Sunday, November 28, 2010
Mysore: On eating
"The diet is the final frontier for a Yogi. It's a lot easier for people to acclimate to waking up and going to bed earlier, or being more physically tired throughout the day, but eating a proper diet is really challenging." — David Garrigues, Certified Ashtanga Teacher, in Prescribing Yoga
If students in Mysore aren't thinking about how their yoga practice is developing, they're likely thinking about food. Early morning practice times, eating to truly support your practice, finding clean food to eat, satisfying a hearty appetite born of all that practice and figuring out how best to accommodate special diets in a foreign land are perennial topics. A penchant for celebratory events involving food and the yum factor of Southern Indian cuisine, makes eating here, in general, quite easy. Eating right for your particular goals and constitution is quite another thing altogether.
Having a lifetime of food/digestion challenges, I'm still figuring out where I'm at amid Garrigues' 'final frontier.' That said, after three trips to Mysore, I've found eating clean and healthy in India an accessable prospect. There are several cafes that cater to Western palates and cleanliness; a number of high-quality Indian establishments that are more than suitable; and filtered water is habitual (as is hand sanitizer). Likewise, there are several well-stocked grocery stores and at least one green market at which to shop if you have a kitchen and prefer to prepare your own food.
Because I'm staying longer this trip, I'm getting in the habit of eating more home-cooked meals, augmented by the periodic search for the perfect dosa. (South India's signature crepe-like dish made from rice and white daal). It's becoming routine to pick up fresh papaya, pineapple, oranges, and bananas at the fruit stand on the corner as I need it. A vendor who bakes fresh 'ragi' (wheat) and millet bread is often selling his baked goods, as well as raw local honey (which I highly recommend), home-made tofu and soy milk (if you like soy, I don't) and tahini outside the studio after class. I've also had the good fortune to be sharing a flat for the first portion of my trip with another student who happens to be great cook from Spain, Manuel. He's hosting a couple 'sattvic lunches' at the house before he goes home, and I've been taking some notes on his way with daal, pasta and rice dishes with fresh and healthy sauces and how to make clean and healthy salads from the available produce. It's easy to find tomato, green beans, beets, sprouts, herbs, onions, tomatoes & cauliflower, although I've found broccoli and avocados to be hard to find. The weekly green market turns into somewhat of a competitive run for one vendor's fresh lettuce and basil but it's worth a go if you're free on Sunday mornings.
After that, it's really just about managing portion size and whether you can handle spicy food. My first week here I was at several parties and a resort whose kitchen kept sending extra dishes to our table which seemed rude to refuse. Likewise, I've found that if I'm a guest at an Indian home, it's wise to come with an extra large appetite as you really can't say no most of the time. But more typically, and best for feeling light in practice and healthy in body, it works well more myself and most students I know, to eat only two meals per day (breakfast & lunch) and a light snack, if anything, at night.