Sep 6, 2015

yoga basics

As we all move to make yoga a part of our lives, let's just quickly touchdown on what yoga is exactly:
The term yoga can be derived from either of two roots, yujir yoga (to yoke) or yuj samādhau (to concentrate). The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali defines yoga as "the stilling of the changing states of the mind". Yoga has also been popularly defined as "union with the divine" in other contexts and traditions.

Various books and philosophies will expand on this theme at length. The core that I wish to share with you is that yoga boils down to anything that is done with one-pointed concentration. As simple as this seems, as humans we tend to think of a gazillion things all at once and find it extremely difficult to focus. If it were easy, we would all meditate for 3hours a day. Concentration is something that comes with practice though, and as much as yoga benefits our bodies, it also benefits our minds, bringing it to stillness as we focus on breath and body.

When you enter a class then, do your best to release your day, knowing that you can't do anything until class is done anyway. Focus on your body and your practice, honouring where you are and knowing you will get where you aim to be soon enough. Progress in yoga comes in steps.

Mar 23, 2015

the journey

Following a spiritual route, a path that leads you to a place of non-suffering, bliss and ultimately to being a better person that you would be if you just ran on auto-pilot, is not an easy thing. Often we are asked to follow through on actions that will serve our souls but make our egos throw its heals in the dirt with the force of a Tsunami. The lessons learned during these times are usually the most profound, and the largest in both quantity and expectation.

For the past few weeks, I have been dealing with a very particular case that caused a lot of heartache, anger and confusion in my life.

Because sometimes the people that you need to be there the most, aren't. Even when they are suppose to. And sometimes, even in the face of all the evidence, they will still just turn their back on you and take the other side. This happens. Sometimes more than once and whether you accept these repititions or not, really does depend on the role the person plays in your life. For some people we give more chances than others. I am not yet sure if anyone ever gets unlimited chances...

In my normal day to day, I vented a little to my husband and my best friend, and then I went right on cleaning my house, doing laundry, driving the kids around and giving my yoga classes. Most of the time with a smile on my face too. But internally I was trying to resolve a tiresome struggle.

This event stirred up a bunch of emotions, emotions as old as I am. I was angry, upset, distraught, furious, sad and I also felt dejected. In a previous life I would have written angry emails and letters, set up meetings to battle this out, or just have rushed in and confronted the situation head on and very aggressively. I don't do this anymore. I have learned till now that these actions don't serve a purpose and that people make their own choices, choose their own paths. I am not expected to resolve other people's internal struggles for them, only my own.

What I did feel was required was forgiveness, compassion and letting go of the emotions tied to this person. Without letting my trust in humanity be broken; Without losing my faith in love and peace which can heal all; Without unloading a bunch of hurtful lines; Without holding on to the pain of the memories. But with or without these wonderful expectations, I just could not bring myself to a point of forgiveness, and without forgiveness, compassion and letting go can't be reached.

I wanted to hit something. And I wanted to embrace that anger. I wanted to give in to all the reactions that came so uncontrolled at one time in my life. Although harmful, it does provide an easy point of relief. These emotions were what resonated with me at this time. And then it also didn't. I had an intense desire to slap someone, and a part of me really wishes I didn't want to, and still another part was a little saddened that the desire came up at all.

Evolving is not easy...

I am on a better path (for me) now. I want to forgive and forget. I have obviously not graduated from this path yet.

Emotions should not be repressed, but we do need a firm handle on what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. All emotions are acceptable, not all actions are. Toddlers need to unlearn tantrums and grown ups should not return to that as a reaction to things that don't go as expected. We need to know our triggers, and while we are still learning how this 'being human' works best, we need to embrace the emotions that do come up and deal with their core creation.

So while one part of me wants to give in to the actions of the anger, a part of me knows this is not permissible or healthy. Another part of me knows it should forgive and move on, but forcing this and thereby repressing the emotions that are felt is also not healthy.

There are of course things that can be done to alleviate the building pressure over such conundrums, and these usually aid in resolving the issues on a sub conscious level as well. Things like yoga, breathing exercises, mantras, and the like. When you can see how your actions affect those around you, who they hurt and what they damage, these practices are worth delving in to as a means to awareness, of which the main aim is not to control your emotions, but to not let your emotions control you. 

On the surface it might often seem as if you have failed in the lesson because you do become angry or you can't reach forgiveness. This is not always true. If you can remain aware of the actions, reactions, rigger points and resistance that takes place, you are learning and absorbing what you need to. The next time something happens you may be able to catch your triggers in time, or refrain from letting your anger control you, or be able to find instant compassion or forgiveness, but only because you paid attention during this event.

If you travel in awareness, you choose where your focus goes and therefore you choose how you grow and travel on this journey, your life. In the meantime, and with full awareness and the knowledge that this is all a big part of it, just make peace with the contradictions and conundrums that this journey brings and settle fully into the fact that you willing to learn and change. This in itself is a major defining and differentiation point.

* may love always find you; may you always find love *

Mar 16, 2015

3 smoothies (and variations) to help you start your day

Most of us are aware of the value of our health, especially those of us that are slightly more advanced in age. What isn't as obvious, is how to retain that health. There are so many thoughts on what a healthy diet should be these days, and a lot of them make sense in all the ways that we want them too.

I could go on at length about what I believe the fundamentals are of a healthy diet, but instead I would like to focus on one thing that is most definitely an easy way to stay healthy.


Smoothies are an easy way to get in all the nutrients that your body requires, or perhaps all the leafy greens that you are usually skipping with your normal meals. it is also the perfect way to start a day:
1) easy
2) fast
3) mobile
4) usually fruit based, but always raw, which is the perfect breakfast since it is easily digestible and will aid the body's quest to rid itself of toxins acquired through the night
5) quit delicious and easy to convince kids to try out as well

But most people are (understandably) reluctant to try out this wonderful method. So lets just assume that I have given you all the data and you now understand that it really fast and easy, because  (lets face it) the only way that you are going to understand how EASY / QUICK / HEALTHY / FAST / DELICIOUS it is, is if you try it out yourself.

What do you need?

First off, a blender. Can't make smoothies without a blender. To start out, use what you have. A hand blender will work for some softer fruits and veggies; A food processor might not make it as smooth or drinkable, so instead of making a smoothie per say, make a smoothie bowl (which you put in a bowl and eat like yoghurt rather than drink); a normal blender will work for soft to medium hard fruits and veggies, but you might need to cut your items into smaller bits (it should still work fine on nuts).
Once you have made smoothies a part of your daily ritual, or even if you are just having them once or twice a week, you might want to invest in something a little more fancy-pants.

Secondly, a variety of fruits and veggies. Preferably organic, but do what you can and can afford.

Lastly, add-ons of choice. These can be nuts, nutter butters, cacao powder, superfoods like chia seeds or macha powder. These are very personal. Often times these add-ons offer specific textures and tastes that you may like or dislike according to preference, as well as benefits that you will find your way to. They are very easy to experiment with once you find your way around the concept. For now though, they are completely optional.

So now that you know what this project entails, here are 3 easy recipes to try out. They are very easy, and very easily adjustable. You want to keep your recipes fairly simple, so don't add too much to any ONE smoothie.

The recipes below have no added liquid. Add a 1/2 cup of water to the first 2 and try blending it. Add more water if your machine struggles. In the case of the last one, add the water only if you are not juicing the first set of ingredients.

1) strawberry milkshake

ingredients: bananas, dates, strawberries
how much of each? you ask. Well, it really does depend on how many people you are catering for. Try out these quantities for size, and when you get the hang of it, adjust according to taste and people: 2 bananas, 3 dates (medjool, if you are using pitted, then double that amount and if you are using a hand blender or processor, soak them before hand), 5 to 10 strawberries (depending on size)

leave strawberries and add nuts / nutter butters + raw cacao (makes a lovely toffee milkshake)
just leave the strawberries and add 2 more dates for something more caramel like
swap bstrawberries for any other berries
add chia seeds before you drink it
make a smoothie bowl by placing the smoothie into your favourite breakfast bowl, sprinkle with muesli, nuts, chia seeds and/or the like

2) fruit salad

ingredients: bananas, blueberry, kiwi, melon, mango, chia seeds (added before you intend to drink it)
quantity: this was really a recipe born out of a desire for a smoothie and an almost empty fridge, so leave out whatever you want and add what you would add to a normal fruit salad, I would say about half a cup of each and 2 bananas; sprinkle the chia seeds after you have done all your blending as they tend to congeal once fine.

add or remove any fruit
add some ginger or lemon juice for some extra tang
blend a whole small FROZEN lemon - cold, refreshing, and you get all the goodness of the lemon and its zest
add macharoot powder, hempseeds, or another superfood or green veggie powder
3) green juice

ingredients: cucumber, apple, celery (if you have a juicer, juice these ingredients first; if you don't just blend it all), ginger (either juiced or blended, blended is stronger but a bit stringy), green leafy something (add kale, spinach, baby spinach to blender along with juice and blend till smooth- sound like it is going to be awful right? trust me it won't), add some parsley for some serious VitC and other goodness
quantity? by now we should have established that I am not really a measuring kind of person, but in order to make it easier for you: 1 apple (2 if you have no cucumber), small cucumber (not the mini ones, more like half a normal cucumber), 3 sticks celery leaves and all (or cut of the leaves and stalks and add them to your leafy greens), slice of ginger as thick as you like it strong (about 2cm to start),  1 cup squashed leafy greens (although I usually measure mine as 2 big handfulls), stalk or 2 parsley (taste of this is a little strong so start out less rather than more)

add beetroot and/or carrots
add chia seeds before you drink it
add hempseeds to the blender stage
add avo to keep it green but make it more creamy

And there you have it. Easy peasy.

Some guidelines:
bananas and avo make everything creamy - you will taste banana surely, but not the avo
liquid usually needs to be added for the blender to work, but machines may differ
if you have no banana add milk, nut milk if you are vegan
hempseeds have a slightly bitter taste, but stronger tastes (like ginger) will over power it

Some of these recipes and their options might sound a little off, but you will never know unless you try. At worst you hate it and throw it. At best, you have a new easy way to prepare breakfast or snack replacements that are healthy, filling, easy to digest as well as easy to swallow. And once you get the hang of these 3, there is really no end to the combinations you can try. There is also a wide range of smoothies that can be heated slightly, to make winters more bearable, but that's another post.

PS - if you have the ingredients, try celery and watermelon on summer's day. Most refreshing smoothie ever!
PPS - if you are interested in juicing, here are some great tips for that endeavour.

Happy juicing and blending, and may your days be healthier if you do.

Mar 13, 2015

5 Must-Visit National Parks in India

Today's post is a guest contribution. Please meet Rohit Agarwal. Quenching his tempt to move around the globe, Rohit gathered a lot from his experience through his wildlife tour of India. He loves to share these experiences with his mates who share the same passion.

Besides being over populated with humans, the country of India is also a home to almost 1200 species of birds and around 350 mammals upheld within 89 National Parks and more than 400 sanctuaries across the country. India has a rich blend of the wild life species, ranging from Bengal Tigers, Asian Elephants, Sloth Bears, Indian Wolf, Golden Jackals, Indian Rhinoceros, to several species of monkeys, snakes and crocodiles. Apart from the beauty of the landscapes, each of these National Parks tell a tale of their assemblage and are the domicile for some or the other treasured breeds. To meet your desires of confronting the wildlife, below are some selective habitats of these untamed inmates:

1.   Corbett National Park

Amidst the Himalayan region, the Corbett National Park is a hot favourite of the tourists. Based in Uttarakhand, with hill stations like Nainital and Ranikhet in a vicinity of 80 kms, this Tiger reserve is a very much sought for place for the wildlife addicts. Being the first National Park of India, this places hosts almost seventy thousand Indian and Foreign tourists every year. The spectacular scenic beauty of Corbett provides a view of four different region options: Dhikala, Bijrani, Jhirna and Durga Devi. Each region allows the choice of Jeep safari while Canter and Elephant safari options are available only at the Dhikala zone. One is likely to encounter Tigers, Leopards or Elephants during a jungle ride at Corbett.

2.   Kaziranga National Park

Declared as a World Heritage Site the Kaziranga National Park stands with pride in the state of Assam. Being the largest habitat for the one horned Rhinoceros this park hosts almost two thousand rhinos, a thousand elephants and also around 80 tigers. An elephant ride in the tall grasslands of the Kaziranga National Park ensures the sight of its single horned rhino. In an area of around 470 kms, this park is also comprises of water bodies with around 42 species of fishes. The non-commercialized glory of this park pulls loads of visitors each year.

3.   Sundarbans National Park

Sunset at Sundarbans National Park - Photo by Sayamindu Dasgupta, CC BY-SA 2.0
Another crowned World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Sundarbans National Park in West Bengalis the replica of the meaning of its name Sundarban (Bengali) means ‘Beautiful Forest’ in English.This park is a habitat to the Royal Bengal Tigers and the Fishing Cats. The Sundarbans National Park are the largest coastal mangrove body in the entire world. It stretches around 80 kilometers into the Indian and Bangladeshi hinterland from the coast. There are a numbers of towers in the Sunderbans that allow you to have an unrestricted view of the wildlife in its natural habitat. 

4.   Kanha National Park

Home to rare hard ground Swamp Deer, the Kanha National Park is spread over 940 kms in the state of Madhya Pradesh. It is one amongst the most well managed National Parks of India. The major wildlife attractions of this Tiger reserve are the Sloth Bears, Barking Deers, Leopard and Jackals apart from Tigers. Apart from the elephant safari, one could also breathe in the serenity of these jungles by talking a walk and heeding the chirpiness of the birds that are present in a variant species.

5.   Gir Forest National Park

Photo by (cropped) Mayankvagadiya, CC BY-SA 3.0
The hilly tract of the Gir Forest National Park is fed with streams and rivers and is a domicile of the Asiatic Lion. Acknowledged as the Jewel of Gujarat this forest boasts of being a home to around 410 lions and 300 leopards. One can also spot some crocodiles in the Kamleshwar Dam, one of the water bodies in this park. Though this park has a treasure of around 2000 spineless species but it crowns itself to be the sole host of the Asiatic Lion. Considered to be the last abode of this beast, the Gir Forest National Park is provided a lot of protection by the government and forest department. 
The beauty of spotting these untamed creatures in their natural habitat, takes every visitor on a journey of romance with the wildlife. This romantic encounter is a must for every thrill quester.

What a wondrous introduction to the variety of India! Personally, I always assumed that the only place that had this amount of variety, was South Africa. Clearly I was wrong. 
Thank you Rohit. Hopefully, this will not be the last time I post one of your pieces.