Tamal Dodge

Victoria Dodge

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What Is Ahimsa? Yoga Meets Plant-Based Living (+ recip...

 

The time is always right to do what is right.

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

What is Ahimsa?

Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga consist of two main components: yamas (things we must abstain from in order to lead a spiritual and ethical yogic life) and niyamas (spiritual observances). The very first of the yamas is ahimsa, or non-harm. This principle lies at the very heart of yoga and should be applied to everything—how we treat ourselves, how we treat others, and how we treat the world around us.

Of course, it’s logistically impossible to make it through life without causing any harm whatsoever. We live in a world in which we cannot escape creating some kind of pain. This world has been set up as being “perfectly imperfect.” If we walk across a park, we will step on ants. If we wipe sweat off our forehead, we will kill millions of bacteria. So how do we create the least amount of harm while we are here on this earth? If we cannot escape killing and harming completely, then how do we minimize our footprint?

 

Practicing Ahimsa through food

With this in mind, we do the best we can. The truth of the matter is that, even without consciously abiding by the Eight Limbs of Yoga, most of us innately attempt to live our lives in a way that doesn’t inflict harm on others. However, one way in which even the most gentle and aware among us do cause harm is by eating in an unconscious manner. We don’t stop to consider where our food is coming from or how it is making its way to our plate. For most of us, eating offers a prime avenue for becoming more aware of the earth and living beings around us and of alleviating some of the harm we are causing, often without even really being conscious of it!

One of the arguments we often hear about practicing ahimsa by eating a plant-based diet is, “Well, plants are living things, too, and you’re harming them!” This is true. Every living being on this planet—whether it be a human or an animal or a tree—has what yogis call a jiva-atma, or a soul, residing within it. 

 

Carrot vs. Cow

The idea of ahimsa is to cause the least amount of harm as possible. We like to explain it this way: let’s think about the difference between eating a carrot and a cow, bearing in mind that, in each case, we are causing harm. When we eat a carrot, we harm the carrot. But to make a cow eligible for slaughter, she must weigh at least a thousand pounds. In order for cows to gain weight, they need to eat and metabolize food, just like humans do. Specifically, for a cow to gain one pound, she has to eat between 16 and 20 pounds of grain. Let’s stop and think about this for a moment. This means that before we can even think about eating a cow, an enormous number of plants have to be killed in order to feed her. Imagine how many people you could feed with that amount of grain, compared to the one pound of beef protein that it produces.

 

The harm doesn’t stop there. It takes 2,500 gallons of water for a cow to produce one pound of beef. In other words, it takes 2.5 million gallons of water to get a single cow to one thousand pounds. And beyond that, animal agriculture is also one of the leading causes of air and water pollution and deforestation. The amount of harm caused by these two environmental hazards is unquantifiable.

 

Eat less meat, feed more people

Now think about the fact that one-seventh of the world’s population today is starving. One of the primary reasons is that most of the world’s grains and produce are used to feed animals for slaughter. These animals add up to a much smaller amount of food than grains and produce—it is food designated only for the people who can afford it. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “If everyone wanted to eat a meat-based diet, we would need two planet earths”?

But if everyone ate a plant-based diet, we could feed two planet earths. Aside from just harming the animals who go to slaughter, to produce them we are using up food and water resources that leave other humans wanting, and we are polluting the earth. That’s a lot of harm for a single meal. And we’re willing to bet that most of the people who pay into that vicious cycle have no desire to create any harm. 

 

Ahimsa & the vegan diet

When we eat a vegan diet, we can avoid all of this harm—and without sacrificing any of the taste. We can feel good about our choices for ourselves and for the world around us. We are literally playing a role in decreasing the suffering of an entire planet, including the human beings, animals, plants, and the very earth we walk upon. Think of what an impact you can have by making different, mindful decisions about what you fuel your body with at least three times a day, every day of your life!

Eating this way has other advantages. When we eat vibrant whole foods in place of meat and dairy, our bodies start humming along in a more natural rhythm, making us feel both physically better and more spiritually connected. Eating a whole-food, plant-based diet nourishes our body in a unique and noticeable way because the food is of a higher quality and nutrient content than processed foods. The plethora of vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients fuel our physical constitution at the highest level. In the same way as a car will run more smoothly for a longer period of time when it is provided with high-grade fuel, so too will our bodies. And just as our bodies are better nourished with the vitamins and minerals plants provide, so too are our brains, which makes us quicker and more alert. Spiritually, we become more attuned to the life and resources around us, and we experience a greater sense of gratitude and interconnection.

Victoria is a prime example of this. As daunting as the idea of giving up meat and meat-based products initially was to her, today there’s no looking back. Not only does she feel stronger and more physically energized, but her entire life has shifted. She feels more aligned with and attuned to the world around her. She no longer searches for happiness in material things but, rather, turns to spiritual matters and meditation for fulfillment.

Recipe: Vegan Key Lime Cheesecake

MAKES ONE 9-INCH PIE

Key lime pie is one of the most popular dishes in America. It is sweet, tart, and rich. That flavor combination translates perfectly to cheesecakes. We have created a Key Lime Cheesecake that is so decadent and fulfilling, it’ll win over any pie or cheesecake lover in a heartbeat. Plus it is packed with superfoods and other healthy ingredients. The avocado is the star in this recipe. It gives the cheesecake a beautiful green color and adds a creaminess that is amazing in flavor and depth. This delicious dessert will satisfy your body as well a your sweet tooth. 

 

FOR THE CRUST:

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 tsp. coconut oil
  • ½ cup pitted dates

(preferably Medjool)

  • ⅛ tsp. Himalayan pink salt
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Place the pecans and walnuts in a food processor and blend until the nut pieces are small and granular, about the size of rice grains.
  2. Add the coconut oil, dates, salt, and vanilla extract to the food processor. Blitz until the mixture forms a crust-like consistency.
  3. Spoon the crust into a 9-inch cheesecake pan. Press the mixture into the base of the pan evenly with your fingers. Set the pan in the freezer while you work on the filling.

 

FOR THE FILLING:

INGREDIENTS 

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours
  • ½ cup chilled coconut milk
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup avocado chunks
  • Pinch of Himalayan pink salt
  1. Place all of the ingredients except the avocado into a high-powered blender and blitz on high for 45 seconds, or until creamy and smooth.

 

  1. Separate ¼ cup of the filling mixture and set aside. Add the avocado chunks to the rest of the mixture in the blender and blitz again for 45 seconds, or until creamy and smooth.

 

  1. Pour the avocado mixture into the cheesecake pan and spread evenly. Tap the pan lightly on a cutting board to get out any air bubbles.

 

  1. Drizzle the reserved ¼ cup white mixture all over the top of the green cheesecake, as if you are trying to draw lines with it. With a toothpick tip, carefully swirl the lines to create the classic cheesecake look.

 

  1. Place in the freezer for at least 2 hours to set. About 15 minutes before serving, remove from the freezer. To get perfectly clean slices, run your knife under hot water before cutting each piece.

 

  1. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for about 3 weeks.

This is an excerpt and recipe from The Yoga Plate: Bring Your Practice into the Kitchen with 108 Simple & Nourishing Vegan Recipes by Tamal Dodge and Victoria Dodge.

 

Tamal Dodge is a renowned yoga teacher, trainer, and cofounder of LA’s premiere yoga studio, Yoga Salt, with its newest location in North Carolina. He’s been featured in the New York Times, the LA Times, Time magazine, the Chicago Tribune, Self, Better Homes & Gardens, Yogi Times, mindbodygreen, and more. He teaches yoga around the world and stars in several bestselling yoga DVDs that are sold worldwide. yogasalt.com

Victoria Dodge is a cofounder of Yoga Salt, professional photographer, and cooking expert who has worked with companies such as Lululemon, Forbes, and Apple, as well as celebrity clients, models, and Hollywood figures like Shaquille O’Neal, James Cameron, and Sterling K. Brown. The Dodges live in North Carolina with their two children. Learn more at theyogaplate.com.

 

 

Buy your copy of The Yoga Plate at your favorite bookseller!

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Mindful Movement: Walking Meditation 101

The Here and Now

What if you could change your life by doing one thing for just ten seconds each day? What if this thing would make you more contented, more grounded, and less stressed?

Welcome to mindfulness.

We spend almost all of our time worrying about two things: what has already happened (the past) and what hasn’t happened yet (the future). This only makes us miserable. The past is over, so there’s nothing we can do about it. And the future isn’t something we should be thinking about right now—unless we’re taking concrete action toward a goal.

Mindfulness breaks us out of this pattern by turning our awareness to the simple moments of life as they happen. We laser in on our senses as we’re experiencing them, and we feel them deeply.

So, the way to “be deep” is to focus on what’s going on right now.

I have two favorite ways to zap into the present moment.

The first way is to briefly tune in to my breath a few times a day. Set an alarm on your watch or phone to go off at three set times during the day. When it goes off, close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Notice how the breath feels as it flows in and out. Let go of whatever else is going on in your mind. Then open your eyes and go back to your day.

The second way is to tune in to the little details of the day. Say you’re picking up a water bottle. Consider this: How does the bottle feel in your hand? Is it heavy or light? When you take a sip of the water, how does it feel on your tongue? Is it cool or warm? What does it taste like? Try this exercise with one small act each day.

deepMINDFUL MOVEMENT: Walking Meditation

Walking meditation is a great way to de-stress and get centered while moving your body and getting some fresh air. It takes only a few minutes, so you can do it almost anywhere.

  1. The next time you’re walking down the street, start by getting your senses alert. Tune in to the pace of your steps and fall into the rhythm of the steps. What do they sound like?
  2. Turn your attention to an object you see as you’re walking. It might be a sign, a tree, or a building. Look intently at that object and observe it without labeling it. Just notice it.
  3. Now turn your attention to the noises that surround you. Don’t label them. Just listen.
  4. Finally, turn your attention to your breathing. Is it fast and shallow or slow and deep? Take a few deep breaths and continue with your steady pace.
  5. When you finish your walking meditation, take a minute and pause before reentering your day. Notice the way your body and mind feel. Carry that alertness and presence with you into the rest of your day

walking meditation

This is an excerpt from the chapter “Be Deep” from Whole Girl: Live Vibrantly, Love Your Entire Self, and Make Friends with Food by Sadie Radinsky.

 

sadie radinskySadie Radinsky is a 19-year-old blogger and recipe creator. For over six years, she has touched the lives of girls and women worldwide with her award-winning website, wholegirl.com, where she shares paleo treat recipes and advice for living an empowered life. She has published articles and recipes in national magazines and other platforms, including Paleo, Shape, Justine, mindbodygreen, and The Primal Kitchen Cookbook. She lives in the mountains of Los Angeles. For more, visit wholegirl.com.

 

 

 

 

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The Trauma-Trigger Cycle

When you are stuck with old unprocessed experiences living inside you, they can create what I call a trauma-trigger cycle because they are still very much alive in our systems.

Here’s my analogy to help you understand how this works and why it causes so much trouble. Imagine that you have a very difficult experience, for example, having to say goodbye to a sick pet. All of the details in the form of individual feelings, smells, images, sounds, and more get bundled up and deposited into a metaphorical glass trauma capsule—which gets stored in the body. It sits there with all of the old feelings we experienced at the time the event happened. While you might not be aware of it constantly, you are likely feeling those emotions at a low level all the time. When any current situation reminds you of any of those details hanging out in the capsule—either consciously or subconsciously—the old trauma gets “poked,” or reactivated. This is how we get triggered. Being triggered can bring up flashes of those memories, including images, feelings, and any sensory stimuli.

For the most part, except in certain cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from major life events, where sometimes the trigger is known, this trauma-trigger reaction actually happens at a subconscious level, outside of your awareness. Even in obvious situations, you may think you know what the trigger is, and try to avoid it, but it may be something totally different that got stuck in the metaphorical glass trauma capsule. Often, people come to me and say, “Nothing set this off,” “I’m depressed for no reason,” or “I suddenly started feeling terrible but nothing happened.” While this may seem true, I can bet on the fact that while the bad feelings might seem random, they are being triggered in some way that you simply haven’t yet identified. Triggers can be foods, colors, smells,sounds, weather, or anything, really! Finding and resolving triggers can become almost an entertaining game if you let it.

As you can imagine, this entire trauma-trigger dynamic is very unsettling and unpredictable—which can feel like danger to your system and keep you stuck in that freakout response. Not only that, but in this state, you can actually be excessively tuned in to your trauma, seeing reminders of it everywhere, which further traumatizes you.

I had an experience after going through a loved one’s difficult health crisis where every single place I looked, I saw reminders of the experience. And for someone who wonders if everything is some greater “sign from the Universe” (fact: not every single thing is) or my intuition is trying to get my attention because another loved one might be in danger (second fact: trauma and fear clouds intuition), it felt like torture to me. I kept meeting people who had the same illness that my loved one had had, saw posters and billboards advertising medications for the condition, and more. As a distraction while on vacation, I had deliberately picked out several seemingly lighthearted books to take—and it turned out a character in every single book had that same medical condition! I was constantly on edge and further traumatized by all of these things. This is a perfect example of what happens to us in a traumatized state: we become highly attuned to the world around us, perhaps subconsciously scanning for danger, but in the process, we see and get triggered by everyday things we’ve probably passed by a million times before. I realized that had I been tuned in to any other single thing out in the world, like peaches, I likely would have seen that everywhere. This recognition actually led to a funny mantra I used during that time to keep things light while I did the deeper healing work: Look for the peaches! But in all seriousness, what happened as I worked to release the trauma, just like you’ll be doing in this chapter, was that I stopped seeing reminders of it. I have to be honest in that this took months of using energy therapy in different ways to overcome the trauma I had experienced, like you’ll be learning soon—but it worked. Did all the people with this condition go away? Did all the billboards get taken down? No. The less traumatized I became, the less heightened my sensitivity to it was. This is a perfect example of why it’s essential to work with unprocessed experiences.

Emotional memory is stored throughout the entire body. Thanks to the work of Candace Pert, we know that “unexpressed emotions from experiences can get stuck in the body at the level of cellular memory.” This is such a simple explanation for why we feel bad when we haven’t resolved our past experiences. We are still quite literally feeling them. And even if it’s at a subtle level, it may only take a “trigger” from that metaphorical glass capsule to awaken it.

While your own unprocessed experiences may not disrupt your life in the way that clinically diagnosed PTSD does, you may relate to what it feels like to have PTSD, when one or a few memories from life takes over all of it. This is, again, why we must deal effectively and consistently with our emotions instead of suppressing them. Otherwise, we are at risk of our emotions becoming part of future unresolved experiences.

Even knowing all of this, there’s no need to panic. Again, not all experiences traumatize you. And, not all traumas will need to be dealt with in order to get you feeling better. But the ones that do need careful attention. I want you to understand that by working with trauma, we are not trying to force a positive perspective on it or make you be okay with something bad that happened to you. Not at all. What we want to do is release the stress it’s causing you, even if that stress is undetected consciously. We don’t want these traumas taking up space and energy in your body anymore or triggering you without your knowledge.

Working with unprocessed experiences will help empty the metaphorical glass trauma capsule so we stop becoming triggered by the world around us. In other words, you’ll be seeing peaches more easily instead of trauma triggers.

This is an excerpt from How to Heal Yourself From Depression When No One Else Can: A Self-Guided Program to Stop Feeling Like Sh*t by Amy B. Scher.

 

amy b scherAmy B. Scher is an energy therapist, expert in mind-body healing, and the bestselling author of How to Heal Yourself When No One Else Can and How to Heal Yourself from Anxiety When No One Else Can. She has been featured in the Times of India, CNN, HuffPost, CBS, the Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Curve magazine, and San Francisco Book Review. Scher was also named one of the Advocate’s “40 Under 40.” She lives in New York City. For more, visit amybscher.com.

 

 

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The Importance of Being Vulnerable

Emotions are the primary way we connect with others. In fact, for all the ways we perceive that sharing our emotions causes trouble, it’s actually worse for us not to. Sharing our truest, most vulnerable selves actually prevents us from the isolation that occurs when we miss out on the deep connection that only comes from this type of transparency. While social media can be a place of great support, it’s also caused a huge challenge. Because we’ve created a world in which we are addicted to showing our curated emotions, social media posts rarely tell the entire story. We’ve gotten accustomed to holding back our real selves—so much, in fact, that we have a totally distorted view of what’s “real.”

On a wet fall day as I was researching the negative effects of social media for this book, I noticed that a heavy sense of melancholy had fallen over me. Pushing myself to go out for a short walk in my beloved Central Park, only a block away, took every ounce of energy I had. When I was out, my sadness didn’t fade, but astounded by the colorful change of leaves, I felt inspired to take a handful of photos. They were the kind that Instagram is made of. When I got home, I decided to post them on social media. But earlier that day I had read something that was still with me: what happened when Tracy Clayton, host of the BuzzFeed podcast Another Round, asked people to repost photos they’d previously shared on social media, but this time, with the “real story” behind them. The photos that most of us would have longed for had painful stories behind them. One woman admitted to a terrible anxiety attack that took her all day to overcome, someone else shared the grief over a loss of a loved one stuffed under their smile at a party, and so on. What this shows us is that we are all running after a farce. But what’s worse, it shows that we’re all co-creating it.

So after a brief pause, I posted my gorgeous fall photos from the park with this: Full disclosure: Inspired by research for my next book about how social media posts screw us up by making everything and everyone seem OK even when they are not, I’m adding the truth here. These pictures were taken on a walk I dragged myself on because I felt sad today for no particular reason (except for that life is a lot sometimes).

I am typically not a sad person, nor am I one who shares it on social media when I am. I am very transparent on my author account, but for some reason, I am less so on my personal page. The response that day when I shared how I really felt took me by great surprise. Dozens of people I rarely heard from came out of the blue with comments, texts, and private messages. And what most of them were saying was, “I feel that way too.” In our technological age, we are more connected than ever before, but also lonelier and more isolated than ever before. I wondered that day, What if everyone stopped staying so busy pretending everything was perfect? What if instead of hiding our vulnerabilities to prevent the isolation we fear, we are driving it?

The bottom line is that, over and over again, I’ve learned that emotions are better in every way when they aren’t kept inside and to myself. 

This is an excerpt from How to Heal Yourself From Depression When No One Else Can: A Self-Guided Program to Stop Feeling Like Sh*t by Amy B. Scher.

 

amy scherAmy B. Scher is an energy therapist, expert in mind-body healing, and the bestselling author of How to Heal Yourself When No One Else Can and How to Heal Yourself from Anxiety When No One Else Can. She has been featured in the Times of India, CNN, HuffPost, CBS, the Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Curve magazine, and San Francisco Book Review. Scher was also named one of the Advocate’s “40 Under 40.” She lives in New York City. For more, visit amybscher.com.

 

 

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