Finding sustenance in Singapore

Each time I breeze  into a new place it takes a few days to find a venue that offers a truly satisfying meal for a vegan.  Arriving in Singapore I was not at all prepared, it was late, I was tired, and a strenuous yoga session was fast approaching.
Day 1- I drag myself out of bed, pack the limited supplies that I have ( Icarried these all the way from Australia ‘just incase’) and head out the door.  Asana practice goes well, I devour my goodies but I know a sachet of oats, an apple and one green tea bag  will not suffice for long! I can hear a colourful salad and a just cooked spicy stir fry calling my name. Class finishes and I step out onto the pavement, now where to? Having only been in Singapore for a grand total of 15 hours it seems like an ideal time to explore. My mind is willing but my body is not. I head in the direction of my resting place in hope that I will see something on the way. I am alert looking for anything that could cure my desire.  Nothing, all of a sudden I am at the street across from my hotel and I have nothing in my stomach yet. However I must say, on the walk I saw many promising signs, actually the word vegetarian popped up many times just not the ‘healthy vegan options’ I craved. What to do?
When you stop looking you find what you seek…..
 By now I have entered the new city square mall opposite my hotel. I decide to search for a grocery store as I am sure they will have a fresh crunchy carrot and a bag of nuts to suffice. I scan the shops directory board and something catches my eye, “four seasons organic market and cafe”,  sounds promising. On approach I notice a salad counter with more colour then I have seen on the journey so far, from the menu I order a stuffed mushroom burger. It comes (albeit very slowly), I eat, I am satisfied.
Now I have a content tummy I go about ‘googleling’ food options for the coming days. I also ask around at yoga class the following day. Armed with a list of restaurant names, locations,  and a map the coming days lead me to an array of healthy vegan delights!
Places I have experienced so far

  • Salad stop Very tasty salad and wrap options made fresh to order. Also ‘create your own’ options so everyone gets a chance to be innovative!   www.saladstop.com.sg
  • 7 sensations  This place is a winner!!! The first and only place thus far that I have encountered an authentic, fresh, crisp, meat free Vietnamese fresh spring roll. I truly relax in a new city when I find this, they are one of my favourite things to consume! In addition the menu offers a diverse mix of dishes including salads, currys, and noodles.                     www.facebook.com/pages/7-Sensations/60651191134
  • Living greens A menu where every option is vegan friendly certainly put this one on the ‘must try’ list for me. The options are varied and creative with daily specials to keep things interesting. I absolutely love the quiche, certainly a dish that a vegan would not usually consider! (Living’s quiche is made with tofu and vegetables)                         www.livingreens.com.sg/
  • Real food  Creating meals with quality ingredients is real food’s philosophy. Sounds good! While the menu is generous in both size and variety, there are alot of non- vegan dishes. I am a little disappointed when I discover a number of items have been removed from the menu (including my beloved fresh spring rolls). They do however make tasty mixed vegetables with options of brown rice and whole grain noodles.                                                                                                    www.realfoodgrocer.com/

For now I am slowly working my way through the list with only a few destinations left to try out. I anticipate quite a few return trips as well as numerous accidental discoveries now that I have found my ‘exploration groove’. One thing I am still craving; a huge bowl of assorted vegetables with tofu…. fresh, light, and a little spicy! Any suggestions please pass them on.
For when I return to Australia and my kitchen this is the first thing I will cook!
Vegetarian San choy bow
Ingredients (quantities of all is dependant on individual preferences)
Onion
Garlic
chili
soft tofu
eggplant
capsicum
broccoli
(any other vegetables you wish that can be cut small and cook quickly)
Soy sauce
oyster sauce (vegetarian)
Chinese five spice
coriander powder
Fresh coriander
Lettuce cups
Fresh lime (to squeeze)
 
Method
Chop all vegetables into small cubes ( 1 cmx1cm or smaller)
Heat pan, add onion, garlic, chili, eggplant, capsicum, let brown.
Add all other vegetables and a cup of water cover to let steam briefly.
Add sauces and spices and soft tofu, stir until heated through and all vegetables are to your liking.
Serve in fresh lettuce cups garnished with fresh coriander and lime to squeeze
Try it out and enjoy!!

Evidence to support a plant-based diet

For a long time I have believed as an O+ blood type, I should stick to a diet consisting largely of animal protein. However when I started the 200 hour teacher training course with Tirisula Yoga, I found eating a meal with meat the night before significantly affected the way I felt during asanas the next morning, due to the time taken to digest. In addition eating anything particularly spicy (or Rajasic) made me feel very heavy and lethargic during the next days activities. After completing the course, it has changed the way I eat and how I feel about food, and because of this change I was interested to find out more about what the benefits are of a plant based diet.
1) Due to excessive consumption most of the animals we eat are over farmed and diseased. To combat infections such as Staphylococci, livestock are administered antibiotics, which in turn enter our bodies when we consume meat, with harmful results. Research also suggests that meat farmed in the U.S contains dangerously high levels of deadly pesticides.
2) Environmental reasons – 3 x more fossil fuels must be burned in order to produce a meat centered diet rather than a meat free diet. Therefore our mass consumption of meat is rapidly depleting the world’s natural resources, a reduction in the consumption of meat may help to slow global warming.
3) Reduction or elimination or meat eating could also reduce world hunger. An acre of land can produce 40,000 potatoes or 250 pounds of beef. Using grazing pastures to grow vegetables instead of rear livestock could therefore significantly increase the availability of food for all.
4) Too much protein can be harmful. Excess Urea produced by protein metabolism, can cause kidney damage. Excessive protein consumption can also produce ammonia, another Nitrogen byproduct of protein metabolism and cause dehydration and calcium deficiency.
5) Research suggests a diet containing large amounts of protein (including dairy) can contribute to the development of cancers (such as breast, ovarian, colon, stomach and prostate). Meat eaters also take in a greater amount of cholesterol from meat, putting them at greater risk of heart disease and heart attacks.
6) Other diseases associated with consumption of meat (according to research) are: strokes, constipation, arthritis, migraines, ulcers, kidney stones, hiatus hernia, gallstones, hypoglycemia, diverticulitis, osteoporosis, kidney diseases, asthma and trichinosis.
7) Biologically humans are not designed to eat meat. We have much longer intestinal tracts (around 12 meters, depending on the size of the individual) then those of the typical carnivore, whose intestinal tracts are very short. This allows rotting meat to be expelled quickly without putrefying within the body, as sometimes occurs in humans. The law of Karma and the first Yama within the eight limbs of yoga, states we should not harm or injure another living creature. The pain that you inflict on others will rebound upon you, and you ‘reap what you sow’. A yogic diet is one that brings inner peace to the body and mind and encourages spiritual progress.
There are many environmental, ecological, ethical, physical and spiritual reasons to move towards a plant based diet (without suppressing the desire to eat meat). Simply reducing your consumption of animal products may not only enable you and your family to stay healthy for longer, but will improve the environment and others life’s in the process.

 

Drink up with a smile

Our most precious resource is what makes us what we are. A fertilized egg is 96% water. At birth a baby is 80% water, as a child matures the percentage drops and stabilizes around 70%. The human body is mostly made up of water. So how can so many people not drink enough and expect their body to function as it is meant to? By the time you are feeling thirsty, it’s possible that you are already slightly dehydrated. The colour of your urine is a great indicator. If it is clear or very pale yellow you are hydrated. If it is a darker shade you should go and have a drink of water.
By drinking enough water you are assisting your body in metabolizing stored fats and helping maintain proper muscle tone.  Water helps with digestion, the absorption of food, the regulation of bodily temperature and blood circulation, the carrying of nutrients and oxygen to the cells and it aids in the removal of toxins. Water also helps with the movements of joints, and helps protect tissues and organs in the body. Most importantly water will prevents dehydration.
There are many benefits of drinking water but your benefits can be enhanced by first changing the energy of the water before drinking it. A study by Masaru Emoto shows the makeup of the water can be changed. In this study he took photographs of the water crystals when the water was exposed to positive and negative emotions or words. Masaru’s study shows that the water exposed to the positive emotions (such as having a label with the words ‘love and gratitude’) formed the most amazing water crystals. On the other hand the water with the label of negative words such as hate or fear would produce very poorly formed or distorted crystals. Masaru believes that everything has a subtle energy and this can be changed by vibration of the objects surroundings. As we are 70% water by taking in water that has a positive energy we will be able to enhance our benefits of the water. Masaru also found that positive talk and prayer also improved the crystal quality.
To get the most out of your water:

  • Paste a positive message on your bottle, facing inward.
  • Energise the water before drinking by shaking or stirring, energy is in the vibration
  • Speak positively to your water
  • Be grateful for every sip of water
  • Make sure you drink regularly throughout the day
  • If you are participating in activity that makes you sweat increase your water intake
  • Avoid beverages such as coffee, soft drink and alcohol, these will only dehydrate you
  • If you are drinking from water bottles it is important to keep them clean and replace them often

By drinking adequate amounts of water that is full of positive energy, you will cause significant improvements not only to your physique but also your attitude and overall feelings of wellbeing and success associated with all aspects of your life. Go and drink up with a smile!!

Pomegranate and cucumber salad

This recipe is yummy I got it from vegetarian living magazine. I tried it, husband loves it and my 9 year old too. I’ve made some alteration as I found the onion taste too strong. It’s a 6 serving recipe, it only contains 75 cals per serving and it is rich in anti-oxidants. Prep time: 15 min.
Bon appetit!
2 pomegrenates
1 small cucumber, peeled and dices
1/2 a small red onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp of chopped mint
1 orange
pinch of sugar, salt, pepper and olive oil
1) Score the pomegranates’ skin and peel back to reveal the seeds. Pull apart and put the seed in a bowl, avoiding any of the pithy membrane. Mix in the cucumber, onion and mint.
2) Peel the orange skin with a knife up to the pulp. slice the pulp out and cut each pulp pieces in 3. Add to salad with the dripped juice. Season with sugar, salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve.

Ratatouille

Ratatouille is a traditional french provencal stewed vegetable dish. It was made famous in the Pixar movie with the same name as the dish. ‘Touille’ in french essentially means tossed food.
I stumbled upon my version of ‘Ratatouille’ when I first prepared my baby daughter’s food. It was at a time when I was pondering on how I can eat more healthily with minimum fuss. While raw vegetables may sound ideal, it is definitely not something that I can stomach day in day out.
My daughter’s daily meal consists of – tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, etc. An assortment of vegetables steamed, tossed up and then mixed with her brown rice porridge. No flavoring (i.e. sugar, salt, soy sauce, etc).
It never occur to me to sample it (at the back of my head I know it is bland!) until I have to finish some as I have cooked too much for her. I must say that I am taken to its ‘original’ sweetness (tomatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin), textured (broccoli and corn) and the refreshing (whatever leafy vegetables I have used) taste.
I have used an combination of ingredients and have found the following, for 3 days worth of lunch, that appeal to me most:

  • 2 x large tomatoes, 3 x sweet potatoes, 200g spinach, 200g eggplant (can be any vegetables that you like), 300g pumpkin, 100g corns (all quantity is dependent on the size of your stomach, or should I say your appetite)

Directions:

  1. Remove the skins of the pumpkin & sweet potatoes
  2. Steam the pumpkin & sweet potatoes for 25-min, the rest of the vegetables for 15-min
  3. Tossed all into a bowl, and mashed it up
  4. Put it in a freezer with a cling wrap to keep it’s freshness (never keep more than 3 days. Where possible, we should always prepare it fresh everyday, as nutrients are loss over days when we did not consume it)
  5. Warm up the amount that you want to eat either by mirco-wave or oven toasting it
  6. Tossed it with extra virgin olive oil, flax seeds (for the Omega 3 Fatty acids) and nuts before you chomp them down
  7. OK. For starter, you may flavor it with some salt/soy sauce and sesame oil

Have fun creating your own version of ‘Ratatouille’, and attempt to mixed and match until you find a combo that suits your taste buds without any flavoring. Whatever combo you come up with, you will get your carbohydrates (potatoes), vitamins & minerals (vegetables), proteins (nuts), fatty acids (flax seeds), monounsaturated fats (olive oil).
That’s what we call simply natural – easy to prepare, injest and digest.
Just like Yoga.
Namaste.

Eating for Flexibility

Although it is difficult to find a significant amount of scientific data supporting the idea that food choices affect flexibility, personal experiences seem to indicate that what we eat can effect the physical deepening of our asana practice.
Food can affect our bodies in so many different ways:  weight changes, skin condition, disease.  It can also affect our mind:  sleepy/energized, depressed/stimulated.  It seems reasonable to conclude that food could have an impact on flexibility.  What we put in to our body becomes who we are.
As with most dietary advice coming from our field, it appears that the first step is to eliminate meat from our diets.  Animal protein creates acidity in the body which appears to negatively impact flexibility.
However, a typical ovo-lacto vegetarian diet may not be enough to optimally prepare the body to become flexible.  Other factors include dairy products, which contain casein protein.  This protein is widely used by bodybuilders, powerlifters, and other athletes to increase muscle size and strength, but it is likely having a number of negative effects on the individual, one of which is decreasing flexibility.
Increasing the amount of alkaline forming foods has been shown to increase flexibility.  This can easily be accomplished by simply including more green food items in your daily diet.  Spinach, spirulina, seaweed, broccoli, etc. should all help you maintain a healthy pH balance in your blood.  It is also important to make sure you are getting your recommended amount of vitamins and minerals.
Adding a small amount of flax oil to your diet can also act as an anti-inflammatory and can lubricate your joints and counteract the toxic effects of cooked oil stored in our body.
While maintaining an almost completely vegan diet would likely be well-suited for flexibility, this may not be realistic or desirable in all situations.  Personal experimentation and gradually determining what works well for the individual is probably a good course of action.  But if you are having issues with your flexibility, why not experiment with some of the above suggestions and see if they work for you?

Brahmacharya

The 4th Yama (restraint) in the Eight Limbs of Raja Yoga is Brahmacharya.
Brahmacharya means “to respect the creative power of sex and not abuse it by manipulating others sexually”.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 11.38 “Brahmacharya-pratishthayam virya-labbah” translates to “When one does not misuse sexual energy, one obtains enduring vitality resulting in good health”.
I came across a book that actually defines “Brahmacharya” as “Good Sex”. But in the book, it describes explicitly everything and anything but good sex.
Sex is the power that creates life. When sexual energy is used for exploitation or manipulation, it propels us into deeper separation and ignorance.
While we do hear of human sexual abuse on a regular basis in the newspaper, most of us are ignorant of the extensive sexual abuse of animals inflicted by humans. This has been  deeply ingrained in our culture, and takes the form of “animal husbandry” where breeding, genetic manipulation, castration, artificial insemination, forced pregnancy, routine rape and child abuse took place on a massive scale”.
“Animals on factory farms are not allowed to develop normal sexual relationships with others of their own species. All of the animals born in factory farms have come from mothers who are repeatedly raped by human farmhands and forced to become pregnant over and over again until their fertility wanes, at which point they are slaughtered and eaten”.
As described in the book on what happens to an average dairy cow on today’s farm: “She lives in a tiny stall with a concrete floor in an indoor ‘milk facility’. Not even a year old, she has just given birth to her first calf a few hours ago while being chained down. The chain makes it difficult for her to get close to her baby whom she is nursing – but not for long. Within hours, men come to take her baby, shouting abuses at her. She tries to turn her head to see what is happening, but the chain prevents her from moving. She cries out to her baby, who cries back. In a few minutes, she no longer hear and see her baby – for it is driven to a ‘veal facility’. She is left in her place, her milk dripping from her breasts. The milking machine moves in to clamps onto her nipples, sucking her and emptying her of the vital life force, for weeks to come, until she is ready to go through another cycle of being raped (artificially inseminated), give birth, separation, lactation and depression. She has to be pregnant or lactating to be able to produce milk. She is viewed as a milk machine, one of billions of cows confined in factory-farm concentration camps”.
I was filled with grief when I first read this article – the image of mother separating from the child within a few hours after such a special occasion. While the mother continues to suffer on the same floor, chain to the same chain and sexually manipulated by the same man, the babies head to the slaughter house. Grief turns to anger when it dawned upon me that this has been accepted as part of the culture (of ignorance, where we simply do not want to know). And finally, overwhelmed by guilt for being part of the contributing factor.
There are many untold sufferings that we have inflicted on others, none more so than to animals. The abuse of animals were described quite vividly in many videos and books that talks about humanity. Documentary-Movie such as “Earthlings” and book such as “Yoga & Vegetarianism by Sharon Gannon” (from which most of the accounts were shared here) should be watch by everyone to learn the truth.
Someone actually describes our treatment to animals as the holocausts of the biggest unimaginable proportions, that happens on a daily basis. It is even more frightening to know that most of us are comfortable with the actions even after knowing the truth.
So, before you make that order for coffee , with or without milk –  stop and think!
The harmless act of drinking milk may not just be a breached of the yama “Brahmacharya”, but more importantly an opportunity for us to practice compassion and conditional love. Yoga is more than the practice of asanas and prayanama, but the practice of being humane.
Our choice may be that just one moment of decision-making, but it can make a hell out of difference in making this a better world for all!
Namaste!
 
 

general — seaweed , fun ways to add to our meals

According to Master Trainer Wei Ling seaweed may assist us with our flexibility. I have had a fun time mixing this healthy food with almost all of my meals.
Here are some suggestions
1. Peanut butter sandwich with slabs of seaweed which is a light snack for after asana practises
2. Cheese with seaweed sandwich which is both savoury and energy giving.
3. It can also cut up into thin strips and tossed into our salads for that extra crunchy bite.
4. The taste of any soupy food like fish ball noodle soup or fish soup can be further enhanced with a handful of it as well.
5. Tofu seaweed wrap
6. Seaweed as a garnish over Oatmeal for breakfast
7. Snack on seaweed instead of peanuts thus saving us the ‘extra rolls’ around our bellies
Have a good time enjoying this healthy food.

Delicious vegetable muffins

Starting on a vegetarian diet can be a daunting task for some of us. For me, I decided I could revamp my diet by starting vegetarian on my favourite—desserts! I am a great fan of desserts (maybe all ladies will make the same confession) and I love muffins! Soft, crumply, yummy. Mmmmm…
And having worked as an au-pair, I know how difficult it is to get children started on vegetables. So, below are two recipes with vegetables incorporated for the beginning vegetarian and the little ones.
1. Broccoli Muffins

Ingredients  (makes 10 muffins):
375 g broccoli
1 egg
250 ml milk
250 g self raising flour
1/2 tsp mixed spice
125 g mature cheddar cheese, grated

Method :
1.      Break the broccoli into small florets and wash thoroughly.
2.      Whisk the egg and milk together in a mixing bowl, then sift in the flour and mixed spice.
3.      Stir until the mixture is just combined.
4.      Finally, fold in the broccoli and grated cheese.
5.      Spoon the mixture into lightly greased muffin tins.
6.      Bake in a preheated moderately hot oven 190C/375F for 30 minutes.
 
2. Carrot Muffins
Ingredients (makes 20-24 muffins):
250 g butter
220 g caster sugar
4 eggs
750 g self raising flour
375 ml soured cream
500 ml cooked carrot puree
60 g chopped nuts (optional)
Method :
1.      Cream the butter, sugar, orange rind and vanilla until light and fluffy.
2.      Beat in the eggs, then add the flour, soured cream and carrot puree.
3.      Continue beating until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
4.      Spoon the mixture into greased muffin tins (deep round tins available from kitchenware shops).
5.      Sprinkle with nuts, if desired and bake at 180C/350F for 25 – 30 minutes or until the muffins turn a golden color.

Vegetarianism Journey

My journey towards vegetarianism started some 10 years ago shortly after I moved to Indonesia for a year or so. I think in Singapore we’re used to things being rather sanitised. If we go to the supermarket we often find chickens duly cleaned out, deboned, fillet and packed in neat packages and the same goes for other types of meats like beef, lamb and pork. Growing up in Singapore I never had the opportunity to experience the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of the meat industry. In Indonesia, things are different. My neighbour across the street at that time happened to be a chicken farmer. It was a family business and he grew up rearing chickens and sold them to the local market. I striked up a conversation with him once and remembered him telling me that they would inject the chickens with ‘something’ (and by something I assume it’s growth hormones) and in 2 or 3 days the chickens would grow and almost double in size. “It’s like a miracle!’ as he puts it, his eyes glistening with excitement while I shuddered in fear. I’ve read about stuff like this in newspaper articles but to have it happen so close to home really takes it to another level.

On another occasion, I was invited to the local mosque to witness the process of the kurban where goats and cows would be slaughtered and skinned as a religious sacrifice. I closed my eyes most of the time but could hear most of what was going on and could also smell the blood in the air. Later I was invited to a feast where the meat was boiled simply and served with chilli sauce. I still distinctly remember what the meat looked like…grey and lifeless. At that point onwards, I decided I could no longer eat any more meat.

I started eating only green vegetables and the occasional tempeh and tofu. It was difficult to prepare my own vegetarian meals as I was staying with a local family and there weren’t alot of meat substitutes available. I didn’t feel healthy and was lethargic most of the time and was certainly not a sterling inspiration for vegetarianism to my friends! So a few years after coming back to Singapore, I fell off the bandwagon somewhat and started eating some fish and chicken again. Afterall, in Singapore it is easy to forget where the meat comes from isnt’ it? I started going 100% vegetarian again in the past year or so and this time I’m mindful about making sure that all my nutritional needs are adequately met and thus far I think I’m enjoying the process more (recipes to come!).

I titled this post a a vegetarianism journey because I truly believe that it’s a personal process. Ahimsa as one of the yamas in the 8 limbs of yoga is roughly translated as ‘non violence’  and this includes non violence to animals and also to our own bodies. As I think about my own experience in Indonesia, never is this more true for me. 🙂