Whole Living Daily

Food Can Change the World: Yoga Off the Mat

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In March, I had the good fortune of meeting acclaimed chef Vikas Khanna, as we were both contributing to the Martha Stewart India Show.  What I find so inspiring and innovative about Chef Vikas is how he backs his enormous passion for cooking with his ardent will to promote positive change in the world.  And he does this in so many ways.

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1 Chef Vikas preparing food at Amma's ashram

2 An image from the documentary Karma to Nirvana, on the banks of the Ganges in Haridwar, Uttarakhand.

3 Another view of the evening Ganga aarthi (prayer)

4 These small flower boats are sent down the Ganges as part of prayer

5 Prayer by the Ganges

6 A portrait of Chef Vikas Khanna

7 Chef Vikas working with the visually impaired as part of his Visions of Palette workshop.

8 Here I am with Holy Kitchen's director Ronnie Bardwaj volunteering at the New York Rescue Mission.

Vikas’s foundation SAKIV has united top chefs from all over to fight against world hunger and child poverty.  Through SAKIV, he’s also founded the Vision of Palate program, an award-winning workshop that educates people with visual disabilities about sense of taste, flavor, and aromas.

Another way this altruistic chef is uniting and helping others is through his Holy Kitchens documentary series. These films, which Vikas co-produces with Andrew Blackmore, under the direction of Anubhav (Ronnie) Bhardwaj; investigate how food and spirituality are intertwined throughout the world.  I hugely encourage you to check out www.holykitchens.com to watch the trailers!

The first of the series, True Business (released in 2010), explores the Langars (community kitchens) of the Sikh religion.  Much of the documentary focuses on the breathtaking Langar of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab, North India (Vikas’s native place).  I am so grateful to have experienced a meal there with my mother in 2005.  This holy kitchen, which functions solely on those performing seva (selfless service), serves about 35,000 people per day and on some occasions up to a million!

The second documentary, From Karma to Nirvana, which will be released on May 5th after premiering at New York’s Indian Film Festival, is about Hinduism. It’s a fascinating 48-minute piece that takes viewers on a journey from North India to South.  In Kerala, Vikas volunteers in Mata Amritanandamayi Devi’s (Amma) ashram kitchen.  As Amma so touchingly states, “We have to help the hungry as best we can. We have to see that feeding the hungry is no less than the worship of God.”

There are more Holy Kitchen films lined up, which you can read about on the website.  While various faiths have their differences, how and why food is shared within them is so often the same, reminding us of our communal interdependence and our ability, or even responsibility, to share.  I’ve always believed that we have an amazing ability to imbue our food with love everyday, both as a cook and a receiver.  I commend Vikas and his team for reminding us of this nurturing power.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention – 100% of Holy Kitchen proceeds benefit World Hunger.

I’m also so thankful to be helping Vikas and Ronnie on a short documentary about the New York Rescue Mission to be released around Christmas of 2011.

Sophie Herbert is a yoga teacher, contributing editor to Whole Living, singer and artist. She has lived, studied, and volunteered extensively in India; teaches yoga in Brooklyn and Manhattan; and recently released her first full-length album, "Take a Clear Look." Please visit her website at SophieHerbert.com.

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