Dal and wholewheat plain roti. Terrible photograph, but it was delicious I promise. Excellently spiced and seasoned and heartily filling. The perfect light dinner before I was knocked out with exhaustion. What I was really looking forward to however, was the all vegetarian fare I had read about at Sadhana. Having already been reassured via e-mail that my vegan dietary needs would be met to – I couldn’t wait to have my tastebuds dazzled by fresh, wholesome, plant-based South Asian cuisine for 10 days. And they were.
Above is a picture of a typical lunch: Sauteed green beans with fennel seeds, nepali squash in a spiced tomato sauce, brown rice, dal baht (read: broth-y lentil soup), curried potatoes, and what I gathered was a mix of sauteed marrow and other local greens.
Super simple, but It was my favourite little dishes the whole time there – I almost always had seconds of it. Prior to mealtimes, we all recited the Bhojan Mantra – a prayer intended to cleanse the food of all impurities. As Bipin, our program leader always said, “If we have pure food, we can have a pure mind.”
Breakfasts were by far the most awaited mealtimes at Sadhana – after a long morning of meditation, Neti cleansing, Yoga, and hiking – we were positively ravenous.
This was by far my favourite breakfast – masala spiced semolina porridge, made with dried fruits and nuts, topped with banana slices, freshly shaved coconut and a cherry. Although mine was dairy-free it tasted divine – almost decadently creamy enough to be a dessert!
Another favourite was pureed bananas (in lieu of buffalo yogurt), topped with chopped apples, dried fruits, nuts and coconut – seasoned with a pinch of cinnamon. It may sound like baby food – but I gladly lapped up this all-raw breakfast. Another new-t0-me culinary delight, was momo’s.
Momo’s are traditional Nepalese dumplings – often stuffed with pork or chicken and fried as street food.
Not these momo’s. Durga, one of the co-founders and resident momo connosieur at Sadhana, showed us how to make the all vegan stuffing consisting of green beans, onions, cabbage, carrots, textured vegetable protein (they called it Tofu, but it definitely wasn’t), and a truly hefty dose of seasoning.
She demonstrated a few ways of stuffing and closing the dumplings, which looked like beautiful little mini baguettes. And then we got to work.
I have no proper photos of the end result, but they were out of this world. Steamed and doused with a chutney sauce, served alongside some hearty potato and bean based soup.
Enjoyed at a candle lit dinner outside on the balcony. One of the best nights at Sadhana for sure.
Now, although Part of the 10-day program at Sadhana Yoga Centre includes a 3 day fast followed by a gastro-intestinal flush – most of us chose to ignore that bridge until we had to cross it. But come day 7 we were faced with a brutal reality.
Okay, maybe I’m being a little bit dramatic. The whole idea of the gastro-intestinal cleansing is to purify your entire digestive system and get rid of accumulated toxins. The fast program looks like this:
|1st Day of fasting
||6 Apples (2 for Breakfast, 2 for Lunch, 2 for Dinner), 3 cups of Honey & Lemon water with each meal and unlimited amount of water & herbal teas.
|2nd Day of fasting
||3 Apples (1 for Breakfast, 1 for Lunch, 1 for Dinner), 3 cups of Honey & Lemon water with each meal and unlimited amount of water & herbal teas.
|3rd Day of fasting
||3 cups of Lemon and Honey water (1 for Breakfast, 1 for Lunch, 1 for Dinner) and unlimited amount water & herbal teas.
||Gastro-intestinal flushing then broth, lentil soup, and khichadi for dinner. (yogic food, baby food).
Since I don’t have honey, I was often given extra apples, and during the last day I pre-requested some pressed apple juice (since we were also to be completely silent on the final day of fasting). Overall the fast was quite challenging, even for a seasoned Ramadan faster like myself. On the last day I found myself getting a little bit light headed during the yoga sessions, but a little sea salt and warm water did the trick.
Then came the long awaited cleansing day.
We gathered around in the courtyard after morning meditation and Durga explained to us the process.
The first step is to drink 2 glasses of warm salty water as quickly as possible. Then,we were asked to perform 6 simple asanas, 8 times each, as well as 3 additional movements. The aim of all the movements is to massage the stomach, and help the water to run down the various channels and to activate bowel movement.
And so we did. It was pretty nerve wracking at first – downing all that salt water and jumping around like an idiot, unsure if it was going to work or not, but I did as I was told and kept going through the exercises, and drinking more water.
I think I drank about 12 cups of salt water before it started to work, but many others were done a lot earlier – I think my anxiety was definitely a bit of a mental block to the process. All in all, the flushing was a pleasant experience, but quite exhausting. We spent the rest of the day resting and lounging about, eagerly awaiting our Kitchadi – lentils, mungbeans, rice and ghee cooked down to a creamy baby-food consistency. I of course had mine sans clarified butter, but the whole idea is to have food that’s easily digested and that will lubricate the intestines so to speak.
The whole experience at Sadhana was nothing short of magical.
I left feeling re-energised, relaxed and completely at peace. I had worked through a lot of the issues that had been leaving me feeling drained, and generally unsatisfied with life as of late, and felt confident about stepping back into the real world with somewhat of a “plan”.
I met a lot of wonderful, beautiful people – whom I’ll miss terribly, but I’m happy regardless to have shared with them and have been a part of all of their respective journeys.
Until next time, friends!