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Healthy Living Yoga

The Unwitting Yogi

April 7, 2019

I was a little late jumping on to the ‘Bohemain Rhapsody’ bandwagon, but when I did I was spellbound. The movie was well done, and the portrayal of the characters was spell binding.

Freddie Mercury was perhaps the greatest rockstar of all time, but he was also an unwitting yogi.  While going through a bunch of his pictures on Pinterest I started to notice that a lot of his moves on stage looked like yogic postures.  The more pictures I saw, the more yogasanas I recognized.  So I put together a bunch of Freddie Mercury’s pictures and the corresponding asana.

Trikonasana/Triangle Pose

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The Trikonasanas – I have a love-hate relationship with this asana, but you’ve got to admit it looks like Freddie is performing it in this iconic pose.

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When you practice an asana your mind, body and spirit are supposed to come together – and in this image it looks like they are.

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Vrkshasana/Tree Pose

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That costume & balancing on the toes!!!

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Always try to push the inner edge of the foot into the ground for better alignment. 

And variations of the Tree pose…

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Chaturanga/Plank Pose

Every yogi knows the agony of getting this one right.

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Those biceps though.

 

Virbhardasana/Warrior Pose

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Marichyasana/Sage Marichi’s Pose

This is a bit of a stretch of the imagination, but you have to admit there’s a twist there.  Also, Freddie’s flat abs, his chiselled body, the energy – is this the real life?

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Backbends

My biggest challenge…but look at him.

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Can I just point out the clean lines and the lifted sternum?

Hope you enjoyed this blog.  Leave me a comment and share if you did!

Wellness Yoga

Theme for the Year

January 2, 2019

As soon as December starts we start to think of resolutions and goals for the next year.  I myself have gone through many a list of affirmations and goals.  When you’re working for yourself the lists go through several iterations as the months go by.

So for this year I decided to focus on a theme for the year instead.  How do I want to approach my days this year?  Or rather, how do I wish I would approach my days?  Do I want to look at life more compassionately?  More honestly? More realistically?

As yoga practitioners we practice karuna (compassion) before even asanas.  As a freelance yoga teacher I have to constantly assess my work honestly.  And as someone who is in the pursuit of her passion, I have to give myself reality checks and not get carried away.

After some thought (a lot of which was done while writing this blog) I decided that I want perseverance to define my year.  I frequently use #practiceandalliscoming in my social media updates.  This is reminder that we need to put in the work and have faith in the fruits of our labours.  Over the 7 odd years I’ve been trying to make a mark as a yoga instructor I’ve realised that everything eventually works out.  There have been many cancelled retreats/workshops due to lack of participants, but this year I have a retreat in Italy coming up.  There have been many publications which have rejected my work, but I have a book coming out with Penguin later this year.  And so many students have left my classes for other instructors.  But I now have students from all over the world registered on my online module.  This year I hope to look at every single challenge, missed opportunity and failed experiment with perseverance. 

If you had to pick a theme for this year, what would it be?

 

 

Food health Wellness Yoga

Easy Ways I Cut Sugar out of My Diet and You Can Too

December 7, 2018

I am not, in any way, the perfect eater.  I was PMS-ing the other day and ordered a chocolate mousse with hot chocolate sauce from Cornerhouse.  The sugar-rush was so acute that I forgot to taste the chocolate.

Fitness is an ongoing journey.  I jumped on the fitness bandwagon because I was tired of feeling crappy.  What I’ve learned is that no one has all the answers.  There are people who maybe be specialists of a particular form of movement or a specific diet, but that doesn’t mean you should rely on them for your fitness queries.  Their expertise might not work for you because that system of movement or eating might not work for you.

I’ve been on various diets over the years (and still experiment with different modalities of eating), and I’ve realized diets don’t work.  Guidelines do.  Minimizing my sugar consumption is at the top of my list of dietary guidelines.  As I said in this Instagram post, there are many reasons for why I did this.  We all agree that sugar is bad for you.  But most of us don’t realize just how much sugar we consume. 

That 1 tsp of sugar you allow yourself in your coffee/tea is not the only sugar in your diet.  If you eat any kind of packaged foods, ketchup or pickles etc, you’re having sugar.

I follow the 80-20 rule when it comes to my diet, so I sometimes manage to literally have my mousse and eat it too.  

What I usually eat.

I love the fact that now everyone is into millets. This is my staple.

I switched over to black teas and coffees when I quit dairy and sugar. It’s made a world of a difference.

 

Below are easy ways I eliminated sugar from my diet.

  1. I stopped ordering in.  Food that you order in is never fresh.  It has excess preservatives, sodium, food colors, sugars etc., that negate all the good work you do in the fitness class.  I found easy recipes for days when I come home dog tired.  Stuff like poha, or pulao or even scrambled eggs.  I order in like once a year, and that mousse it.
  2. I stopped eating ketchup and other sauces.
  3. I don’t eat potato chips or any variations of them.
  4. I don’t drink colas and even packaged fruit juices.  Yes, even your fruit juices have additional sugar and preservatives.
  5. I don’t eat cakes and biscuits that come out of packages.  If I want them I will bake them.

 

These changes didn’t happen over night.  I incorporated them slowly.  There was a time I thought packaged juices are better than colas.  Now I know they are the same.  There was a time I would drench my burgers in ketchup.  Now no more burgers and no more ketchup.  All of us have been through the Marie or digestive biscuits with tea phase.  Mine ended a long time ago.  I used to be someone who actually went out for dessert.  Now it seems like another life.

Sometimes I feel like I didn’t just clean up my diet, I actually deep cleaned it.  And after all this, I have experienced increased energy levels, better stamina and clearer skin.  Enough reasons for you to ditch the sugar!

What I sometimes get away with eating. Maggi and chai on the way to Musoorie last month.

Every once in a while I’ll indulge in a latte at Starbucks.

Wellness Yoga

How to Remain Healthy During the Holidays: Top 5 Tips

November 4, 2018

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The key to vibrant health is consistency.  The more you practice making healthy choices, the easier it becomes to make them and the easier it becomes to stay healthy.

The holidays, though, are a challenge for everyone.  The holidays shouldn’t be about deprivation, however, they shouldn’t be about treating yourself like a dustbin either.

I’ve been gluten and dairy free for a month, and I’ve really started to see the difference.  I’m going to continue to avoid gluten through the holidays and there are a few other tips that I follow to stay on track with my fitness during Diwali/end of year festivities.  I did an Instagram and Facebook live session on these yesterday, and you can watch it on my YouTube channel.

To begin with it’s important to understand that you must start eating healthy and being regular with your workouts a few weeks before the holiday season hits.  That way, even if you end up missing a workout or two, and having one too many drinks – you’re still in the safe zone.  I’m usually consistent with my workouts, but eliminating gluten and portion control really worked for me before the holidays.

Without further ado, the top 5 health tips that work for me during the holidays are:

  1. Choose your indulgence wisely.  I love chocolate so I stay away from the jalebis.
  2. Portion control!  Face it, besides your usual meals, you’re going to be snacking quite a bit.  Endless cups of coffee/tea with neighbors and relatives and all the bits and bites that go along with them.  So eat whatever you want, but cut back on the portions for every single thing that goes into your mouth.
  3. Do a little workout daily.  I’ve told my students to do a combination of Suryanamaskars, squats and push-ups daily. And nothing like a little bit of breathing to feel calm and centred during the holiday frenzy.
  4. Up your water intake.  I’m going to be eating a little more chocolate than usual, and expect that you will also have more than your usual sweets.  Water helps to reduce food cravings (particularly of the sweet variety) and also ensures that you don’t overeat.  Also, it’s easy to overlook drinking water when you’re busy all day.  So make it a point of carrying water with you so that you remember to tank up.
  5. Don’t cause pollution.  So I’m not going to burn crackers.  I’m not going to use plastic bags.  I admit we can’t do anything about the plastic that the mithai boxes are wrapped in, but why not avoid using them whenever you can?  The pollution in Delhi isn’t a myth, and pretty soon that’s how it’s going to be all over the country unless we do something about it.

These are tips that actually work for me.  They are simple and easy and maybe that’s why they are the most effective.  Try and let me know if they work for you.

Wellness Yoga

Crack Open to Heal – Day 9

August 9, 2018

Yoga helps.  It heals.  It gets rid of emotional blockages and psychological pain.  It brings peace.  It brings clarity.  We’ve all heard this at one point or another.  And I’m sure we all wonder – how?

Yoga helps by teaching us how to create space.  Our demons reside in our joints.  Achy, stiff joints are permanent residences for the demons of our past.  To get rid of these demons we must lengthen our joints.  Create space so that the joints can breathe and release the demons holding them tightly together.  Once these demons are gone your joints will be free to move easily and pain free.

The same applies to backbends.  Bending backward is so difficult for many of us because it requires (amongst other things) flexible back and shoulder muscles as well as a flexible hip joint.  For a long time I wrestled with a stiff upper back.  After years of practice I’ve managed to overcome this challenge….only to realize that I’m unable to access and push the hip joint up.  And this will take a few more years to overcome.  The point is that the only way to let go of years of deep rooted fears and blockages is to spend years creating space between the bones and muscles so that the tightly held demons are let go.

To overcome past samskaras it is important to crack yourself in two.  For instance, when doing the Urdhvadhanurasana I’m almost trying to split myself into two, body below the sternum and above the sternum.  For the next couple of years it will be focusing on body below the hip joint and above the hip joint.  The practice of reaching within yourself to access an area which has been ‘sleeping’ automatically infuses this place with new life…and also enables you to release the ghosts of lives past.

 

health Wellness Yoga

How Your Practice Grows

June 25, 2018

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of Yoga philosophy.  The stories of the asanas.  The significance.

During practice I find myself going inwards to observe myself more closely.  My practice these days is focused on the basics.  So even if I practice Adhomukha Vrikshasana (handstand), I’ll start from Uttanasana.

Last weekend I attended a workshop at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram.  It was a two day workshop where we learned about Krishnamacharya, and his contribution to modern yoga and the style of yoga taught at KYM.

On the first day of the workshop the teacher spoke about the 8 limbs of Ashtanga yoga.  In his lecture he asserted that the 8 limbs grow like a baby.  Equally and in all directions.  So as you work on Yama and Niyama, you also work on Dhyana, Dharana etc.  This is a new idea for me, but the more I think about it, the more I see the similarity between this statement and asana practice.

A good friend of mine (also a yogi) told me once that when you’re struggling with a particular asana, it sometimes helps to go beyond that asana to one which is a little more advanced, and then come back to the asana that isn’t working for you.  Just because you aren’t consciously working on a particular asana doesn’t mean that it’s lying dormant.  Every time you practice, there are imperceptible changes in your body.  Whether the practice is good or bad, a change occurs.  Over time these changes accumulate and previously inaccessible asanas start to emerge, with relative ease.  In this way, your practice grows equally in all directions.

If you practice with focus and devotion, you are working on all aspects of the practice and not merely the physical one.  As your asana practice improves, your ability to speak the truth increases, you feel more compassionate towards Life and everyone in your life, you become more content and you stop vacillating between extremes.  The practice grows almost on its own accord, pulling the practitioner along with it.

 

Yoga

Repetition of vs Repeating (an Asana)

April 29, 2018

Your body exists in the past and your mind exists in the future. In yoga, they come together in the present. – BKS Iyengar

The other day one of my students mentioned (rightly so) that in my class he spends a lot of time in Adhomukha Svanasana. Other classes he’s attended didn’t repeat asanas as much our class.

Why the repetition?

The thing is, we might be doing the same asana over and over again, but we’re not actually repeating it. Emotionally, physically and mentally, the asana is different every single time we redo it. Each time we execute it, we go deeper. We look at nuances, uncover hidden depths. It’s a new asana every time. In Trikonasana, for instance, I can focus on the alignment of my ankles, or on my shoulder blades, or the rotation of my spine, my drishti, or the alignment of the femur and shin, or even the extension of the metatarsals and soles. To maintain awareness simultaneously on all the factors that build the Trikonasana is hard, and we practice to achieve that. And, if for a moment we attain that state, we meditate upon what it taught us, what we learned.

I frequently come across posts on social media about ‘flipping your perspective’ or ‘get a new perspective’ and usually such posts are usually accompanied by pictures of Sirsasana (headstand) or Adhomukha Vrikshasana (handstand). In an Iyengar yoga class, you will gain new perspective and flip existing ones while doing basic asanas repetitively, constantly, consistently and persistently. To gain new perspective, we don’t really need to look beyond what we already have. Perhaps all we need is to be more attentive.

Take the Trikonasana above for instance. We can always focus on bending to the side and making contact with the toes/foot/ankle/ground. Or we can focus on bringing out the various triangles in the posture more distinctly and intensely.

Your focus will determine the quality and maturity of your practice and your life.

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.

Wellness Yoga

Always on the Lookout…

February 17, 2018

for a yoga bag…

Whether you are a yoga teacher or a yoga student, chances are you are lugging more than just your mat to class.  The basics in a yogi’s bag are: phone, water bottle, towel, car keys, house keys, money.  As a teacher I carry a little notebook with my class plan, belts and sometimes even blocks.

Most of us have a yoga bag and also lug around our mats.  That might be fine for you, but I’ve been doing it forever and it’s getting a tad bit tedious.  Just as I was browsing online for a bag which could work for me, Meraki Decors contacted me!  Megha, the woman behind this quirky venture spoke to me at length about her journey and passion, and the connection was instant.

And, Meraki Decors decided to customize a yoga mat for me and send it for review!

When I looked up the term Meraki, I found out that it’s one of those words in a language that can’t be literally translated.  They describe a mood or a behavior.

You can bring Meraki into pretty much whatever you’re doing, be it cooking, decorating your home or your table, and (in my case) creating a life based on holistic health and conscious movement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, I was excited to receive this mat and below it is for your viewing.  Needless to say, it serves me perfectly.  It’s roomy enough for even really thick and big mats.  I use a thin mat, and that leaves enough room to put my jacket into the bag too.  And even my water bottle!

There’s a really convenient pocket in the front where I usually keep my phone, car keys, notebook, spare change etc.  And the best part is that Meraki Decors put my name with an inspirational quote on the mat.  Because #postiiveaffirmations.

I’ve been using this bag for a while now and I like the way it looks and the convenience.  Meraki_Decors has so much other stuff that you’re going to love (I certainly do!)

 

And I got lucky on Valentine’s Day because Megha gave me a beautiful handmade candle stand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out their Facebook and Instagram pages for other offerings.  Some of the stuff I really like:

Megha at an exhibition with all her artwork.

 

 

 

Yoga

5 Random Facts About Me

January 9, 2018
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Enjoying the cold weather at @ Hauz Khas Village.

Happy New Year!!!!

I hope 2018 is amazing for all of us and brings us only the best in health, wealth and happiness.  Actually, since wealth and happiness come from good health, I should ideally only wish that for you.  In any case, this blog will help you with all aspects of your health.

I thought the first blog of the year should be one through which you can get to know me a bit better. A lot of new people subscribed in the last couple of months, and they might not know me too well.  So below are a some random facts about me that will help you get to know me better.

1. I’ve lived in 6 different countries and visited three times that number so far in my life.

2. I’m actually a software engineer and even worked as one for 8 years.

3. As a kid I wanted to be Nancy Drew when I grew up.

4. I’ve been journaling extensively since second grade.

5. I never thought of myself as a cook.  But as and when I started looking for healthy recipes I realized that my friends actually like the taste of my experiments and that I’m actually a very good cook.

And now for a bonus random fact about me:

6. Kolhapuri chappals and Birkenstocks are my favorite shoes. This completely irrelevant fact is probably very typical of a yogi.

 

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A collage of pictures that hangs in my house in Delhi.  Can you spot me?