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Feb 25 2024 -Santosha- Eka Pada Rajakapotasana-Pigeon Pose-Creamy Vegan “Cheese” Sauce



I returned yesterday from 2 weeks in Florida; attended a wedding and then spent time hanging out with my (almost) 91-year-old Mom while working remotely. She is spry and healthy albeit forgetful; although she does not forget much relative to her political views while watching CNN with a glass of wine and some boiled peanuts! I can only hope for that clarity when I am 91.

 

This week we continue our exploration of the Niyamas, the second limb of yoga.  The second niyama is santosha or contentment.

 


We can think of this as being content or comfortable with who and where we are in life.  If we free ourselves from facing life with a must accomplish “list”, we free ourselves to enjoy small things and daily occurrences that can create joy.  Contentment helps us receive life’s curve balls with greater equanimity, knowing that we have little control over much of what happens and understanding that acceptance can be freeing.


Last year I talked about being back in the office in a new job. As a banker by day, the last year has been rife with challenges facing our industry and again I find my own challenges in finding santosha. As I have recently been focusing on my life priorities (and they change as we age), I understand that what fueled my dharma (life purpose) in the past may be starting to change and, with that, my path to santosha. I have made it a priority to continue to walk outside every day, taking moments to pause and gaze at the water and nature around me. I have kept my pandemic habit of savoring my morning tea while still in bed, reading the news and hanging out with my pets.  For me, the contentment that I have in these moments is my way of practicing santosha.  It is a challenge, but I am trying.

 

Our Practice-Santosha on the Mat- Eka Pada Rajakapotasana-Pigeon Pose



In our asana practice we can achieve santosha by relaxing into a pose rather than straining or forcing ourselves into it.  We can accept where our body is now and let go of images of how we think it “should” be. I find when we practice a pose that may be challenging for us on the mat, it teaches us lessons about challenging ourselves off the mat when facing uncomfortable life positions and situations and teaches us to modify and adapt and accept.   

 

I liked this article on the topic.


 

Although very challenging, Pigeon Pose has many health benefits. Physically, it stretches and opens the hips, stretches the thighs, glutes, piriformis, and psoas muscles. Internally, it stimulates the abdominal organs and aids in digestion. It can work well to relieve sciatic and back pain and on a more emotional level it can help release built up emotions.


As the pose is challenging, we approach it only after a series of more gentle hip openers. There are many options for doing this pose and the benefits are the same in any variation.


  • Starting in tabletop or down dog.

  • Extend the right leg back behind you and then bring the right knee to the right wrist. The shin can be perpendicular to the front edge of your mat or in towards the groin, start slow!

  • Root down through your front leg and balance your weight evenly between your right and left hips. Avoid having one hip higher than the other, or one hip in front of the other (putting a block or blanket/pillow under the hip of the bent leg can help).

  • Adjust the back leg so it is long and extended on the mat.

  • The variation we commonly do in class is sleeping pigeon where we then fold forward from the waist, bringing your chest towards the knee and shin, coming down to the forearms or forehead.

  • Staying up on hands or resting on block or pillows are great options.

 

Enjoy where you are, be content where you are, practicing santosha……

 

Meditation – Santosha

 



Some people thrive on drama, and if not drama, a frenetic pace.  They may confuse contentment, santosha, with boredom or passivity.   A life filled with drama may seem exciting, fiery; when every day is less aflame, some may equate that with a life lacking in passion, engagement, or fullness.  Boredom.  By practicing santosha we can find that we can still love deeply, have goals, and live a varied life, without burning down the house or stirring the embers every time the fire dies down.

 

One way to practice santosha is to cultivate gratitude.   As many of you know, when I practice yoga either alone or with my classes, I take time to focus on gratitude. Sometimes it is as simple as gratitude for having my mom to sit quietly on a lanai with, other days it might be the beautiful deer and turkeys that just walked by my window; these past 2 weeks it was the beauty of my personal practice at dawn on my Mom's lanai. It could also be folding the laundry without an unmatched sock! Some may find keeping a gratitude journal helpful.

 

“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you”.  – Lao Tzu

 

Lao Tzu was a Chinese philosopher about 500 BC who was the founder of Taoism.  This philosophy and religion instructs believers on how to exist in harmony with the universe.  I found the below article in National Geographic to be a good overview of Taoism.

 

 

Nurturing with Food – Creamy Vegan Cheese Sauce (on Pasta)

 



I think santosha or contentment would be best invoked with a wonderful comfort food.  Having (mostly) given up dairy, there are times when I crave a creamy dish of macaroni and cheese or some other creamy, cheesy delight. 

 

I watched an episode of a cooking show last night that featured a vegan restaurant. The owner made a version of vegan cheese sauce and I thought of this recipe, the same one I discussed with santosha last year.

 

As I have discussed before, there is no actual cheese substitute that is as good tasting as cheese, or at least I have not found it.  There is, however, nothing like a creamy “cheese” sauce to invoke contentment and comfort.

 

While there is no true substitute for cheese, for the times you just need some creamy cheesy-like sauce and do not eat dairy, this works.  It keeps well in the refrigerator or freezer, and you can thin it with vegetable broth or nondairy milk, use the thicker version as a dip or as queso on nachos.  It also can be spiced and flavored in many ways.  

 

Full disclosure, if you have no issue with dairy and you love a creamy alfredo, this will not cut it. BUT it is pretty darn good.  I first made the recipe when I had a craving for creamy pasta with frozen peas and had this sauce leftover from another recipe…. I was incredibly happy!

 

 


See you on the mat!

Namaste

Julia Anne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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