ingredients!
This is nothing new, there is a whole branch of yoga called ‘Anna Yoga’ but it’s nothing to do with someone called Anna or Annie! Anna is a very beautiful Sanskrit word meaning nourishment. In Hinduism there is an actual Goddess Annapurna, who is said to nourish the whole universe, with spiritual and physical food.
Anna Yoga is much more than a guide to eating a healthy diet, it encompasses a whole journey of self-knowledge through food. We may not find time or inclination to do yoga postures or meditation every day but we will normally eat, probably 3 times a day. This can be an empty experience of filling up or refuelling, or ultimately a sacred connection with ourselves and the universe around us.
Anna Yoga is a journey of self knowledge through food
While cooking it’s not just the ingredients that go into the food, you add part of yourself. I don’t mean a broken fingernail, or false eyelash! We surround it with our thoughts and feelings, as we cook, and this becomes part of the meal. The Anna Yoga secret is to add only the best ingredients from your storehouse of emotions. I soon learned if I was fed up when I was cooking, no one enjoyed the food, but if I put loving intention into it, everyone liked it.
Only add the best ingredients from your storehouse of emotions
Anyone can become a loving cook, at first I just liked food, but not people so much. I started cooking because no one else was. But soon I learned that cooking is like a mirror, what you put in, not just ingredients, but also your emotions, is what you get out!
It’s infuriating, when you are fed up, and cooking is a chore, you resent it, that is when everyone complains! It drives you mad! When you are happy, and you put love into it, everyone loves you back. You want it to be the other way round, you want them to change, but that hardly ever happens, ultimately you have to turn the whole thing around yourself.
Mothers love is normally the closest experience to divine unconditional love
For most of us the best example of Anna Yoga, is mothers cooking. Although at times we may have hated it, I used to have huge battles over eating liver and onions, yuk! But usually there was something so nourishing about it, even if it was just beans on toast! That’s because mothers love is often the closest we get to divine unconditional love. It goes into the food making it delicious and nourishing.
When I was young my grandmother had a remedy for any illness, it was evaporated milk with warm water and sugar. Now I think it must be the worst thing if you have an infection lots of sugar and milk fat! But again it was the love and intention that was so healing, not the drink itself.
The most delicious delicious food I ever had was a dal from an indian temple, it was a simple recipe but made with love and chanted over.
In India one of the staple foods is dal, which is a thin spicy lentil, or moong bean soup. When I was there someone said the best dal you get is in the temple. Not that it is such a great recipe, or there is some secret ingredient, but the energy of the prayers and chanting goes into the food it becomes super charged blessed food, or ‘prashad’ in sanskrit.
Just Start with an intention to put love into your food.
But how do you start to become an Anna Yogi? The first step is to have an intention, that you want to cook with love. Then take small steps in the right direction.
Before I cook, even if I am in a hurry, I stop and think, that the meal is important, and I am making a meal that will nurture everyone, then I try to think of the people kindly. Sometimes, I light a candle, put some nice music on, and allow the healing power of my hands to infuse the food. Straight away something changes, and someone will ‘say that smells nice’.
If I have had a stressful time or been near annoying people, I sometimes have a shower to wash off the physical and the emotional garbage! If I need to I sit for a few minutes and practice my breathing exercise, and image I am inhaling love and positively and exhaling any irritation.
Keiths Breathing Exercises, to calm your mind
1. Put the kettle on.
2. Sit comfortably, and close your eyes.
3. Inhale the cool calm air.
4. Imagine you are breathing in love and positivity.
5. Try to exhale through your nose, feel the warm air going out.
6. Breathe out stress, and negative emotions.
7. Repeat as you wait for the kettle to boil.
8. Make a nice cuppa.
Then I just create an intention, that I am going to make a light filled meal for everyone. Consciously I project love into the food and the people, who will be subjected to it. Then ask my higher self, kitchen angel, ancestor who liked cooking, deceased pet or anyone who might be out there, to help. If its a really bad day I just pray for a miracle. It may all sound like a big effort but it doesn’t need to take long.
But actually cooking itself is nurturing and therapeutic, if you let it be. Cooking is grounding because it involves all the 5 elements of nature. The fresh vegetables are from the earth, you use water to cook and prepare the produce. Then there is the fire in the cooker, and the smell of the food in the air. Your thoughts and feelings are the ether which permeate everything.
Cooking is grounding because it involves all the elements of nature
Often during the day your mind and senses get over stimulated in certain ways. Your hearing can be stressed by traffic, demanding voices, telephone the hustle of modern life. Your eyes by computer screens mobile phones etc. Cooking on the other hand, invokes and refreshes all the senses.
The sense of Touch is refreshed, by the texture of the vegetables, the coolness of the water on your hands as you wash them, and the warmth of the steam as you cook.
The sense of Sight is refreshed, as you look at the colours of the vegetables and the patterns as you cut them., even the onions that make you cry are cleansing your eyes.
The sense of Hearing is refreshed by the sound of the knife chopping, the sissling and sounds of the cooking. Even the microwave going ping!
The sense of Smell is tantalised by the fresh scents of the herbs and vegetables and the alchemy of the aromas .
The sense of Taste can be overwhelmed, if you search deep into the flavours with your awareness.
Your sense of Humour can also be refreshed by a good joke.
Because all the senses are being stimulated at once, it is a totally complete experience. Everything can be totally integrated and balanced by the wholesome experience of cooking..
In cooking a loving meal you are also engaged in something that can’t be totally rushed. Everything has to cook in it’s own time. If you open your senses, the smell of the food will let you know when it is ready.
Magically most things give off a delicious aroma when they are cooked, cakes and bread if baked at the right temperature give off a delicious smell, just at the moment they are ready!
Anna Yoga confirms what we already knew, the way to a persons heart is through the stomach! It’s a wonderful experiment to add love to your cooking along with the other ingredients. Try it and see what happens.
Next time Keith continues with You are, how you eat! – meditating on food and eating with awareness. If you can’t wait, find out more on Keiths Blog! http://www.keithonfood.com
Categories: Keith on Life