NoMatYogi Pia is a Dutch cellist and yogi living in the USA!

Tofu! Sometimes I crave meat, sometimes fish and now it is tofu! Yum. Below you can find a recipe of a typical lunch/dinner stir-fry in the Davis’ household. Quick, healthy and TASTY!

I discovered a wonderful substitute for the yummy smoked-tamari-tofu from Ekoplaza in the Netherlands: Trader Joe’s baked and savory tofu!

This recipe is written for two people (maybe with some left overs, maybe not!)

  • 1 cup brown rice (preferably organic; great source of complex carbs
  • 1 small/medium onion (or half a large one)
  • two handfuls of haricot vert/green beans
  • half a package of mushrooms
  • 1 pack of Trader Joe’s: Smoked and Savory Tofu  (or: Gerookte Tofu met Tamari van de bio winkel in NL)
  • 2-3 (or to taste) grated tbs of fresh ginger*
  • 2-3 (or to taste) tbs of Tamari (or regular soy sauce, although I prefer Tamari because of flavor)

Optional: some freshly grated pepper and paprika (NL: paprika poeder)

* I always freeze my ginger in a plastic bag. That way, it doesn’t go to waste quickly, and it is very easy to grate!

Firstly get your brown rice cooking. It usually takes at least 45min or so. Bring 2,5 cups (whichever cup you use for the rice) of water to a boil, add 1-2 teaspoons of high quality salt), add the rice, cover with a lid and bring down to a simmer.

You now have 10-15 minutes before you start the stir-fry process, perfect time to clean those dishes from this morning 😉

Clean up the beans and cut in half. Bring some water with salt (and optionally a touch of olive oil) to a boil, add the beans and cook till tender or however cooked you like your beans, I did mine for 8 minutes or so. Do keep in mind that the beans will cook about 2-3 more minutes. When the beans are done, strain them and set aside.

Cut the onion and start frying on medium heat in a medium/large skillet or Dutch oven. I used olive oil, but coconut oil works just as well! Make sure to stir them from time to time. Meanwhile, you cut the mushrooms in four and add them to the onions after five minutes. Add 2/3 of the tamari and if you wish, you can add the pepper and paprika now. Keep frying for 2-3 minutes (and stirring, it is a stir-fry after all :)) at medium heat while adding the beans, the rest of the soy sauce, and ginger.

Fry the tofu in a separate small frying pan, once crispy and browned you can add it to the veggies!   I personally like to cut my tofu quite small, it gets more crispy that way! 🙂

Once the tofu is done you can add it to your veggies. Do taste!

Now its just a matter of waiting for the rice. If it is not near done, turn off the veggies and reheat a bit when the rice is done, otherwise you can serve it right away!

As a professional cellist, people constantly ask me if I have gotten injured from ‘over’-practicing. While that has never happened, I have suffered from injuries outside of cello that severely interfered with my career.

Back in 2009, I went sledding and crashed into a tree. ‘Luckily’ I missed my spine by an inch but I did end up with a broken and dislocated rib, a cracked disc, and damaged muscle and cartilage. Yes, OOF. Ouch and Oh god, what am I going to do now?! Wrong answer: not listening to body and playing the cello on heavy painkillers… Right answer: listening to body and, YOGA!

nomatyoga - Viparitadandasana
Lovely backbend here, good prep for Kapotanasana.

Okay, that might sound really black and white but I do believe that when one is extremely determined and focused, they are at risk of denying and ignoring issues that could possibly be in the way of their ‘path’. That’s an interesting one isn’t it? The path, because we like to write our own path and not be told what our path might ‘have’ to be for an undetermined amount of time.

Obviously I wasn’t able to completely deny or ignore the effects of this sledding snafu but even within my limitations, I still didn’t listen. In music, as an advanced student you relearn how to ‘listen’. What is honest listening? It is about actively listening (not relying on muscle memory), analyzing and then: adjusting! That’s right, adjusting. So not only do you need to learn how to listen and then analyze but mostly what you do after that!

For me, at first, there was no other option but not to play for a while (months..). Meanwhile I did a lot of Physical Therapy, which hurt like hell and sadly wasn’t freeing me up or helping me. I am not saying that they weren’t great, I was a patient at a special spine clinic at the hospital and they were very knowledgable and willing to figure it out. It just didn’t help me.

Once I was able to move a little bit, I started playing recitals on pain killers…if any of my students today would do that, I’d forbid them. It’s similar to taking sudafed, aspirine, and all the other medicine from the self medication isle in the pharmacy when you are suffering from a cold. The better thing to do would be to drink hot lemonades, rest, be sick, get sicker and then get better! Of course, you can take an aspirin when you have a thumping headache. Of course, you can push through every once in a while. But not all the time and not for a prolonged amount of time.

After a year or so of painful playing, and this is no fun when you average around eight-hours-a-day.., one of my friends asked me to join her to a Bikram Yoga class. Well, that definitely wasn’t love at first try. It was stinky, long, uncomfortable, and I felt really out of place between all those yogis that just seemed to thrive in the unbearable heat! But, my muscles were tingling and after going every day for ten days (that was what the beginner package was), I could play a little longer without my back completely cramping up! Wow. While I had never given up on the recovery process, I realized that this tiny bit of relief meant so much to me and my cello practice. I used to have a fairly flexible back, having danced ballet and all, but after the accident, my back was so stiff that I couldn’t even think of doing a backbend. My range of motion was very little, I could bend sideways only an inch or so, backwards?? not, just not. When you watch my backbending pictures now, it is hard to imagine that I started out like that.

After a few months of going to class regularly, I made such massive improvements that it really became a necessity for my career to practice yoga. I practiced this style of yoga for about a year-and-a-half while I was still studying, but meanwhile, I also enrolled in a class at the university: Hatha Yoga for Musicians with prof. Robert Swedberg (current UM Music students, go take the class!). That was the first time that I was introduced to a different kind of yoga, and while I did really love the heat in the Bikram studio, the freedom and playfulness of these Hatha sessions just spoke to me!

The Hatha classes ended at the university and I had to stop going to the Bikram studio as well because school was insane and I was also a 10th year university student 😉 But thankfully I knew how to practice a few things at home to relieve my back cramping (more about that later in a different post), enough to make it through the rest of my degree.

When I had to move back for two years to my home country of The Netherlands because of a Fulbright stipulation, which meant, moving away from the world that I had carved out for myself, and leaving my fiancee behind in the USA, I crashed. I didn’t understand why it had to happen like that and just broke down. Cello didn’t feel good because it is so connected to my soul, and my soul was taking a hard hit. In fact, I didn’t really enjoy anything I was doing. Finally, after almost a year, I decided to find a yoga studio because I knew that no matter what, it would make me feel better.

It did! I started learning about the spiritual side of yoga and how it was healing for my soul. I already had the experience of ‘healing’ a physical injury but this was a whole new world for me. Of course, where I practiced and with whom had a tremendous impact on that but none the less, yoga once again, had something in store for me that I couldn’t wait to try out!

Of course it makes sense that when you stretch and strengthen your body on a daily basis, it brings empowerment to the soul. But it is much more than that. At Open Yoga, there was absolute freedom of spirituality. Personally, I loved going into the room, lighting a candle and setting an intention for class. Learning how to meditate by simply ‘just doing it’ felt great. Of course not all the time and sometimes you wonder, where in the world do these thoughts come from?!?! but it is so very good to learn methods to deal with these ‘restrictions’ while still having enough freedom to explore.

This is one intense pose: lotus legs and deep backbend! It was also quite painful on the gravel ;)
This is one intense pose: lotus legs and deep backbend! It was also quite painful on the gravel 😉

During a very special ‘challenge’ that the studio organized: yoga for 21 days straight, weekdays at 6am and weekend days at 7/8am, I also learned how to chant for the first time. WOW. This is something that I want to get into much more. As a professional (dreamer and) musician, the power of sound for me is immense. The effect of 20 people in one room, chanting together and freeing their inner voice is just magical. I am sure that the people who were in the room with me that day and that are reading this blog will hover for a moment and cherish the memory. During this challenge, which really didn’t feel much like a challenge but more like a journey, is also when the NoMatYogis first met! 🙂

So, that sums up my love for yoga so far! In the short period of time of practice I have already experienced the healing of an injury, started carving a path toward soothing my soul and have found tons of soul friends. Every day is different and the way we practice goes in waves too but I know that I will stick to this for the rest of my life!

Bye bye summer! Hello…winter? Michigan is definitely doing its ‘thing’ these days. Just about two weeks ago we saw our first snowflakes drizzle down the sky and my iPhone weather app tells me right now that it might be in the 70s this week! What? That’s right, 70s in November, can I still call that Indian summer? (For my European friends out there, 70 fahrenheit is 21 celsius!)

Back in July, my husband and I went to Lake Michigan for a work-trip. We took an extra day and it might have been one of the most beautiful days during the whole summer! We were in desperate need of some peace and quiet after the crazy green card-process and move across the world that we just went through. It might have been only one afternoon, but practice some yoga and it suddenly feels like a full blown vacation! Of course we don’t get to practice in such inspiring places daily, but it is so good for the soul to take the opportunity when it arises.

 It is when we are off balance, sad, and unstable, that we ‘forget’ to practice, eat clean and take care of ourselves.

To start building our NoMatYogi community we first started working on an instagram account to explore our style and philosophy. To jumpstart it and give ourselves some incentive to produce daily yoga photos, we participated in a few instagram challenges. In July, I participated in the month-long backbending challenge hosted by the beautiful yogis: Kino McGregor and Kerri Verna sponsored by Alo Yoga.

My ‘lake Michigan’ series above was the result of a month long warm-up and a short warm-up the day off. I certainly deepened my backbends through this challenge but also deepened the spiritual side of my practice. As you read above, I actually moved across the ocean during this challenge and while it might seem crazy to do a daily yoga challenge right in the middle of that, that is when I needed my practice most! Generally, us, human beings, manage our positive/good/healthy habits quite well when we are centered, happy, and stable. It is when we are off balance, sad, and unstable, that we ‘forget’ to practice, eat clean and take care of ourselves. I have been learning to remember my needs when feeling down. Truly that is the first step, so if you don’t remember it by yourself, a daily yoga journal could be great. That way, no matter how you feel, you remind yourself of your practice. Remember though, keeping a journal alone is not enough but you also don’t have to go over board and start practicing two hours a day, create a daily meditation routine and eat healthy every day and every meal!

We used our favorite park in Groningen as our yogamat. The beginnings of NoMatYoga had just been born and we were ready to post the next day, or so we thought.

Looking back I realize how little we knew about blogging and all there’s to it. Now, four months later; a move across the world and some teacher training behind us, we are finally there! Actually ready to start posting our learnings about yoga and all those other life happenings. Right?!

We were a bit uneasy that first time of shooting photos around town. Are we good enough? How do we look? Is everyone watching us? Of course we are! Right?! So many questions and such little answers. Well, we just did it! We told ourselves we were going to do this so well, there we go!