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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.
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?

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Food Wellness

Carrots – Eat Clean and Green

January 31, 2018

Most days between classes you’ll find me writing.  Always on the lookout for calm, quiet and interesting places, nothing works better for me than a cafe where I can have some delicious tea, and some lunch.  Last week a friend of mine and I decided to go to Carrots in Koramangala to get ahead on a bit of work.  Note to writers: Change your location.  I find it kills writer’s block instantly.

Eating at a vegan restaurant ensures that most of the stuff available is also ‘clean’.  We ordered a Greek salad and a pizza, and as I write this I’m hungry again!  The salad and pizza are to die for.  The vegetables are fresh and smell of healthy goodness.  Those who know a bit about veganism will know that vegans don’t eat cheese.  I’ve met many a pizza lover who won’t believe that it’s possible to have extremely yummy pizza sans the cheese.  Go to Carrots and taste just how delicious a vegan pizza can be.

Luckily Susmitha, one of the owners and a vegan for the last 15 years, dropped by our table for an informal (and informative!) chat.

We spoke about how Operation Flood (White Revolution) completely changed the way we consume dairy.  We concurred that cases of childhood obesity, various gut diseases, skin problems etc can be directly linked to the consumption of milk and other dairy products.  As an aside I have to mention that I love the fact that I can eat/drink anything at Carrots and not worry that it contains dairy.

Interestingly, there are several products manufactured by Amul which are vegan by accident.  Such as their dark chocolate.  Amul, the biggest participant in Operation Flood, ‘accidentally’ manufactures several vegan chocolates too!  This called out another assumption I had – vegan and healthy aren’t necessarily the same thing.  As a vegan I might eat the Amul Dark Chocolate, but as me (yogini trying to eat clean), I wont touch that stuff. (#nosugar)

Honey is also not vegan nor whole.  Susmitha had the explanation.  From a technical standpoint honey is basically bee vomit.  Bees collect pollen and then regurgitate what we know as honey.  She also told us that it takes forty thousand bee flying miles to make 1 tsp of honey!  Which is why commercially available honey is so suspect (for those of you who use honey as replacement for sugar).  Also, many farms clip the wings of the Queen Bee so that she doesn’t fly away.  That way, the worker bees are tricked into staying (and therefore making honey) in the same place.  The natural behavior of bees is to fly from place to place building their hives and doing their work.  By clipping the Queen Bee’s wings you ensure that the worker bees stay in the farm and work only for you.

As it often happens, those of us who are seriously into wellness have compelling personal narratives.  Susmitha and I share the same reason – both had gained unhealthy weight!  I asked Susmitha if she had experienced any internal changes; such as on the emotional and mental front; after she started living the vegan life.  And she said yes!  Her fear of stray dogs has evaporated and her Reiki and meditation practices have improved.  And all of us who practice wellness will agree that your physical and your mental health are connected.  If compassion drives your actions, it’s not long before compassion infuses your entire being.

Carrots has actually become a hub for holistic health.  All kinds of events related to health, lifestyle and wellness happen here and its actually become a meeting place for like minded individuals.  We can certainly vouch for that.  We met like minded individuals and had the most delicious and healthy food.  Looking forward to returning for some more healthy food and nourishing conversation.

Do check them out on their Facebook page and drop in for some vegan latte :).

 

P.S. I’m honored to say that I will be holding a talk on Valentine’s Day at Carrots.  On the day when we celebrate relationships I thought it would be great to talk about the relationship we have with ourselves.  Promises to be an awesome session and it is absolutely free, so do drop in!  You can book your spot here: http://bit.ly/2Fb5dy8

Yoga

Year End Musings

December 28, 2017

 

Hello Friends/Subscribers/Yoga Enthusiasts/Family (virtual & otherwise)/Students!!!!

The year started with my hair dark, long and straight.  As the months went on I got bored and decided I wanted to add depth to otherwise staid hair.  I got some streaks put in.  After a couple of weeks I decided the streaks needed something more and I added fuschia (Manic Panic Hot Pink).  This is the perfect analogy for the year.  What started as another year of classes turned into much much more.

This year has been about immense growth both on and off the mat.  Two months in Pune were challenging and difficult.  The teachers remembered me from last year but that didn’t stop them from literally swatting me into correct alignment.  It’s true, there’s no success without a bit of hardship.

The Dengue fever which followed soon after was my first experience with illness.  The weeks after that recovering was a time full of experimentation, a bit of fear and slowly getting back on track.

My website went live and brought all my interests under one roof.  So if you want to read what I have to say you’ve only got to click on a link.  If you want information about classes, you can just scroll to that page and if you want to drop me a line, you can do that very conveniently too.  From blogging/vlogging with no clear plan, I started to look for a clear structure.  The task became easier with a friend of mine coming on board and encouraging me to use my grey cells to focus on growth.  All the new content on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube (which I hope you’re enjoying) is a result of that.

As students we’ve seen excess weight shed, clocking more running miles, making long term diet changes, instinctively making better food choices, taking ownership of your fitness, introspection, more meditation minutes.  Together we’ve done runs, 108 Suryanamaskars on chilly mornings, post class breakfasts.  We’ve done an amazing and one of a kind retreat away from the rigmarole of life deep in the heart of nature. We have inspired each other and been inspired by each other.  We have watched each other collapse on our mats and then also watched as we pushed ourselves up to move ahead.

This is my last blog for the year and I’m so grateful that we’ve made a connection/continued being in touch this year.  This past week has been about reviewing the year and making plans for the next year.  I hope 2018 brings lots of good health, positivity and abundance into your life.

See you next year!

 

 

 

Food

You Really Wanna Drink That?

December 14, 2017

My parents have been visiting with me for the past couple of days and we’ve been going around sight seeing and exploring the Bangalore food scene. Before I leave the house I always double check that I’m carrying my water with me. You’ll never find me carrying those ridiculously small purses which can only hold a chapstick and a Rs. 5 coin. My bag needs to hold a large bottle full of water.

We don’t know conclusively how long a person can survive without water, but we know that its less than the time without food.  You’re are likely to die of thirst before hunger.

I’m surprised when I find out that some students haven’t had a full glass of water by the time they show up to class.  Which is 8 am!

  1. Start your day with a little warm water.  It kick starts your system, flushes out toxins and increases metabolism.  Hello weight loss!  Hello glowing skin!  Hello luscious hair!  Plus warm water is easier to ingest so you will feel like drinking more of it.
  2. Add a little something to your water for a little zing.  You can add: mint, ginger, cinnamon, lemons/limes to your water to increase the immunity boosting properties.  Make the H2O really work for you.
  3. Now, make drinking this healthful, flavourful water a calm, meditative morning ritual.
  4. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink up.  When your body actively indicates thirst, it means that the water volume in our body has already fallen below a certain threshold.  Basically, you’ve already started to dehydrate.  So if you find yourself drinking water only when you’re thirsty, your body is not happy.
  5. Have a sweet craving?  You might just be hungry.  Down a glass of water.
  6. Absolutely do NOT use a plastic water bottle if you hope to imbibe healthful stuff.  Plastic in water bottles contains many chemicals and these chemicals seep into the water over time.  You don’t want to be drinking this water because these chemicals will actually interfere with the hormonal balance of your body.
  7. Get a metal water bottle and never leave home without it.  I’m actually suggesting a good grade metal water bottle, not a bpa-free, environment friendly water bottle made of some-percent recycled plastic.  Get a metal water bottle.  In fact, I’ve been considering getting a copper water bottle for myself.  I’ve been seeing them everywhere and don’t actually own one.

The thing I see people defaulting on most?  It’s the water bottles.  It’s simply horrifying to see people chugging water from a ratty old plastic Bisleri bottle to quench their thirst.  Bottles that have been sitting in their car for days, with water of questionable integrity.  With all you do (or don’t do) for your health, do you really want to drink that?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need a glass of water.