How can one implement and embrace yoga philosophy in every day life? Foodsharing provides a possibility for those wishing to practice yoga off the mat.


Foodsharing – How does it work?

How does foodsharing work? As the name implies, the goal of the organization is to promote the sharing of food. There are numerous locations,  such as AYI in Ulm, that are set up as distribution points where food that would otherwise remain unused or thrown out can be passed on to people who wish to consume it.  These locations are known as fair-teiler. Such a distributor may have a refrigerator or shelves where the goods can be properly stored. All fair-teiler are open to the public and anyone can participate by dropping off or taking food home. Any participant is responsible for their own contribution and what they do with the foods that they take with them.  

The Foodsharing Initiative is a non-profit organization which was founded in 2012 with the goal of combating superfluous food waste. There are currently about 25,000 volunteers in the German-speaking countries of Europe, who are aptly named foodsavers, as well as 3,000 participating companies. The main task of the foodsaver is to pick up the leftover foods from companies or restaurants. The pickups are coordinated via the organization's internet platform: Through this website anyone can register and become a foodsaver, allowing the general public to participate directly. 

Foodsharing as an example of living yoga philosophy?

Was it pure coincidence that a yoga school chose to set itself up as a fair-teiler distribution point? As you might guess, it was a deliberate choice with very good reasons. 

Once you have been practicing yoga for a while, it becomes apparent that  the physical yoga practice is not a sport. We cannot simply show up and do mat gymnastics because you will inevitable start grappling through yoga philosophy. It is true that in the  Ashtanga Vinyasa tradition there is a strong emphasis on the physical asana practice, but in reality it is only the superficial layer of a very profound inquiry of yoga. Once you start digging deeper and discover the philosophy that is interwoven throughout the physical practice, you start to understand how it is much more than exercise. From that point  you start to explore ways to carry your yoga  practice into your daily life. This realization effects  your interactions in your own life and personal development, your community and your environment. One very central theme in yogic thought is mindful and respectful treatment of all living beings and the precious natural resources of our world. 

Yoga philosophy off the mat

The philosophy of Ashtanga yoga is based primarily on the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. The Sutra can be described as the eight-fold path toward enlightenment. The very first limb of this path included the 5 Yamas, which instruct us on how to respect all beings. There are 3 Yamas which one can immediately connect with foodsharing: Ahimsa (non-violence), Brahma-Charya (acting in alignment with a greater purpose) and Asteya (not stealing). 

Ahimsa, or non-violence, can be applied to the choice and handling of food. The conscious decision for or against certain foods influences demand and ultimately the production of those goods. 

Brahma-Charya, or acting in alignment with a higher purpose relate to how we treat the resources made available to us. By mindfully handling the precious resources of our earth we are acting in accordance with the ideal that our earth and its resources are precious gifts. 

And finally Asteya, or not stealing relates to unethical practices such as mass production under unfair conditions which strip the earth of its precious resources unnecessarily. Foodsharing strives  to combat this wastefulness. 

While you can certainly find countless other points that intersect with yoga philosophy, we wanted to share a few of the main reasons that AYI Ulm chose to participate in the foodsharing program. 

A "Fair-Teiler“ in the Yoga Studio

One day a big red refrigerator appeared at the top of the stairs just to the right of the entrance of the AYInstitute Ulm, and the curious yogis of Ulm started asking questions about what the refrigerator's purpose would be and if it would be a permanent installment to the school. 

The use of the new appliance was promptly introduced. It would be neither a dispenser of cold beverages for thirsty yogis nor an emergency food reserve for hungry yoga teachers, but rather that AYI had signed up to be a distribution point for the Foodsharing organization and the refrigerator would be used as a storage place for food trading. 

Reaction from AYI Ulm yogis

How did the yogis of AYI Ulm respond to this offering to take their yoga practice off the mat? Well, after a few skeptical glances in the new fridge, the first yogis were quickly convinced and were pleased at how their distribution point was receiving quite a few regular users. 

Incidentally, the Ulm yogis were particularly enthusiastic about how the use of the fair-teiler could be so wonderfully combined with their daily yoga practice. As yogis come to the shala rather often, it makes it easy to participate in the program, which helps them to actively combat unnecessary food waste. Be it bread, tomatoes or celery: there is always a surprise waiting for you that can be easily cooked up in a recipe on that day. 

But it is much more than a practical and cheap way to eat. The very idea that the same food you are bringing home with you to enjoy might have otherwise been tossed out leaves quite an impression. By interacting with food in this way, we are supporting the yogic belief that we are responsible for protecting our environment and it's resources. 

The yoga teachers at AYI Ulm agree. For example, Madeleine has enjoyed the odd snack after teaching on Friday nights, thanks to the fair-teiler. Lisa has also had good experiences with the distribution point and was able to surprise her roommate by cooking her a dish from her favorite restaurant using what she found there. The ultimate benefit for Ina is that she can indulge in her passion for cooking, without having to worry about who to share the extras with. 

Curious to see the big red refrigerator and how foodsharing works in practice? Come by AYI Ulm and try it out for yourself :)

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