I love yoga and yoga makes me feel loved. I terminated my yoga studio membership last month.
Funny the way our minds sometime seem to plot at removing every vestige of enjoyment, every thing we hold dear to ourselves in its rationalisation that it is only for our very best. I found yoga, or yoga found me, more aptly speaking, in Dec 2012 when societal pressure, crazy university workload, lousy self-esteem and depression all came together neatly packaged into this reclusive, highly strung, disillusioned and somewhat bitter individual known as myself. Emotionally scarred from past experiences and not knowing how to liberate myself from its bondages had made me tired and cynical. Seeing no hope in the future, there was honestly not a day where I wouldn’t look forward to the time where this wasted and utterly meaningless life of mine would come to a swift end. But then into my life came the humble presence of yoga, starting a cathartic process of recognising, confronting, liberating and surrendering all that I had hitherto desperately and bitterly clung on to.
Yoga was and continues to be so profoundly powerful in the most subtlest ways. The asanas frequently draw out remnants of emotional events long past. Even during savasana as I lie motionless at the end of strenuous hatha classes, long forgotten memories would quietly surface as though playfully telling me – Remember that day? Idyllic wasn’t it? In the ego’s narration of hurt and trauma, the beauty of the mundane and most simplest things — being present in each passing moment, savoring every delicious breath, had completely eluded me. For the first time in my life, I was able to approach my sense of self-perception – quietly and without judgment observe my thoughts, feelings, my subconscious attitude towards others and myself. Yoga allowed me to practice mindfulness and allowed me to humble myself to the greatest guru of all, the True Self.
It wasn’t an obvious choice for me to terminate my contract after a year and a half. I had learnt so much and loved the positive energy and wise knowledge the yoga teachers never failed to impart. But I sensed a subtle and somewhat worrying change in me. Yoga was starting to become an external activity, one which I had unwittingly cultivated a mentality of dependence on. Rather than self-growth within my yoga practice, I had reached a phase in which yoga meant little more than travelling an hour to and fro the studio for hour long yoga classes conducted by professional yoga teachers. I had begun to passively rely on professionals to conduct lessons, rather than actively pursue truth and knowledge through my own understanding. My post-realisation/enlightenment yoga practice had gradually turned into a lackluster experience.
I’m glad to say that my decision was probably a step in the right direction because its made me fired up towards making my practice more regular and personal. YouTube and wonderful yoga websites with free, detailed sequences and information make daily home practice possible and has given me the opportunity to be thankful for what I can find. I’ve also found out how amazing it feels to start the day with yoga as previously I would’ve never been able to drag myself to morning classes at the studio!
I suppose the lesson I learnt here is that rather than accepting a static and unchanging perspective, being flexible with your worldview and opening yourself to new possibilities helps propel you towards greater growth. When approached from a position of complete non-judgement, even the unthinkable becomes feasible. Nothing is impossible.
Now probably the part where you quip: Wow how is this related to Cauliflower Sweet Potato Masala at all? Well if I may simply put, yoga makes me feel loved and Indian food makes my body feel loved. Make sense? Probably not. But doing yoga and eating Indian feel similar to me, like a celebration of life’s smallest but nevertheless delicious joys.
Cauliflower Sweet Potato Masala
This is an easily digestible, warm and soothing dish. Both cauliflower and sweet potato cook up soft which provide the gentle-moving fibre, great for those having difficulty with regular bowel movements. The whole garam masala and other spices like fennel provide a good balance between warmth and coolness and makes this an overall gentle and nourishing dish. Two thumbs up for Vata I say! This time I am not providing the recipe as I’ve followed it closely to the original on Rak’s Kitchen (a great treasure trove of other simple Indian recipes!). The only changes I made were to include sweet potato and I also replaced the fresh tomatos with tomato puree as I happened to have a bottle which I was finding trouble getting rid of. It sometimes happens that we make these grocery purchases that we strangely end up losing interest in once acquired. I insist you check out the original recipe, but here are some steps relevant to cooking Indian food to help those who are unfamiliar along.
1. You start by tempering spices. This is usually stated under ‘to temper’ or ‘tarka’. What this means is in an oiled and sufficiently heated pan, add the spices once by one. If at the right temperature, they will start to sizzle and sputter so be careful and don’t let them burn! At this point I’ve added in the chopped onion, ginger and garlic, sauteing until fragrant.
2. Here’s where I’ve added in my tomato puree and sauteed until a paste forms. If using fresh, many recipes tell you to cook until the oil separates, meaning the oil floats on top in a distinct layer. I never use enough oil for that to happen so I simply move on to the next step when the raw smell of tomatos turn to a sweet delicious aroma. Use your nose!!
3. If the paste has gotten too dry, I add water sparingly to loosen it up just enough to toss and coat the cauliflower florets in. Most of the work is done by this stage. All you’re left with is…
4. To mix everything up! Add more water to loosen the paste as you don’t want it to burn in the pan while the cauliflower steam-cooks. Cover the pan and leave to cook undisturbed for at least 5 minutes before turning.
5. I wanted to add sweet potato so I added it cooked when the cauliflower was almost done. Cooking the sweet potato beforehand is easier as I don’t have to worry about the different cooking times of the veggies and it’s so much easier to peel a cooked sweet potato than peel and chop a raw one. Practical!
6. And the final dish! There wasn’t much gravy but the veg was soft, moist and not dry at all. It tasted so homey I like to think that’s the reason why most of it was gone during dinner. My not-so-veg-enthusiastic brother actually helped himself to a portion compared to me having to suggest he try some. Wow,talk about A-C-H-I-E-V-E-M-E-N-T?
7. Cauliflower Sweet Potato Masala up close. I added an extra bay leaf (the Indian kind, not the ones you add to Western style soups!) as I happened to have
some a lot disused from a large packet I bought some time ago.
Concluding thoughts: If I make this again, I would omit the cardamom as I don’t like the taste (some of the black seeds dislodged when I crushed the pod which produced an intoxicating aroma, enough to incapacitate an unprepared victim when unknowingly bitten into). And if I would like to be nice to my Mom who hates spice with a vengeance, I would leave the bay leaf and see if I can get away with the cinnamon and cloves (I suspect she unfairly hates the taste of garam masala. Oh Mom, you deny yourself such pleasures of the palate)
Last but not least, if you’re come this far reading my post, I applaud your patience! Thank you for being so patient with me and hope you make and enjoy this recipe, especially if you’re a Vata too!