How flexible can we actually become?

After a year’s effort getting my legs up in the air with headstand, my new goal is to do ‘Full leg Splits’. Today morning after finishing my yoga routine, I tried to assess my current ‘split’ abilities. I went down on two knees, extended one leg in front as far as I could, took the other leg back, supporting with my two hands on the mat, tried to extend further as far as I could. To my utter disappointment, I realized what looks so easy is actually so difficult. I might be good with one pose, but every new pose is a new journey and this is going to be a long one as I had almost 1ft I had to get down to.

Which got me thinking, what causes stretching? What happens when we stretch? Do the muscles get longer? Can everyone be as flexible as they want? How to be flexible?

  • Our muscles are viscoelastic. Like solid materials, they demonstrate elasticity by resuming their original length once tensile force is removed. Yet, like liquids, they also behave viscously because their response to tensile force is rate and time dependent. When we stretch our muscles don’t get longer but their viscoelasticity increases
  • We can actually stretch more than we think we can tolerate. As a kid we are born to be very flexible, but as we grow older, with our lifestyles we restrict our range of motions and our muscles get used to that level of stretch tolerance. So much so that “Pain” is just the body’s way of telling us we are going beyond our normal limits. We can stretch to a little more after the pain. Hence with breathing in and out and adapting our minds, you can ease yourself into a pose, sometimes significantly within minutes.
  • To improve flexibility, hold stretches for longer time: For a post run “stretch”, you can do a quick dynamic stretch, but to improve flexibility we need to re-train our mind and build a new normal. To do that we have to hold stretches (Just uncomfortable, not painful) for longer time , i.e. 30 sec or more, practice twice a day, regularly, be as flexible as possible

Forming new sleep routines

IT’S NOT EASY TO BUILD A ROUTINE. IT’S DEFINITELY NOT EASY TO FORM NEW ROUTINES.

Last week, I experimented waking up at 4:30am. Everyday I would set my alarm for 4:30am, but when the time came, I would just turn it off and go back to bed.

Now, I am a pretty determined person and have routine of sleeping at 10:30pm and waking up at 5:30am every damn day. So, then why was this so difficult for me? Every morning I would reflect back on what happened and why despite my best efforts I still couldn’t get myself out of the bed, three reasons came to my mind:

  1. Not having a strong purpose: I realized that I didn’t have a strong reason to get up at 4:30am, expect that I thought it will give me more time to meditate along with my exercises. I didn’t make a schedule of what exactly I would do with the additional 60min and honestly wasn’t fully convinced. I hoped that if I can get up it would be a good but it’s OK if I don’t. No one can wake up early with this attitude! In our half-conscious half-subconscious state when the alarm goes off, its very easy for the subconscious mind to convince the body to take the sheet up and snuggle in the bed
  2. Not setting an intention: When I would go to bed, I did not told myself that I wanted to get up at 4:30am. I would setup the alarm and hope for the best. Now I have definitely seen myself waking up onetime, even without alarms, without enough sleep. That happened because just before sleeping I told myself I NEED to get up at certain time. It works! The subconscious mind is powerful and trustworthy if you set an honest intention
  3. Too Big a change without regulating the sleep cycle: I was hoping to get by with 6 hrs of sleep. Sleep at 10:30pm and get up at 4:30am. I know Buddhists monks do it so then why can’t I, right? But that is not how it works. I was extra busy last week, slept at 10:30 / 11. No way I can get up an hour earlier! It would have been easier to start small. 15min ahead, 30min ahead and then 60min ahead..

Next week experiment: Get up at 5:00am

 

How to ease into a Headstand

Three years ago, I decided I want to learn how to flip my body up side down and get into a headstand.

It took me a couple of months to overcome my fear and get my legs up against the wall, another six months to learn how to maintain balance without the support of the wall and almost two impossible years to move into a gracious jerk-free, guaranteed headstand balance in the middle of the room. I had tried different tricks, watched several youtube videos and almost given up till I tried these three simple things that transformed my handstand in the last 10 days!

 

Exhale when you lift up: One of the most important things while being upside down is breathing.

After the dolphin pose, bring your legs as close to the forehead while maintaining a stable 90degree position of the top of the head, As soon as you feel you have achieved the limit and head is starting to lose balance, take a deep breath and start slowly exhaling and simultaneously lifting one and then second leg to the middle position. Exhale further and you will feel the stomach tightening that will help you move your legs further up to the final position. Exhale the last air out of your lungs to stiffen your core and get into the proper stable headstand

 

Divide the move into three stages: Headstand is not one pose. Its a final milestone of the journey and every-time you get into it you have to pass through the other milestones. You cant jump to it.

The reason it took me two years to master headstand was because every time I would just jerk my legs from the floor to the air hoping that I would catch my balance. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. The fear that it wouldn’t, esp in yoga classes, made sure that I could never get into a non assisted headstand in a yoga class but could do one at home.

Divide the pose into three or more stages – On the floor, legs half up in the air and both legs straight up in the air. When you are at each stage, take a second or just consciously move your attention for a split second to make sure you are stable with  a quick check of the key body parts (balance of head, even pressure distribution in the hand and stability). Just knowing this helps move onto the next stage smoothly

 

When falling fwd tighten the lungs, when falling backwards stiffen the legs: While you are learning headstand you fall. There is no escape. Loosen the grip and let the body fall to avoid injuries.

After you have mastered headstand, you still fall because the mind wanders. But knowing what you can do to adjust balance when you feel the bosy swaying fwd  / backwards helps to consciously stabilize the body.

How to know where you are falling: When you are falling fwd you will feel more pressure on your hands, but when falling backwards you will feel more pressure on your head

 

In the end, one you are in the pose, play with it. In a perfect headstand you balance all your weight in a tiny area at the top of your head. Its not easy and definitely looks like a serious pose, but play with it and have some fun. Because the rush of blood in your head and the energy you will feel afterwards is going to make it addictive for you!

 

 

 

Breakfast: Playing with Avocado

I love Avocado toasts and would have it every single day! At the simplest, avocado guts  mashed together with a drop of lime, sprinkled with salt and spread over a slice of toasted bread is creamy, savory, delicious and filling. But, avocados are extremely versatile and there could be so many variations to the basic avocado toast, that you would rather play with it, experiment and delight your senses with your own take on avocado toast every single day than getting stuck with the usual.

This week’s edition is Avocado toast with white beans

Recipe

Prep time: 10min | Cooking time: 5min | Serves: 4 bread toasts (2 people)

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole avocados (sliced in half, seeds removed)
  • 1/4 cup white beans (soaked and cooked)
  • 15 – 20 Cherry tomatoes (sliced in half)
  • 10 almonds / other nuts
  • 2 garlic
  • 1 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp chilly flakes
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Instructions:

  • Put the bread to toast
  • Roast the tomatoes till they become soft and start falling on themselves (Oven: 9min, 250 degrees C | Stove: 10min with a dollop of oil)
  • In a mixer grinder, mash together avocados, white beans, almonds, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and chilly flakes to a thick paste. Add 1 tbsp water if needed
  • Prepare the spread with placing the thick avocado paste on the bread and topping with a couple of cherry tomatoes

This avocado toast was incredibly delicious and fulfilling! Cheers to Experiments!

The most refreshing Watermelon Juice

I got up today morning to a temperature of “36 degrees outside, feels like 47 degrees” due to the intense humidity and air quality. It was so hot that I couldn’t think of cooking anything for breakfast and I wanted something cool to kick start the day. Some fiddling around the kitchen led me to….Fruits, juices! I laced up my shoes and ran to the fruit shop. 20min later I was  gulping down 3 cups of the most refreshing juice I have ever had!

Recipe

Prep time: 5min | Cook time: 2min | Makes 4 glasses

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 watermelon, roughly cut into pieces
  • 2 tsp black rock salt / Himalayan rock salt
  • 10 mint leaves, finely chopped
  • Ice cubes (optional)

Recipe:

  • Put the watermelon pieces into the juicer or blend it (Watermelon has 92% water content, so even if you juice it, you waste very little fibre but end up avoiding the hassle of taking out the seeds. If you decide to blend, do remove the seeds upfront)
  • Add mint leaves
  • Add 1/2 tsp of black rock salt to every glass of juice
  • Add ice cubes / cool the juice in the refrigerator for 20min before drinking

(Himalayan Rock salt has been much praised in Ayurveda because of its high sulphur content. Compared to the readily available, processed and bleached “white” salt version, Himalayan salt is still widely available in its unprocessed state, grind into granules, maintaining its pink/black color.

While you can use the Himalayan rock salt to season absolutely anything, its match with watermelon is one made in heaven. Add a couple of mint leaves and you are sure to say this is THE MOST REFRESHING drink you have ever had and wont be able to stop at one!)

 

Satori

Satori is a Japanese buddhist term that simply means “understanding”. But it stretches the definition of understanding to awakening, i.e. “seeing into one’s true nature”. To strive to continually and truly understand something.

For me, Satori is a way of life. It is about not just leading a life but living a conscious life, absorbing the world around and asking questions to dig deeper into the whys, so that one day I could find peace with my role in this world, and if I am really lucky then make a positive impact on someone else.

My objective of starting this blog is to keep myself accountable to being curious, asking questions and sharing my learnings in the blogosphere.