Paramahansa and camel yoga pose

Today, January 5th is Paramahansa Yogananda’s birthday. He was a yoga guru from Gorakhpur, India who founded the Self-Realization Fellowship in 1920, and is the author of ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’. This is one of the most enlightening books a yoga and meditation practitioner can read.

Paramahansa Yogananda (1893 – 1952)

Paramahansa had a brother Bishnu Gosh, the founder of the Hatha yoga lineage that I was introduced to when I first started practicing yoga 14 years ago. Bikram Choudhury made this yoga popular in the United States in 1971 by patenting the posture sequence and adding heat and humidity to the room. These two breathing exercises and 24 postures are incredibly healing when done mindfully.

Benefits of camel pose

On this special day, I wanted to highlight one of my favorite yoga postures in the hot yoga sequence: camel pose or Ustrasana. This posture is something you build up to with the previous postures in the sequence. For beginners, it’s best to simply support your very lower back with your hands until you are comfortable bending back to reach your heels.

camel yoga pose
Getting into camel yoga pose

The benefits include stretching abdominal organs, reducing constipation, stretching the throat, thyroid gland, and parathyroids. It opens the rib cage to give more space to the lungs and by compressing the spine, gives flexibility to the neck, spine, and relieves backache. It slims the abdomen and waistline, and opens your heart. Sometimes emotions come up but just breathe and calmly let them wash over you.

This is the biggest back bend of the sequence and so it should be followed by the biggest forward bend, rabbit pose. Hatha yoga should balance your body and so it’s good to do rabbit pose after camel pose.

Paramahansa Yogananda wisdom

Paramahansa wrote other books including ‘The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You’. I am reading a book of compilations from the larger text, ‘The Yoga of Jesus.’

Paramahansa reveals wisdom through the beautitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Mathew 5:8) For he asserts through teachings of the Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali that purification of the heart—or “chitta” the inner heart or power of feeling—through yoga is necessary to open the “eye of all-revealing intuition.”

He wrote: “When chitta—human knowing and feeling—is calmed by meditation, the ordinarily agitated ego gives way to the blessed calmness of soul perception.”

This is what Ustrasana helps me to do. By opening my heart and embracing my emotions, I am cleansing it and find calm and clarity. I endure the heat and sometimes pain. I move past it and realize that it’s beautiful and temporary, just like all life.

Sweet Potato Quinoa Recipes

If you love sweet potatoes as much as I do you’ll love these vegetarian sweet potato quinoa salad recipes. They are great as a side dish or for preparing ahead of time as lunches for the week. One is on the sweet side and the other is a roasted veggie delight.

Quinoa Sweet Potato Cranberry Almond Salad

There’s many flavors that compliment each other within this salad, and it can be eaten cold or warm. The sumac spice was a new tropical sweet sour organic taste for me and is accentuated by the sweet potato and cranberries.


  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 3/4 cup water
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 large sweet potato (or 2 small) peeled and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp sumac
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 4 scallions chopped
  • 1 cup parsley chopped


  1. Place 1 tsp oil, quinoa and 1/2 tsp salt in a small pot over medium-high heat. Stir 1 minute to toast the seeds. Add water, bring mixture to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat to low, cover pot and allow quinoa to simmer for 15-20 minutes until cooked.
  3. Pour cooked quinoa into a fine mesh strainer and allow excess liquid to strain out.
  4. Add vinegar, honey and pepper to the drained quinoa and mix.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Place sweet potato, 2 tbsp oil, paprika, sumac, garlic and 1/4 tsp salt on prepared baking sheet.
  7. Bake 35-40 minutes until edges of the sweet potato begin to char and remove from oven.
  8. Once cooled, combine quinoa, sweet potato, almonds, cranberries, scallions and parsley in a large bowl. Serve and enjoy.

4 servings; 467 calories per serving, 8g protein, 18g fat, 73g carb, 7g fiber

Roasted Veggie Quinoa Salad

The sweet potatoes are definitely the star in this dish and complemented by the other veggies, citrus and spices.


  • 1/2 cup zucchini, cubed
  • 1 sweet potato, cubed
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup corn, fresh or canned
  • 1/2 lemon for juice
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 3 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • fresh chopped parsley


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.
  2. Add the zucchini, sweet potato, tomatoes, onion and corn to the baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle with lemon juice, 2 tbsp olive oil and season with garlic salt and pepper. Toss to coat evently.
  4. Roast for 15-20 minutes or until tender.
  5. Put roasted vegetables in a large bowl and add cooked quinoa and mix.
  6. In a small bowl, mix 2 tbsp of olive oil, and apple cider vinegar. Pour over veggies and quinoa and toss to coat.
  7. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Makes 4 servings

Mango curry and cannabis

This 30 minute vegan mango curry is delicious, healthy and may have a nice surprise if you consume cannabis after eating it. It’s super creamy, flavorful and features my favorite fruit plus it’s a hit with my family. It’s also a comforting meal in cold weather. If you need guidance on how to cut a mango, check out this video.


So why the nice surprise if you consume cannabis after eating mango? While much support for this claim is anecdotal, there are studies that support it. Mango contains myrcene, a common terpene that is also found in cannabis. Terpenes are chemical compounds that provide the taste and smells in plants.

In studies, myrcene has been shown to lower the resistance across the blood to brain barrier allowing it and other chemicals to cross the barrier easier and more quickly. This may explain why if you intake cannabis after eating mango, the effects of cannabinoids like THC may make you feel “higher” than usual. Usually eating mango 1-2 hours before smoking cannabis, depending on your metabolism, will trigger this effect.

Mango and cannabis

Mango benefits

Mangos have an awesome flavor, help improve digestion, increase bone density, improve skin and hair and help stabilize blood sugar levels in diabetics. Mangos have also been shown to help protect against cancer. And this is all in addition to facilitating an awesome cannabis high!

In this recipe below, I used half almond milk and half coconut milk. I didn’t add the chopped jalapenos or red pepper flakes because it would have been too spicy for my son, but I would otherwise for a spicy kick.

Mango-Ginger Chickpea Curry


  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 2 cups mango chunks
  • 2 cups plant-based milk
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  1. Heat a large pot over medium heat.
  2. In the pot, combine the chickpeas, mango, milk, maple syrup, curry powder, ginger, garlic powder, onion powder, and cinnamon. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring after 5 minutes.
  3. Uncover and cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring every other minute. Serve.
Mango curry

Per Serving: Calories: 219; Total fat: 4g; Carbohydrates: 38g; Fiber: 9g; Protein: 8g

Sunday Vegan Banana Bread

Today I decided to bake banana bread. It’s a staple in my household, and it’s a comforting treat on a winter Sunday. Also, my 3-year-old son loves banana bread.

What makes this recipe vegan is that there are no eggs or dairy and I used whole-wheat flour. The batter is creamy and fluffy, and the baked bread is nourishing, a little moist and flavorful. Sometimes flavors are overpowered by sugar. In lieu of it, I could really taste the banana, cinnamon, subtle maple and textured wheat.

I got this recipe from a book I will reference and share often – ‘The Plant-Based Diet for Beginners’ by Gabriel Miller. I didn’t add walnuts because my son probably would not have liked the bread so much, but by all means add walnuts.



  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces (optional)


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In a large bowl, use a fork or masher to mash the bananas until they have a liquid consistency (small bits of bananas are fine).
  • Stir in maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, and vanilla extract.
  • Stir in the flour, cinnamon, and baking soda. Fold in walnut pieces if using.
  • Gently pour the batter into a loaf pan, filling it no more than three-quarters of the way full. Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes before serving.

Per serving (1/8 loaf): Calories: 178, Total fat: 1g, Carbohydrates: 40g, Fiber 5G, Protein 4g

Maybe you have intentions this year of eating better, or trying a vegetarian or vegan diet. Many people think that less carbs is better, but plant-based physicians say otherwise. By cutting out processed foods and eating whole foods closest to their natural state, you are actually aiding your body in absorbing nutrients and burning fat.

As the author of ‘The Plant-Based Diet’ says, “whole-food diets are lower in calories, higher in fiber, and more conducive to a healthy body weight.” It also provides “many advantages, including better health outcomes for those suffering from heart disease and diabetes.”

So, you don’t have to give up all things you love, like bread, to be healthy. I’ll dive into some other veggie recipes up next.