Saturday, April 7, 2012

Props To You: Falafel Pie

I have always been a competitive person.  When I was younger, my competitive spirit manifested itself at school, because that was what I spent most of my time doing (and because I avoided competitive sports).  But as I grew up, it began to extend to every part of my life. This becomes problematic when you realize that you can't do everything better than everyone else can, especially if you're not particularly athletic.

My addiction to competition has been fueled, recently, by what my husband calls "electronic 'attaboys."  My car, a hybrid, congratulates me when I have get particularly good mileage: "Excellent!" it says, as I'm powering down.  My husband got two free fitbits from work, and I've been wearing one the past two days; one of its displays is a flower that grows as you are more active during the day, and of course, I had to compare the length of my flower with my husband's flower.  (There's probably something deeply and bizarrely Freudian in there that I am not going to explore.)  It also says "walk me" and "climb on" and "cheers" whenever I pick it up.  Because, you know, I need the motivation.

All of this goes away, though, when I'm doing yoga.*

When I first started practicing yoga--or more honestly, up until quite recently in my yoga practice--I refused to use blankets and blocks, thinking myself (I am ashamed to admit this) somehow "superior" for a more "authentic" practice.

But in my current class, my teacher requires us all to use props sometimes, in order to improve alignment, to rest some parts of the body in order to allow others to work more effectively in an asana, or just to improve our focus on the flow of prana or on the breath.

At first I resisted.  I didn't need props.  I could do this asana AllByMyselfThankyouverymuch.

Then, giving in, I felt my body shift.  I felt new awareness in my muscles and my joints.  I felt hips and shoulders opening.  I was able to pay better attention to what I was experiencing.  It was like focusing a beam of light on the part of the body that was moving, helping me to cultivate sattva, or (very loosely translated) harmony, not just a stretch.  Ohhhhhhh, I thought.  Now I understand.

How many times have we done this?  Refused props, or support, because we want to do it ourselves?  Because the competition, the doing it "better," is more important than the experience of doing it, whatever "it" is?  Because we have this twisted idea that doing it without help is somehow more authentic than using our props?  And how many times has that support actually helped us to see things differently, perhaps, if we were able to accept it, rather than trying to compete, or get ahead (which is, in case you are interested, the rajasic way of approaching things, rather than sattvic)?

On the other side of the question, perhaps it's time to support someone, rather than trying to beat them at a game you may both lose?  Perhaps it's time to offer perspective, rather than one-upsmanship?

Sattva is a philosophical principle that also influences diet if you're into ayurvedic cooking.  I give you this (mostly) sattvic, not entirely beautiful, dish, adapted quite liberally from The Vegan Stoner (which you really must go read, because their cartoons are as fabulous as their food, if you're not vegan).  Props to you, friends.

*Except for the fact that I realized I was jealous of Mel's tripod headstand today, having only ever been able to do a headstand of my own against a wall.

Falafel Pie

1 c. falafel mix (which is on the one hand totally cheating, and on the other hand, just a prop)
1/2 c. water
1 c. (or so) hummus
1 cucumber
1 c. plain greek (or soy) yogurt
1 T. lemon juice
1/4 t. salt (or to taste)
dash garlic powder (optional)
1 tomato, sliced

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix falafel mix with water, and spread evenly into a 9" pie plate.  Bake 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the cucumber in half.  Blend one half of it with the yogurt, lemon juice, salt, and garlic.  Slice the other half thinly.  Set aside the blended cucumber mix.

Remove and let cool a bit; spread with a thick layer of hummus, and layer the sliced cucumbers and tomato on top of the hummus.  Pour blended cucumber mix over the top, and serve.
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  1. I have experienced something very similar in yoga. I generally DO NOT (thankyouverymuch) need props but sometimes our teachers request that we use them and when they do I'm almost always struck but how different, and many times better, the pose feels. I always used to do triangle pose with my hand on the floor instead of my on my shin but I realized when I put my hand on my shin I can align my hips better and it feels SO GOOD. Needless to say I've been doing it that way now.

    My teachers are always reminding us to leave our egos off the mat, especially when we're doing balancing poses. I've finally gotten to a place where I honestly approach my wobbly days with curiosity and humor instead of frustration and disappointment. It took a lot of work because I too, am a perfectionist and have a mean competitive streak in me.

    I think one of the lessons I'm most proud to have learned as a mom is to be more accepting of help. I'm better at asking for it and better at accepting it without guilt and judgement of myself. A think if it weren't for the help I accept from family my life would be a lot harder to live. It is only through their help that I find any time for myself.

    As far as supporting someone instead of beating them at their own game... well I'll have to think more about that.

    This was a great post.

    1. It's funny how you you can even compete with yourself, isn't it? I didn't articulate it here, but that's more of what I felt in yoga previously ... not competition with others, but with myself. I love the phrase "approach my wobbly days with curiosity and humor instead of frustration and disappointment": great life philosophy, too.


  2. This is a lesson I need frequent reminders of, so thank you! Most of the time, it seems I would rather fail miserably *all by myself* than succeed with the little bit of help I so rarely ask for.

    Oh, and I am so making this falafel pie. Yum!

    1. The really ironic thing for me is that I'm trying to get my daughter to accept my help as she learns both her abilities and limitations ... and watching her get frustrated is like having an out of body experience, watching myself.

      You'll have to let me know how the pie turns out for you!

  3. In regards to your last post, accepting the body shape is hard because once you come to terms and acceptance it goes and changes on you. Dang you gravity!! I've adopted the "well, heck Boyfriend doesn't complain" attitude and it keeps me pretty happy. In regards to this post, I used to be competitive when I ran cause that's a very independent sport and I'll be honest, relying on others and wanting to win is difficult. Also, if you are on Pinteret lovely lady shoot me an email with your stuff cause I'd love to follow you and your foody genius.

    1. We are definitely harder on ourselves than others are on us. :) Cheers for Boyfriend, who has the right glasses on!

  4. A. Lot of people repined this recipe on Pinterest after I pinned it! I'm not alone in thinking this looks completely amazing.

    I took a restorative yoga class this week after my back went out. It was a one-on-one session, and it was so great. I wasn't competing or worried I would do something, er, stupid...if I could afford it, I would totally take a one-on-one class regularly. It's much better on my ego and avoids my own klutzy downfalls ;)

    1. My teacher does privates, too. I've been coveting a session with her. Glad that you did this for yourself! :) And: let me know if you make it, and how you like it!

  5. My sister injures herself every time she does yoga, because she gets competitive and feels the need to overdo everything. Me? I'm the opposite. I give up too early and get in child's pose. Ha!

  6. I have a very similar competitive streak. And I also find it very good when I can tell it to "stand down". I don't do yoga because of a back-related injury, but in the days when I did I completely found myself in a non-yoga frame of mind. Which, I realized, really does miss the whole point of it.

    It's one of the reasons I like's one of the few sports where I can tune out (though, not always) what people on either side of me are doing and just get on with it.

  7. Never thought of making falafel into a pie. I'll have to give this a try!

  8. "How many times have we done this? Refused props, or support, because we want to do it ourselves?"

    Um, ALL THE TIME. It really is a bad, bad habit and does nothing for me or the people I'm shutting out so that I can do it all by myself. I think I need to grow up a little.

    Also, falafel pie?! I love falafel and must try it in pie form. Thanks for this idea!


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