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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.

Beyond Asanas: The Asanas Yoga

Adho Mukha Svanasana: Downward Dog

December 11, 2019

I was talking about pets the other day with some of my friends.  One of them has recently adopted a dog and the other one is also planning on getting one.  All of us know a dog lover or two.  All of us know a downward dog lover or two too (#yogahumor)!

In ‘Beyond Asanas‘ the first chapter is about the downward dog pose.  When researching this  posture I looked at dog-lore from different cultures.  My goal was also to unearth dog-related stories in our mythology.  And sure enough – I found a few stories – two of which have made it into this chapter.  In one story a dog helps Lord Indra and in another story a dog is granted admission into heaven after the battle of Kurukshetra.

The Downward Dog is a challenging posture.  The most common challenge I see with students is the inability to lengthen the spine.  Many beginners are in a hurry to place the heels on the floor, and this compromises the form of the lower back.

How To:

  1. Place your hands and knees on the floor, shoulder and hip width apart.
  2. Spread your fingers wide on the mat and press the hands down firmly.
  3. Start to straighten your legs.
  4. Lift and extend your tailbone up and out.
  5. Extend the torso by extending the spine.
  6. Lengthen the back of the legs as you push the heels into the floor.
  7. Relax the neck, face and shoulders.

It’s a good idea to start in Vajrasana because your legs are together – which is how you want them to be in the final posture too.

 

In this position position you need to make sure that your wrists are right under should shoulders. And here you can also separate your legs about hip width distance, making sure that the ankles and knees are in one line.

 

Notice the length in the spine. Things you must watch out for: allowing the shoulders to sag down close to the ears, a curve in the thoracic and lumbar spine, and bent knees. Watch this video to learn how to correct these alignment issues.

You can use props such as a wall, blocks and a rope to help you in aligning the posture.  I’ve written a few helpful hits about how to improve this posture in ‘Beyond Asanas: The Myths and Legends Behind Yogic Postures’.  Those of you who follow me on YouTube may remember this video I made in 2016.  It’s a great video for beginners, because of the detailed explanation of how to get into the posture.  Do check it out –  it will surely help.

I’ve listed out at least 10 benefits of this asana in the book.  However, there are contraindications as well, and those have also been described in ‘Beyond Asanas’.  Pick up your copy today.

I’ve never had a dog, but I’m not impervious to their charms.  If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve met Aston. He makes my time in Pune a little more fun, a little less lonely.

[Credits
Makeup: @makeupbyhennaanbaree
Photos: @khan.clicks deavalin_david_dsouza]

 

Books Lifestyle Yoga

The Last Month of the Decade…

December 9, 2019

After a long and dusty ride, I’m finally back in Bangalore.

It was a wonderful 8 days at SVYASA.  Yesterday I graduated to taking the vital statistics of a few patients and gave them health advice.  I also corrected postures during the asana classes.  During my free time I managed to study for the upcoming semester exams.  So all in all I had a good time.

December is always an interesting month for me.  Possibilities are in the air, there’s bonhomie, everyone wants to do something ‘before the year ends.’  For me it’s a time for lovely morning runs through the fog around the lake, cozy practice sessions in my living room, and meeting up with friends in warm cafes.  I actually take out warm socks (yes even in Bangalore!) and spend hours catching up on reading.  I make a point of reading ‘A Christmas Carol’ and watching it too!  Many Decembers ago I read Nora Robert’s ‘In the Garden‘ Trilogy and my December felt divine.

More to come in the following days about how I’m ending the year.  Bear with me, and do check-in every once in a while.  Meanwhile, I leave you with a clip of a little bird that was trying to get into my hostel room at SVYASA.  A friend told me it’s a barbet.  Another told me it is attracted to it’s reflection on the mirror – it’s mating season and it wants to mate!

 

Trying to flirt with it’s own reflection! #birdbrain

 

 

#angrybird

Lifestyle Yoga

Do You Need a Change? – Day 8

December 6, 2019

New patients come to SVYASA on Fridays. When I arrived last Friday I didn’t get a chance to see the in-patient process as I was registering myself as an intern. Today I saw patients coming in and consulting with the doctors. Doctors then refer them to the appropriate department where their vital statistics are taken and files created for each patient. The hospital at SVYASA doesn’t have your typical hospital feel. At any given time you have interns from other institutes and around the world and resident college students observing the processes and method of treatment. The mood is light and happy instead of somber and grievous.

It was interesting to observe the behavior of new patients today. Most described themselves as ‘no problems, just a little acidity all the time’ or ‘nothing as such, just from time to time some depression’ and ‘i have no issues as such, just a little bit of weight problem is there’…and so on and so forth. In a way there is lots of optimism, but somewhere I wonder, is there also denial? If you don’t truly believe that you need a change, regarding your health or anything else in life, will you put 100% into making that change? The only time I’ve been able to bring about change is when I’ve accepted that I need or want a change more than I want the status quo. It’s important to face your issues head on, rather than trivializing them.

Also tonight is my last night here! I can’t believe it’s been one week already and I’m really looking forward to getting back home, to my classes and daily practice.  I still remember Day 1.

In other news – my Liguria yoga retreat is on track and we’re excited to announce that seats are filling up fast! Below is a snapshot of what happened in the last retreat. The next one is going to be bigger and better.

 

Lifestyle Yoga

A Pranayama Sequence – Day 7

December 5, 2019

Pranayama is the fourth limb of the Ashtanga system of yoga. The other limbs are (in sequence):
1. Yama
2. Niyama
3. Asana
4. Pranayama
5. Pratyahara
6. Dhyana
7. Dharana
8. Samadhi

Most scholars believe that this is a sequence and practitioners have to gain a certain level of mastery in one to go to the next one. Which is why in many schools of yoga, pranayama is only taught after many years of intense asana practice. For instance, beginners in of Iyengar yoga don’t practice pranayama. In 2017 I experienced a pranayama class at RIMYI and wrote about it here.

However, some schools of yoga believe that these are limbs and not steps. They believe that it is therefore possible to practice several of the limbs at the same time. At SVYASA pranayama is taught to all patients, regardless of fitness levels and health conditions. Also, some pranayama is included in the asana classes and trataka (candlelight gazing) medition sessions.

I’ve been attending pranayama class every day here and although I don’t practice pranayama in my personal practice (yet), those readers who are interested are welcome to follow the below sequence. This sequence has been designed by SVYASA after extensive research.

Opening Prayer

1. Kapalabhati
20 strokes
40 strokes

Mudra: chin mudra

Relax in the Shitali dandasana.

2. Sectional breathing
Abdominal breathing 5x
Mudra: chin mudra
Thoracic breathing 5x
Mudra: chinmaya mudra
Clavicle breathing 5x
Mudra: adi mudra
Yogic breathing 5x
Mudra: brahma mudra

Relax in the Shitali dandasana.

3. Nadi Shuddi aka anulom-vilom pranayama 10x
Mudra: chin mudra with the left hand, nasika mudra with the right hand

Relax in the Shitali dandasana.

4. Brahmari pranayama using the N-kara
Mudra: chin mudra or shanmukhi mudra

Cooling pranayama practices

5. Shitali pranayama
Mudra: chin mudra

6. Sitkari pranayama
Mudra: chin mudra

7. Sadanta pranayama

Mudra: chin mudra

8. Nada anusadana
A-kara 3x
U-kara 3x
M-kara 3x

Closing prayer.

I’m missing practicing in my own space. This is from a practice session a few weeks ago. Although I’ve learned a lot here, I’m itching to head back home and resume asana practice.

Food Lifestyle Yoga

An Ayurvedic Therapist’s Secrets to a Healthy Life – Day 6

December 4, 2019

Meditating (or pretending to) somewhere in the hills of Kotagiri. How I long to be back there meditating and breathing the fresh air. pc: Animesh Jain

Today I was posted to perhaps the most interesting department. The Gastroenterology department.

And I’ve finally made a friend!!! She’s doing a BSc. here and is also employed as an Ayurvedic therapist. So she studies and works at SVYASA. She’s become my one stop shop for any queries, and it’s nice to have a friend who knows her way around!

Since the full time therapists are always too busy to answer my questions (and there are always so many questions), I usually end up discussing my queries with Aishwarya. I usually observe silently as patients describe their symptoms to the doctors. The doctors make notes in the files.

Later I pick Aishwarya’s brain.

The symptoms that most patients report are things like bloating and indigestion. If ignored or left untreated these can lead to more serious issues such as chronic constipation, IBS and ulcers. At SVYASA the first line of treatment is to put these patients on an Ayurvedic diet and have them attend various yoga and meditation sessions.

“But do you think the answer to a medical problem so prevalent is as simple as changing the diet and moving a bit more?” I asked her.

Apparently it is. Patients who come in with even severe cases of gastritis report a marked improvement after just a week on the SVYASA routine. Here their food and meal times are regulated. Although the quantity of food can’t be controlled but what the patients (and us) eat is very very simple. It is basically rice, roti, dal, a sabji and buttermilk. Not once has the food been too spicy or too salty. There’s never dessert. Fruit isn’t on the menu and in the evenings they serve a dairy-based malt instead of coffee/tea. We end up eating at the same time every day, which promotes healthy digestion.

We exchanged some personal anecdotes as well. She told me about how she was overweight before she came to SVYASA and her diet underwent a sea-change during the time she’s been here (the last 2 years). I described my weight-loss journey as well and how it was a solid asana practice and a supremely controlled diet that helped me. Aishwarya’s diet is similar to an Ayurvedic diet. Below are a few of the guidelines she follows:
. no sugar
. no milk
. no coffee or tea
. no refined flour, refined rice, refined oil

I didn’t ask her about alcohol but I’m sure that’s also a no. Also, she feels that the food served in the mess isn’t wholesome and so she also makes a malt for herself every once in a while. It’s a powder containing multi grains which she mixes with water and jaggery. Served hot.

Along with what we eat it’s important to eat at the same time every day. It builds regularity in digestion. Erratic meal timings lead to erratic digestion. Erratic digestion gives rise to every single condition treated in the Gastroenterology ward.

Sleep and stress are two factors that simply can’t be overlooked when it comes to digestion. Insufficient or disturbed sleep interferes with the secretion of digestive enzymes which is why you feel sluggish when you’re sleep deprived. It’s the same story with stress. Chronic stress inhibits the secretion of digestive enzymes. Chronic stress will also interfere with the secretion of melatonin, which will in turn lead to sleeplessness, which will cause digestive disorders…and the viscous cycle continues.

The only way to break this cycle is to wake up one day and commit to living better, one decision at a time.