Lifestyle Yoga

Yoga to Boost Immunity

March 8, 2020

When Women’s Day rolls around we talk about women.  Strength, equality, acceptance, rights.  This year I wanted to talk about something more relevant.  Immunity.  Immunity to ‘what will people say/think/do’.  Immunity to unrealistic expectations. Immunity to trying to please everyone.  Immunity to self-doubt, self-sabotage.

The key to fighting any kind of external attack is your immunity.  The higher your immunity levels, the less likely you are to fall prey to pesky germs.

I suggested a collaboration to my friend Medha of Amruta Bindu Yoga a day before Women’s Day.  Within two minutes we were ready.  The deadly Corona virus spreading like wildfire across planet earth, we decided to focus on how yoga can help.  Yoga’s positive impact on boosting your immunity is proven and well documented.  A regular yoga practice helps in lowering your stress hormones and stimulates the lymphatic system (which eliminates toxins from your body).  Inversions (asanas where your head is below the level of your heart) help in increasing blood circulation.  This increased circulation helps in taking oxygenated blood to your organs, which helps in keeping the organs healthy.

A couple of days ago I came across a yoga sequence to strengthen the immune system, designed by BKS Iyengar.  It’s being widely circulated on Instagram and I came across it on the IYNAUS page.  Medha and I decided to share the sequence with our followers.

This sequence was created by BKS Iyengar to boost immunity to fortify the body against the invasion of germs, bacteria and viruses. Fun fact: it’s Medha and I performing the asanas in the images.

 

Daily practice is a challenge, specially when you’re practicing solo.  We decided to help by putting together this checklist for you.  You can print this out and place it where you’re likely to see it, be it your practice space, your dresser, your bathroom mirror, in front of your desk etc.  It’s a reminder to you that all of us need a little help with our yoga practice.  You can also download the Daily Yoga Practice Checklist by clicking on the ‘Download’ button at the end of the blog.

Over the next few days we’re going to be discussing how each of these asanas improve your immunity.  We’ll discuss the asanas at length, giving you new insight into them.  Please reach out to any of us (on Instagram/Facebook) with your queries and we will help you out!  We’re incredibly excited about this challenge and hope it really makes a difference to you.

Download the Daily Yoga Practice Checklist.

Follow Amrutha Bindu Yoga here.

Follow Medha Bhaskar here.

Follow me (Pragya Bhatt) here.

 

You can read about the individual asanas below:

  1. Uttanasana
  2. Adhomukha svanasana
  3. Prasarita Padottanasana
  4. Sirsasana
  5. Dwi pada Viparita Dandasana
  6. Halasana
  7. Sarvangasana
Lifestyle

Deep Tissue Massage – Treat Your Inner Masochist

February 27, 2020

My yogi-care arsenal includes regular massages.  In going through some old blogs I discovered that I have written about Abhyangams in detail in this one.  I still continue to do a hot oil massage once a week, but sometimes (often- times) I like to mix things up.  So the other day I went to the JW Marriot spa for a deep tissue massage.

A few weeks ago the Asia Spa magazine gave me a voucher to try any massage of my choice. I’m not one for massages that promise to ‘soothe’ and ‘relax’, ‘soft’ and ‘gentle’ just doesn’t do it for me.  I  usually look for something stronger and more intense for muscles that have been contorted to all kinds of angles.  I’m a masochist – and most body-work enthusiasts are!

One lazy afternoon I found myself suddenly free.  I promptly drove myself to the Marriot.  They have a mind-boggling list of massages, each more exotic than the other.  I chose the ‘Intense Muscle Release Massage’.

What is a Deep Tissue Massage?

A deep tissue massage is a massage technique favored by dancers and athletes for it’s therapeutic benefits on tired muscles and injuries.  It consists of sustained pressure being applied using strong, slow strokes that target the innermost muscles and connective tissue.  This reduces the tension in the muscles and promotes faster healing by increasing blood flow and reducing inflammation.

Most people assume that daily yoga has us floating around on a higher plane of long, lithe and relaxed muscles.  All I can say to that is you haven’t attended an Iyengar class focusing on the Virbhadrasana alignment.  As an asana practitioner, I’m so used to sore muscles that when something isn’t aching I feel I’m not pushing myself enough!  I have a tiny collection of massage oils that I use often to ease sore and stiff muscles.  I’ve written about my weekly abhyangam practice.  I’ve been doing it for years, and couldn’t recommend it more.

 

The Massage and the Aftermath

The massage was great.  The therapist knew her strokes.  She started with gentle strokes, to warm up my muscles.  Then she progressed to stronger and more powerful strokes.  She used her fingers, palms and elbows.  She worked out the kinks from my upper back (which is always tight) and kneaded the stubborn knots out of my thighs.  It wasn’t one of those massages where you’re half asleep with a blissful smile on your face.  This massage consisted of much grimacing and torment.  After an hour of this torture, the therapist finally stopped.

I sighed with relief.  The aftermath of being pummeled unrelentingly is pure bliss.  Later I stewed in the cozy warmth of the sauna and steam room…

The Verdict

I’m already planning my next visit.

Thank you Asia Spa Magazine for making this experience possible!

 

Happy after an hour long torture session.

 

Relaxing with a good book and some tea afterwards.

 

My kind of munchies.

Books Lifestyle

The Industrialization of Vadapav

February 2, 2020

My tryst with vadapav began late in life.  A couple of years ago I was in Pune and in between classes at RIMYI.  There are small snacks kiosks not too far from the institute.  Many students hang around them with some tea as we wait for classes to start again.  One fateful day I decided to try vadapav…and wasn’t too impressed.  After all, it’s just a deep friend potato patty in a bun.  A little chilly powder and a whole chilly, by way of garnishing.  I’ve had this snack between classes, and on breaks on the Mumbai-Pune highway.

Not much of a foodie, I’ve rarely ventured out for vadapav in Bangalore.  But one day I spotted a ‘Goli Vadapav’ kiosk on Indiranagar Double Road, and over the weekend, on MG Road!  Imagine my surprise when I came across ‘My Journey with Vadapav’ in a nondescript book sale in the by-lanes of Malleshwaram!  I had to pick it up.  I was also kicked that this book fit the first prompt of my #readingwithmuffy challenge (saved by the little dog on the cover!)

However, it turns out that there is more ‘dog’ in this book, than just the one on the cover…

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Food Lifestyle

Notes From an Elimination Diet

January 31, 2020

…and what we learned from it.

December was a month of many parties, and numerous pumpkin-spice lattes for me.  Come January I promised myself to clean up my diet.

Most of us tend to eat mindlessly unless we consciously decide not to.  Dairy and gluten insidiously creep into my plate and down my throat before I can squeak in protest.  I try to go gluten & dairy free every once in a while.  This time I decided to make all 31 days of January about elimination.  I eliminated all food items known to cause inflammation in the body such as gluten and dairy.  The body needs 21 days to completely reset, and I decided to test my willpower and continue the diet for the entire month.

The great thing about being active on social media is that you are always connected to like-minded people.  I didn’t want to go on a cleanse alone, and within a couple of days I had 14 people who wanted to join me in my cleanse, thanks to the joy that is Instagram.

 

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Food Lifestyle Yoga

The Weight You Never Lose

January 23, 2020

My ‘before-after’ photos are well documented. Check this Instagram picture in case you haven’t seen it yet.

My weight loss didn’t happen overnight, nor did it start after some sort of epiphany. I have been overweight my whole life, and at the end of many a hurtful barb. Only those who’ve borne the brunt of carelessly said harsh comments know how deep those wounds run. The battle, of course, wasn’t only with weight, but also with self-acceptance, self-love, body image, and self esteem. Growing up I thought if I was thinner, then life would become better. If only clothes would look on me as they did on thinner girls, I would be happier, people would treat me better. Years later I’ve lost weight, lead a better lifestyle, embody the epitome of fitness for many people, wear anything I want to. I breathe well, life is good. But…

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blog Lifestyle Yoga

2019 : The End of a Decade

December 28, 2019

The last blog for the decade can’t be anything but a collection of highlights of the year gone by…

January 2019 started with me defining my theme for the year.  Month after month I strove to stick to it.  I reminded myself of it in gratitude journals and monthly reviews.  When asked about my word for the year in a bloggers’ group I’m a member of, I realized that mine would have to be perseverance.

February saw me travelling for the first time to Sri Lanka, to teach internationally.  I was excited to be teaching in Tangalle, a beautiful and calm little beach town.  We had a blast and on the way back I wrote a poem through which I tried to capture my thoughts and feelings.

March was a month of planning and preparing for a possible retreat in Italy.  TBH, I wasn’t sure I would be able to pull it off, but I told myself that I’d already taught in Sri Lanka to positive reviews and with the right attitude, this would also materialize.  It was a charmed time, teaching alongside Suzanne, sharing food and stories, long walks through olive gardens and along the Mediterranean.  I can’t believe it’s happening again in 2020, and this time we promise it’s going to bigger and better.

In April I watched ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and wrote possibly the most fun blog ever (going by the views and comments).  What else do you expect from a yogini?  Read the blog now, I promise you’ll love it.

In May I did a little bit of humorous soul searching, trying to gain clarity on who I am and what I want.  It will resonate with all those of us who have ever used #myfitnessjourney.

June was D-month.  The month of the long-awaited yoga retreat in Liguria.  We had advertised and planned.  Discussed and thought.  It comprised getting documentation work ready for my sister, my cousin, my boyfriend and myself to head to Italy on a 15 DAY sojourn.  None of us had done anything this exciting ever in our lives and we were stoked to say the least.  We booked tickets and accommodation.  I planned my classes.  And we were finally on our way.  Read more of our adventures here.

By July I was a published author.  My book, Beyond Asanas, was in bookstores and I did my share of promotional activities for it.  My friends, family and students clicked pictures of my book wherever they saw it.  Being a published author which was a life-long dream and in August I was forced to think about reading and writing.

In September I was in Pune for my month at RIMYI (which is fast becoming an annual tradition).  I also attended my first Lit Fest as a writer and that memory will always be special.  A chance question at my session became one of the most viewed blogs of the year.  It’s called “Why Am I Not Losing Weight?” and you can read it here.

October saw me back in Bangalore to resume classes.  And a pleasant surprise came to me as if by Providence herself!   An old friend living in Tokyo, googles for yoga teachers and comes upon me.  And just a few weeks later we have a reunion after 10 whole years.  A decade changes us in more ways than we can define.  And good friendships – they remind you of why you were friends in the first place..

In November I was compelled to take a walk down memory lane and into my closet!  It was also the month where I received a sweet note from the PMO.

December was a month of national turbulence.  My mind was also restless which is why my Christmas post wasn’t all eggnog and reindeers like I had hoped it would be.  I wrote a hard-hitting poem about another event that shook the country, and for the first time performed it on stage too!

It’s almost the end of December, and with it the end of the decade.  I’ve been thinking of my word/theme for 2020.  I’ve been extremely fidgety in the last few months.  The main question plaguing my waking moments is ‘What next?’  I realize I want to move on to doing projects that have a greater impact.  I want to use everything I’ve learned and experienced this far to do something more meaningful in the coming months.  I want to do better projects, push the envelope in terms of what I have to offer.  Therefore my theme/word for 2020 came to be quite organically.  And my word is : fruition.

I wish you all dear readers a very happy new year and promise that in 2020 this blog will be have you more engaged, informed and inspired.  So stay with me and stay safe!

 

In March I was extremely honored to receive the ‘Woman Achiever Award’ in the field of yoga by the prestigious Karnataka Association for Small Scale Industries (KASSIA). The night was magical and truly special.

 

‘Beyond Asanas’ was adjudged best book under the ‘Health and Fitness’ Category at the Gurgaon Lit Festival in November. This was my first award as a writer and I was thrilled to bits.

 

Lifestyle Yoga

Silent Night…

December 25, 2019

“However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.” – Stanley Kubrick

The last few days have been turbulent for the country and nation. Opinions have been divided, demonstrations have brought many together. We’re all waiting to see what happens next. There’s an uncertainty but also a belief that we can make a difference and so we’ve come out in droves to express ourselves. That’s democracy in a young, complex nation.

I type this after a party in a friend’s house where there was too much cake, lots of libations, a cozy warmth and an eagerness for the year ahead. This morning I saw a man on a sidewalk wearing a light lungi which was blowing in the chilly wind, a face that had never known too much cake and the stark certainty of knowing that the coming year would be as cold as this one. Power, justice, the right to be seen and heard are denied to most because of the accident of birth.

Dark thoughts in the face of the ubiquitous Christmas cheer, but I had to share them, lest we forget our own power to change the things we can, and the danger in becoming complacent with those that we cannot.

Lifestyle Travel Yoga

Start Running Regularly in 2020: 5 Easy Tips

December 20, 2019

My tryst with running started a decade ago in the Infosys gym.  It was called Chisel and they played peppy music.  We were only allowed 15 minutes on the treadmill at a time.

At the end of 2006 I was onsite for 6 months.  Days in Ipswich were dark and cold. I walked into the office in the dark and by the time I left it was dark again. I would arrive early – workout at the gym and then head to my desk.  Over the weekends I would brave the biting cold and go running before my roommates were up.  I used to joke that I was the only brown person running on the streets of Ipswich.

Now it’s been more than a decade of running.  While not a member of any running club, I have participated in quite a few runs, even making it to the Hall of Fame of the Go Heritage Runs!  I enjoy running now, but it wasn’t always so.   When I think over all these years I realize that there are a few things that helped me in inculcating the habit of running into my lifestyle.  Hopefully some of these will help you too.

After completing the Ooty edition of the Go Heritage Run.  June 2017.

 

With my running buddies. Better than alarm clocks to get you up and out of of the house for a run. Both Aruna and Ashima have moved to other cities – and are sorely missed.

 

After a GHR run in Srirangapatnam. At this point I’d say this is my running uniform.  November 2017.

1. Designate a day.

For me it’s usually Sunday.  Having a specific day ensures that you get to it.  If I want to go out with friends I’ll do it on Friday night.  Even if I go out on Saturday, I’ll come home early and make sure I’m up for my weekly run.  If you don’t designate a day, you’ll end up postponing your runs indefinitely.

2. Pick a uniform.

Over the years I’ve realized that I tend to gravitate towards the same purple ASICS tights and pink Nike running top.  They fit well, keep me warm and I love the way they feel!  It can get embarrassing also, like when I wore the same thing to the Go Heritage Run in Srirangapatna and Ooty, which were a few months apart.

3. Don’t compete.

I’ve seen a lot of new runners trying to compete with the seasoned ones in terms of timing and distance.  They’re just setting themselves up for failure.  Running requires dedication, devotion and consistency.  And rhythm.  Focus on cultivating your own unique, sweet rhythm.  Once you discover this rhythm, you’ll be doing long distances easily and blissfully.

4. Choose a good playlist.

For me this is essential.  The wrong music slows me down and bores me.  Something bright and peppy keeps me going.  I also love a touch of seasonal favorites.  These days a few Christmas-y songs, in two months a few love songs.  I generally use Gaana or Wynk.

5. Use Runkeeper.

It’s nice to be able to track how much you’ve run.  You can pace yourself, see your route, and even compare your runs with previous ones.  It gives me a sense of accomplishment and also encourages me to run more.

Admittedly, the first few Sundays will be hard, but once you get into the swing of things it will become a habit.  You will relish calm Sunday mornings when everyone is asleep and you get to watch the city waking up, enjoy the sunrise.  You haven’t enjoyed breakfast unless you’ve had it after a solid 5 km run.  Do yourself a favor and in 2020 spend one morning a week running and see how just one day can transform the rest of your day.

Last year I wrote this blog after my first 10 km run.  I talk about how I manifested a life full of vibrant good health and a focus on fitness.  Looking at the photos fills me with all the nostalgia in the world!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go for an evening run!

I wish!

 

 

Beyond Asanas: The Asanas Lifestyle Yoga

Tight Hips & Deep-Seated Insecurities: A Connection

December 14, 2019

The Anjaneyasana helps in releasing deep-seated fears, insecurities and trauma. Which is the reason it can be an uncomfortable posture for many practitioners.

 

Most of my students have super tight hips.  This often lead to back pain (another thing just about everyone has) and knee/ankle pain.  Common causes for tight hips are a sedentary lifestyle, seated jobs, bad posture, wrong shoes etc.

The Anjaneyasana is one of the most effective asanas to combat these problems.  In gym/fitness class parlance it is also called the low lunge pose.  When done correctly this posture helps to loosen up tight glutes and hamstrings.  It also provides a gentle stretch to the psoas and the hip joint.  You can also use props such as bolsters, blocks and chairs to enhance the benefits of the posture.

If you’re following me on Instagram or Facebook, you know that in the past few years my interest has gradually turned towards the internal benefits of a regular asana practice. The fact that yoga helps is no longer debatable.  Now we are trying to study the impact yogasanas have on your mental makeup.

The Connection to Deep-Seated Emotions

The Anjaneyasana brings deep-seated fears, traumas and insecurities to the fore, making the practitioner uncomfortable.  This is because when we are in the low-lunge we are actively stimulating the muladhaara chakra which is located at the base of the spine.  This chakra is connected to our sense of survival, security and independence.  When this is threatened, the resulting emotional upheaval is stored in the hip area.

For detailed step-by-step instructions for this asana, refer to my book Beyond Asanas.  It is available for Kindle too!  The book has beautiful photographs done by Joel Koechlin and an insightful foreword by Kalki Koechlin.

 

Lift the torso so that the spine is perpendicular to the floor.

 

Finally lift the arms up and explore your limits through deep inhalations and sinking further into the pelvis.

For more effective yogasanas for back pain check out this blog from my archives.  I’ve illustrated several asanas with detailed descriptions too.

Books Lifestyle

The Reading Life (#readingwithmuffy)

December 12, 2019

I wish this bookshelf was mine, but alas! It sits at the Penguin office in Delhi. Every time I visit, I get to pick books from it for my personal reading.  My own kid in a candy store moment.

 

I’m always behind on my reading.  At any given point in time I’m reading (at least) three books.  I read on my Kindle, on my Kindle app on the phone and on the Juggernaut app.  Along with these I have random pdfs on my laptop.  Also – my bookshelves are overflowing with books ‘I will read next’.  Always so much to read and so little time.

A few weeks ago in a moment I was feeling particularly ambitious, I announced to a close friend that I wouldn’t buy any books in 2020.  Instead I’m going dive deep into my bookshelves.  I’ll make it a point to read books that I own and haven’t gotten around to reading yet.  One book a month.  Once I’ve read it, I’ll decide whether to keep it or donate it to Blossoms.  This should lighten my TBR pile, and ensure that I actually read and don’t just hoard books.  I’m also going to look at this as being a way to sift and sort through the thousands of books I’ve accumulated over the years.

I also love a good reading challenge.  I feel it adds more depth and variety to my reading.  While I love gravitas of something like ‘A Small Town Sea‘, I also relish the light and airy world of Regency Romances replete with the dukes and their unwilling mistresses!  So when a fellow blogger (Shalini of Kohl Eyed Me) floated the #readingwithmuffy challenge in a group we’re both a part of, I thought it would be a great way to expand my reading horizons.  Plus there’s a prize at the end of it!  Which bookworm doesn’t want a prize to read?  Below is the challenge.  If you can recommend any books for the various categories – please do!  I’m always on the lookout for interesting recommendations.