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purity vs pickles

Dear yogis,

Significant life accomplishment alert: I now know how to make pickles. And not just any pickles – really, really good spicy coriander-mustard seed zucchini and jalapeno pickles (recipe here). When I tasted one, I considered adding a facebook life event: “2017 – learned how to make pickles.” I doled them out slowly so I could try them on everything - they made my grain salads pop, my breakfast scrambles zing, and I can’t even tell you how delicious they were on tacos. They pulled me out of a cooking rut and gave me that shout-from-the-rooftops feeling that most people reserve for professional sports teams.

Cut to last week: I was reading yoga teacher Shiva Rea’s guide for living with the seasons, Tending the Heart Fire, in which she recommends avoiding pickled foods in the summer. Technically, they are dehydrating – but that’s why they go so well in water-rich salads! And what are we supposed to eat on veggie burgers, Shiva??? I ignored her advice and continued to eat a pickle a day. 

Then, in preparing to teach recent classes on saucha (purity, the second yama), I saw that BKS Iyengar in Light on Yoga also advises against eating pungent foods (also sour, bitter, salty, burning, stale, tasteless, and heavy foods, fyi). It began to feel like a vast conspiracy was afoot to keep me from bliss, which as I now understand it is pickling things with my own two hands.

Sometimes, you have to follow the guru within your own heart/intestines, because here’s the deal with saucha – and really, all of yoga, IMHO: the tools that bring about a sense of pure presence are going to be different and need to be applied differently to each of us, and may change throughout our lives. Perhaps someone suffering from digestive distress does need to adopt a more basic diet, as Iyengar suggests. But for most of us, eliminating so many textures and flavors from our life only puts us on a black-and-white, all-or-nothing, unrealistic and unappetizing path. Further, if we’re never supposed to pickle things, how are we supposed to use up the bounty of fresh produce that arrives at summer’s peak and avoid food waste? {I was even able to use the leftover brine to cold-pickle cabbage and cauliflower cores!} I found myself eating more fresh produce and wanting to cook more simple dishes at home than I had B.P. (before pickles), because I had a delicious special ingredient to use up. 

So perhaps pickles are to our summer diet what a dance-y, pop-y song is to a yoga playlist – something to pepper here and there to brighten up what we’re putting in our body, something that can excite us when what we’re doing has become boring or stagnant (or to entice us back to a wholesome practice or meal if we need some spark to get going), but not something to lean on exclusively. The balance will be up to us to find.

May you learn things that enrich your life, that you wish to share with others, and that use what you have lying dormant, be that some lingering desire or a vegetable that's been hanging around in your fridge...


p.s. I'll definitely bring a new batch to next month's  picnic and service project at A Wider Circle in Silver Spring !

p.p.s. wanna talk more about how we could adapt our practice for summer? come to tomorrow's workshop at Blue Heron Wellness!