Archive for November, 2012

Last year we compiled a list of top free yoga and meditation sites as our mission is to provide excellent free yoga and meditation to everyone (7 Best Yoga and Meditation Websites are Free). This year it is a math list and you will see the same desire/mission to give freely and change lives. Many aspects of yoga can seem as abstract as math!

There is astounding generosity all around us.  Here are priceless gifts that keep giving.  Freerice will feed a hungry mind and a hungry belly.

There is a whole world out there beyond yoga and meditation that lives and breathes the spirit of selfless giving. They will not call themselves “yogis” but semantics are irrelevant and mislead us.

Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org)

By now Sal Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, is no longer a well-kept secret of math geeks and Ivy Leagues. With three degrees from MIT and an MBA from Harvard, Khan has chosen to transform the teaching of math. Check out the acclaimed website.

The Khan Academy is an organization on a mission. We’re a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.

All of the site’s resources are available to anyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology. The Khan Academy’s materials and resources are available to you completely free of charge.

Bedtime Math (www.bedtimemathproblem.org)

Girls can be just as good at math as boys! Every day this non-profit and free website sends out a math problem to its subscribers. From Wee Ones (pre-schoolers) to Big Ones (second-grade and older), there is math fun for the family that begins at a very early age. We played math games with our boys when they were young–at home, in restaurants, in cars, in planes. Grown-ups with math blocks may find themselves forgetting they are doing math! I am also recommending this site to seniors for mental fitness.

Bedtime Math is the brainchild of Laura Bilodeau Overdeck. Laura has no professional training in teaching, but she does know something about numbers.  As a kid she sat and memorized perfect squares for fun, back before it was cool.  As a mom, she (along with her husband John) started giving math problems to their two older kids; when their 2-year-old started hollering for his own math problem, they knew they were onto something, and Bedtime Math was born.  Laura holds a BA in astrophysics from Princeton University, and an MBA in public policy from the Wharton School.

Freerice (www.freerice.com)

We heard about the Freerice website and program on a UN tour and thought it was a wonderful idea. The website is non-profit, owned and supported by the United Nations World Food Programme. Visitors to the website get to answer multiple choice questions from the subject category of their choice (math is one). For each correct answer 10 grains of rice are donated by the website sponsors. This is another engaging and enjoyable site for mental fitness and agility for many people.

You can have fun learning and help hunger–there is hunger for food and hunger for learning.

Freerice is a non-profit website that is owned by and supports the United Nations World Food Programme.

Freerice has two goals: 

Provide education to everyone for free. 

Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.

This is made possible by the generosity of the sponsors who advertise on this site.

Whether you are CEO of a large corporation or a street child in a poor country, improving your education can improve your life. It is a great investment in yourself.

Perhaps even greater is the investment your donated rice makes in hungry human beings, enabling them to function and be productive. Somewhere in the world, a person is eating rice that you helped provide.

KidsNumbers (www.KidsNumbers.com)

Here is another person changing the world one child at a time. The Internet has democratized learning.  Kidsnumbers is part of KidsKnowIt Network. There is so much here on almost every subject and there is educational music, movies, and video podcasts. And there is no charge.

The KidsKnowIt Network was born in the Summer of 1998, when a Salt lake City, Utah, USA educator began a classroom project for his students. Frustrated with the lack of quality educational websites at the dawn of the Internet, this teacher set out to build his own….

Today, 14 years later the KidsKnowIt Network provides free access to our educational tools to tens of millions of visitors every single month. From around the globe these children come because they yearn to learn….

Mr. Bertoch believes that education should be fun, and that it should be free.

In addition, check out the following resources:


http://www.mathsinsider.com/have-you-seen-these-8-high-quality-free-maths-websites/ (includes the Khan Academy and Freerice in the list of eight–but check out the BBC and NRich programs from the UK)

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This blog post offers suggestions from appetizers to desserts for a sumptuous, healthful, holiday feast. Recipes of global flavors are an important part of this blog and this post has links to a wide choice of easy recipes.  All the recipes are vegetarian and most can be prepared ahead. Explore the links to various websites for many more choices.

vegan-VG gluten-free GF


Artichoke Garlic Cream VG GF
Labni GF
Kathryn’s Avocado Pate GF


Orange Fennel Salad VG GF

Spinach Apple Cranberry Salad VG GF


Curried Squash Soup VG GF

Dilled Carrot Soup VG GF

Grains and Mains

Asparagus Fried Rice VG GF

Hearty Wheat with Fall Vegetables VG GF (use quinoa instead of wheat)

Kidney Beans in Fennel Sauce VG GF

Wheatberry Salad with Dried Cranberries and Goat Cheese (use quinoa and eliminate goat cheese for GF or VG adaptations for this recipe from The New York Times–there are so many more on this site)

Lemon Pepper Baked Tofu VG GF (use GF Tamari for this recipe from Savvy Vegetarian)


Braised Cauliflower with Tomatoes VG GF (from Lidia’s Italy website which has several vegetarian recipes)

Roasted Spiced Eggplant VG GF and low carb


Berry Crumble VG GF (use oats and nuts instead of flour)

Red Wine Poached Pears with Spicy Syrup VG GF and fat-free (from La Bella Cook website)

Readers may also find the Irish cook Rachel Allen‘s website and e-newsletter a good resource as it does have some interesting vegetarian recipes for salads and desserts.

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This excellent rendition of the story of Diwali as a universal allegory of life and human nature is one that can be enjoyed meaningfully by everyone.

This blog post is an excerpt, used here with permission,  from the article “Navaratri” by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati  in the October 2004 issue of Yoga Magazine, published by the Bihar School of Yoga.

The story of Rama is a very simple one. He was born to a king who was old and had three wives. The king’s name was Dasharatha. Das means ‘ten’, rath means ‘chariot’, so Dasharatha means the chariot pulled by ten horses. Our bodies are that chariot and the ten horses are the ten senses. Within the body there are certain inherent desires. The spiritual traditions have classified human desires into three groups: (i) lokeshana, the need for recognition, (ii) viteshana, the need for security, social, financial, etc., and (iii) uptreshana, the desire for progeny. So recognition, security and progeny are the three classifications of desires. Some people have one, some have two, some have all three, but there is something all the time.

The birth of Rama

In the body of King Dasharatha, the chariot pulled by ten horses, the desire for offspring was predominant. So Dasharatha went to a yogi, asking for the fulfillment of his desire, and the yogi performed a yajna, which created the right ambience. As the outcome of the yajna, Rama was born to Dasharatha’s first wife, Kaushalya, who represents the sattwic [purity] nature. Bharata was born to the second wife, Kaikeyi, who represents the tamasic [darkness] nature, and Lakshman a and Shatrughna, the twins, were born to the third wife, Sumitra, who represents the rajasic [energy, activity] nature.

The body of the ten senses also has three wives – sattwa, rajas and tamas. When we are under the sway of a particular wife or husband, our responses become like that – sattwic, rajasic or tamasic. Rama was born from sattwa, Bharata from tamas, and Lakshmana and Shatrughna from rajas. This is how the birth of Rama took place. The pure consciousness will only come down in sattwa.

In the course of time Rama married Sita. Rama represents the pure Self and Sita represents the individual self. The marriage represents the union of the individual with the cosmic, with pure consciousness.

The exile of Rama

King Dasharatha came under the sway of Kaikeyi, the tamasic wife, who wanted to send Rama into exile. Only tamas would want to send the pure consciousness away, because in the presence of pure consciousness tamas cannot exist. So Rama was sent into exile. The pure consciousness is sent away from the body under the sway of tamas. When God leaves the body, who also leaves along with God? When the loved one leaves the room, the lover will also leave the room. So both Sita and Rama leave. Although the exile only applied to Rama, Sita decided she would not stay behind because she couldn’t live without Rama. So for a good thirteen years Rama and Sita had a great time in the forest. The beloved and the lover, the pure Self and the individual self, were together consorting happily with each other.

Now the king had to die, because the individual spirit had left, and tamas had overpowered the king. With the departure of that inherent God, the pure consciousness, and the individual consciousness, the body of the ten senses dies.

The separation of Rama and Sita

Meanwhile Rama and Sita were enjoying each other’s company in the forest, admiring each other and being happy with each other. Now, if these two are together, if the individual sell, the confined, finite self, is with the cosmic Self, how can there be creation? The finite self has to be brought back down to our level, into the body of the ten senses again. In order to achieve this the ten-headed monster named Dashanam appeared on the scene. Dashanam means ten heads. The head represents the ego of the senses. The ten heads are the five karmendriyas, the organs of action, and the five jnanendriyas, the organs of cognition. Each one has its own ego, so it is identified as the ten heads. It is these indriyas or senses which now have to capture that individual self away from God.

What was the object of attraction sent to lure Sita away? A golden deer. The pure consciousness knows very well that, as God, it has created everything in the world except a golden deer. Rama knew that it was an illusion, that it was foul play. But Rama, the pure consciousness, also has to play a role which is known as lila. He indulges in this lila in order to manage the ego of the senses and also to uplift the positive qualities and create a balance. So he agrees to get the golden deer for Sita, the individual consciousness.

As Rama went after the golden deer, the ten-headed monster, Ravana, came and captured Sita and took her to his city of Lanka. Lanka was a city of gold, which again represents ego. Sita was placed in a garden known as Ashokavatika, the place where sadness can never enter. Where is the place of sadness in our body? The heart. The heart is considered to be the seat of the individual soul.

In order to discover Sita again, Rama engaged two very important personalities. One was Hanuman, who represents devotion. In order to bring the individual consciousness back to the pure Self, devotion is required. Bhakti is the last transformation in human life in order to experience the divine – bhakti in its purest form. This is why Hanuman was the one who discovered Sita.

Rescuing Sita

In order to rescue Sita, Rama went to Lanka, which indicates that the pure consciousness has come down to the level of the human experience. It is said that if God is at all hungry, he is only yearning and experiencing hunger for your sentiments. God is attained through devotion, though love, through the qualities of the heart. Therefore, the qualities of the heart have always been emphasized – be kind, be compassionate, be loving, be gentle.

A fight then took place between the ten-headed monster Ravana, the ego of the senses, and Rama, the pure consciousness. Although Rama chopped off the heads and the arms of this monster many times, they all grew back. Then another personality, Vibhishana, the brother of Ravana, entered the scene. Where Ravana represents the rashness of the ego, Vibhishan represents viveka, the discriminative ability of the intellect. It is this viveka, right wisdom, who tells Rama, the pure consciousness, that if he wants to kill that monster, it is no good just playing with the ten heads and arms as they will grow again. Instead he has to go to the source of their life.

What is the source of life? Manipura chakra. A baby is connected to the mother’s body by the umbilical cord. Manipura chakra is also the seal of prana shakti, the life force, which is also a very important centre in kriya yoga and kundalini yoga [specific yoga practices taught at the Bihar School of Yoga]. Prana is the source of all manifest creation. So Vibhishana tells Rama to dry up the source so that nothing will grow again. In the war, Rama shot an arrow into the navel of the monster Ravana and shot ten arrows into Ravana’s ten heads. The life force that is responsible for giving birth to each ego was destroyed, and the existing ego was destroyed. So Rama was able to reclaim Sita.

According to the myth, the birth of Rama, the cosmic consciousness, takes place on Ramanavami, the ninth day of Chaitra Navaratri (March/April). On Vijaya Dashami, the last day of Ashwin Navaratri (September/October), Rama is victorious over Ravana, and he is able to reclaim and become one with the individual self. These two events are an indication of what we can aspire for.


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With the coming holidays, our thoughts are turning toward healthful meals with an abundance of flavor and color. The following recipes use fresh herbs for flavorful, savory food.

Dilled Carrot Soup is a vegan, gluten-free soup with a vivid color and full flavor ideal for the cold days. It has very little fat and is rich in beta carotene.

Vegetable and Bean Soup is a meal in a bowl and a one-pot dish. Fresh rosemary makes the soup lightly filling soup fragrant.  This is another vegan and gluten-free recipe that could be considered low carbohydrate if the diet allows some carrots and onions.

Labni is thick, creamy, and cool for the holidays as a dip or to go with falafel. Flavored with dill, walnuts, and garlic it is another gluten-free recipe. This recipe takes about five minutes and can be made ahead.

It has been some time since new content was added to Mahasri Yoga because of the work involved in the meditation CD Being in Flow: Meditations for Peace, Insight, Clarity, and Focus. In the coming weeks, we expect to add book reviews and articles.

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