Thursday, 29 May 2014

Tweak Your Eating Habits.


I post a lot of recipes on my blog and I also follow a lot of food blogs along with yoga blogs. Food is such an important aspect of every human being's life. On average, I come across about 30 new recipe posts every week. Everybody wants to share their food love through blogs and photos. **thumbs up** As much as food and variety of ingredients are important to our diet, I have to say that the attitude towards eating does concern me. The primary focus has always been on what you should and should not eat. Sadly, nobody seem to emphasize on how you should eat. Let me tell you, your mood, surroundings and mental state does affect how your body utilize the food that you eat. Probably you may feel I am repeating what you have been thought when you were young, but forgetfulness is in our genes.

1. Like Mama said, Chew Your Food.

As I always say, digestion begins at your mouth. I cannot emphasize this enough. The starch present in your food are initially broken down in the mouth by the salivary amylase. Imagine swallowing your food with minimal chewing, you're skipping the a very crucial step of digestion. This may be a shocker, but it seems you are supposed to chew your food 40 times; if it's vegetable based or 60-80 times; if they are meat based. No excuses! Chew!

2. Keep you water away. 

I have already discussed this subject on a blog post. Click here to read. Drinking water or any type of drink while eating immediately leads to bloating and slows down digestion process. Try not to drink water at least 30 minutes before a meal, during a meal and at least 30 to 45 minutes after a meal. 

3. Shhhhh!

Avoid socializing when you are having a meal. When it's time to eat, focus on the food and the eating process. When you feel hungry, the brain gets a signal that the stomach is going to be filled with food and it directs blood flow to the stomach and intestinal region to aid digestion. So all 5 senses will be focused on food consumption. When you do other activities while eating, you are distracting your senses and blood flow from functioning fully on the eating and digestion process. To summarize on the things you shouldn't do while eating.
  • No talking.
  • No reading.
  • No watching television.
  • No fiddling with your technological devices.

4. Listen to your body.

Do you really pay attention to your body's needs? Or do you eat, drink and sleep according to a schedule set by yourself. I'm sure everybody claims to have a body clock of their own, but does everyone share the same clock? Do you think everyone has to eat at 1 PM? Simple example I can give you, babies don't have a brunch time or tea time, they cry when they're hungry. The older we get, the more distant we get from our natural instincts. What I'm trying to say is, eat when you're hungry, drink when you're thirsty and sleep when you're sleepy. Try not to force your body to fit into a schedule. Listen to your body clock and not the wall clock.

~M~


Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Shakthi Bandha Asanas (Energy Block Postures)


Ahh finally!! I'm posting my first asana pictorial. Part 3 of the Pawanmuktasana, also known as the shakthi bandha group of asanas. This group of asanas are concerned with improving the energy flow within the body. They eliminate energy blockages in the spine, activate the lungs and heart, and improve endocrine function. These asanas are useful for those with reduced vitality and a stiff back and specially useful for women suffering with menstrual problems due to its toning effect on the pelvic organs and muscles. It can be practised after pregnancy for retoning flaccid muscles. The shakti bandha series may be started straight away if good health and fitness prevail. However, if there are any serious ailments, a yoga therapist or an experienced yoga instructor should be consulted.

Difficulty Level : Beginners

  

  1. Raju Karshanasana (Pulling the Rope)

         Instructions:

1.       Sit comfortably on a mat with your legs stretched out straight and together.
2.       Inhale and raise your right hand all the way up, parallel to your right ear.
3.       Imagine there’s a rope hanging above you. Reach out your right hand as high as possible and imagine grasping the rope.
4.       Keep looking forward.
5.      As you exhale, imagine pulling the rope with power and strength; lower your right arm all the way to your right thigh.
6.      Repeat with the left arm.
7.      Practice 5 to 10 rounds on each arm.

**Inhale while raising the arm.
**Exhale while lowering the arm.

         Benefits:
  1. This asana loosens the shoulder joints and stretches the upper back muscles.
  2. It firms the chest and develops the muscles of the chest.

    2. Gatyatmak Meru Vakrasana 

       (Dynamic Spinal Twist)


         Instructions:

1.      Sit comfortably on a mat with your legs stretched out. Keep your legs slightly apart without bending the knees.
2.   Reach out your right arm to hold your left big toe, if you’re unable to reach the toe, you can hold the left ankle or shin.
3.      Stretch out your left arm behind your back, as your spine twists to the left.
4.   Turn your head to the left to gaze at your left thumb. 
5.   Stay in this position for 3 to 5 seconds.
6.   Repeat the same step with the left hand holding your right big toe/ankle/shin while twisting the spine to the right.
7.   This is one round. Start out slow and gradually increase the speed.
8.   Make sure not to bend your knees throughout the practice.

         ** People with back problems should avoid this asana.
         ** Exhale when twisting and inhale when returning to the center.

         Benefits:
  1. This asana removes stiffness of the back and increases flexibility of the spine.
  2. It also decongests postural stress on the back and spinal column.

    3. Chakki Chalanasana (Churning the Mill)


          Instructions:
  1. Sit comfortably on a mat with your legs stretched out. Keep your legs slightly apart without bending the your knees.
  2. Interlock the fingers of both hands and hold the arms out straight in front of the chest.  Keep the arms straight throughout the practice; do not bend the elbows.
  3. Bend forward as far as possible without straining.
  4. Swivel to the right so that the hands pass above the right toes and as far as possible to the right without straining.
  5. Lean back as far as possible on the backward swing.
  6. Try to move the body from the waist. On the forward swing, bring the arms to the left side, over the left toes and then back to the center position.
  7. One rotation is one round.
  8. Practice 5 to 10 rounds clockwise and then the same number of rounds anti-clockwise. 
**Inhale when leaning back
**Exhale when moving forward.

Benefits:

This asana is excellent for toning the nerves and organs of the pelvic and abdominal region. It is very useful for regulating the menstrual cycle and may be performed during the first three months of pregnancy. It is also an excellent exercise for post-natal recovery.

4. Nauka Sanchalanasana (Rowing the Boat)


Instructions:

1. Sit with both legs stretched out in front of the body.
2. Imagine the action of rowing a boat. Clench the hands as though grasping oars, with the
    palms facing down.
3. Breathe out and bend forward from the waist as far as possible, straightening the arms.
4. Breathing in, lean back as far as possible, drawing the hands back towards the shoulders.
5. This is one round.
6. The hands should make a complete circular
movement in every round, moving down the sides of the legs and trunk.
7. The legs should be kept straight throughout.
8. Reverse the direction of the rowing movement as though going in the opposite direction.
9. Practice 5 to 10 times.

**Inhale while leaning back.
**Exhale while bending forward.

Benefits:

1. This asana has a positive effect on the pelvic and abdominal region and releases energy blockages in these areas. It is especially useful for gynecological disorders and post-natal recovery. 

2. It also removes constipation.

5. Kashtha Takshanasana (Chopping Wood)

Instructions:

1. Squat with the feet flat on the floor.
2. The knees should be fully bent and separated.
3. Clasp the fingers of both hands together and place them just above the floor between the feet. 
4. Straighten the arms and keep them straight throughout the practice.
5. The elbows should be inside the knees.
6. Imagine the action of chopping wood. Raise the arms above and behind the head, stretching the spine upward.
7. Look up towards the hands.
8. Make a downward stroke with the arms, as if chopping wood. Expel the breath forcefully.
9. The hands should return near the floor in between the feet.
10. This is one round. Practice 5 to 10 rounds.

**Inhale while raising the arms.
**Exhale while lowering the arms.
**Not for people with knee problems.
**Those people who find the squatting pose too difficult should practice in the standing position.

Benefits:

1. This asana loosens up the pelvic girdle and tones the pelvic muscles. 

2. It also has a special effect on the usually inaccessible muscles of the back between the shoulder blades, as well as the shoulder joints and upper back muscles.

3. It helps to release frustration and lighten the mood.

6. Namaskarasana (Salutation Pose)

Instructions:

1. Squat with the feet flat on the floor.
2. The knees should be wide apart and the elbows pressing against the inside of the knees.
3. Bring the hands together in front of the chest in a salutation gesture. This is the starting position.
4. Inhale and bend the head backwards. Feel the pressure at the back of the neck.
5. Simultaneously, use the elbows to push the knees as wide apart.
6. Hold this position for 3 seconds while retaining the breath.
7. Exhale and straighten the arms directly in front of the body.  
8. At the same time, push in with the knees, pressing the upper arms inward.
9. The head should be bent forward with the chin pressed against the chest.
10. Hold this position, retaining the breath, for 3 seconds.
11. Return to the starting position.
12. This is one round. Practice 5 to 10 rounds.

**Inhale while bringing the palms together in front of the chest.
**Exhale while extending the arms forward.
**Not for people with knee problems.

Benefits:

This asana has a profound effect on the nerves and muscles of the thighs, knees, shoulders and neck. It increases flexibility in the hips.


7. Vayu Nishkasana (Wind Releasing Pose)


Instructions:

1. Squat with the feet flat on the floor.
2. Grasp the insteps of the feet, placing the fingers under the soles with the thumbs above.
3. The upper arms should be pressing against the inside of the knees with the elbows slightly bent.
4. Inhale while moving the head back. Direct the gaze upward.
5. This is the starting position.
6. Hold the breath for 3 seconds, accentuating the backward movement of the head.
7. While exhaling, straighten the knees, raise the buttocks and bring the head forward towards the knees.
8. Hold the breath for 3 seconds, accentuating the spinal bend. Do not strain.
9. Inhale and return to the starting position.
10. This is one round. Practice 5 to 10 rounds.

**Inhale in the squatting position.
**Exhale in the raised position.
**Not for people with knee problems.
**People with very high blood pressure or arteriosclerosis should not practice this asana.

Benefits:

1.This pose has a beneficial effect on the nerves and muscles of the thighs, knees, shoulders, arms and neck. 
2. The pelvic organs and muscles are massaged.
3. It gives an equal stretch to the whole spine and both the arm and leg muscles. 
4. All the vertebrae and joints are pulled away from each other so that the pressure between them is balanced. Simultaneously, all the spinal nerves are stretched and toned.


8. Kauva Chalasana (Crow Walking)


Instructions:

1. Squat with the balls of the feet touching the ground and the heels off the floor.
2. Place the palms of the hands on the knees.
3. Take small steps in the squatting position.
4. For instance, right knee placed on the floor, then your right foot steps forward. Do the same for the left foot. This is the rhythm of the movement. 
5. Take as many steps as possible, up to 50, and then relax in shavasana.

**People suffering from disorders of the knees, ankles or toes should not practice this asana.

Benefits:

1. This asana prepares the legs for meditation asanas and improves blood circulation in the legs. 
2. It also helps to remove constipation.


9. Udarakarshanasana (Abdominal Stretch Pose)

Instructions:

1. Squat with the feet apart and the hands on the knees.
2. Inhale deeply.
3. Exhale, bringing the right knee to the floor near the left foot.
4. Using the left hand as a lever, push the left knee towards the right, simultaneously twisting to the left.
5. Try to squeeze the lower abdomen with the combined pressure of both thighs.
6. Look over the left shoulder.
7. Hold the breath out for 3 to 5 seconds in the final position.
8. Inhale when returning to the starting position.
9. Repeat on the other side of the body to complete one round.
10. Practice 5 to 10 rounds.

**Not for people with knee problems.

Benefits:

1. This pose is very useful for abdominal ailments because it alternately compresses and stretches the organs and muscles of this region.
2. It also relieves constipation.


~M~

Reference and Images : Asana, Pranayama, Mudhra and Bandha by Swami Satyananda Saraswati











Saturday, 24 May 2014

All things COCO!


I love coconut. Period. I love drinking coconut water, I love eating young coconut flesh, and I love anything made out of shredded coconut. Being an Indian girl, I grew up with coconut in all my food. It's a staple at home. It's such a versatile ingredient. Perfectly blends with either savory or sweet dishes. The idea for this cocoa and coconut energy balls actually came to me while I was reading a recipe on how to make coconut laddoos. It's a traditional Indian sweet snack prepared during Indian festivals. Addition of cocoa powder is my personal twist to the recipe or let's say I modernized the recipe. A girl's gotta satisfy her cocoa cravings. While the traditional coconut balls are just sweet, my version has a bitter sweet kick to it. Also an excellent portable snack. Let's jump into the recipe, shall we?

INGREDIENTS.....

  • Desiccated coconut - 2 cups
  • Milk - 1 & 1/2 cups
  • Light brown sugar - 1 cup
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder -  3 tablespoons
  • Ghee(clarified butter)/vegetable oil - 1 tablespoon


LET'S BEGIN.....

  1. Add ghee/vegetable oil to a non-stick pan along with the desiccated coconut. Keep the flame at medium at all times. If you have freshly grated coconut in hand, feel free to use it. 
  2. Keep tossing the shredded coconut in the pan until a fragrant aroma rises. You will begin to see the coconut strings turning golden at this stage.
  3. Time to add in the milk, cocoa powder and brown sugar.
  4. If it's too runny, don't worry at all. The milk will continue to reduce and the mixture will begin to thicken. Don't forget to keep stirring.
  5. Once the whole mixture has reduced and become sticky, time to remove it from heat. Allow it to cool.
  6. When the coconut mixture has cooled completely or slightly warm to touch, you can grease your palms with a little oil or ghee and begin rolling it into balls.
  7. Once rolled, keep them in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
**You can also coat the rolled balls with desiccated coconut or sprinkle some on top like how I did.



TIME FOR A TASTE TEST.....

First of all, I must mention that the ratios that I have given for this recipe are just a guideline. The amount of sugar and cocoa powder added can adjusted according to your taste buds. Mine has a bitter sweet taste and I like it. Some people would prefer it sweeter, so just increase the amount of sugar or simply use white sugar and reduce the amount of cocoa powder. I leave it to you. As long as the end product is a sticky paste, then you're good to go. These make really good evening snacks to be packed for work. I got about 30+ small balls and about 2 of those can subside my 6 PM hunger. I just love to stock up on snacks like these which can be made way ahead of time. The procedure is easy, minimal ingredients, the yield is quite a lot and it keeps well in the fridge for close to a month. Give it a try and let me know how yours turned out. I want to take this moment to thank some of my readers who have tried out my creations and mailed me your feed backs and questions. I truly appreciate your support and hoping to further create a healthy bond with my readers. Wishing you peace and love. Happy Weekend everybody!

~M~




Friday, 23 May 2014

Watch your breath....Ensure you are breathing the right way.

I HAVE A CONFESSION. I am guilty of not breathing the right way until I started practicing yoga. I think it's a common theory that the chest moves up and down during breathing. I was so WRONG! When we breathe this way, we fail to maximize the use of a vital piece of muscle called the diaphragm. The "RIGHT" way of breathing is actually to allow the chest and stomach/abdominal/rib cage region to expand and contract as we breathe. This way we can increase the lung capacity to hold more air and utilize every single muscle between the rib cage (intercostal muscles) which I can't even pronounce. Not forgetting the 'mighty' diaphragm which is completely put to work during abdominal breathing.

Good! Now you have learnt how to breathe the RIGHT way. But how do you know if you are  breathing RIGHT all the time? For most of us, our mind and body is familiar with chest breathing and it is going to take a little bit of practise to bring the body back to abdominal breathing. The reason why I say you need to 'bring your mind and body back to abdominal breathing' is because we are actually designed to breathe that way since we were born. The way I rectified my breathing pattern back to abdominal breathing was pretty simple. It requires more awareness compared to physical effort. From the day I realized my breathing pattern was out of order, I began reminding myself at different time of the day to focus on my breathing. For instance, if I'm watching television and suddenly I remember about my breath, I would shift my focus to my breathing and make adjustments. It's like a shock to the system. After being consistent for a week or so, now I only breathe the RIGHT way (I checked my breathing right before typing this sentence). So check yourself if you're breathing the RIGHT or if it's time to make adjustments. Believe me, breath is far more important compared to anything in the world.

Did you know, according to yogic science, breath actually determines your life span!


~M~


My Apologies.....

I know I have been missing in action for the past 2 weeks. It wasn't a pre-planned blogging hiatus. Hmm....since I am already sitting down to write a post, I should probably be honest. I had a big loss in my life. Not that kind of loss. A devastating break up, actually. If you have been reading my blog posts for some time, I have mentioned Mystery Man here and there. He was the man I was in a serious relationship with for over a year. I'm glad I kept him anonymous and I choose to not get into too much details. After a month and a half of battling with emotions and nursing my broken heart, I came back to my senses. I have actually planned to publish more posts for this month, but things don't always go as planned. I thought it would be impossible to pick myself up after the horrific incident but I kept reminding myself why I started this journey in the first place. That is why I can boldly write about it in a post today. I realized I cannot change people, instead I chose to change myself for better. Forgive and forget. Probably the best gift you can give yourself. Make peace with yourself or watch an episode of the SacconeJolys. They make me feel better everyday. I kept reading a lot of inspirational quotes to keep motivating myself to stay positive. Now that I am back to myself, I will be publishing my blog posts on a more regular basis. There's plenty to learn and to share it with all of you. I hope all my readers and friends are doing well and can't wait to hear from all of you again.

~M~

YOGA CAN HEAL ALL WOUNDS.



Saturday, 10 May 2014

Barley Drink: Nutritious and a must-try for summer

If you've read my post on forgotten super foods, I mentioned barley as one of the least used grains. Oddly, barley has always made it through my diet since I was young. My mother always made this yummy barley drink which I could not resist. Since summer is around the corner and the heat waves will be catching up with us soon, I had to share this recipe with all of you. Barley is known for its hydrating and cooling properties. It helps with lowering body heat during summer time. Barley is also high in fiber and very gentle in your digestive tract. As I'm typing this post, I'm getting inspirations to create more recipes with barley grains. Barley bread, breakfast barley porridge......looks like I have more experiments coming up in the kitchen. I know many people just boil the barley grains with some sugar and consume it as barley water. But I have made some tweaks to the basic barley water recipe. Actually, I learnt it from my mother and I just repeated what I have learnt from her. Since it is Mother's Day...let her take the credit. Ohh Happy Mother's Day to all the mommy's in the world. Getting back to the barley topic, this recipe requires very few ingredients but a lot of patience. I am telling you ahead of time. It can take up anywhere from 2  to 3 hours. So make sure you have nothing to do an entire afternoon if you're planning to battle with barley. All you have to do is keep an eye on the boiling liquid, nothing else. I shall stop yapping and get to the recipe.

Ingredients.....

                                                               

Let's begin.....

Part 1: Cooking the Ginko nuts
  • The Ginko nuts come with a hard shell. Firstly, they have to be boiled in water for 30 to 45 minutes.
  • After boiling, run them through some cold water and allow them to cool.
  • When you're ready, place them in between a cloth and use a rolling pin or a pestle to hit on it and break the shells. Time to release some pent up anger. Hey, yogini's have emotions too.
  • Peel the soft seed  and discard the shells. 
  • Run the seeds through cold water to remove excess skin.


Part 2: Making the barley drink
  • Add all the ingredients into a deep pot and fill it up with 4 liters of water. 
  • Keep the flame on high and allow it to boil for 2 to 3 hours until all the soy bean skin has broken down. You may need to add on more water until all the soy bean skin has broken down and you have reached the sweetness level that you desire.
  • The final color of the drink should be similar to the color of soy milk as shown in the picture above.


Taste Test.....

It taste nothing like barley water. Tastes more like soy milk with barley added to it. As you can imagine, it's rich, creamy and full of flavor. I am a soy milk lover and obviously I wasn't going to hate this. By the way, addition of Ginko seeds are totally optional. It requires more work and time actually. Feel free to omit it if you're just not in the mood to peel stuff. I did tell you that it takes about 2 to 3 hours before you enjoy your hard work. That's because we have to wait for the soy bean skin to break down completely and not floating in the drink in bits and pieces. You don't have to stand by the stove the entire time, just keep an eye on it. The soy bean skin really lifts the flavor to another level and makes this drink different from ordinary barley water. A must-try for this summer. Have a great week and Happy Mother's Day.

~M~


Saturday, 3 May 2014

Let's talk Spring Cleaning.

I am aware my brothers and sisters on the west coast are embracing their Spring May. I am also aware how much they love this time of the year for the sunshine, beach parties, pretty flowers and colorful outfits. Need I say more about spring cleaning? Spring cleaning itself seems like a party. OHH JUICE CLEANSE!!! I'm amazed by the number of juice and smoothie ideas that pops up in my notification every day. I feel great to see people taking effort to share a recipe or two just to help everyone out there. People worldwide seem to love the summer time. I am glad that people are focusing on cleaning their body and not just their homes. Well my spring cleaning began way earlier, January to exact. Read more on it here. Time for an update on what really happened after my cleansing. Hmmm, how do I begin this. I FELT ill! Yes, right after the detox. It felt like I was having a high fever, sore throat, cold and all that exciting things without actually being sick. I don't know if you get what I mean. My whole body felt ill without actually being ill. So I slept a lot. Before I continue, I should probably tell you why I chose to go though a detox in the first place. Since September 2010, the moment I began my life in university, out of nowhere I started experiencing severe menstrual cramps. The pain was so intense that I could not live without taking a painkiller every month on the first day of my menses. So this continued for 3 years of my university life with painkillers every month. University life came to an end, I began practicing yoga, maintained a  healthier diet and a much relaxed lifestyle, but the cramp kept coming back. I was very concerned because I know this could lead to infertility. I knew it's time to do something about it, and as recommended by my teacher, I signed up for the Shatkarma Workshop. Let's fast forward to a month after detox, few days earlier before my menses, I felt a pricking pain in my left ovary. That made me nervous. To my surprise, when it came to my first day of menses, I felt no cramp at all. It was weird for me to have a  pain-free menstrual after 3 years. Let's fast forward a little bit more, three months after the detox, you know the pricking pain I felt in my ovary, I feel it every month on one side of the ovary while ovulating. That's because the ovary swells a little during ovulation. I no longer experience menstrual cramps, free from painkillers and my monthly cycle is accurate as calculated. Can a woman ask for more? Wanna know a little bit more, I lost more weight! I have soft, smooth, clear and glowing skin. My friends ask me all the time what's the secret to my skincare. I laugh and I tell them water! I only wash my face with water. I constantly got pimples throughout my teens and early twenties. Not anymore. I also have a regular sleep pattern, proper digestion and bowel movement, a much powerful immunity and a clearer breathing passage (never had morning colds and probably will never experience it ever in my life...thanks to jala neti). If you ever get a chance to join a Shatkarma Workshop, never miss it. It could be your solution to many problems you have been facing. Probably the best spring clean you could give yourself in a lifetime. Enjoy your spring my lovelies!

~M~

*For those who are interested in participating the Shatkarma Workshop, please contact me and  I will update you on the dates and other details via email. I know arrangements have to be made if you're travelling from other countries. We can work something out for you.

Yoga is all about sharing its benefits with everyone no matter where you come from.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

May Day!


Greetings! First day of the month of May. I know majority of the world is on leave today. Personally, I celebrate a lot of significant events on this very day. If you have known me long enough, I have a habit of makings lists. So obviously I am including a list to share with you all the things I am celebrating today.

1. I have successfully completed 2 months of my blogging journey. I have learnt so much, still learning and don't see a sign of stopping anytime soon. Stepping into the third month and hoping to get better everyday. 

2. I have officially joined the workers's community . Believe it or not, this is my very first May Day as an employee. Happy International Workers's Day to everyone out there and myself.

3. Technically, I was supposed to be off from work today. But, I woke up at 5 am today and spent my entire day helping out my friend at the detox day. It's so different to be behind the scenes compared to being a participant. 

4. I am celebrating my one year yoga anniversary :) A year ago, I began my wonderful yoga journey and up to now, I have been steadily growing.


Hope you all had a fantastic day!