Who has time for yoga in a corporate lifestyle? 4 reasons it is indispensable

You think you are focused, till you close your eyes

Last month I attended a 28-day, 200 hrs intensive yoga teachers training course. On day 1, I had the biggest aha moment.

Sitting down to meditate, devoid of any significant work or personal troubles, in a beautiful ashram surrounded by a lakes and mountains, when I closed my eyes to ‘meditate’, I couldn’t tame my thoughts for even a couple of minutes! The mind kept jumping from thoughts irrelevant to thoughts unexpected. I thought I was calm and very much in the moment, but in reality the inner machinations of my mind were constantly dealing with a billion things – from making sense of past memories to deciding responses to future problems, from worrying about the mosquito that is hovering close to my ear to the imperceptible inner working of the cells. Most troubling was the fact that I had little control over any of it. 

Which led me to think, with so many friction points to concentrating, are we really being effective at what we are doing? What if we could reduce the friction and channel our mind, like a prism, on one point, one project, one objective? How incredibly powerful would that be!

As I contemplated and learnt more over for the next 4 weeks, challenging a lot of my own assumptions, I synthesized 4 learnings to take back to the corporate world.

1. Multitasking is NOT possible: We think we can multitask, i.e., doing two or more things at the same time. But the truth is that our mind CAN NOT process two things at the same time. It’s akin to saying, the new iphone screen has a smooth display because we don’t see any pixelated squares. When encountered with two things, our mind divides it into small tasks and processes them linearly, unless encountered with unconscious / subconscious / reflex activities. When we give it too many things to deal with it keeps jumping around like a drunken monkey and gets tired. To be more productive, to be creative, or to really solve a problem, we need to go deep and concentrate on one task at a time.

Experiment: Check your phone at 15min – 30min intervals. In the meantime focus on the task at hand. See your productivity rise. We think the world ends in 30min but it doesn’t 😉

2. Learn how to breathe and use it to your advantage: Breathing is the most powerful activity we do all day. It keeps us alive. However, ‘feeling’ alive requires breathing in the right way, allowing for more oxygen than carbon dioxide in the lungs, brain and all the billion cells to effectively do their functions. Insufficient breaths put incredible stress on the body, reducing brain activity and prematurely deteriorating it.

Experiment: Inhale, abdomen out, expand your chest, expand your shoulder to bring air fully to the bottom of the lungs. Exhale, abdomen in, chest relaxed, shoulder relaxed and let all the air out from the lungs. Just like a baby! Whenever possible, take a counted breath and exhale with twice the counts of inhales. Notice a slight calmness when you exhale and attentiveness when you inhale.

3. Digestion is more important than eating: Do you know that digestion takes up over 50% of the energy we get from the food we eat? Do you know that carbohydrates and proteins take 12 – 16 hrs to fully digest in our bodies? Do you know that feeling hungry can be a craving of the mind and not the need of our body? Constantly eating heavy meals can make us tired and counterintuitively reduce the amount of nutrient absorption in the body. We lose productivity of food and productivity at work!

Experiment: Find your favorite snack. Start with a glass of water, a cup of herbal tea, 3-5 dates, handful of nuts, a fruit bowl, or a yogurt cup and still if nothing works than you are really hungry for food! 

4. Exercise to focus on internal systems as much as external appearances: We have got to keep all the billion cells, 72K+ nerve centers, 650+ muscles, 206 bones and the 78 organs functioning well to be the most productive version of ourselves.This might sound overwhelming because who has so much time to take care of the body?! Just listening to it should be a blow to our lifestyles. Exercise to build bone strength, exercise to increase blood circulation, exercise to stretch the muscles and exercise to massage the internal organs. Yoga is an answer to all or a great supplement!

Experiment: The neck muscles are most susceptible to getting tired as they channel all the nerves through a critical, but narrow highway – from the spine to the brain. Do some neck exercises and you will suddenly feel fresh.

Take care, breathe, and build for sustainable success 🙂

28 Days of Yoga immersion – I learnt what yoga really means

From Feb 10 2019 to Mar 10 2019, I attended the 200hr yoga teacher-training course at The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanvantri Ashram at Neyyar Dam, Kerela, India.

The drive from Thiruvananthapuram airport snakes through narrow village roads to reach the ashram in about an hour. The ashram is perched on a small plateau on the foothills of Southern Western Ghats, flanked by a beautiful lake set against the backdrop of herb-laden mountain range. The nearest village (qualified by the presence of a restaurant) is left 10kms behind. Inside, people practice a simple life – dressed in clothes picked solely for the purpose of utility, sit on the floors, walk while stopping by to enjoy a blooming lotus, a playful cat or chasing sunsets. You hear incredible stories of people who have travelled from across the world to press a reset button in their worldly life and practice yoga.

There was a mystical energy in the place, part created by the environment and part by the people, which made the grilling 16hr day, 6 days a week, manageable. Our days began sharp at 5:20am with a communal bell, squeezing in 4.5hr of yoga, 3hr lectures of Vedanta Philosophy, Bhagvad Gita and Anatomy, 1hr of meditation, 1hr of chanting, 1hr of service, 1hr eating 2 meals a day and miscellaneous time to finish everyday homework till it was lights off at 10:30pm. To call it intense would be an understatement. On day 1 we were told that this experience would ‘change’ us and I was curious to learn how.

As we neared week 3, I found myself adapting to the ashram lifestyle. Sitting cross-legged for 8hrs everyday was becoming manageable, I felt comfortable with two meals a day, I could tame my thoughts for a couple of seconds during meditation, I got into headstand from crow the other day, I was learning a lot about yoga philosophy and postures… But unfortunately none of this qualified as ‘change’ but felt merely as signs of progress, till I was pushed, while getting out of the airport bus after landing back in Bangalore city from the ashram.

I felt like an alien who has come to the city after spending years in the jungle. I felt a sharp aversion to the craziness at the airport, the bags, the crowd, the lights. I wanted to rush back and find a calm place. I longed for simplicity. That’s when I knew something deep had changed inside me. After getting back home, I decided to pen down my thoughts for anyone who was curious about the path of yoga or was on his/her own journey.

What I learnt – The Why, How and What of Yoga

Why should we do Yoga and what is the purpose?

Our mind is our apex center. It has the power to make decisions and orchestrates the nerve signals and muscle movements to take necessary action. It decides if we should succumb and reach out to that cheese oozing pizza. It decides if we have enough time to overtake the truck ahead in a fast lane highway. Every second, the mind is getting signals from the billions of cells in our body on rate of metabolism, infections, pH levels etc. Every second, the mind is bombarded with sensory perceptions of the outside world through our 5 senses. The mind is constantly preoccupied and working very hard, splitting all the inputs into tiny tasks and defining a conscious / subconscious / unconscious response.

What if we could harness all this mental power and focus it on one point, one problem, one project! You might solve world hunger! The true purpose of yoga is to achieve that control on the mind.

Asana based yoga, uses body as a tool to rein in our breath and then mind. On the last day of the course, we did 2hr of meditative asanas, i.e. holding asanas for upto 5min with deep breathing and closed eyes. After the class, instead of being tired, I felt a strange sensation of peace. So strong that I just wanted to focus on something deep within me. I didn’t care about rushing for the last meal of the day. I didn’t crave for checking my phone. I wanted to be in the moment.

Yoga is the silencing of the modifications of the mind

How to do yoga the right way:

  • Start with Savasana to relax body and mind. Don’t jump into it. Even if you do yoga in the morning, start with 5min of Savasana (complete relaxation, corpse pose) because you never know what the dreams or checking that phone did to you.
  • Learn correct breathing. Correct yogic breathing goes like this: Inhale, abdomen out, expand your chest, expand your shoulder to bring air fully to the bottom of the lungs. Exhale, abdomen in, chest relaxed, shoulder relaxed and let all the air out from the lungs. Know the breathing routine to get into the pose and breathe rhythmically when in the pose.
  • Feel the pose. Focusing on how the pose is stretching your muscles and which organs are getting activated, will help to get deeper into the pose or to hold it longer or to do the pose with eyes closed. Just consciously bringing your attention to the body part will fire the nerves and bring amplified benefits to that part.
Breathe, Focus and feel the pose

What asana to do and where to begin?

  • Check your alignment. Take a picture of you standing straight sideways and notice how you are hunched forward or backward (in an ideal posture, you can draw a straight line through your ear, shoulder , hip, knee and ankle joints). Focus on asanas that counter the bad posture and correct the stance. Adopt right posture for sitting, standing and walking.
  • Do a full spinal workout. There is a Chinese saying that says, you are as young as the flexibility of your spine. If the nerves in and around the spine aren’t supple enough and unable to send the signals / nutrients across the body enough, than no matter what you eat or do, you will be prone to diseases and pains. An adult spine is a set of 26 vertebra divided into 4 sections, that can allow movement forward, backward, twists and lateral. Focus on all for a complete daily practice. Sun Salutation is a great all spinal workout that can be added as a warmup with 5 rounds or a full 60min workout with 108 rounds!
  • Pick up a challenging pose. Build strength, flexibility, balance AND endurance. There are 8.4M yoga asanas out there. Leave alone mastering them, even the account of these asanas is not mentioned anywhere. Based on our  practice we tend to gravitate towards one type. We are afraid of building strength or holding poses for longer thinking that it’s not “our” style of yoga. But in the end, it is all one yoga with one aim. Our muscles need all four actions, so challenge yourself and challenge them!

You are born with every breath.
So Breathe. Breathe consciously and breathe fully.
To be a better, stronger, calmer and more focused version of yourself…

Papaya bowls

This papaya breakfast bowl is a treat to the eyes, bursting with naturly fresh orange, red, green and nutty brown colors! 

You want to hold it in your hands and eat it. You would have never eaten so much papaya at one go!

As you take the bites you can feel how the food cools down the body and nourishes you. A great first thing to start your day

Recipe:

Prep time: 5min | Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 papaya
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 4-5 Strawberries
  • Handful of Almonds / walnuts
  • 1Tbsp Chia seeds

Instructions

  • Cut the papaya into two halves, lengthwise. Deseed to create a roughly even bowl
  • Sweeten the yogurt with honey
  • Fill the deseeded papaya with sweetened honey, and top it with colorful fruits, chia seeds and nuts to your liking

Notes:

  • To eat, take a spoon and scoop out from where the yogurt meets the papaya and move outwards towards the edge of the papaya skin
  • Make sure the papays isn’t too ripe that its skin doesn’t hold strong

Exercise your brain

Have you ever wondered, how do we take care of our most intricate body part, that is unique to us humans, we can only access it by our thoughts or some complex scientific procedure and that even science hasn’t been able to figure it out completely as yet!

Yes. Thats our brain. It actively works while we are awake processing millions of signals each receives from every cell of the body, and unconsciously streaming dreams while we are asleep. For this non stop activity, our brain needs some exercise.

Learning new things, stepping out of the comfort zones, solving complex problems keeps it active. But whatever we do we would still be using under 10% of our brain’s potential. And in our modern lifestyles we are making things even worse.

Most of us are in jobs where we do the same things over and over again. We are constantly deferring to ‘why remember something when you have google’. We stay in our lanes. The result – our memory muscles, creative muscles, sensory muscles, imaginative muscles.. get weak. And the ones we use more often get tired easily.

We can’t let that happen especially when there is such an easy and soothing solution to it. “The humming bee” Pranayama. This one exercise creates vibrations so strong that they can reach deep into the realms of the human brain keeping all its muscles supple and active.

How to?

  • Start with sitting in a comfortable position
  • Use your thumb and fingers to gently close your ears and eyes.
  • Take a deep breath and as you exhale, exhale from the throat keeping the mouth shut and tongue touching the top of the mouth.
  • You will feel ‘hhhhhummmmm’ voice, similar to that at the end of an ‘Om’ chant or that of a humming bee
  • Repeat this for 3-10times
  • And…before you rush to open your eyes, take a moment to feel the vibrations like a gentle massage to your brain

So don’t forget your brain, when you finish off your daily set of exercises!

Relax your eyes

Ever imagined how much our eyes work every single day. While they are working nonstop when we are awake, we have made the task any easier with (1) our dependence on digital screens of all sizes (2) staying in dry air conditioned, polluted environments

So let’s treat our eyes with a surprise refreshing acupressure massage every night before you go to bed. I have been trying them for a week and already seeing the effects.

  1. With each of your thumbs locate the intersections where the top of your nose meets the eye, on either side of your nose. Gently press upwards on the upper eyebrow bone. Hold for 5sec and leave, and repeat six times for a total of 30sec
  2. With your index finger press on the space in-between your eyebrows

You would find you body relaxing just as you gently press the key zones located on your forehead. You might feel a bit of pain when you move along the eyebrows, which is simply our body’s way of saying it is holding up stress. So, Don’t worry just gently keep pressing along and you would find the pain easing and the eyes relaxing with increased blood flow and reduced muscle tension.

#energy #eyecare #massage #accupressure #thesatorilifestyle #consciousliving

Chia Seed Pudding

Is it a breakfast or is it a dessert? You would still be debating as you scrape that last tiny chia seed from the bottom of your cup! Its the best dessert for breakfast! Its Chia seed pudding

Chia seeds are a staple of South America. It is said that the tribe of Tarahumara Indians, famously known for running hundreds of miles in Mexico’s deep deadly copper canyons, would have chia seeds soaked in lime juice as their energy drink! (Do read more about them and the Race of a lifetime in the book “Born to Run”)

Chia seeds are loaded with antioxidants, omega 3, fiber, iron, calcium, phosphorous – loading you with energy, good cholesterol and nutrients that are not found in everyday vegetarian diet. 

So, add chia seeds into your weekly routine with this extremely simple make ahead eye pleasing breakfast (or even dessert) recipe!

Recipe

Prep Time: 5min | Makes 1 portion

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unflavored yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • A handful of nuts (almonds, walnuts, cherries) – roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup colorful fruits – Banana, Spiced apple, Strawberries
  • 4-5 Mint leaves

Instructions

  • In one big cup, pour in unflavored yogurt. Add honey and chia seeds. Mix well so that the chia seeds are broadly distributed and not forming lumps. Its not a problem if they do, just that eating soaked isolated chia seeds are better than lumps!
  • Cover and let this sit overnight
  • In the morning, start your layering craft.
  • My Option 1: Start with a row of walnuts and cherries, then sliced bananas, then sliced strawberries then mint on top
  • My Option 2: Start with a row of toasted almonds, then add Spiced Apples!

Notes

  • This is an absolute free style recipe. Choose your own mix of fruits and nuts, play around with layering, mix as many colors you like!
  • Use transparent cup / glass / masor jar so that you can see the action!

Banana Oat Pancakes!

Make these delicious Banana Oats pancake mountain to crush those long To Do list filled mornings!

You know its going to be one of those long days, the day would start and before uyou know it you have skipped lunch. There is an unending to Do list. On those exact days, I am asking you to take out 15min – 5min to cook and 10min to eat these extremely nourishing, filling (will not cause bloating) and will keep you going!

However for those who have already started rolling there eyes on oats, I am going to be honest here. Oats are a healthy grain option – they are whole, full of fibers, vitamins and minerals, keeping you full and satisfied for a long time. But after several experiments in kitchen I have concluded and agree that it is very hard to make them taste good. 

I have experimented and tried to incorporate oats in my every day diet, but unfortunately with little success till now. They are gooey and ‘taste of health’, which people who do not lean towards healthy food know what I mean.

Oats Upma and oats Poha never turn out good; Oats Porridge loaded with nuts and peanut butter comes midway but hard to adopt for those you don’t like the taste of oats. But dont stop there if you have. Give this recipe a shot. These Banana Oats pancakes have been taste tested 20 times with 100% success – TASTE BETTER THAN REGULAR PANCAKES

Recipe

Prep time: 15min | Cooking time: 2 min / pancake | Makes 4 small pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup oat flour (You can grind it fresh in your smoothie blender. Doesnt have to be very fine. Coarse tastes better)
  • 3/4 cup milk of your choice
  • 1 egg
  • 1 banana
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (+ 3tsp for cooking)
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (freshly grated taste better)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (can only grate fresh if you have a high power blender)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla essense
  • Strawberries and/or chocolate chips for garnish! (optional)

Instructions

  • In a bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients (oat flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, baking powder)
  • In a new (but smaller) bowl mash the Banana with forks into gooey chunks. No stress. Then carefully crack your egg, add milk, honey, coconut oil and vanilla essence. Mix it all well!
  • Pour the liquid mixture from the second bowl into the first bowl and mix well (again) till everything becomes smooth and even. Do not keep over mixing it as the baking powder will start losing its effect 😉
  • Now when you are ready to eat, In a pan add 1/4 tsp coconut oil and wait till you can feel its become hot (not too hot that oil starts burning)
  • Then pour 1/4 cup of our delicious mix, make it into a rough circle and wait till you see bubbles forming at the top and the outsides starting turning golden. Flip it over! Cook for 30sec on the other side and flip it, flying high up in the sky, straight into your pan
  • Mount two / hree of these, with fruits, nuts, honey, chocolate sauce in between! Decorate as you like
  • Eat within 10min. Best when hot

Notes:

  • Consumer within 10min. Best when hot!
  • You can pre make the mix the night before, so all you need to do on those busy days is take the mix out of teh fridge, cook for 5min (1 min to heat the pan, 2 min / pancakes *2) and 10min to eat! Give yourself that much time, esp when you know you might be skipping lunch that day 🙂
  • Banana and honey are the secret agent here!

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Spice up your winter breakfasts!

Winters are about snuggling in bed, wrapping your hands around a warm cup of tea, losing yourself in fluffy winter jacket and getting those unexpected long hugs from families and friends during the holidays or even as you walk down the road playing the winter air

While we take ample and more care to warm up on the outside, we need to also look out for warming up our insides. During winter our body goes into a bit of hibernating stage and we need to get the digestive fire and blood circulations going with foods that have a warming effect on in our gut

Step 1 – Say hello to Spices this winter. Dig them out of your kitchen racks or order some fresh whole ones online! Spices on the must list for this winter season are – Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Green Cardamom, Blck cardamom, Cloves, Ginger, (Safron and Turmeric – not used in the recipe below)

Step 2 – Dream up your memories of winter destinations and the classic winter fruits and vegetables. I cant help but start thinking of the beautiful Apple and peach orchards of Kashmir in India. Trees laden with fruits set in the backdrop of snowy mountains…

Step 3 – Get into the kitchen to cook up something easy, fun and soul warming. Our recipe for today is Spiced apples!

Recipe:

Prep Time: 2min | Cooking time: 10min |Makes for 2 bowls

Ingredients:

  • 2 apples, sliced into 8 pieces each
  • 1/3 cup of water
  • 1 inch cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated cinnamon
  • 3 pods of green cardamom
  • 1 pod of black cardamom
  • 3 cloves
  • 1/2 inch ginger grated

Instructions

  • In a pot, add water and all the spices . Simmer on slow heat till it comes to a gentle rolling boil ( about 2min)
  • Add apple slices, cover the lid and cook on slow heat for about another 8-10 mins.
  • Remove apples from the heat and serve hot in bowls. The apples should be softened with still a slight crunch and flavorful Feel free to also add the liquid to the bowls, so that the apples keep absorbing the flavors

Notes:

  • You are going to absolutely fall in love with the aroma of the spices when you take off the lid at the end. Take a deep breath and take it all in!
  • Use only whole spices and ground them fresh as needed (ginger, nutmeg). Grounded spices kept for long loose their aroma and benefits
  • Do not cook on high heat. The Vitamin C in Apples can take small amounts of heat but will lose its nutritive value in long high heat cooking styles
  • Enjoy for breakfast everyday as a main or a side 🙂

(While I was researching, it was just crazy to find the health benefits of these spices- anti inflammatory, anti oxidant and anti bacterial. Though, I am still left confused with what specifically all of that means. If you guys have any recommendations on books / blogs that demistify spices, what exactly they do when the enter in the body, less preachy and more explanatory – definitely let me know)

Make your dreams come true in this new year

For the last 8 years, I have been sleeping before the clock strikes 12 at New Year’s Eve, sticking to my everyday routine of sleeping by 10:30pm. But some years I remember purposefully getting to bed at 10am even if I wasn’t feeling sleepy just to make a point. I didn’t understand the New year craze. Every day is a fresh new day. It felt utterly pointless to stay up all night get drunk and start the new year hungover.

I never truly appreciated the magnamosity of the new year celebrations. Millions of people would squeeze together to watch the ball drop at NYC Times Square or take 30+hr trips to seethe fireworks in Australia, or plan all year the new year parties at their houses!

But now having travelled across the world, I have realized it is that one moment that’s celebrated across the globe at each of the tiny regions of the earth as it rotates towards the sun.  New year is a ray of hope. While every day is a fresh new day, new year brings a fresh 365 days – if you are lucky sometimes a fresh decade or fresh centenary like in 2000! There is something special about knowing you have a fresh start enough to achieve your dreams. Enough to become a new you, like starting a new venture or shaving off those 20 kgs! It’s a fantastical amount of time to draw an action map for our dreams.

But they why do only 1% people really stick to their resolutions? Why do things start falling off the very next day!?

Because while we all like a ray of hope, we all like that tingling of a new year, we all love to celebrate and sign up for new things.. We don’t create the right environment for change. We want to change a part of us, but we don’t make space for it, we are unwilling to change our routines!. For a change to work, esp if you are looking for a visible change, you need to Allow for the change. e.g., If you want to really start working out, you need to adjust your schedule and take something off of it, you need to be accountable to someone or a diary, you need to listen how your body feels every day and tell yourself you want to feel it again the very next day before you go to sleep.

So, don’t waste your chance. Dream something big in this new year and make it happen!

Just recently I finished reading the book ‘Gut’ recently (its a brilliantly written book on the intricate mechanisms of our digestive system, in a humorous layman language) and it talked about how our body tells us so much about our inner health with the the obvious (aches, sneeze) and the unobvious (stools, breath). Read the book and listen more for a healthier you this new year 🙂