An afternoon with vibrant yogi and natural foods chef, Maili Dinim!
RYB: Which came first, your love for yoga or your interest in cooking?
MD: My love for yoga came first. Some of my earliest memories are of me and my Mom doing yoga together. My favourite pose was Simhasana, or Lion Pose as it is the silliest looking pose in yoga. You sit, tense your body, roll your eyes up in the sockets and breathe out ‘Haa’ quite forcefully while sticking your tongue out till it almost touches your chin. I was a wild child! When I was 19 I met a man called Yoga Dave in the Kootenays where I lived in Canada. He made incredible life sized fluorescent paintings of the human body illustrating the nadis and chakras etc. He told me the paintings were visions given to him by yoga. I was so inspired by his vitality and art I decided to go do a two year teacher training with his guru in India. I was all set to go, paperwork filled but life went in another direction and I didn’t end up taking a yoga teacher training till I was 36. Yoga Dave now owns a yoga retreat center on Ko Phangan, Thailand.
Cooking as a passion came later after I had already been a chef for almost a decade. It was a well-paid job that I fell into at the age of 20. It was so challenging for me as my family was vegetarian. We ate so differently than the mainstream. I don’t think we even had spaghetti and tomato sauce in my house! Normal cooking was a huge, steep learning curve for me especially as I was the only cook on my jobs. My teachers were cookbooks! But 11 years later I had the great good fortune of being an assistant to one of the top macrobiotic chefs in the world. My parents had been macrobiotic so it was a return to my roots. That experience changed my life forever and my relationship to cooking.
RYB: How have they influenced one another?
MD: For me, both yoga and cooking are alchemy. Tapas is a Sanskrit word which means,’to heat’. It is the fire of transformation, of dedication. Both preparing healthy food and maintaining a yoga practice involve steady discipline, wisdom and love. Yoga is to heat from within, to ‘cook’, our body, heart and mind to become tempered in the fire of our spiritual practices. Cooking, also transforms from within, as we are what we eat, and also how we eat. How we eat means taking the time to sit for an unhurried meal and chew your food really well. Like yoga, our diets are dependent on our personal situation and there is no one size fits all.
RYB: Tell us a bit about your style of cooking, how would you describe it?
MD: My style is: a green, a bean and a grain, a root, a round and some leafy. Add in a ferment, a raw, and a sweet. If I have all those components in a day I know I feel amazing. I like to cook for the conditions of the moment. I like to see what I need and address that. If it’s cold, I will cook stews and warm, comforting foods. If it’s hot I use more of the quick, bright energy foods like fruit and sprouts. Looking at the seasons, you can see nature provides us with the foods to eat that complement the season we are in. So, I eat with the seasons and of course, as locally as I can. If I am feeling lethargic or heavy I will steam and use lighter cooking methods. If I feel spacy I might eat something fried and oily to ground me. Food is alchemy.
RYB: Do you think a Macrobiotic diet works for every body?
MD: Yes. Macrobiotics is based on a healing modality that has its ancient roots in Ayurveda. More recently in Chinese medicine and the principles of yin and yang. Macrobiotics does not demand that one eats all the Japanese condiments, though they are so wonderful. Macrobiotics is about eating in harmony with the elements within and without to promote optimal well-being. Eating what is whole and not processed. So, many traditional diets from around the world are held in this wisdom. An Inuit diet high in fat and raw meat is macrobiotic to their environment. According to macrobiotics, one eats to ones age, condition, dreams, desires, environment. It is just common sense. And chew your food well!
RYB: What are 3 simple ways to incorporate more healthy foods into your diet?
- Use one afternoon to pre-cook a grain, a pasta and a bean, cut some veggie sticks, prep some broccoli, some other veg, pre-wash some lettuce and make a couple dressings. Then you have it in the fridge for a few days and can combine things to make quick meals on the go.
- Make soups.
- Keep junk food out of the house - my personal trick to make myself eat well is to pack my fridge with fresh vegetables and fruit. Then eat it before it goes off. Seriously.
RYB: What are 3 accessible foods/ingredients you would recommend to incorporate into your diet?
- More steamed or boiled greens as well as or in place of salads as a side: kale, collards, sui choy, bok choy, swiss chard, mustard greens, dandelion greens, mizuna, amaranth and there are more!
- Cabbage. It is a proven anti-carcinogen.
- Fermented foods like miso, tempeh, natto, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir etc. They each have different excellent benefits but a common thread is to keep your gut healthy by providing probiotics.
RYB: What is your go to meal that is easy to prepare and nutritious?
MD: Udon or spiralized zucchini noodles in soup or in a stir-fry.
RYB: Whats a ‘myth’ associated with healthy eating (or Macrobiotic diet) you would like to set straight:
MD: Thats it’s boring, or lacking in flavour. We are accustomed to over salted, over-sweetened, chemically flavoured food often made with bad oil and even rancid flour or milk. It can take a moment for the palate to re-adjust and become subtle.
RYB: Where do you find inspiration in the kitchen?
MD: These days I am so inspired by fermenting foods and sprouting. Opposite ends of the live food spectrum! I am always inspired by beautiful, fresh food. As well, I just got given a Thermomix, a spiralizer and a dehydrator so I am playing in the kitchen!
RYB: How would you describe your yoga teaching?
MD: Yoga changed me from the outside in and back again. Every arm of the practice has supported me in my life at one time or another from philosophy, to meditation to the poses. Yoga has taught me that I am capable of more than I thought and to not set limitations and to rest in the unknown. Yoga has taught me radical trust, patience, perseverance, dedication, compassion and the power of community. The community of yogis around the world whom I have studied with, practiced with and call my friends are bright, curious, compassionate and each full of individual sparkle. I am constantly amazed at the generosity of the practice. It gives and keeps giving to you if you are open to receive. I hope my teaching reflects my love and devotion to yoga. I hope I may share or facilitate on a tangible level, in a way that people can experience for themselves that yoga is a practice to transform your life on all levels. I also hope my teaching reflects my voracious curiosity and appetite to keep learning. I teach to learn. I hope my teaching helps!
RYB: You are currently based in Ibiza - what is your favorite thing about living on the island?
MD: Thats easy. The country life: farmers fields, food to forage. The dark skies full of stars, the fresh air flowing off the sea through the pine trees and the sweet water that comes underground from the Pyrenees. The unparalleled generosity and comfortable eccentricity of the people I have made as friends. The great weather. The big hills and the beaches.
RYB: Your inspirations on the mat?
MD: Ah, dedication and beginners mind. Endeavoring to ’not know' what will happen in my practice. This means not setting limitations or expectations for myself. Not telling myself I cannot do something. Maybe today is the day. Nor having expectations and insisting to myself if the practice doesn’t look a certain way I have not ‘accomplished’. Knowing, as one of my teachers says,’ that the key to next room is in the room I am in.'
RYB: What is a dream you would like to manifest?
MD: I am almost there! I really want to live in a house in the country and grow a garden. Simple dream.