20 January 2015

yoga and me: an attempt to be more thoughtful

Recently, in an effort to improve my overall fitness level and to get out of the house and spend time with adults, I signed up for yoga classes. This is perhaps not an unusual choice for a stay-at-home parent with a toddler, but it is the sort of thing that the me of ten years ago would never have done. And the people I spent time with then would probably have  been a tad concerned about me if I had done so.

While I never actively identified as an evangelical Christian, I did spend a lot of time in those circles, particularly in high school and in much of university. Some of my attitudes were definitely evangelical (for a while, I was anti-marriage equality. Then I grew up a bit and changed my mind) and others were not (growing up Lutheran meant that I was always nearer to the side of transubstantiation when the topic of Communion arose). For a time, I was one of those Christians who thought that good Christians didn't do yoga because it would spiritually contaminate you. Or something.

I didn't really know much about yoga, but I knew that it had its roots in Eastern spiritual practices, so that had to be problematic for a Christian. Right? Even if you ignored the spiritual history of yoga and just did it for exercise, you could never completely separate it from its origins, so I couldn't, in good conscience, practice yoga. With the typical arrogance of a teenager who thinks she is right about everything, and who was immersed in a branch of Christianity that places a lot of emphasis on doing the right things in the right way, I decided that I would never do yoga. I even told my fitness instructor in a class at university that I was a little dubious about yoga and wasn't sure if I wanted to do the segment on it. The poor teacher, having heard more than one of her conservative Christian students tell her that (it was a Christian university, that was most of the student population), found a work-around. A Christian yoga video, with all the positions renamed after stuff in the Bible, with verses to go with them.

That's when I discovered that I objected more to Christianized yoga than yoga itself. When you're in the gym of a Christian university doing "the Tent" instead of the Downward Dog because you're all so confused about whether it's okay for a Christian to do yoga, I think you have a problem.

Over the Christmas holidays, I read a book about Kundalini yoga. I'm still a little dubious about the stuff with the chakras, but the exercises, the breathing, the learning to focus and relax, those are all things that I don't have a problem with. And when I remember to do at least some of the exercises, I do feel better.

I did follow the book up with another on yoga and science, one that discusses the merits of and the problems with yoga, with a focus on safety. As flexibility, general fitness, and stress/anxiety relief are primarily what I'm looking for in this venture, I think I'm on fairly solid ground.

So off I went to yoga class last night, a little apprehensive about attending a class where I knew no one, and a little nervous about the difficulty level. And it went well. At the end, lying on the floor, relaxing and breathing, I found my mind travelling back in time, eleven years ago, to the summer where I alternated between being entirely at peace with everything and being completely stressed out about what I was supposed to do with my life. The times of peace came when my friends and I took time to sit down, pray, and let things go where they would. I usually ended up lying on the floor during those sessions, completely relaxed. I remembered how centred I felt then, how focused on the immediate, rather than the future, and I felt very much the same yesterday, lying on the floor of a yoga studio after nearly an hour and a half of stretching and breathing exercises.

Meditation has a long tradition in many religions. I still find it strange that many North American Christians find it alarming. There is much we have lost in the centuries since the Reformation transformed Christianity, not least of which is this: Wisdom is found in many places, and God is in all.

14 January 2015

food and a farewell to Christmas

Today has been a cool, humid day--the kind where E. and I head out for a walk, cut it short, and then make coffee when we get home because we were really cold (well, she had milk and just tried to stick her fingers in my coffee). I took advantage of an unexpected nap to put away the Christmas decorations, at last. It's a week after Epiphany, so it's about time. It took me about five minutes. We don't have a lot of Christmas decorations. Everything except the tree fits in an old vodka box, and I'm thinking of pruning a few things next year, like the sparkly glass ornaments that were a gift and don't go with the rest of the stuff.

J. isn't that keen on household decorations that are only used for one month out of the year (my rule is that they can go up on the first Sunday in Advent, and I try to take them down around Epiphany), so we don't have fairy lights or a massive tree (not that most of the apartments we've lived in have been okay with massive real trees) or piles of ornaments, not that we really have the room to store them all, anyway. The tiny tree fits neatly on top of the shelves next to J.'s board games, comfortably out of reach of the tiny person. She was fascinated by the tree. I had to move the Nativity scene up there, too, after she started pointing at the windowsill and exclaiming about the "dolls."

So, the place is back to normal-ish. The weather's been such that I keep wanting bake things. English muffin bread is on my list for a little later today, mostly to use up more of the whey in the fridge. I had the urge to bake an apple tart the other day, and this was the result:

This was my first attempt in recent memory at a lattice crust, and I really liked how it turned out. I've been kneading bread enough lately that I've lost a little of my touch with the piecrust and it came out a bit tough, but still tasty. I need practice, or patience. Or both.

Continuing with the food theme, I tried making enchiladas using TVP as a meat substitute. TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein) is a soy product that looks a bit like beige panko. You measure it out and pour an equal amount of hot water on it to rehydrate it, then mix it with whatever you're cooking. Like tofu, it takes on the flavour of whatever you happen to be cooking it with. While "textured vegetable protein" sounds like something you'd find in the galley of Serenity, it's actually pretty good. When rehydrated, it has the consistency and texture of cooked ground meat, and the first time I had it, at someone else's house, I had to be told it wasn't ground beef. I made tortillas for the enchiladas, and combined the TVP with black beans, yellow bell pepper, onion, garlic, and a few spices.

Enchiladas in progress.
And it was tasty. We had enough leftovers for dinner tonight, too. French onion soup is on the list for tomorrow--possibly officially vegetarian if I don't get lazy and use Bovril for the broth.

11 January 2015

food and sickness and knitting

We've officially had our first instance of sickness making its way around the family (at least, now that it's more than just the two of us). J. got a cold at Christmas. Then E. and I caught it in time for New Year's. Mine was worse than hers--I'm still sniffly a week and a half later and she's perfectly well. It was her first cold. Then J. came home from work on Thursday with more cold-like symptoms, followed by a fever and vomiting. He's still very congested and I'm crossing my fingers and hoping E. and I don't catch it. I suppose we'll know by the end of the week. I always tell people that she's up-to-date with her shots when she drools on them, but that's not really helpful for the things we don't have shots for. 

As we've all been varying degrees of ill lately, I have been somewhat inspired to make food. On Friday I made no-knead bread, bagels, and applesauce cake. Oh, and apple butter. The bread and bagels were partly an effort to use up some of the whey we have in the fridge. I made yogurt last week and then a batch of ricotta mid-week, so we ended up with a couple liters of whey that needed using up. I put it in pizza dough and in the bread and bagels. I think another loaf of bread is on the list, since there's still half a pitcher of the whey lurking on the top shelf next to the milk.

We've also been trying to use up the meat in our fridge since after it's gone, we're going to be eating a primarily vegetarian diet for a while (cue the random cravings for fried chicken and barbecued ribs that I have no current plans to bother trying to fulfill). I hadn't really realized how long it would take to use up the Costco-sized chunk of prosciutto we bought for our Christmas party back in December. This last week I did pizza and gnocchi to whittle away at what's left. Some kind of pasta is on the list for today.

Meanwhile, the knitting mojo's back! I knit E. a sweater, finished a hat for her, and have the last of a sleeve cap to complete on a sweater. The urge to make stuff has returned and this is good. The sewing mojo needs to show up next--I could do with some new tops and a pair of yoga pants.