Beans, Beans…

A delicious and healthy bowl of kicheree

Kitchari is a nourishing main dish

From hummus to minestrone, from chili con carne to kitchari, beans (known as dal in Indian cuisine) provide a delicious source of high quality nourishment. And during the colder winter months, our bodies require some high-octane fuel. As a staple food crop for humans throughout the world, beans have long been a rich source of protein, iron, and B vitamins. The cultivation of beans also nourishes the soil in which they grow. In Indian cuisine, dozens of varieties of dal are used.

Ease their Digestion
Their concentrated nutrition means they can be difficult for some of us to digest. To avoid the flatulence for which they’re famous, here are a few hints:

  1. Soak the beans well in water before cooking – overnight (or longer) for larger beans, an hour or so for smaller or split beans. (You can even sprout the beans, changing the water once or twice a day.)
  2. Add heating, digestive spices (cumin, ginger, mustard seeds) to the cooking pot.
  3. Eat only the quantity that you can digest.

Split mung beans are the lightest and easiest to digest. They combine well with rice in the Ayurvedic healing dish called Kitchari (spelling varies: kidjeree, kitcharee, kichidi are some variations). This nourishing main dish can actually be used as a mono-diet for a few days to help the body come back into balance.

Searching for a recipe, you’ll find hundreds. Kitchari is a common staple in India and Nepal; women will prepare it with whatever beans and grains are available in their area, not feeling limited to split mung beans and basmati rice. The ratio of beans and rice can also vary; a 1:1 ratio is common, but for a lighter dish, use more rice than dal. To make a heartier meal, you can use a larger proportion of the beans.

Here is a basic Kitchari recipe:

1 cup basmati rice
1 cup split mung beans
1 cup chopped green beans
1 cup chopped carrots
2 T ghee
1½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp coriander powder
1 T grated ginger
4-6 cups water
1-2 tsp salt
4 pods cardamom (peeled & ground) (~1/4 tsp ground)
Finely chopped cilantro


  • Soak rice and mung beans for 1-2 hours or overnight.
  • Wash green beans and carrots and chop into 1-inch pieces.
  • In a large saucepan, heat the ghee and add cumin, fennel and mustard seeds; sauté for about 1 minute.
  • Add rice, mung, turmeric and coriander; sauté for about 2 minutes.
  • Add ginger, carrots and green beans; sauté for about 1 minute.
  • Add 4 cups water and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce to medium heat, cover and cook for about 20 minutes until the mixture is tender.
  • Add water as needed to keep from scorching.
  • Add salt as desired at the end of cooking.
  • Before serving, garnish with cardamom and cilantro.

More inspiring recipes are available in The Salt Spring Experience: Recipes for Body, Mind and Spirit. Amadea Morningstar’s Ayurvedic cookbooks also include some delicious bean dishes.

Wishing you happy, healthy and holy.
– Pratibha

Pratibha Queen

Pratibha Queen

Pratibha Queen is a yoga instructor and Ayurvedic practitioner, who attends Salt Spring Center of Yoga retreats on a regular basis. Feel free to email with any questions that arise as you engage in health practices to support your yoga practice:

(Photo of kitchari from Taste Book)

Asana of the Month: Dandasana

Dandasana (Staff or Seated Mountain Pose)

This is a pose I use in every class. I like to use it at the beginning of a series of seated postures to help establish a start point, a centre of awareness of the core in the seated form. It also challenges students. When we move from standing asanas to seated asanas, it’s easy to lose connection with the breath and let the monkey brain take over with remnants of our day, the future, plans, “what’s that on my toe?”, et cetera. Start becoming aware of thoughts arising, and breathe! Be present in the pose and have a lovely journey.

Dandasana, Staff or Mountain Pose

Dandasana, Staff or Mountain Pose

Benefits of seated mountain pose

  • Stabilizes the hip and pelvis
  • Strengthens the core and lower and middle back
  • Improves posture
  • Creates full breathing for all areas of the lungs
  • Stretches the hamstrings and calves

Getting into the pose
While seating on the floor with your legs stretched out in front you, move the fleshy parts of the buttocks to find a good connection of your sit bones with the ground, creating an anterior tilt of the pelvis. You might find you need to sit on a block to create the tilt or maybe you need to bend your knees if your hamstrings are singing.

Activate the feet, drawing the toes towards you. Engage the quadriceps to pull the kneecaps up and lengthen through the legs by pressing out the heels and pressing the legs towards the mat without locking the knee joints. This creates a slight inward rotation of your thigh muscles.
Arms are softly placed by the sides of the body, palms facing down. Engage the pelvic floor muscles, squeezing the root lightly and bring the belly button in towards the spine and upwards to activate the lower abdominal muscles (the ones between your belly button and the top of the pubic bone). Let the belly be soft.

Take a deep inhale and grow your torso from the waist up, continuing to lengthen through the crown of the head as your palms press against the earth, and as you exhale, let the shoulders relax into their sockets and slightly draw them down the back and draw the shoulder blades slightly towards each other broadening across the collar bones. Bend the elbows if your shoulders have started their journey towards your ears. Soften the lower ribs towards the back.

Take an inhale and on the exhale, tuck in your chin slightly with the intention of keeping the ears on top of the shoulders, Gaze towards your toes and breathe into all areas of the lungs, feeling the muscles between the ribs move. Continue breathing deeply in this beautiful and strong “L” shape you have embodied!


Modify by placing a block under your sit bones

Modify by placing a block under your sit bones

When having difficulties finding the anterior tilt of the pelvis, bring a block under the sit bones. Sit on the edge of the block to allow the sit bones to hang off of it. If your block is a bit tall and you have a tendency to hyperextend, place a rolled blanket under the knees to protect them.

Feet can be hip width apart to give room to the legs or hips.

Modify by creating the “L” shape with your back against the wall

Modify by creating the “L” shape with your back against the wall

Dandasa can also be done creating the “L” shape with your back against the wall. This will reduce some of the tension in the hip flexors.

Knees can stay bent to allow the ham strings to stretch slowly and facilitate a tall seat without straining

Modify by bending knees

Knees can stay bent to allow the ham strings to stretch slowly and facilitate a tall seat without straining.


  • This pose can be done connected with breath by lifting the arms on the inhale, relaxing the shoulders into the sockets and bringing the arms back down, repeat a few times.
  • Arms can come up and stay up with palms facing each other as well as arms parallel with the ground with the palms still facing each other to create space in between the shoulder blades.
  • Work with lifting one leg at a time and keeping the torso and hips stable.
  • Arms come in a capital T shape at shoulder height and a small twist originates from the waist up. Switch directions.

About the Instructor

Varenka Jeevani Schwarz

Varenka Jeevani Schwarz

Varenka Jeevani Schwarz was born and raised in Mexico City where she completed a Bachelors Degree in Psychology. She moved to Canada in 2005 and studied Early Childhood Care and Education. Shortly after this move, she found yoga and realized the amazing benefits that her practice brought to her life and her city minded self.

In 2009, Varenka obtained her 200 hour YTT at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga, where she has been lucky enough to return and teach in the same place where she deepened her practice and understanding of the philosophy behind yoga. Her love for children brought her to find Rainbow Kids Yoga, a marvelous program that integrates acrobatics, Thai massage and partner/group poses for children, families and community at large. She also found acroyoga and fell in love with it at first flight, assisting in several beginner workshops and playing any opportunity she gets.

Varenka is grateful that yoga crossed her path in life and that she has had so many amazing teachers throughout her yoga journey. She loves to share the joy and peace yoga brings to her life.

Photography credits
Yoga postures by Chelsey Ellis
Portrait by Erin O’Reilly

Meet our Karma Yogis: Christine

Karma Yogi Christine

Karma Yogi Christine

My background is in child protection social work, which I did for 4 years in Vancouver. An accumulation of physical and emotional suffering propelled me to take a break from the work and listen closer to my body and heart. My instincts told me to get involved in natural building with the Mud Girls on Salt Spring Island and so I did just that. The experience connected me more with the natural cycles of the earth, and with people who were using resourcefulness and creativity to build their own homes. It was very inspiring.

This joy of connecting with the earth and people led me to study permaculture and with that an intention to live more mindfully. I then saw that the foundation of this journey was to be a spiritual one. This led me to ashtanga yoga, first at Mount Madonna Center and then to the Salt Spring Centre. I was looking to be of service and learn in community with a spiritual intention. I’d had experience with yoga previously, but at this point I wanted to be steeped in it.

At MMC I was really drawn to the temple and found myself there, whenever my karma yoga schedule allowed, singing to Hanuman and Ganesha. I was finding a sense of peace while in ceremony. I was also more deeply seeing the value of friendship with the understanding that relating to one another with kindness and compassion is important in building sustainable and loving communities.

Here at SSC I have been enjoyoing satsang, study of the Bhagavad Gita and the temple. My interest in ceremony has led me to practicing arati and being more immersed in the teachings of Babaji. Honestly, I do want to learn how to farm, but farming is secondary to me; the spiritual teachings are what I’m drawn to. I’d like to be of service to spiritual community in any capacity I’m capable of. I do love being outdoors in the dirt with the birds and plants though.

As I reflect on this journey, I see that in being open to the divine plan, something I can’t even imagine comes onto my path holding all the teachings I need for my growth. It’s not comfortable or easy, but it helps me to awaken, to be present for all that comes.

Meet our Karma Yogis: Ryan

Karma Yogi Ryan

Karma Yogi Ryan

I first heard about the Centre about six or so years ago, initially from a fellow karma yogi at Yashodhara Ashram. I checked the Centre’s website frequently, but the timing never worked out. I was doing forest fire fighting, which filled spring and summer. The best time for me was winter, but the Centre wasn’t open then.

I had been travelling for a year and a half, seeking out communities in Asia. Coming back to Canada, I still had the intention of coming to this community. I finally arrived at the Centre in the KYSS program on August 27, 2012 and enjoyed six weeks of permanent sun. I immediately fell in love with the island and knew I wanted to stay. After the Centre’s program season ended, I did a work exchange for a really nice family on the island, knowing I’d been accepted to come back to the Centre for the full 2013 season.

I’ve been working as assistant maintenance manager and landscaper. I enjoyed the variety of the work – trails, campground, flower beds. The temple committee has now tackled the terraces in the garden, beautifying them.

I love living in community. I love that the conch blows and there’s a perfect, warm meal provided and I only have to do dishes once a week. It’s incredible! I found a great connection to the other karma yogis, who have lots of fun at the centre – going for a hike, to the beach, to dances. I really enjoy teaching Friday morning asana classes, learning Qi Gong and deepening my appreciation for kirtan.

When the season ends I’m going to travel back to Saskatchewan to visit my family, and from there I’ll head off to Hawaii to work in a yoga community called Polestar.

I’m inspired by sustainable lifestyle, enjoying the moment, feeling happy and free and co-creating community. There are challenges living in community, but I don’t find it that difficult; working together feels great!

Meet our Karma Yogis: Sherri

Karma Yogi Sherri

Karma Yogi Sherri

I am a seeker of new experiences, and community has been a big focal point in that search. My interest in farming and working with the land was what drew me here initially. In a sense I was a bit unprepared for how spiritual this community is. It has been eye-opening to learn about different teachings. Kirtan has now been incorporated into my life; I’ve been a regular at both Sunday satsang and Wednesday evening kirtan, pretty much every week. I’ve learned how spirituality can bring people together, and I appreciate the gathering of people for a collective purpose and common theme. I was looking for a safe and loving place to be, and I found it at the Centre. Community comes with its challenges, but those challenges have led to growth.

I had been involved in growing vegetables before, but wanted to experience a full season, seeing all the nuances of the seasons – planting, growing food and eating fresh and seasonally. Even if it means eating zucchini for a month, so be it.

How I spend my time is really important to me; I love to move my body physically and immerse myself in my work. Growing food, eating healthy food and living simply, with awareness of relationships – with the earth and the people I surround myself with – are a lifestyle, not a hobby. Living this way, I feel fulfilled and truly happy. Community is a big part of this: the support and love, both receiving and giving, and sharing experiences with people.

I’m now stepping into a new phase of my life, taking some of these teachings and the learning I’ve gained from the wonderful people who pass through here, with me. I hope to take some of this light and spread it out into the greater picture.