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Intermittent Fasting Made Me a Better Yogi

April 25, 2019

…and 4 Other Unexpected Results of the Latest Fitness Fad

I.F. (Intermittent Fasting) seems to be all the rage right now.  Fitness experts are expounding it and every one (and their moms) are trying it. At the risk of sounding trite, I’d say I.F. has changed people’s lives.  It’s helped people shed oodles of weight. It’s reduced the oft present stress around ‘clean eating’, ‘balanced eating’, ‘right eating’ by eliminating eating all together! And in my experience, it’s done a lot that we’re not even talking about.

I’m not one for fitness fads, but I’m also experimental.  I’ll always try something, unless it’s too ‘out there’ for me.  (And, to be honest, few things really are.)

WHAT IS INTERMITTENT FASTING?

Intermittent fasting is a system of eating where there is a specified ‘ eating window’, and ‘fasting window’.  There are many different styles of Intermittent Fasting depending on these windows. The most common is the 16/8 fast, where you fast for sixteen hours and eat for eight.  You can also do a 12/12 fast, where you fast for twelve hours and then have an eating window of 12 hours. You can fast on alternate days, or once in two days…

And to my surprise I found that this system of eating ‘worked’ for me.  Below are 5 things it did for me, and which have me now.

I.F. MADE ME A BETTER YOGI

I kid you not.  I’ve practiced yoga almost daily for the past decade.  In a world where distractions are many and time a rare commodity, the only way I can do this is by waking up at an ungodly hour to get some uninterrupted practice time before the rest of the world awakes.  More often than not, I’m sluggish and slow in the morning, sore from the previous day.

Enter I.F. and my body feels clearer. I am experiencing a kind of energy I’ve never experienced before. The kind where your brain might say ‘no’ but your body will move into the first sun salutation with no complaints.  By reducing the quantity of food I consume, energy that would otherwise be spent on metabolizing and digesting food is available for morning yoga practice. My asanas are sharper, my body seems to move with no resistance and I am fully present for my practice.

I.F. GOT RID OF MY BRAIN FOG

Yoga is not only a physical practice.  However, even the physical practice of yoga (asana practice) is linked to your mind.  If your mind isn’t awake, your body is unlikely to act. After practicing I.F. for almost a month now I’ve noticed that my brain doesn’t take too long to wake up.  Prior to this I would dilly-dally and procrastinate before finally stepping on my mat. Now I’m on my mat faster, more inspired, energetic and creatively abundant.

I.F. MADE ME APPRECIATE COFFEE MORE

But not because I’m guzzling down any more of it than I was before.  In fact, I’m drinking less of it! Part of my dilly-dallying used to include making a cup of strong coffee.  The aroma used to wake up my senses and the caffeine used to wake up my groggy cells. Now I don’t need the coffee.  An era of coffee enjoyment has started in my Life. I have coffee when I want to and not because I need to. I enjoy a single shot of espresso more than I’ve ever enjoyed it before.

I.F. CONTROLLED MY FOOD CRAVINGS

Along with a decrease in my coffee cravings, my snacking has also reduced.  I don’t find the need to constantly munch something. So I’m not putting junk into my system…and that may be contributing to my high energy levels.

I.F. CLEANED ME UP!

I see my waistline more often than not now.  I.F. proponents scream weight loss more than anything else.  In fact, many say that they have lost weight in spite of eating all the junk in the world! Just to be clear, I haven’t lost any weight, but I still see my waistline because of a reduction in inflammation in the gut.  Because I no longer ingest easy snacks, I’ve cut back on bloat-causing preservatives that I was invariably consuming.

HOW I FASTED

Before I end I’d also like to point out that there are numerous different versions of intermittent fasting.  

  • There are dietitians who say it’s OK to have coffee, tea, lemon water etc while you’re fasting.  I have absolutely nothing except water during my fasting window.
  • I stick to the 16/8 style of fasting.  Basically this means having my last meal by 4 and eating again at 8 in the morning.  
  • I break my fast with nuts or a banana.

I’ve jumped on to the I.F. bandwagon, and I think everyone should give it a go. Would you try intermittent fasting? Have you tried it already? Share your thoughts!

On one of the several Root Bridges during our hike in Cherapunjee last month.
Healthy Living Travel Wellness Yoga

The Perahera That Wasn’t

March 15, 2019

The last day in Sri Lanka we thought we would check out city life. It was Poya day and we stumbled upon the preparations for the Perahera. Poya days are the full moon days every month and are holidays. This particular Poya day was also the Navam Perahera Festival. Preparations were underway for a massive parade that would include elephants, dancers, acrobats and the like. We were excited to see the crowds and the buzz. We had planned to see some of the famous Buddhist temples in Colombo, but they were all closed. Although we noticed that many foreigners with ‘special passes’ were being allowed in. Shady business.

We didn’t have the patience to wait for the procession to start, nor the energy to brave the crowds. So we decided to head to Keels, a local supermarket to see if we could do some last minute shopping. All of us picked up some tea, Sri Lankan pickles and some spices.

Finally we took an Uber back to our hotel to sit on the terrace for dinner, as the moonlit waves crashed against the shore.

View from our rooftop restaurant.
View from our rooftop restaurant.

The next day we took an Uber to the airport. As we were driving through Colombo, I was reminded of the city I call home. I penned my thoughts down and you can read them here.

Below are a few more scenes from the vacation. If this is the first blog of the Sri Lanka series that you’ve landed on then click here , here and here for the other two blogs.

In Mirissa we climbed up many many steps to a famous Buddhist temple.
Cover your shoulders and knees when visiting the temples.
Cover your shoulders and knees when visiting the temples.
Couldn't get enough of the sun, sea and sand.
Couldn’t get enough of the sun, sea and sand.
Sri Lankan food is very similar to South Indian food.  We had it as often as possible.
Sri Lankan food is very similar to South Indian food. We had it as often as possible.
Travel Wellness Yoga

Surfing, Elephants & the Blue Whale

March 14, 2019

Teaching in Tangalle was great. We stayed in a small beach hotel called Coppenrath House and I taught class as the sun came up.

Second Time Surfing.

Famished after spending time in the choppy waves at Herikiteya.

From Tangalle the closest surfing beach was Hiriketiya beach. I’ve been surfing in Auroville so this would be my second time. We decided to do a class and have the instructor coach us. The waves here were larger and a bit more wilder than in Auroville. But it was fun. My surfboard was heavy, I had salt in my nose, but by the end of the lesson I had balanced a couple of time. I did fall hard on my butt once, and had a bruise for a couple of days, but it was great to hear the instructor nod and say approvingly – “You! Where you from? First time surfing? You’re better, you’re better.”

Udawalawe National Park

This was a last minute addition to the itinerary. My sister was interested in seeing the elephants but traveling all the way to Yala wasn’t something we wanted to do. Luckily I found Udawalawe. We hired a driver to take us to Udawalawe. He was quite resourceful. On the way he pointed out a tree full of bats, a snake slithering across the road and a monitor lizard. And when we finally reached the sanctuary, he even knew the jeep we could hire for the safari.

A monitor lizard that crossed our path on our way to Udawalawa.
You can observe the elephants at very close quarters and in their natural habitat.

The closest I’ve come to elephants in their natural habitat.

Whale Watching

From Udawalawe we headed to Mirissa. Mirissa is slightly more commercialized as compared to Tangalle. So there are a lot more souvenir shops and vegan options on many menus. My sister and I actually bought matching elephant pendants from one of the jewellery stores in the road near our hotel.

Most people don’t know that the largest blue whale in the world is found off the coast of Sri Lanka. The Lankan government conducts standardized tours. These start out early morning. At the recommendation of one of our drivers we chose Eagle Eye Tours for our whale watching experience. They provide you with tea/coffee, breakfast and an anti-seasickness pill for the journey. It takes an hour or two to get deep into the ocean, after which the whale sightings start. We saw blue whale, fin whales and so many dolphins. It was amazing.

It was a pure delight to see these whales.
Travel Yoga

Sri Lanka – Galle & Tangalle

March 13, 2019

The next day we hired a taxi to take us along the coast down to Tangalle. On the way we had planned to stop at Galle.

Our driver, Mical, sauntered in 45 minutes late. Soon after we started, he asked, “Sir! Ravana – what do you think? Good man or bad?”

Unsure of the most politically correct answer, I decided to take the middle ground, “He’s a complex character, with good and bad shades so it’s difficult to say. And what do you think?” I asked him.

“Ma’am sir! We think he is very good, but only one problem. He abducted Sita Amman. Otherwise everything else very good.”


“Ma’am sir! We think he is very good, but only one problem. He abducted Sita Amman. Otherwise everything else very good.”

The Moonstone Mines

Sri Lanka is known for its gemstone mining. Mical, stopped a little short of Galle at a gem factory where we got to see the process of mining moonstones, the process of refining them and finally creating jewels out of them. Ana and I both got a matching moonstone pendant as a souvenir from the mines.

Marine Turtles Protecting Centre

This was an unplanned stop for us. None of us had any idea about the amazing work that this centre is doing in terms of rescuing and rehabilitating turtles. The tsunami of 2004 affected the marine life, displacing, maiming and killing much of it. The Marine Turtles
Protecting Centre works with turtles to enable them to one day return to their natural habitat.

Tropical fruit on the way to Galle.

Galle

Galle is one of the major cities of Sri Lanka. The Portuguese built it as a major port city and the Dutch later went on to use it as one of the major ports of the country. We spent a long time walking along the cobblestone streets, ducking into souvenir shops, taking photos and sampling the local food. The National Maritime History Museum is in Galle, but we only had a couple of hours and wanted to spend it walking around the city. I’d read about Galle Things Roti, a restaurant specializing in rotis and curry and we had some great lunch there. I was also keen on having tea at the Amangalla hotel, a historic heritage hotel. While their tea isn’t special, the hotel has a lot of antique furniture which makes the ambience and the experience unique.

The Fort.

Tangalle

We reached our destination a little late. Tangalle is a quaint beach town. I was to teach yoga classes here for the next two days.

Travel

Sri Lanka Diaries – Colombo

February 28, 2019

If you’ve read my previous post, or been following my Instagram and Facebook stories, you would know I’ve just returned from Sri Lanka. I’ve wanted to visit the island for a while. It’s a quick getaway from India and that makes it quite accessible.

Chennai Airport. Who’s the guy under Natraj’s foot? Wait to read about it in my book!

Sri Lanka is a tear dropped shaped island-country in the Indian Ocean, surrounded by the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. It was formerly a British colony and was called Ceylon. In 1948, it gained independence and in 1972 officially changed its name to Sri Lanka. Since then there have been many governments, much unrest and a Tusnami in 2004 that have challenged the nation. But the nation has slowly and steadily built itself up.

We landed at the Bandaranaike International Airport after a short flight. The airport is named after S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, the fourth prime minister of Sri Lanka. We had arranged to be picked up at the airport and the same driver would be with us the next day. We had half a day in Colombo and we wanted to make the most of it.

Welcome drink at the hotel.

1. The Dutch Hospital Precincts

This area is one of the oldest in Colombo. It contained the Dutch Hospital, which served the troops sailing in to the harbour. The Dutch Hospital building is the oldest building in Colombo. Now it houses some of the most famous restaurants and shops such as the Ministry of Crab and the Barefoot Café. You need reservations at the Ministry of Crab, so we decided to eat at the neighbouring The Dutch Pub. We tried Lion beer, which is Sri Lanka’s local brew. When in Sri Lanka, don’t miss the beer!

It’s hot in Sri Lanka – and a cold beer is always welcome.

Padangushtasana in the Dutch Hospital Precincts.

2. House of Fashion

The House of Fashion is a large multi-storied department store that has everything under one roof. So you have gift packs of tea, sarongs, books, incense, spices and even clothes, all displayed beautifully for the tourist in you. Someone had recommended picking up souvenirs from here. In addition to everything else, they also have clothes at great prices, and sure enough, I bought a bunch of tees for myself. Go if you have the time, you may end up finding a good deal.

Still trying to capture a good pose.
Right outside the House of Fashion.

3. Upali’s

Since our lunch consisted of pub grub, we decided that dinner should be Sri Lankan. We googled and found Upali’s. My first experience with Sri Lankan food was super spicy. The Delhi Belly I’ve never experienced in Delhi gave me much grief here.

While on the trip we tried to have Sri Lankan food whenever and wherever we could. There are many commonalities between South Indian and Sri Lankan food. So while dal, steamed rice, kottu roti, and hoppers were all familiar, there was a distinct flavour which was foreign to our tongues.

Our first day ended with us crawling into bed tired but feeling eager to head south along the coast to see the rest more of the country.

Some tips for travellers:

  1. You are charged a fee every time you use your card to draw money or to pay a bill. So plan accordingly.
  2. Ubers are more convenient than negotiating and potentially getting ripped off by tuk-tuks.
Shorts, huge sunglasses and flip flops – essentials of the Sri Lanka wardrobe.
Travel

Lanka

February 19, 2019

This country
which reminds me
So much
of my own.
Where a monkey-God centuries ago
Leapt the distance I have flown.
Where I see
The crests and troughs
of my own face
In the lines and crevices
of the locals.
Where there exists
A mythical
Resilience
That does not break
Through the ravages of tsunamis
And the heartbreak of Insurgence.
For where I come from too
I see
Cloudbursts and earthquakes
And tragedies that only humans can cause
And yet we rise
For in my country too
History is not forgotten
Like the smell of cinnamon.
It spices our food
And scents our skin.

This country
which reminds me
So much
of my own
Because maybe
It is my own.

Travel Wellness Yoga

My Overnight Yoga Retreat

November 19, 2018

When I plan a yoga retreat location is the first thing I home in on.  To find a place that resonates with you and the experience you want to create is challenging. So I’m always on the lookout for interesting places to conduct retreats.

A few weeks ago I drove a little out of Bangalore to a farm called Hollas Halla.  You can check out their Instagram profile here.  I’d already spoken to Manali Holla and we had decided to meet to see the property and see what kind of experience we could create there.

10 years ago Suresh Holla, chanced upon some acreage of absolutely barren land and a lake.  An MTech from IISc, no one really expected him to buy 5 acres with the dream of bringing this land to life.  Everyone dismissed it as madness.  There were no proper roads, no electricity, nothing.

 

 

When I went there a couple of weeks ago I saw the fruits of Suresh Holla’s labor.  The lake is still there, but now there is a lush jungle around it.  The Holla family conducts camps, retreats and treks at Holla’s Halla.

Initially I planned the usual yoga retreat with a morning yoga session followed by lunch etc.  But as we looked at the lake I thought it would be a dream to practice yoga next to it.  I spoke to Swetha, my co-teacher, and we decided to modify the plan so that we can practice yoga as the sun sets and rises.  An experience that few yoga retreats can offer.

The itinerary for this exciting is below:

Day 1 (Sat 8th Dec):

3-4 pm: Arrive at the farm.  Receive the grand tour.  Check-in to your tents.

4-6 pm: Tea/Coffee/Relax

6-7 pm: Sunset yoga session.

7-8.30 pm: Dinner

9 pm onwards: Bonfire

Day 2 (Sun 9th Dec):

5 am: Wake up

6-7 am: Sunrise yoga session.

7.30-8.30 am: breakfast

9 am: Trek to the nearby hills/enjoy the lake/get a water massage!

12 noon: Lunch

 

This retreat is priced at Rs. 5000/- all inclusive.

Call 9686233003 or 9886062268 to register.

You can check out Hollas Halla’s facebook page here.

 

Travel Wellness Yoga

Yoga and the Art of Stillness

April 3, 2018

A couple of weeks ago I read ‘The Art of Stillness’ by Pico Iyer and thought it was a cute little read. As a yoga teacher I’ve given and received spiels about the topic innumerable times. I understand the importance of being still, that’s why we have Savasana at the end of every class.

The thing is, you may understand something theoretically, but it’s only when you experience it that you actually know it. And this weekend I actually got to know stillness. My sister in town and we decided to spend time at the Navadarshanam farms, situated right outside Bangalore (actually in Tamil Nadu).

Wilderness surrounds the entire acreage of the farm. It’s a no fan zone. It’s a pleasure to walk barefoot on the red oxide floor of the huts. I saw a charcoal rice cooker for the first time. The tea was amazing. The air was clean. The sky was clear. We watched the evening rain from the coolness of our veranda. Bougainvillea grew in abundance and after the rains there was lavender all over the ground.

The most striking thing, though, is that there is absolutely no agenda. There are walks, but no fixed time for the walks. Food is served on time, but you eat in calm silence. Every once in a while they bake bread. So we spent our time gazing out at the trees and reading our books. We lay on our beds and chatted and read a little more. We snoozed a bit. All our questions ceased. We started to just be.

I’ve recognized stillness because on good days, I experience it during my practice. The happy glow that radiates even through my WhatsApp messages when I’ve had a great practice is not because I nailed an advanced asana. It’s because, for an instant, I managed to transcend the mere physicality of the movements to find stillness.

“Sitting still is a way of falling in love with the world and everything in it;” writes Pico Iyer in The Art of Stillness. Finding stillness in your yoga practice is a way of falling in love with yourself and everything around you.

Striking a pose, as usual.

Everything lavender post the rains.

The herbal tea is truly delicious.

Small temples dot the road to the farm.

Travel Wellness

Of Manifestations and Fitness Resolutions

February 8, 2018

Happy with the tees we earned.

Many years ago, before I started running, I would dream about going on vacation and having fitness as an integral part of the plan.  I moved to a new house and dreamt that I would start a weekend running group that would meet to run around the lake.

I’m one of those who believes that if you really want something, it manifests.

Both these fitness desires have manifested for me right at the beginning of this year!  Last year around this time an old acquaintance of mine moved back to Bangalore and started coming to class.  Somehow the bond grew deep and when I tentatively suggested we go to Lovedale for a run, to my utter surprise I said yes.  We got two more friends together, another student offered us his cottage, I tanked up my car and off we drove into the hills.  We spent three days re-visiting the hills and exploring new joints.  We bought comfortable pajamas at the factory surplus shops.  I bought some Eucalyptus oil.  The night before what would become our first 10km, we affirmed to ourselves that we would complete the run successfully.  We would give it our 100%.  In the morning as soon as we woke up, I said, ‘We shall do it.’  And we did!

From the 4 of us who went to Ooty, to the 12 who went to Hampi last weekend, we have grown consistently.  Hampi was our fifth run together and we got special bibs and tees with our names on it.  It may seem like a small achievement, but to those of us who get together every weekend to pound the pavement, it was a moment to be proud of how far we’ve come.  To change old habits and adopt a new lifestyle is no mean feat.  And what they say is true – nothing tastes as good as fitness feels.

 

 

 

 

Travel Yoga

Three Offbeat Things I Did in Coonoor….

December 21, 2017

…and you should too.

I love the hills.  I love the weather, the vibe and the people in the hills.  I feel my skin takes on a special glow and my mind a rare calmness when I smell the hill air.

So it was only inevitable that I would take my parents for a vacation up in the hills.  Although we are from the Uttrakhand hills, I haven’t spent much time there.  But I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the Nilgris.  I was in Coonoor a couple of months ago to participate in a run.  This past weekend Coonoor was colder, quieter, prettier.

 

We didn’t have many days and I wanted my parents to love the place as much as I did. So I wanted to do something different and memorable.  Also, I have an affinity for all things weird, offbeat and quirky.  So, without further ado, here are three offbeat things to do in Coonoor.

  1. Hit up a local and badger them for information.  There’s no better way to really get the vibe of a place than by hanging out with a local.  You end up hearing fascinating personal anecdotes and hopefully getting an interesting story or two.  My favorite kind are the scary ones and I was #sorrynotsorry to find out that there aren’t any ghost stories in the hills around Coonoor.  In fact, the lone deserted house that I was so sure was haunted was only up for sale…and not because it was haunted.  We were lucky to meet Zubin Contractor, resident and Coonoor expert.  From tea factories to how Eucalyptus oil is extracted.  From the history of the five tribes of the Nilgris to scenic walks around town, Zubin had us covered.
  2. Visit Acres’ Wild, Mansoor Khan’s cheese making farm, complete with its own gowshala and geese in a pond.  I had been to this property years ago on a cold and foggy day.  This weekend it was nice and sunny and we were there to find out how cheese is made.  We were given facts and figures, shown the apparatus and the equipment and had our questions patiently answered.  We came away with a few packets of their delicious cheese.  (You know what you’ll be served if you drop in for a visit.)
  3. Visit the cemeteries.  We went to two cemeteries and they were beautiful.  An old one with centuries old tombstones and a beautiful statue of an angel.  The other one we visited had graves from World War 1 and was maintained by the Commonwealth Graves Commission.  Although slightly creepy, its in cemeteries that you get a sense of an era long gone.  Of the aesthetics and beliefs of the time.  You actually get a sense of the individuals that lived and walked in the same pathways centuries ago.  It brings history to life.

Also, we go on vacation to take a break from the frenzy of city life.  A cozy little nook helps. It is important to find a comfortable home away from home to stay in.  Coonoor has many options and when dusk falls all you feel  like doing is putting on some comfortable socks and crawling under a soft blanket with a good book.  Luckily, I had the home away from home, the socks and blankets, a good book and family.