What yoga taught me about cooking

June 14, 2023 0 Comments

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My best friend of 16 years was recently sitting at my kitchen table next to my toddler while I made dinner. At one point, as we sipped wine and chatted, she remembered how calmly I moved around the kitchen.

Her comment stopped me in my tracks. I’ve always felt a little crazy when I cook. In fact, I’ve always felt somewhat rushed in almost everything I do. Every day I juggle being a yoga and meditation teacher, taking care of our toddler and baby, and cooking dinner every night. Like most people these days, I’m in a hurry. When I cut the broccoli, specks of green florets fly like confetti.

A few weeks after my friend shared this observation, my mother came to visit us. One evening, while I was cooking dinner, she made a surprisingly similar remark about my pace.

They were right. I moved with a sense of lightness that felt vaguely familiar but completely new to me as I cooked. Instead of the usual clatter of pots and pans and the mess that accumulated in the sink, there was something almost rhythmic and graceful about the way I moved. I slowed down as I cut the vegetables to see the vibrant colors. I mixed the ingredients steadily and steadily, rather than quickly throwing them all together. There was even a kind of peace in the way I plucked cilantro leaves from the stalks, a task I used to dislike.

Something has definitely changed.

Moving in a hurry

When I started doing yoga, I craved fast movements. I remember feeling so frustrated when the teachers asked us to stay in the pose even for five breaths. I wanted to quickly go through each pose so I could get on with my day, like I was checking things off a list. Savasana especially tormented me. Lying down, trying not to fuss, I impatiently counted the seconds until the teacher finished the lesson. I was almost always the first to roll up the mat and slip out of the studio. Then I rushed to the shower to make it back to work on time.

Similarly, when 5:30pm rolled around, my kitchen would become chaos as I hurriedly prepared dinner in the shortest amount of time. This usually resulted in some of the dish burning and having to soak the pan overnight so I could scrape off the remnants of my haste.

I have always had a busy personality. And because I was always praised for how much I could accomplish quickly and efficiently, I made completing tasks my personal measure of success.

But I don’t think I ever realized how rushed I was everywhere in my life.

Finding my pace

At some point in my yoga practice, I started to actually allow myself to be in the poses without anticipating what was going to happen next. I started paying attention to what my body was doing. I noticed how the outer edge of my back foot was firmly connected to the ground beneath me. I noticed how much easier I felt in balancing poses when I was breathing evenly and looking intently.

Through practice, dedication, and patience, I realized that I could develop stability and ease in my yoga practice. It sthira-sukham asanam which Patanjali describes in Yoga Sutra 2.46, a phrase usually translated as “postures should be stable and comfortable.”

As I learned to find presence and even enjoyment in the process, I stopped rushing to leave after class. I let other students shower before me. I even started to feel less frustrated when I was late for the train.

What we learn in our practice inevitably extends to the rest of our lives. For me, that means having more fun in the kitchen than I could have ever expected. Instead of rushing it, I slow it down by chopping and measuring ingredients hours before dinner. I also involve my family in deciding what to do and even remove the herbs, which turns what used to be a mundane task into a time spent together.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still in a rush every now and then. But I don’t want to rush anything anymore. When we move quickly—on the mats, in the kitchen, or in life—we miss the process, the moments of grace. And in the process, you can get just as much, if not more, results.

About our contributor

Neeti Narula is a yoga and meditation teacher and director of Mindful Movement at THE WELL in New York City. Her classes are inspired by different schools of yoga. She is known for teaching alignment-based classes infused with thematic dharma and yoga philosophy. Niti believes that how you move and breathe on the mat determines how you move and breathe in your life. You can practice with her in person at THE WELL or at Modo Yoga NYC. To know more about Neeti, check out her Instagram @neeti.narula.

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