Category Archives: Purple Valley masala

Mamiko’s Raw Chocolate doughnuts

Raw doughnuts
(6 pieces)

1 cup activated buck wheat flower
1 cup coconut pulp
1/4 cup cacao powder
1 pinch of salt
1 cup dates
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 honey or coconut nectar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 coconut milk

Chocolate Coating
1/4 cup raw cacao butter (melted)
1/4 cup honey or coconut nectar
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup cacao powder
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut milk


Mix all dough ingredients in food processor.
Put in doughnut moulds and keep in freezer while making chocolate sauce.
Mix all chocolate sauce ingredients in one bowl.
Take out the doughnuts  from mould and dip into the chocolate.

Assemble and enjoy!!!!

Mani’s colourful beetroot curry

Coni Hörler Photography

Beetroot Curry

This vibrant and nutrition packed dish is a steady favourite at the Purple Valley dinner table. Mani, our resident chef from Kerala, shares below her simple approach to re-creating this dish at home. The curry can be served with rice, chapati or bread.

Serves 4


1/2kilo beetroot

1 white onion

250 grams fresh grated coconut

3tsp mustard seeds

5 cashew nuts

150 grams yoghurt

20 curry leaves

3 garlic cloves

1tsp pepper

5tsp sunflower oil


Peel beetroot and grate. Boil cashew nuts in half a glass of water. Using a food processor, blend coconut, cashew nuts, 2tsp mustard seeds, the chopped garlic and yoghurt until a paste is formed.

Next, chop the onion. In a large saucepan, heat 2tsp of oil and saute 1tsp of mustard seeds and the onion for 2 mins.

Then add 2 more tsp of oil, beetroot and salt to the pan, cover and simmer for 5 mins on medium heat. During that time, lift the lid and stir a few times.

Finally, add the pepper, garlic and yoghurt paste. Stir in curry leaves and simmer for 5 mins on low heat.


Leilah’s raw chocolate

Coni Hörler Photography

Leilah Devi, Purple Valley’s plant-based chef and dedicated Astanga practioner, shares her knowledge on raw chocolate. Keep reading for some history and benefits of raw cacao. You can also buy her e-book with lots of recipes and ideas for more raw treats. Details below or here.

By Leilah Devi.

“Raw cacao is one of the most antioxidant-rich foods known, and is much more nutrient-dense than its cooked counterpart. Most commercial chocolate has been heated at high temperatures multiple times during its processing, which can destroy vital enzymes and beneficial phytonutrients. In its raw state, cacao is a great source of magnesium, and contains natural seratonin-boosting compounds such as PEA, the chemical our brains produce when we fall in love, and anandamide, named after the Sanskrit word for bliss. It’s no misake that the Latin name for the chocolate plant is Theobroma Cacao, meaning literally, the Food of the Gods.

By keeping the cacao raw, that is, below 46*C/ 115*F, we preserve the health-giving properties in the chocolate, and by using low-glycemic, natural sweeteners or even avoiding sugar entirely, we can enjoy amazing, plant-based, decadent chocolate desserts without an ounce of guilt.


The first known consumption of cacao was in South and Central America, around 1900 BCE, long before the Olmec, Incan, Mayan, and Aztec civilizations where it was variously hoarded by emperors, taken by armies of soldiers as a bitter drink blended with chilies, spices, and maize as a kind of stimulant for day-long marches, and used as an actual currency and medium of exchange. Cacao also has a long history of ritual, ceremonial, and medicinal use.

A Dutch explorer named Van Houten brought cacao to Europe and invented the alkalizing process of “dutching” (after which it was called cocoa powder), a method of refining the chocolate into something a bit less bitter, with a milder flavor. At this time sugar was also added to the cacao, and it quickly became a favorite snack in European society. In 1876 a Swiss chocolatier collaborated with his dairy-farmer neighbor, Nestle, to add powdered milk to the mix, and the milk chocolate that is so popular today was created. While the addition of sugar and milk solids may make chocolate creamy and delicious, these additives also detract from its overall nutritional value, and in fact can inhibit our bodies’ ability to absorb cacao’s valuable nutrients.


The small, evergreen Theobroma Cacao tree generally grows within 11* of the equator, and today is cultivated primarily in Africa, South and Central America, and Indonesia. There are 3 main varietals of cacao plant, namely Criollo, which is the most coveted and rare, Forastero, which is a lower quality but produces a high yield, comprising about 80% of our chocolate today, and Trinitario, a hybrid of the two.

Cacao trees produce a large fruit pods containing a white, foamy flesh that encases the coveted cacao beans, which are harvested and carefully fermented to remove the astringent tannins and add a rich body to the chocolate. These small, almond-sized beans are covered with a papery shell, and can be broken apart by hand into the tiny pieces we know as nibs. These nibs are mechanically ground into a paste or liquor, which is cacao mass. This liquor is further separated into cacao butter, which is the pure fat, and cacao powder, which are the solids, still about 18-22% fat. Since we are using only raw cacao for these recipes, all of this processing is done through mechanical cold-pressing to keep temperatures low.

Making tempered raw chocolate at home is a kind of alchemy, recombining the separated cacao butter and powder in a way that utilizes not only science, but intuition and art. This fragrant and satisfying process is stimulating to the senses of touch, smell, and of course, taste.


The following recipe is for tempered chocolate. Chocolate forms in a crystalline structure, and there are six grades or types of crystals. High quality chocolate is made up primarily of grade V crystals, which give the chocolate a long shelf-life, a smooth sheen, a crisp snap, and a melting point of human body temperature- meaning it melts in your mouth. We can create these grade V crystals by manipulating the temperature of our mixture, driving out the lower grades of crystals such as II or III which would otherwise predominate and make the chocolate crumbly, dull, and dry.

To make your own raw chocolate, you’ll need a few things.


cutting board

chef’s knife

coffee or herb grinder, or high-speed blender

stainless steel or glass mixing bowls

double boiler or pot to serve as a bain-marie

candy thermometer

silicon spatula


large spoon and/or small pitcher with a spout

clean towel

silicone or polycarbonate molds



500 g raw cacao butter

300 g raw cacao powder

150 g coconut sugar

NOTE: You can halve this recipe for a smaller amount of chocolate!


-vanilla bean

-food-grade essential oil of peppermint, orange, or rose

-superfoods such as maca, spirulina, powdered reishi or ashwaganda

-nuts, dried coconut, or dried fruit


Begin by carefully shaving or chopping the the cacao butter into small slivers of about equal size. Place these pieces into a large, stainless steel mixing bowl, ensuring that the bowl is completely dry first. Throughout the entire process, avoid getting any water in your chocolate, as even a very small amount of moisture can cause the mixture to “seize” and can ruin the batch.

Place the bowl of cacao butter on top of a pot of water, or use an actual double-boiler. The bottom of the bowl need not touch the water. Heat the water slowly and stir the cacao butter with a spatula to ensure that the temperature is even throughout and does not rise above about 46* Celsius or 115* Fahrenheit. Use a candy thermometer to check the temperatures periodically.

While the cacao butter is melting, use a coffee grinder or strong blender to powder your coconut sugar. Grind the sugar as finely as possible, as it will not dissolve in the fat, but will only disperse. A coarse grind of sugar will result in chocolate with a gritty texture. It’s also important to be sure that the sugar is not moist; if it feels damp you may need to dehydrate it or place it for a short while in an oven at a low temperature, until the excess moisture has evaporated. Moisture in the sugar can cause the chocolate to fail to temper, or to “bloom,” producing a white, mottled appearance and crumbly texture.

When all the butter is melted, remove it from the heat and use a whisk to stir in the cacao powder and powdered coconut sugar. If needed, you can use the flat side of the spatula against the side of the bowl to press out any lumps. At this point you can also add in fresh vanilla, scraped from one or two dried vanilla beans, or up to a teaspoon if you have some pre-made vanilla bean powder. Avoid using alcohol extracts as it can cause the chocolate to seize.

Check the temperature of this mixture and if necessary use the bain-marie again to get the temperature up to 46*C/115*F. You may want to remove the mixture from the heat before it reaches 46*C/115*F, as the warm bowl can cause the temperature of the chocolate to continue to rise. Alternatively, you can transfer the chocolate to another, cool bowl, being sure first to wipe any moisture off the bottom of your bowl with a clean kitchen towel, to prevent any water from dripping in the chocolate.

If your kitchen is cool and dry it is ideal for making chocolate, and your mixture will begin to cool naturally. You can also help it along by using an ice water bath. Simply use a larger bowl, or even your kitchen sink, with some ice and a little cold water. To be sure that you don’t get any water in the chocolate, it’s best to keep this bath quite shallow! Use your spatula to continually scrape the cooling chocolate off the edges of the bowl and back into the mix. Keep stirring and avoid letting any clumps form as the chocolate cools to 27* C/ 81*F. This stirring is distributing the grade V crystals throughout the chocolate. To eliminate any of the remaining lower grade crystals, you can then gently heat the mixture back up to 31*C/88*F. Your chocolate is now tempered. You are ready to pour the chocolate into molds.

Be sure that the bottom of your bowl is dry. You can transfer the mixture from the mixing bowl into a smaller pouring container, or use a large spoon to fill your molds, depending on your needs. To prevent spilling, hold your bowl or small pitcher directly over your molds. If using small silicon truffle molds, use a dessert spoon and scrape the bottom of the spoon against the rim of the bowl before pouring the liquid chocolate into the mold. This helps to spill as little as possible and keeps things neat. If you pour too much and the mold overflows, just use your spatula to scoop the liquid into another empty mold. Work as quickly as possible, especially if you are in a cool place, as the chocolate can begin to solidify fairly rapidly. If this happens, simply warm up the mixture in the bain-marie just enough so that it flows again.

If you have some chocolate extra mixture remaining, pour it into a bread pan or pie pan. You can tap it out later and use this tempered chocolate to “seed” your next batch with grade V crystals!

Once the chocolate is poured into the molds, allow it to sit undisturbed someplace cool and dry. It’s best not to use the refrigerator or freezer if you can avoid it, as drastic changes in temperature can affect the tempering process, and condensation can also ruin the texture and cause the chocolate to bloom. Once the chocolate is solid, it should be shiny and smooth. If you are using hard polycarbonate molds, perfectly tempered chocolate will pull away from the sides of the mold and will fall right out effortlessly. If, however, the chocolate is stuck to the sides of the mold, you know that it did not temper properly. In that case, the chocolate is perfect to eat right away, but in a few days it may become dull and grainy. Try again!

You can wrap your chocolates individually (perhaps in natural waxed paper or foil), or store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. The chocolates will also keep in the fridge or freezer, although that does run the risk of condensation accumulating. However, if your plan is to just pop them out and enjoy them that day, it can be a good idea to keep them in a container in the fridge.

Have fun playing around with different flavors and add-ins. You can stir herbs or food-grade essential oils into the tempered chocolate before you pour, or sprinkle nuts, seeds, or dried fruits on top of the chocolate once poured. Experiment, and enjoy! “

In Leilah’s Raw Chocolate E-book you’ll find several recipes for a variety of ways to prepare chocolate treats, including instructions on how to make perfectly tempered, professional quality chocolate bars.You can wrap these bars and give them as a special gift!

Please email to get your copy!

Price is $10 USD 

Also included are recipes for low-fat cacao smoothies, grain-free fudgey baked goods, and easy-to-make raw vegan truffles and blissballs.

Coni Hörler Photography

Bibimbap is a classic Korean dish, served as a bowl of warm rice topped with ‘namul’ (sautéed and seasoned vegetables), chilli paste, soy sauce, or other prepared condiments.

Mamiko’s version is a light, and easy to prepare take on this Korean staple. It is also vegan (if swapping honey for coconut sugar) and gluten free (if swapping soy sauce for GF Tamari).

Bibimpap bowl

Serves 4

4 cups of cooked brown rice

Seasoned vegetables  (or ‘Namul’):
1 bunch of spinach
1 cup of mushrooms
1 zucchini
3 tbs roasted sesame seeds
3 tbs sesame oil
2 tbs soy sauce
3 tsp grated garlic

Carrot Miso:
1 cup carrot pulp (the remains after making carrot juice)
2 tbs chopped spring onions
1 tbs grated ginger
1 tbs grated garlic
1/2 tsp chilli powder
3 tbs Miso
1 tbs honey or coconut nectar
1/2 tbs apple cider vinegar

Kimchi (home-made or shop bought)
chopped spring onion
roasted sesame
chopped Nori seaweed sheets

1. Prepare the seasoned vegetables.
Cut spinach. Slice mushrooms and zucchini.
Boil them separately for 1 min.
Marinate with sesame seeds, sesame oil, soy sauce, grated garlic (1/3 of total amount).

2. Prepare Carrot Miso.
Mix all ingredients of the carrot miso and set aside.

3. Assemble the dish.
Start with the rice layer.
Top with the seasoned vegetables, carrot miso and Kimchi.
Finally, garnish with Nori seaweed, sesame seeds and spring onion.

Emily’s crispy spinach & chickpeas

Coni Hörler Photography

Crispy Spinach and Chickpeas

This recipe offers a wonderful alternative method of cooking spinach which fully brings the flavour, with the leaves cooking down to a seaweed like consistency. The flavour is rich, so don’t worry that your mountain of spinach has reduced to a dark glossy mass a fraction of its original size, the result will be worth the effort.

Serves four as a tapas style dish.


500g spinach, tough stems removed
25g parsley roughly chopped
10g oregano leaves (or 1 tsp dried oregano)
Salt (Malden sea salt or pink Himalayan salt are good)
125ml olive oil
1 400g Can chickpeas, drained, rinsed and dried (240g drained weight)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

Put a large saucepan or wok on the heat then add the spinach, parsley and oregano along with half a teaspoon of salt. No oil is used at this stage.

Cook over a medium high heat, stirring frequently for approx. 10 minutes, until the leaves have lost their moisture and have become dark and are slightly sticking to the side of the pan.

Turn the heat down to medium low as you slowly add the olive oil, stirring as you go to incorporate the sticky leaves.

Cook down over a low heat for a further 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally until the leaves become dark green and glossy.

Now stir in the chickpeas and cook for a further 10 minutes until the chickpeas are starting to brown.

Add the sliced garlic for a final 5 minutes of cooking.

To finish I like to squeeze the juice of half a lemon through the dish before serving.

Coni Hörler Photography

Pumpkin seed and Arugula (Rocket)

vegan pesto

If you are new to veganism, and looking for simple and versatile culinary ideas, this pesto is most definitely for you.

The recipe makes around 300ml of the sauce which can be stored in a jar in the fridge for approx. 5 days.


• 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (you can use sunflower seeds or watermelon seeds as I use at Purple Valley, or substitute with a nut variety of your choice)
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (approx. 1 half lemon, but add more if you like a more citrusy taste)
• 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
• 1 cup basil leaves, packed
• 1 cup arugula (rocket) leaves, packed
• 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
• 1 medium peeled garlic clove, chopped (you can increase or decrease the garlic content according to your taste
• 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (Engevita Nutritional Yeast is available in Health Food stores or available in larger quantities online, I suggest: )
• 1/2 to 1 cup olive oil


1. In a small frying pan, dry fry the seeds or nuts until they pop and brown. Turn out onto a class dish to cool.

2. In a Vitamix or other high-speed blender, combine lemon juice, sea salt, basil, arugula, parsley, garlic and nutritional yeast. Blend until smooth. Slowly add olive oil and blend until fully combined. You can also use a immersion or stick blender which will take a little longer to break down, but works perfectly well.

3. Add pumpkin seeds and blend until smooth with a bit of texture, to your preferred consistency.

This sauce is a wonderful condiment, and is delicious tossed through pasta or spiralled veggie noodles. It also works well as a dip for roast veggies or as a salad dressing.


A chat with Juan Carlos Galan and Greg Nardi

The season has started, with its usual ups and downs… and once again it is really wonderful to open up our gates to all the yoga practitioners who are planning on coming to Purple Valley.

In the month of March, we have 2 new lovely teachers visiting the center, Greg Nardi and Juan- Carlos Galan, both dedicated practitioners since many years. I have not yet had the opportunity to practice with them, but having heard so much about their teaching, and also by following them online -through their yoga interviews and travels- I am really looking forward to spending time with them in March.

To find out more about Greg and Juan-Carlos, we decided to ask them a few questions, and reading the answers helped me understand more about their approach to yoga, which filled me with warmth and joy…

For those interested in chanting and philosophy, this is the perfect retreat to attend.

An extract from the website of Greg and Juan Carlos

“Greg is an internationally renowned teacher of workshops in Yoga asana and philosophy. He and his husband Juan Carlos founded Ashtanga Yoga Worldwide a Yoga shala in Fort Lauderdale, Fl. in the United States.He is an autodidact who perpetually studies Sanskrit chanting and indian philosophy. He counts Georg Feuerstein, Dr. M.A. Jayashree, Narasimha, and Vyass Houston amongst his influences in this field. He teaches yoga philosophy and Sanskrit mantra chanting as a faculty member of John Scott Yoga.Greg’s view on yoga respects the indian roots of the Yoga tradition and the parampara method of transmission while making these traditions intelligible to the western practitioner. His style of teaching assists students in finding the approach to the practice that is most beneficial for them.

Juan Carlos has studied closely with KPJAYI level 2 authorized teachers Greg Nardi of Ashtanga Yoga Worldwide and Fiona Stang of Ashtanga Yoga Vancouver. He is a graduate from The University of Texas at Austin and has a Master’s degree in Industrial Psychology.

He travels regularly to Mysore, India to continue his journey as a student of yoga under the guidance of his beloved teacher Sharath Jois.  Juan Carlos has been blessed with the authorization to teach from Sharath.

Juan Carlos teaches Mysore style daily.  He celebrates his devotion to his teachers and fellow students around the world by honoring the tradition of Shri K. Pattabhi Jois.  He believes in the energetic and healing aspects of this practice.  His intention is to share this yoga with anyone inspired to seek it.”


*What brought you both into yoga? 

GN: When I was 22 years old, a friend invited me to take a class with her. She had never done Yoga before and she didn’t want to go alone. I mostly just expected a fun, social experience. During that first class I was absolutely taken by how wonderful I felt on all levels. As a child I was severely asthmatic and had been certain that I wasn’t capable of enjoying physical activity. That first Yoga class changed that. It was also the perfect medium for me to project a search for meaning that was ongoing for me since an early age. While I only had a vague idea of what Yoga tradition was about, I was able to connect with aspects of the class that felt spiritual to me and seemed to give a depth of meaning to the experience. It felt like being invited into a special space where it was ok to nurture, heal, inquire, and share that experience. I know that sounds like a lot to take away from a first class, but I felt from the very beginning that this was something very special. It really blew me away. I took every class I could after that. It took me about two years before I found Ashtanga Yoga, which just felt like a natural evolution for me. I was on a search to figure out why Yoga felt so powerful and what was the most authentic practice I could find. The methodical nature of Ashtanga Yoga helped me to narrow my focus and process my experience. It also presented a clear path and guidelines to work within.

JCG: I started dating this guy I met online when I was 24 years old.  We were really excited falling in love and getting to know each other.  About one month after I met him he invited me to take his Yoga class to share with me what he did for a living.  That was my first time on the mat ever.  Mysore style Ashtanga Yoga with Greg Nardi. I had never been in a Yoga class before, and I was not coming from physicality or movement at all, so I had no expectations other than sharing the experience with my new boyfriend. I remember the energy of the space felt elevated. That was surprising to me. I also remember finishing early and watching the rest of the class. There was this moment when I saw someone in garbha pindasana, someone else in kurmasana, and another person working hard in standing. It was a busy class, but everyone seemed so focused and present. They all looked like whatever they were experiencing was completely unfiltered, real, and raw. It seemed powerful and intense, and I left feeling great and wanting more.

* Since I have not practiced with you yet, what is specific in your way of teaching? How would you explain it to a new student? 

GN: As a KPJAYI authorized Ashtanga teacher I meet those students who are interested in learning the traditional method because it works for them. In a non-dogmatic way, I help them find the approach to the ashtanga method that supports their journey of personal growth. I’ll offer my experience and skill through verbal cues, hands on adjustments, individualized feedback, attention, presence and the considered application of standards and boundaries to educate them in making sound decisions for their body and mind during practice. I also believe in the importance of tradition in passing wisdom. By sharing my own experience working within the tradition I hope to inspire students to look deeper into the implicit wisdom of this practice.

I believe that teaching comes from inspiration and empowers students to make intelligent decisions around their practice. There are certain approaches to Yoga that are more or less effective depending on the student’s goals. I try to partner with students and offer them the benefit of my experience and presence to help them progress towards their goals. Reasons for practicing Yoga often evolve over time. I try to be there through a student’s process to help them physically, mentally, and emotionally do the work they need to meet their goals.

JCG: I think that teaching happens in relationship. One of my favorite aspects of teaching is being able to connect with others. In order to transmit something of value at least some level of connection must established. I think what I find most beautiful about the Mysore style method of teaching is that we get to truly work with every person in the Shala.  As a KPJAYI authorized teacher, I feel my role is to honor both the tradition and the person in front of me

* What does the practice mean to you? How is it enriching your daily life? 

GN: Guruji often told us that it was rare to receive a human birth and implored us not to waste our life. In the daily routine of trying to get by in life, the time and ability to reflect on what it’s all about are rare. Motivation is often unconscious, and action can be compulsive. What the practice does is give me some time each day to orient back to myself, to slow down and rebalance so that when I go out into the world I am coming from a more centered place. At this stage, I’m not convinced that life has meaning in the sense of purpose, and therefore I don’t know if the practice has meaning beyond what we project onto it. It can be interesting to notice my projections in an attempt at self-awareness. What I do know is that life has rhythms and cycles. Life seems to have an order that my practice helps me to be in sync with. When I am more in sync, then I tend to feel more content and accepting. Interestingly enough, it also frees up a lot of vitality that might be wasted in worrying or compulsive action. It generally makes me a better person.

JCG: I’m grateful to have this practice.  I have moved so frequently, and I have lived in such drastically different places in the last 5 years that I feel the practice gives me a sense of home and stability.  My husband and the practice are the only things that have stayed constant.  They are my “totem”.  It provides me with routine, which can be so grounding through the endless changes in our daily lives.  I recently visited Tiruvannmalai, and I immediately was plugged into a network of Ashtangis and connected with others.  I love how this practice keeps us more connected to the world around us.

* How can we apply the physical asana practice into our daily life? 

 GN: Some asana are to restore and maintain physical health, some are for purification, and some asana explore the limits of human potential. The practice of Ashtanga Yoga will mean different things based on our level of engagement with it. It’s important at some point to assess why you practice, what you hope to gain from it, and to be aware as your reasons evolve.

For many, Ashtanga Yoga is a dynamic series of asanas linked to the breath. If we practice a couple of times a week, or mix it with other yoga styles and activities, then it may stay in the realm of physical exercise and we will receive all the associated benefits of that.

For some, Ashtanga Yoga is a method of practice that is done 5-6 days per week. It is a discipline that begins to influence other areas of their life such as how they socialize, eat, rest, etc. It becomes a lifestyle.

For still others, Ashtanga Yoga is part of a comprehensive sadhana that influences every aspect of their being. It becomes a lens through which one can experience and process life. It can be one’s very reason for being. At this stage, even attachment to the practice needs to be examined. Defining Ashtanga Yoga becomes a very personal practice between the student, the teacher, and the inner guru. As a spiritual discipline, Ashtanga requires a high level of discipline in all aspects of daily life. It also requires the mental and emotional maturity to undertake the practice with compassion and contentment to temper the intensity of the practice.

One should apply asana in their daily life based on what they are ready for and what they hope to achieve from it. The most important thing is that it fits with the student and that it does not cause excess stress or strain. Overall, the discipline necessary for Ashtanga Yoga shouldn’t feel like a deprivation, but rather a movement towards wholeness that enhances one’s daily life and all of one’s interactions and relationships.

* The importance of being familiar with the yoga philosophy? 

GN: We all have a personal philosophy that guides our actions and experiences in life. Philosophy is something that, as thinking beings, we all do. However, our personal philosophy can often be left unexamined and so it is hard to know if it is based in our conditioned beliefs or if there is some more fundamental truth upon which it is based. Upon examination, we often find that things are not as certain as they appear. Philosophy is a tool that helps us see beyond appearances and sort through the complexity of subtle phenomena.

Since Yoga is traditionally about human potential, it often describes phenomena that we don’t have direct experience of yet. For most of us, the metaphysical view underlying the yogic ideas of consciousness and being exist in the realm of theory. Many of us are familiar with Pattabhi Joi’s famous quote that “Ashtanga Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory.” Yoga has always been the practical application of theory. Without practice the theory can be ungrounded fantasy that leads to delusion. However, without theory, the practice can become undirected and overly rigid. Yoga philosophy gives us tools to evaluate our experience and give context to the practices.

Along with Yoga philosophy, one should study its history. Tradition holds that Yoga is an eternal practice revealed through seers in ancient times. Recent scholarship however has pointed to a more nuanced approach that shows practices evolving over time and according to social pressures and cultural needs. A study of Yoga’s history can help us to contextualize our practice and evaluate it for modern times.

Studying the history and philosophy doesn’t necessarily give easy answers, but it does offer tools to understand our own practices.

* The importance of implementing meditation and chanting into your practice. Do you feel that everybody is ready for this? 

GN: Ashtanga Yoga means 8 limbs and offers us many techniques that take us on a journey from a sensory experience of the world to a subtle experience of reality. It’s a journey that we all have regular albeit limited experience of, but Yoga takes us through it in a methodical way so that we can be conscious of the process.

In the Samkhya Darshana, which is the metaphysical partner to Yoga, physical reality is made of 5 elemental forces. Space is the most subtle and is the medium for sound to travel. Chanting can be a wonderful tool to focus the mind and orient us towards the more subtle aspects of reality.

The mind is the subtle aspect of the individual. It is often times scattered and undisciplined. Meditation is the gradual process of focusing the mind for progressively longer periods of time. A focused mind can understand and explore reality in a much deeper and more efficient manner. Many people mistake meditation for relaxation or sitting practice, both of which are useful preludes to the state of meditation.

In any event, chanting and meditation can hold benefits for all aspects of the individual. When choosing practices we are guided by our inspiration and readiness to engage them. Teachers are necessary guides to help us navigate this new territory of experience. Not everyone is ready or needs to take on these practices, but if the desire within the student is strong then they will begin to practice and seek out the appropriate guidance.

* I feel that a lot of people are finding the ashtanga practice through asana practice, for many after a few years, an interest for the other limbs of yoga is born, do you feel this is a normal pattern?  

GN: Asana is the most prevalent aspect of Yoga practice outside of India. Yoga was popularized as a system of alternate health and fitness for many years and this is what most people have learned to expect from a Yoga practice. The consequence is that the first aspect of Yoga that students encounter is asana.

Sharath Jois is fond of saying that asana practice is only a few hours a day, but Yoga is 24 hours. Once you begin to practice the method of Ashtanga Yoga, it is quite common that an interest in the other limbs will begin to grow out of that.

JCG: I think it’s up to every individual to decide how they want to use their practice in their daily life.  I will help however I can to facilitate that process when I’m in the teacher role. The universality of the practice is Guruji’s greatest gift I think.  We can all use the practice how we see fit.  Ashtanga yoga is eight limbs.  And the rest of the limbs are available for us if we want to search for them.

* On your website it is written – Greg’s view on yoga respects the indian roots of the Yoga tradition and the parampara method of transmission while making these traditions intelligible to the western practitioner. You feel there is a very big difference between teaching ashtanga to Indian students vs Western students. ( we have been having a discussion regarding this on our facebook page, with Indian ashtanga practitioners)

We are granted permission to teach from our Indian teachers, who claim Yoga is India’s gift to the world and has universal appeal, however I think it is very difficult for non-Indians to understand the tradition in the same way as Indian people who have been raised in the culture from birth.

I believe that it is quite common to view learning as a process of acquisition whereby we seek to internalize something that we find outside of ourselves, whereas Yoga is traditionally considered a process of Self-realization. Yogic techniques are primarily designed to help us look within.

Many non-indian practitioners consider Yoga to be foreign and from the ancient past. This necessarily directs attention away from the present moment and circumstance within which one finds themselves. This Yoga is based in the textual traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.   So when we begin to study Yoga, depending on the practitioner, western practitioners may believe they either have to adopt Indian cultural and religious norms, or divorce Yoga from its traditional roots. I feel we should approach the tradition with reverence and gratitude, acknowledge what is universal and eternal in the practice and what is culture bound, or in the case of the textual tradition, what is time bound.

Much of the commercialization of Yoga in west over the last 20 years has been about making Yoga more comfortable for westerners. Yoga is appropriated when non-Indians authoritatively represent Indian tradition in a way that is more palatable for westerners. I find it important to have humility and acknowledge the cultural lens that I use to look at Yoga.   Honoring India’s gift to the world means seeking methods to effectively address the very real concerns that are relevant to western practitioners. We are trying to be more fully who we are, to lift the masks of identity while understanding what a deep influence our culture has in the way that we view ourselves and our world.

* Juan-Carlos, you are  talking about energetic and healing aspects of the practice. Could you expand this? In which way?

I remember during the earlier years in my practice I think within the first three months when I was getting a lot of help binding ardha baddha Padma paschimattanasana, Marichiasana C and D.  That felt so intense on the shoulders, on the hips, on the ankles.  It wasn’t pleasant, but it certainly felt therapeutic.  After a few more months I felt my shoulders were changing so much.  They felt more available, more connected to the body.  They felt stronger.  And eight years later my shoulders are still changing. Everything is always changing. In my opinion, there is something both therapeutic and energetic in some binds, like a pranic seal or a healthy conduit of energies.  Guruji was a genius, and he gave us a strong medicine.


The benefits of Coconut oil



In the first of a series of articles on health and wellness, we highlight today some of the benefits and uses of coconut oil. This tropical oil is one of the most versatile and healthy substances on the planet. It is freely available in India, especially in Goa, and has such a wide range of health benefits that one can easily make it a way of life.

Coconut oil is considered a superfood is because of its unique nutritional profile. It had a bad name for years because of its 92% saturated fat content but recent research has shown that its reputation was needlessly tarnished.

• Virgin coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which is a proven antibacterial and antiviral agent. Lauric acid is also found in human breast milk, which makes coconut milk the best alternative to milk-formula foods.

• The anti-parasitic property of coconut oil is particularly helpful for those suffering from infestation with intestinal parasites and Candida albicans. Coconut oil has been known for many centuries to prevent yeast infections as well.

• It also greatly aids in digestion by keeping the intestinal tract clean. It cleanses the colon by gently softening and loosening old accumulated fecal matter, and helping to remove it safely and naturally. It is easily digested, by the young and old, even by weak and compromised digestive systems. It is one of the healthiest and safest oils for consumption. It helps with most digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease, IBS, stomach ulcers and ulcerative colitis.

• Coconut oil lends a delicious flavour to food. Unlike most oils, coconut oil will not oxidise upon heating. It is a great cooking oil with a high smoking point, making this the ideal cooking oil.

• It has a strongly alkalising effect in the body, which is beneficial for every disease process. This tropical oil contains a substance that has been shown to raise HDL cholesterol levels (the good cholesterol), thereby lowering the risk of heart attack.

• It is shown to improve memory function, and so it is used in the treatment and prevention of diseases such as Alzheimer’s; it is also known to improve antioxidant levels and can slow ageing.

• Other diseases and disorders that are alleviated by the use of coconut oil are HIV+, hypertension, UTI, kidney infections, cancer, inflammation, arthritis, type II diabetes, osteoporosis, gallbladder disease and pancreatitis, gum disease and tooth decay, skin problems, insomnia, thyroid function, and a host of others.

• Coconut oil improves energy, endurance and increases metabolism. When we consume it, its MCFAs are sent directly to the liver to be converted into energy. This is precisely why many athletes today use coconut oil as their source of fuel during triathlon training and events.

• This oil also helps in dissolving and eliminating toxins that are trapped in fatty deposits, thereby making fat accumulation increasingly unnecessary. This is how coconut oil helps to build lean muscle. A lot of body builders, personal trainers, sports persons and others use it for building lean body mass.

• Coconut oil helps in weight loss. It is made up of medium-chain fatty acids, which are easy to digest and therefore speed up metabolism whereas long-chain fatty acids (in polyunsaturated oils) take much longer to break down and get stored as fat in the body. Coconut oil slows down digestion and keeps us feeling full for a longer time; this discourages snacking. Coconut oil is a detox agent and cleanses the body of toxins, keeps the digestive tract healthy, and nourishes the cells. All of this is essential for restoring the body’s optimal weight.

• Using coconut oil benefits the hormones as well. It helps naturally balance hormones because it’s a great source of saturated fat. Research indicates that coconut oil may be an excellent fat to consume during menopause and also may regulate oestrogen levels.

All these beneficial properties of coconut oil make it a superfood and a powerhouse of health. It adapts well in cooking, beauty recipes, natural remedies and can be used extensively around the home.

Coconut oil in food and cooking
Use it for everyday cooking instead of other vegetable oils, in baking, stir-fried foods, or as a dairy-free replacement to butter.

Add to foods or smoothies for energy.

Use in sandwich and salad spreads instead of high PUFA vegetable oils.

Use in kids’ brain-boosting snacks.

Adding coconut oil to a drink in the morning can help improve mental performance all day.

You can sprinkle a tablespoon of grated coconut over your food to improve its taste and add to its nutritional value.

massage-smallCoconut oil for external application

The antimicrobial and antibacterial properties make it helpful topically to kill yeast or yeast infections and heal minor cuts and bruises. This is why it can be effectively used anywhere on the skin, scalp and hair.

Use on the skin as a basic lotion. Coconut oil is a natural moisturiser. Its antioxidant properties help prevent formation of wrinkles and improves skin tone.

Totally safe for infants and children, coconut oil can be rubbed on a baby’s bottom as a diaper cream. Dip a cotton ear bud in this oil to speed up ear infection healing in children. Lactating mothers can use it to soothe sore nipples. It’s great for relieving skin problems in pets too.

Use as lip balm, a natural personal lubricant, shaving cream or after-shave lotion. It helps soothe an itch of chicken pox or a bug bite, and can be safely used to remove delicate eye makeup.

Apply it on cuticles to help nails grow, and to soften in-growing toenails. Rub into elbows daily to help alleviate dry, flaky elbows. Use as a natural hand lotion to avoid dry skin, use it to get relief from cracked heels, use as a natural sunscreen lotion, to heal sunburn, and to reduce chlorine exposure while swimming.

Coconut oil is a great tanning oil too. To make a relaxing massage oil, add a few drops of a fragrant essential oil to warm coconut oil. It can be used with other oils or whipped with shea butter for a soothing body balm. It’s a salve for cracked heels. Its antibacterial properties make it suitable for use as a natural deodorant.

When used consistently on the skin, it can resolve acne, help fight cellulite, lighten age spots, and help avoid stretch marks during pregnancy. Its anti- inflammatoryproperties can help lessen arthritis, and reduce the pain of haemorrhoids and varicose veins when used topically.

Apply on the hair and scalp to treat dry hair and dandruff. Coconut oil has the perfect fatty acids to help improve these conditions. Coconut oil application or massage greatly nourishes the hair. This oil is a wonderful natural conditioner – rub into dry hair and leave it overnight before shampooing off. It can be rubbed into the scalp daily to stimulate hair growth.

Some natural remedies using Coconut Oil
• Use coconut oil for oil pulling for oral health and to check gum disease and tooth decay.

• Ingesting this oil can boost blood circulation and help those who often feel cold.

• Coconut oil application on the skin can help soothe eczema and psoriasis.
• Coconut oil and apple cider vinegar, when rubbed into the hair and scalp, even helps keep head lice away.
• When rubbed on the inside of the nose, coconut oil may help alleviate allergy symptoms.
• A tablespoon of this oil melted into a cup of hot water can help soothe a sore throat and hasten recovery from cold or flu.
• Remove dry skin on feet and ankles by rubbing sea salt mixed with coconut oil.

Household uses of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil can be used as a base in making homemade natural products such as soap and deodorant, sunscreen lotion, toothpaste, insect repellent, lip balm, body butter and baby lotion. A little coconut oil is even sometimes used to soften leather articles.

— Sunita Kripalani

(Sunita Kripalani is a Goa-based writer and book editor who has helped authors structure books on subjects of health, wellness, Ayurveda and natural healing.)

Embracing Impermanence, by Sharmila Desai


Embracing Impermanence

an interview with Louise Ellis by Sharmila Desai on Ashtanga Yoga and Menopause

Thank you Louise for taking the time to talk to me about menopause and the Ashtanga yoga practice. As a woman the most useful information I have gathered from ladies holiday to fertility to motherhood has been from other women. Everyone needs rode models – wisdom from the heart – that nurtures, heals, invigorates, inspires as she moves through the different stages across life.

Since our early days when we were roommates in Mysore you were always that someone I turned to after practice to discuss life, family and the world spiritually around us. Discussing this topic together feels very fitting.

What are some basic signs of perimenopause and around what ages does this happen?

Some of the signs may be mood swings, changes in the length or character of menstrual periods sometimes heavy or very light periods. Sometimes when there are existing fibroid tumors, an increase or sudden appearance of PMS symptoms or irregular cycles may start when they were previously very regular. The hormones start to fluctuate. Hot flashes and weight gain not related to diet can also happen. The age where some of these might happen varies but late forties early fifties commonly.

How should we practice as we experience the first onset of irregularities?

At first I would advise just sticking to the practice while symptoms are not very intense. Not all women experience all symptoms and sometimes they can be managed easily enough – especially at the beginning since this is happening over a period of years. Secondly relating to the experience as a normal process and not a disease is key. It’s my belief that women need to to share more openly with each other. It seems to be the last big taboo subject since it connects directly with the fear of aging already so poorly dealt with culturally.

If and when a woman is going through very hard symptoms there may be loss of energy or strength.  My advice and it applies to aging in general is to note that without judgment and do stick to a routine. It’s a specific skill or art to learn when it’s appropriate to do a shorter practice and when it’s not. In order to do that, listening to the body is key because the body gives much more clear signals then the ego/mind. We already have a practice of working with the body so once in actual practice it becomes much easier to perceive. Also avoid an adversative or clinging attitude if you can toward the process…..raga/dvesha. Clinging to the past images and struggling with that can lead to further dukha there.

How does having an ashtanga yoga practice make us more attuned to what is happening in the body at this time?

Well I think that it really helps that we are already working with the natural cycles and bio-rhythms such as the moon days. Additionally we are used to increase in body temperatures which helps us to regulate easier. Then there is the sweat and purification aspect which is also very helpful. Of course as with all deep hatha yoga practice,  mental and physical awareness is greatly enhanced.

When does the shift move from perimenopause to menopause?

I believe that after one has not had a period in a year she is considered post menopausal. I considered it to be actual menopause when I started to skip periods every other month. As far as symptoms are concerned, I found the early fifties to be possibly the toughest time.

I found that in birth if I rode the waves of labor my body embraced the rite of passage it was naturally going through…if i resisted or feared their arrival it was harder to integrate myself.  I am wondering if there is a similar approach of surrender to when hot flashes occur.

Yes I think that’s a good way to cope along with layering clothing:) There is the primary symptom and then how you choose to react to it. The attitude towards it. There is so much going on that we can’t control. We can investigate the attitude we are holding that fact in. All of this takes place at a time when we have had years of experience in this and that helps.

How do we approach our practice our practice during this chapter?

We need to sharpen discrimination as to what originates in the body and what is extra. You may feel a lack of energy for instance. If you get on the mat with complete acceptance and compassion you will know when it’s appropriate to honor the body and do a shorter practice. It’s really difficult to do that just from the level of mind so I recommend just get on the mat and see. There have been many times for me that once there I found it not to be centered in the body but coming from a belief that i was holding. When it actually is a body centered fatigue it should absolutely be respected. It’s so important and not to think that it’s always going to be that way…it won’t. The point is that it provides a good ground for developing discrimination.

Is perimenopause and menopause a linear experience​?​

No not at all. So many different things are happening on so many levels simultaneously . It’s also not constant but comes and goes.

How do we engage the energy – prayer, visualizations, ritual, mantra, supplements, looking within to seize this moment as an opportunity for growth?

Well for myself I combine mantra and devotional practices with and during the asana practice. For me this works well because I won’t be willing to give them up no matter what else is going on. I will do those regardless and since it involves the asana it keeps me from rationalizing reasons not to practice physically.

Some women experience incontinence  – I imagine the practice and developing bandhas helps in its prevention. Is this related to earlier pregnancies/birth?  Yes I think the problem when it exists is a pre existing one and definitely bandhas are very important. Women should really work with this diligently after pregnancy and childbirth.


​Could you describe your personal experience through perimenopause and menopause? How was it connected to your ladies holiday and births?​ what is the thread between the three chapters if at all?

In my mid to late forties I noticed the onset of PMS symptoms which I had never ever experienced in my life prior and actually had dismissed as whining in others. Also I had an ovarian cyst around that time, very painful, but went away. The doctors said that it was not related to anything to do with peri menopause but my intuition was that there definitely was a connection. They also said there were uterine fibroids which since not causing heavy bleeding could be left alone and would most likely disappear with menopause. This was true.

My cycles continued to be absolutely regular but there was a gradual lightening of the flow and duration through yearly fifties. I had the weight gain not too extreme but very noticeable to me and difficult. Even total fasting for a few days had no effect. I also felt very emotionally unstable at times. I had the hot flashes mildly but it wasn’t much of an issue for me. So this went on until I started to miss every other period but still very regular cycles every other month.

Eventually, I started to regain my energy. My weight went back to normal around that time. I felt better mentally and emotionally. The periods stopped coming at age 56 . So physically not too bad but then I felt a sort of grieving process which completely surprised me for a few weeks. I had had my family and all of that so it took me aback. I realized though peeling back the layers that the root fear was one of dissolution and death. Big surprise again as I thought I had already dealt with this. I had but this is at the deep level. In any case it was what needed to happen for me to go into that in a deeper way. I’m grateful for it now and it didn’t last long, that phase.Though very strongly recommended I chose not to further interfere with hormones in keeping with my feeling that it’s a natural transition not a disease process.

I think the thread is that if we can stay open to change it’s a teacher. Lifetimes are a very long procession on a scale hard for our minds to grasp. If we leave the current life with just a small amount more wisdom and freedom then we entered it it’s a life well lived. I would really like to stress that in the postmenopausal years I have felt great  – energetically free, Whatever happens remember impermanence. Step back relax and broaden the view.

How do we understand the metamorphosis during this time from a yoga philosophy perspective?

Fearlessness is the quality of yoga so we develop and cultivate that. The wisdom of Dhumavati can be embraced at this point. We can appeal to all of the wisdom aspects of the Divine Mother to great effect here. For those for whom this sort of devotion doesn’t resonate they can turn to the many non dual forms of practice but the common thread here is turning towards and not away from the fears that are arising. This is the perfect time of life to turn toward Maha Kali, Shani Deva, Shiva etc as All forms of Time in the big sense.

As practitioners of yoga many of us are familiar with these forms and practices but any type of mediation or practice true to the heart works. It may or may not involve specific ritual. though I am partial to them myself. The form it takes will depend on the karma of the individual. It may take forms which have a connection to well known wisdom traditions or not. It makes no difference what the habit momentum (karma) is. There is just a broadening of the view so to speak.

How do we nourish ourselves naturally – diet, environment, yoga and meditation?

Meditation and practice are the mirrors showing us where we are stuck. What we are believing at a given time and how we hold those beliefs. I think diet is very individual but my practical advice is avoid over eating especially if you have a pattern with that. One thing that would have helped me was to be assured that any weight gain which is not related to diet will normalize when the process is basically complete. if you don’t realize that it’s easy to suffer unnecessarily.

What does menopause spiritually represent?

Well so much really. Even if we have a positive attitude about aging intellectually and philosophically, such a huge marker of entering the last phase of the current life can be profound on a visceral level. It has the double issue of being connected to both sexuality and aging. It calls into question some primary identity structures.I see it as a chance to continue the inner processes of learning to embrace groundlessness and impermanence that hopefully are already underway through life experience and spiritual practice.

Louise Ellis is a Certified Ashtanga yoga teacher and director of the Ashtanga Center in Rishikesh, India.

Embracing Impermanence is an interview that belongs to Sharmila Desai’s ongoing research work in Ashtanga yoga and biorhythms across a woman’s life.

Louise with a group of women she taught in Estonia, Europe.


A Magic Trio

Whole group C4

Take a melting pot with 60 students, throw in 3 teachers with unique approaches, sprinkle it with breath and a combined focus on the practice, let it bubble away for two sunny weeks and watch the force work its magic….

When one combines teachers with unique personalities, backgrounds, experiences and different insights into Ashtanga vinyasa yoga, one is bound to bring out something special…

The fourth course at Purple Valley was one of the highlights of the season. Kicking off December on a high note, David Keil, Gretchen Suarez and John Scott got the retreat centre buzzing and high on prana.

The balance of male/female energy (both with teachers and students) worked perfectly well in the shala, with Gretchen bringing a soft but firm and assertive touch to classes. Her background in psychology and insights into one’s mental approach to practice was very helpful – her intention to bring a sense of self awareness and loving kindness to students’ practice and attitude on the mat was welcomed, perhaps because it is a lesser focus in the Ashtanga world. Gretchen offers the mindfulness and meditation elements into the practice: on the mat, she reminds students to become aware of their ‘own judge’ and of that feeling that so many of us have of not ‘being good enough’… She encouraged students to recognise the negative thoughts arising through practice, without judging them. So no-one got away with excuses such as ‘I’m not strong enough’, ‘I cannot do this/that..’, ‘I used to be able to do this’, and so on….

Gretchen reminded students that love and compassion are also practices that each and everyone of us need to carry on and off the mat.

On the other hand, David’s observant and non invasive approach was one many were particularly fond of. David runs the well-known Yoganatomy website, which in my opinion, has the best, clearest, all rounded advice and tips for most practice related issues – search ‘knee pain’, ‘psoas issues’, ‘back pain’, ‘pelvis alignment’ or any other niggle that troubles you and a list of articles, short clips and diagrams will pop up. With such an in-depth knowledge of anatomy, combined with years of Ashtanga practice, one could easily come up with certainties and firm conclusions on technique and/or alignment, thus offering one way of doing things. David, however, is quite the opposite and offers a wholly non-dogmatic approach. He suggests alignment cues or tips based on his experience -both his own and observed in classes- and these are made only once he has carefully watched students in their practices. As a teacher, it does not take long to see patterns appear in people’s anatomy, movement and technique. And with a fun, friendly approach, David always managed to keep a sense of humour even in the most interesting moments. As I struggled in a deep hip opening pose, he stated ‘oh, so this is the fun side’….

As for John Scott, he appeared like the thread in that beautiful yoga mala. Tying every single element of the retreat together – from the early morning sit, to high energy handstand twirls- he buzzed round the shala, adjusting one student whilst keeping an eye on another, and counting through vinyasas without losing track of any movement. If Peter Pan practiced yoga, that would be John…

The advantage of having three great teachers is one space, is all the attention, feedback, energy bouncing and feeding off each other. The risk would be confusion and contradicting approaches, but this was not the case here and the combination worked its magic.

The way each of them held the space, giving attention to all the students, spending time and effort, observing and feeling what could be brought in, was mind-blowing. Taking care of approximately 60 bodies practicing, all at different levels on practice is a hard task to pull off.

Thank you, Gretchen, David and John. See you all in 2016!!!