Let’s talk sugar?

Refined white sugar is well known as one of the five white poisons. It contains zero nutrients, raises blood sugar which creates hormonal imbalances and also feeds the bad bacteria in our gut, which can lower our immune response and hamper the absorption of nutrients. 
 
What about other so-called healthy refined sweeteners in the market such as jaggery, maple syrup, palm sugar, coconut sugar etc.?  Although a little better than white sugar as they may contain some nutrients, they are highly processed and  lack fibre, hence cause the same results in our body as white sugar. (Use these occasionally – if at all). 

STEVIA: Most people would think stevia is their best substitute for sugar. Any why not? It’s natural, it is really low in calories and does not cause the spikes that refined sugar is guilty of. 
 
Truth – The moment the sweet taste of stevia touches your tongue, your body is tricked into believing glucose  (and calories) are coming in and gears up by dropping your blood sugar. But no sugar comes in, and hence the endocrine system gets into a frenzy to bring things into balance by releasing adrenaline and cortisol. 
If you’re having stevia occasionally, no problem. If having it daily, this is what goes on in your body, and can lead to hypo glycemia and hormonal imbalances.  
 
ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS: These factory made sweeteners are also so alluring, as they bring in no calories! The most common ones on the shelves – saccharin, aspartame and sucralose, cause the same reaction in your body as stevia does. Long term usage has been known to cause depression and neurological problems. Other lesser known sweeteners like xylitol and maltitol have been related to hypertension, headaches, and pre-term births. 
 
If you really have to, natural sweeteners (containing calories) such as jaggery, coconut sugar or palm jaggery are definitely a safer bet. 
 
HONEY: Despite what experts will tell you, most of the honey lining the supermarket shelves is glorified sugar. Honey bees are farmed, fed sugar, which they by the way take in their mouth, regurgitate and spit out – and that is your honey. 
 
Original raw, wild honey does contain some nutrients. None that you cannot get directly from the plants themselves! 
Fact – a single honey bee produces 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its entire lifetime. This is the bee’s security for the winter (when flowers/food will not be available). Do we really want to be taking this away from the bee just to sweeten our herbal chai ? 
 
Even the purest of honey will cause blood sugar spikes and related chain reactions leading to hormonal imbalances and inflammation. 
 
What then is a safe way to sweeten your life – on a daily basis ? 
 
” Fruits and dry fruits.” They work well in many desserts and smoothies. 
If you are not diabetic, jaggery or liquid jaggery can work well in all hot beverages and most Indian desserts too. 

Here is a BASIC SWEETENER made with dates that can sweeten up your smoothies, beverages and many of your desserts too. Click on the picture to get the recipe for DATE PASTE

Try some more recipes that use Date Paste or Jaggery as the sweetener :
Besan Barfi
5 min Coconut Barfi
Chocolate Bliss Balls
Makhana Kheer
Cacao Orange Millet Pudding

ZERO WASTE BIO ENZYME!

So, few months ago I started a really interesting experiment to make a BIO ENZYME – a zero waste all purpose cleaner for mopping, utensils, toilet, hand wash and detergent for clothes and IT HAS BEEN A SUCCESS!

Yes, the jar you see in the picture is the Bio Enzyme! I am so excited to share with you how we made this!

It’s simply a marvel, how nature works and is so self sufficient!

ALL YOU NEED IS –

A. Kitchen peels (fruit or citrus are great)

B. Jaggery powder

C. Water

Thats it! (Can you believe it? I couldn’t)

These are to be mixed in the proportion 3:1:10.
For 3 kg peels, use 1 kg jaggery and 10 litres water.
I had added lots of fruit and citrus peels and also lots of lemongrass.

3 kgs fruit peels. (in retrospect I should have chopped them into smaller pieces)
Added 1 kg jaggery powder in.
Added 10 litres water.
Added some additional lemongrass too!
Mixed everything up well.

CONTAINER – Place all these in an airtight container. It can be clay, ceramic, metal or plastic. The size of the container should be such that when all ingredients are placed inside, there should be an empty space of 15-20% on top.
IMPORTANT – Please ENSURE that the container is airtight or else the experiment will not be successful. I had to change several containers to get it right. Finally got a plastic can with a screw lid.

NEXT – Seal the container and open it once a day to let the air out for the first 10 days or so. For the next 20, you could open it once every several days as the microbial activity inside will stabilize. In a month’s time, there should be a white layer on top.

Now is the time to seal it and let it be for 2 months. Just keep it aside and don’t move or disturb it.

Microbial activity will be on in the jar; the jaggery will accelerate the process.
And 2 months later – IT’S READY!!!

When I opened mine, there was a thin white layer on it (check the photo below), and I thought I would be hit by the smell of rotting peels. But I was pleasantly surprised that it was smelling really fresh, citrusy and amazing . This is a sign that the bio enzyme has not gone bad and it is good to use.

Since I had not chopped the peels small, I still had big pieces of fruit that had not disintegrated. I blended them with the liquid.

Essentially you will get two layers in this bio enzyme.

Thin watery enzyme on top – this can be used for floor and surface cleaning.

Thick blend settled at the bottom – this can be used as a toilet cleaner, and if further thickened can be used for cleaning utensils.

For handwash and detergent, this liquid will need to be soaked with soap nuts (will share details soon, once I have tried it).

Isn’t this amazing? A completely non chemical, zero plastic, zero waste cleaner, made out of literally waste peels and jaggery!

Your turn now, have you tried making anything zero waste, chemical free at home? How did it go and what inspired you?

MILK MOUSTACHE?

Milk occupies a rather sacrosanct space in the Indian psyche than perhaps any other food. 

Considered the perfect complete food for children, milk is celebrated, and the cow (from whom the milk is taken) revered as a mother. 

Milk contains high amounts of calcium and is therefore great for bone health.

So much is the obsession around calcium that it is one of the most money spinning supplements around. 

Let’s examine a few things beyond what we’ve been told and have come to believe.  

Dairy came into human life only approximately 10,000-12,000 years ago when cows and goats were domesticated. Prior to that humans had never had dairy. 

Yet bones and teeth of humans and animals found by archeologists from long before that, are strong and solid. No milk and the bones have lasted a millennia or longer. 

How come their bones were so much stronger, and ours crumble within this lifetime despite milk and supplementation? 

“The countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis are the ones where people drink the most milk and have the most calcium in their diets. The connection between calcium consumption and bone health is actually very weak and the connection between dairy consumption and bone health is almost non-existent.”

– Amy Lanou Ph.D., nutrition director for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C.

The reason for calcium depletion in our bodies is because calcium is leached from our bones to neutralize acid. Acidic foods (meat, dairy, processed foods) and lifestyle (stress and anxiety) are what cause the depletion more than lack of calcium in our food. 

Back in the day, when man transitioned from a nomadic, gatherer-hunter lifestyle to a settled existence, the whole point of this transition was to achieve food security. Milk from animals too was a part of that drive. 

It has less to do with nutrition or improving bone health. 

Let’s look at other nutrients we look for in milk, and what the real implication of these are. 

  1. Protein. The two proteins found in milk are casein and whey. 

Whey has been found to be absorbed quickly in the body and has been found to increase insulin resistance. 

A lot of people are taking whey protein as a supplement these days and whereas it helps them build muscle, it also gives them constipation, indigestion, uric acid and kidney stones! 

Casein is found to be extremely addictive and known to promote cancer growth. 

Our body has an extremely difficult time breaking down casein. 

This leads to major digestive stress, excess mucus production, respiratory problems and digestive problems like constipation, gas, bloating, and/or diarrhea, and also skin issues like acne, rashes, and redness or irritation. 

To know more about the impact of casein on our body read The China Study. 

  1. Hormones. Milk is a fluid for growth which is secreted by mothers for the growth of their children till they develop teeth and can be weaned off. 

All milk contains growth hormones. In addition, cow’s milk these days also contains stress hormones (as the cow’s baby is taken away from her at birth, to be able to take the milk). 

These hormones entering our system cause a complete hormonal havoc cause leading to – PCOD, hypothyroidism, infertility, diabetes, prostate and breast cancers. 

These days cows are also injected with bovine growth hormones to stimulate more milk production.  This equals more hormones in our body. 

  1. Fat. Milk is full of saturated fat, the kind that our body does not need much of ; which has direct links with heart disease, diabetes and alzheimer’s disease. 

So toxic is animal milk in our body that when we consume it, our body is forced to create more mucus (a slimy lining produced in our body) to protect our cells from it. Excess mucus formation leads to colds, coughs, asthma, respiratory illnesses and allergies. 

What about Organic or A2 Milk ? 

Organic or A2, you still will not escape the problems caused by hormones, whey and casein, the saturated fat and mucus formation, along with its acidic nature which is the real reason for calcium depletion in our body.  

In case you are using regular dairy milk which is not organic, here’s what else to expect in your milk. 

1. Pus. These days cows are milked through milking machines. This injures their soft and tender udders, causing pus formation and there is no way for this pus to be separated from the milk.  

Also read more on pus in milk here.

2. Antibiotics. Cow’s milk these days has come a long way since it came into our diets. Cows are kept in unhygienic conditions and injected with antibiotics to prevent them from getting sick.  

(Approximately 70-80% of antibiotics produced world wide are for farmed animals, and we get them through these animals). 

3. Pesticides. Milk also has a high concentration of pesticides as an average cow eats 12 kilos of grain to produce 1 litre of milk. And dairy farmers cannot afford organic feed for their cows. 

An ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) study found that milk in India on an average contains 570 times the permissible levels of residual pesticides.

It’s really simple to skip dairy and avoid all the problems it brings with it. 

Start with trying these super easy alternatives right in your kitchen!  

And let me know how it went!

Take the milk test. Know how much dairy you are consuming! 

  1. Write down everything you eat the whole day (from the time you wake up to your last bite at night). 
  2. Look at where dairy comes in. Milk, tea, coffee, butter, cheese, ghee, paneer, cream, ice cream, chocolate. Also check your biscuits, bread and snack packets if milk or milk solids are mentioned in the ingredients. 

How much dairy are you consuming daily? Any surprises here? 

When I took this test about 9 years ago (when I was transitioning to a vegan) I was surprised to find that I was having a lot more dairy than I thought I was!!!

Earth Day – Tough love by Mother Earth.

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our future generations. 

Today is Earth Day! And it has been precisely a month since we’ve been grounded by her. 

While we are still, nature is working to heal itself. 

The sky is a clear deep blue once again in Delhi. Air quality across the board (especially in cities) is much better than it has been in the last many years. 

We can hear birds chirping, instead of traffic sounds. 

Rivers have cleaned themselves. 

In few places (close to forests) wild animals have been seen to roam fearlessly on streets. 

In Mumbai, some monkeys were enjoying a dip in the community swimming pools, as people watched through the window grills – an ironical sight. 

We have obviously overstepped our space, plundered nature, abused animals without thinking much of the consequences. The slow down is a great opportunity given to us to grasp the interconnections we’ve either been missing or ignoring in our hectic fast paced lives, and take corrective action. Mother Earth is showing us the way.  

So what is the action ? 

  1. Health – taking it in your own hands. Because that is where it belongs any way. The virus has shown us we cannot completely rely on an outside system to save us. The only thing that can – is our immunity. Data shows that those losing their fight to Covid -19 are those with other lifestyle issues or compromised immunity.  This is the time for us to correct our diet and lifestyle habits to fortify ourselves from within. 
  1. Food – Taking this in our own hands. The more our food has travelled or the more it is packaged/processed, the more chance of contamination! Hence what are our options ? 

Eating as local as possible. Eat more unpackaged/unprocessed food. Try and source directly from a farmer. In fact just like you have a family doctor, why not have a family farmer?  Because all of this ensures less hands touching the food and less chance of contamination.  

3. Animals – Close proximity to animals is a known cause for over 60% of all zoonotic diseases. Animal agriculture farms and wet markets (where the stress levels of animals are high) are a breeding ground for aggressive viruses like corona. We can choose to not consume animal products or use animals so that we know we are not contributors to creating another virus.  For an indepth understanding of this do watch Dr. Gregor’s video here.

  1. Consumption – The lockdown would have made us realize – how little we really need to live, as opposed to how much we have. Every time we buy something, we’re chipping into nature’s resources – land, water, fuel, and are these are perhaps being taken away from an animal/wildlife species. 
  1. Travel and socializing – How sad that the prerogative of hugging a friend or strolling down the road has been taken away from us, forget travelling another city or country.  Well, as a wise man said, if we can’t go out, let’s go in.  This time has been given to us to go deep within our vast inner universe, be more in touch with ourselves and reflect on how we will choose to live, from here on. 

So, one month down, these are some of my random thoughts.. What are yours? 

How to wash Fruits and Vegetables?

Since the Corona outbreak, there are a lot of discussions on washing vegetables and sanitizing the grocery etc. Some of this information is relevant, and some of it sounds like an epic ceremony. Let’s understand the science, dispel fear, act, and be safe.


Vegetables and fruits – Before reaching our kitchen, at the farm, these are exposed to natural elements and soil microbes. In an industrial farm, these are also possibly exposed to pesticides, growth hormones, fertilizer residues, and toxins from the chemically killed insects, fungus, bacteria, etc.
During transit, these can be sprayed with preservatives.
Before reaching the market, they may get a dash of chemical color, ripeners, wax/polish, bleaches, and packing contamination. During this time, longer the chain, more hands, surfaces, and transfers, your food passes through (irrespective of it being organic or non-organic), is where the coronavirus many enter the chain, through an affected handler or surface.


You can now see (actually not) the kind of invisible things that are possibly sticking to everything we bring home! 

So what can you do ? Here are simple steps to save you a lot of trouble.


Buying –
1. Choose organic/natural over chemically grown. 

2. Choose local. Ideally buy directly from the farmer (if you have such access) to reduce the transit steps.


3. Eat seasonal and fresh to eliminate the chances of consuming preserved, ripened, and polished (more hands touching = more risk of contamination).


4. Avoid overly packed/wrapped fruits and vegetables. (More surface=more chemical contamination, and more space for the virus to sit)

Handling-


Especially after the Covid19 outbreak, it is wise to stay conscious of the possible presence of the virus at the shop, on packing, and on the surface of vegetables.

During the first handling, it is strongly advised to wear gloves and a mask to cover the nose and mouth in order to prevent the virus to move from hands to mouth/nose. After entering the house, wash hands with soap properly.

At home, we have one designated table where all produce is kept before it is cleaned. Everyone knows that that produce is not to be touched. 

Cleaning –


1. For the coronavirus- The virus has a fatty layer around it and something that breaks this layer can help decontaminate. 

So Vinegar or lemon juice can be helpful. Take a cup of vinegar/lemon juice in 4-5 litres of water and keep the fruits/vegetables dunked in for 15 -30 min.

This will also clean the oil-based polishes.

Alternatively mix regular salt (3-4 tablespoons) in the water and use this to wash the produce.
Rinse with clean water and lay them to dry.

 
2. Other Bacterias/microbes – Add baking/cooking/meetha soda (1 teaspoon/5 liter water) or wood ash (a teaspoon/5 liters) to water and soak the rinsed vegetables in this solution for 10 minutes. The alkalinity will neutralize the regular microbes and the soap residues on the surface. It also is known to remove/neutralize some pesticides.
Rinse with clean water and lay them to dry. 

Also read 

A. If you are growing and harvesting your own vegetables organically, most of these steps are not required. If your produce is being handled by an outsider, you can do step1.


B. If you are buying directly from the farmer, you know that the produce has the least miles and touches, you can just do step 1 and optionally Step 2.


C. In all other cases (organic produce, but travelled a long distance, or commercial produce), follow steps 1 and 2. 

These steps will help in taking care of (most) surface contaminants. 

After going through this, we now see, how beneficial it can be for us to  :- 

  1. Grow (at least some) of our own food. 
  2. Know our local farmer. Heck, just like we have a family doctor, how cool it would be to have our family local farmer. 
  3. Buy food which has not travelled long distances to reach us. 

It’s a win-win. We get food that is safe for us, (also because it is healthier and fresher), it helps the local economy and the farmer, and wonderful for Mother Earth (having travelled less miles).

The blog post has excerpts from and is inspired by a write up by Manas Arvind on www.gofmonline.in

Period Pain!

If you are a women reading this, this is a question for you – Do you experience pain before or during your periods?

Research shows that 80% of women worldwide experience period pain at some point in their lives! That is 4 out of every 5 women!

I know some women go through such intense pain that they are homebound,  while there are (a handful) of others whose periods are a breeze.

What.. Why.. How? You wonder. Is it normal to get pain during period or not? Is there anything we can do about it apart from popping painkillers?

Here’s making some sense of period pain with inputs from my friend and colleague Dr. Rashmi Menon (a doctor who heals without medicine).  


Q.1 Is it normal to get pain during the period?

A normal period is a pain free period. Yes you read that right! During the cycle, one may experience discomfort as the hormones undergo a cyclic shift. During this time the hormones are geared to cause contraction of the uterine muscles to expel the uterine mucosal lining. The same hormones may cause the rest of the body muscles to contract as well, hence cause discomfort. Anything more than mild discomfort indicates a deeper problem.

Q.2 What causes period pain?

Medical problems PCOD/PCOS, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical stenosis, adenomyosis etc. can be a cause for period pain.

Q.2. Can we seek relief from pain through natural methods?

Yes, absolutely! Diet and lifestyle changes hold the key. Mild discomfort can be tackled by 

  • Maintaining an exercise regimen. Yes, it’s important to continue light exercise even when the periods are on!
  • Hip opening exercises are especially beneficial (scroll down for more on this)
  • eating light (addressed in the next part)
  • self massages 
  • hot and/or cold fomentation 

In severe cases a mild painkiller will need to be taken for temporary relief.

But severe pain is a signal from the body that there is an underlying disease, and that needs to be treated through diet and lifestyle changes.

Q.3 What are the diet/lifestyle changes one can make to reduce/eliminate period pain?

In severe medical cases, medical intervention might be necessary.  However for long-term relief and to make sure the problem does not recur, lifestyle modifications are a must and in they can completely take care of the general discomfort. 

A whole food plant based diet, efficient stress management with adequate physical exercise is the way to go.

Q.4. Ok, let’s look at exactly which foods. 

A baseline of a natural diet, that includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, high in fibre and greens, helps the body balance the hormones. These foods also keep the body alkaline hence muscles recover quicker.

In addition one should avoid foods that contain hormones and steroids – such as milk, meat, chicken, eggs and fish, as presence of foreign hormones create havoc in the body.

Refined and processed foods (lacking fibre) should be avoided too.

It is easy to make avoid dairy, by switching of simple non dairy alternatives such as nut milk, nut cheese and yogurt! Give it a try today!

Q.5 Any particular thing to keep in mind before or during the period to relieve the symptoms.

Soaked raisins and saffron are known to be beneficial to relieve pain. Close to the period having more fruits, greens and keeping meals light and easier to digest would help too.

Check out this wonder hack called the green smoothie and also some easy delicious salads that can help you keep meals light and green!

Also ensure sufficient hydration (water and water rich foods) as that helps muscles relax and relieve some pain.

Q.6 What kind of exercises are recommended to ease period pain?

Certain yoga asanas work like magic to relieve period pain. They are hip opening and lower abdomen opening asanas* such as :-

  • Badh kona asana (cobbler or butterfly pose)
  • Supta badhkonaasna (supine cobbler or butterfly)
  • Upvishtakona asana (wide angle seated forward bend)
  • Janushirsha asana (head to knee pose)
  • Viparit Karni (restorative, legs on the wall)

If one practices them throughout the month, one will see a difference in pain intensity during the cycle.

(*please practice these asanas under the supervision of a teacher)

Regular exercise throughout the month is equally important as well. And one should continue even during the cycle as per body’s strength.

Q.7. How is stress connected to period pain?

When we are stressed our body secretes adrenal hormones (a.k.a. stress hormones) to help us cope. But our reproductive hormones are also affected by adrenal hormones, translating to pain. Hence keeping stress under control through – deep breathing, pranayama, meditations or any other means is important.

Found this blog post useful? Share with the women in your life who need to read this and share on your social media!

How I got Leh’d!

The real voyage of discovery consists not of seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes!

IMG_3356.JPG

Although I will admit that the pure, pristine and rugged ‘don’t mess with me’ landscapes of Ladakh literally left me spellbound the whole time that I was there.

Ladakh is not for the faint hearted. Travel around the high altitude desert taught that I should never take for granted some of the things we city people don’t bat our eyelids about.

Running water for example. Or toilets and transportation, just to name a few. The absence or shortage of electricity has made solar energy really popular. If the sun is shining, you will have electricity and burning hot water.

As a conscious traveller, I was aware that my being there is creating a strain on the local ecology. Tourism causing water shortages and leading to a lot of trash has been in the news.

I made it a point to reduce my footprint as much as I could. Using minimal water, avoiding packaged food, drinking water and creating as little trash as possible.

I did pick fresh fruits wherever possible, and luckily for me Ladakhi apricots were just about coming into season. I also kept an eye out for choices/experiences that would help me reduce my footprint and encourage sustainability.

In Leh I discovered Dzomsa, a sustainable store right across the main market. The store started as an eco friendly laundry service by a local lady, and is now a full fledged store selling local fruit preserves, nuts, dry fruit, munchy snacks, wild Ladakhi capers, apricot kernel butter and the like. You can also find 100% organic printed prayer flags and enjoy fresh apricot and seabuckthorn juice here!Refill your water bottle here for just Rs. 7 with clean filtered water. I picked a huge stash from here on my way back!

While on a trek in Markha Valley we stopped by at a village home as a pit stop. I felt obliged to buy something since I was taking shelter provided by the family. But there were only chips, biscuits, aerated drinks or packaged water.

And then I noticed this lady washing some beautiful bokchoy and it seemed like it was freshly harvested by her. I asked her if she would sell some. This lady and my guide were rather amused. Next, I found myself in her backyard, helping her harvest some more bokchoy and buying it from her.

Some bokchoy from the Marka Valley anyone?

The result was that we got to have a delicious bokchoy stir fry for dinner that night at the homestay where I stayed.

En route the trek, I found a few Women’s Eco Cafes. These cafes are 100% run by women, and they serve local specialities and fresh food. No aerated drinks or instant noodles. Instead the smiling faces of the servers will win you over with refreshing seabuckthorn tea, delicious apricot juice and fresh vegetable, dal and rice for a meal! Do not miss them. By eating here, you are supporting women and a sustainable local economy.

Though the homestays would serve parantha or puri for breakfast, I preferred the Ladakh Sattu called traditional Tsampa (Roasted Barley Flour) which is just freely lying around in each home and locals just eat it as a powder. I again managed to amuse my host, when I added hot water to it, then threw in some nut butter, nuts and dry fruits and voila, a sumptuous nutritious breakfast was ready. This became my go to breakfast on the trek each day, that kept me energetic for hours.

Try the hot parantha breakfast at least once (they use refined white flour to make them), for a distinct flavor and aroma, as you will discover the women cook these not on a tava but a locally available stone.

Ladakh would never be known for a salad, but believe it or not, one of the best I ever had was here. A farm fresh salad which had raw knol khol (kohlrabi), tomatoes, bokchoy, mint and an out of this world apricot kernel and walnut dip. So simple, such delicate flavours, nothing artificial.

This salad is perhaps the least ordered dish on the menu of Alchi Kitchen in Alchi, hence if there, do not miss out on it.

Ladakh is a leafy green paradise during the season. Women line the streets of Leh market selling at least 8-10 different kinds of greens, all of which they call ‘Palak’. One of the lessons learnt was, if eating at a local place, order the greens or salads and you might just get something mind blowing.

If you want to sample gourmet plant based food, you cannot miss out on KaYa Dreams Café, an organic vegan friendly garden café, tucked in the quiet village called Stok. A baby of ex- Mumbai girl Pooja, the menu at this cafe is carefully planned based on what is harvested or locally available fresh and this includes a whole lot of wild herbs and plants as well. Everything is prepared from scratch (even pasta and sourdough bread), and that’s what makes each meal so special.

Gluten Free Crepes at KaYa Dreams, served with local version of kimchi and House made Kombucha.

Despite my attempts to travel consciously and support conscious enterprises while there, I still came back from my holiday feeling like what I did was simply not enough. Our planet is going through a major crisis, be it global warming, environmental degradation or the trash situation.

I simply should not feel entitled to claim resources of a place, just because I can pay for them. I should look at paying back through creating some value in the lives of the people who have been the protectors of these resources for generations and centuries. So it’s true – seeking new landscapes has given me new eyes!

Curious to know, have you ever travelled a place that has changed your way of looking at things?

What are your thoughts on conscious travel?

Emotionally Constipated?

We eat every day. A part of the food nourishes us and the rest (the waste) is thrown out of our body each morning through different channels of elimination. The smoother and more regular the elimination, the cleaner we are from inside. Needless to say, unless you are eating super clean, lots of natural fibre and water rich food, plus the elimination channels are allowed an opportunity to work efficiently, the waste may get stuck inside and you get constipated! If this is happening regularly, then every once in a while, you need – a detox, else it could lead to more serious health issues. 

What about our thoughts and emotions?

Experts estimate that the mind thinks a mind boggling 60,00080,000 thoughts a day. That’s an average of 2500 – 3,300 thoughts per hour! Add to this, the constant stimulation from the internet and social media and you got a whole lot of emotional junk that needs a clean passage out, else it’s going to build up inside.

How can thoughts build up inside you’d ask? They are just.. thoughts. Do they really need space?

Signs that you need an emotional detox. 

Well, have you ever felt your head being so full of thoughts, that you are going round and round, stuck on certain thoughts, unable to think straight any more?

Or have you woken up one morning feeling like just shutting yourself out of everything, and doing nothing at all, not talking, not wanting to deal with anything? 

Or, at some point have you felt so self absorbed, that everything that is happening around you seems to not have any emotional reaction, you’re emotionally numb? 

For lack of a better word – this is what emotional constipation could feel like.

This stuff is serious. If not addressed, it will take a toll on your physical health. It’ll start with your energy being sapped, your gut going out of whack, immune system packing up so you’ll find yourself falling sick more often.  Most of all you’ll find your creativity and motivation plummet. But this is really just the tip of the iceberg. All ancient medicine systems agree that the all diseases begin in the mind. Any cancer survivor will tell you, that the real battle they fought was of the mind, of some deeply rooted negative emotion they had to uproot to finally heal.  

So what can you do to ensure you do not reach this stage? Just like we’ll poop well if we eat well every day, it’s best to address our mental ‘shit’ on a daily basis, that keeps it clear and moving.  Here are my top tried and tested techniques that you just can try out :- 

  1. Deep breathing. My yoga Guru B.K.S. Iyengar said ‘ The breath is the master of the mind.’ Yes. Our very own breath, is the easiest tool we have to gain back control of and clarity of mind.

Try this little experiment. Sit down in a quiet space with your back erect. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Observe your breath as it goes in through your nostrils and fills up your lungs and the warm moist breath that exits. Allow yourself to slow down your breathing. Do this for anything between 2 – 10 minutes (depending on how much time you have). See how you feel once you are done.

Do this 4 -5 times daily. And honestly, you can do it anywhere, even in your office stairway landing. Great way to stop our thoughts and leash the racing mind.

If you’re practicing Yoga and pranayama few times a week, that is even better!

2. Silent Nature Feasting. If you can set aside 30 minutes in a day to keep your gadgets away and tune in to nature in silence, it just works wonders. You can close your eyes and listen to the sounds of birds, the  rustle of the wind in the trees, the sea waves and let any thoughts freely come and go.

Or you could just watch the greenery from your window, tend to some potted plants in your balcony, watch the sun go down, watch the waves continuously wash up the shore, whatever it is that will fully engage you in that moment.

Nature is so therapeutic. And so is silence. Together they are healing.

3. Daily Spiritual practice. Someone once said, ‘We are spiritual beings having a human experience.’  (whether we believe it or not). A solid philosophical basis can ground us. It can help us go inwards, give clarity and keep our spirit free and light. It can bring us in touch with gratitude, forgiveness and a let go of resentment or disappointment, accept life situations with grace and these are some of the underlying emotions that make it sticky inside.

4. Weekly Digital Detox. Get off your phone, tablet, laptop for a whole 24 hours, once a week. If not 24, start with 12 hours. you’ll be refreshed and renewed, as good as new!

5. Getting creative. Giving play to our creative side, in any small daily activity is a great way to gain emotional strength. Be it drawing, coloring, writing something, playing a musical instrument, dancing, taking a picture, even cooking or plating a dish! Find that one activity in your daily life that you enjoy getting creative and engaging with, even if for just 10 minutes a day!

6. Morning pages. Now is is what I call a daily mental dump. If you’re really constipated, try this method, that I know a lot of people swear by!

Set an alarm to wake up 45 minutes earlier than your usual wake up time in the morning. Keep 3 blank sheets and a pen next to your bed side. Keep anything else you might need when you wake up in the morning (eg. water).

As soon as your alarm goes off in the morning, you get up and in your half sleepy state, start writing your thoughts on the sheet. Write whatever comes to your mind. The thoughts do not have to make sense. They do not have to connect. They can be broken or complete. Just keep writing till you’re done with the 3 pages. Do this every day for a couple of weeks and see how you are feeling.

Apart from the above, engaging in a creative activity, music or dance are other ways which can help you offload emotionally.

I’d love to hear back from you if you tried any of this and it worked. Or is there anything else that you tried that worked for you? I’d love to know and try too! 

Liked what you read? Then do share it with someone you know who needs to read this and benefit from it! 

*The tips are not a substitute for medical advice.

Happy Healthy Holidays

Its vacation time!!! And if you’re one of the lucky ones who is taking off for that much anticipated holiday, are these kinds of thoughts running through your mind ?

How will I manage my diet and exercise routine? Everything will go for a toss, it’ll take me months to get back.. I can’t do it all, so let me do nothing at all. Just let go.. and I’ll deal with it later…

Stop right there. Before I share my big tips on how to make your vacation healthy, let me share something that will be music to your ears!!!

Your Holiday already is really Healthy!

Yes, its true. Think about it.. Have you seen anyone coming back from a good vacation looking dull and sick? On Facebook and Instagram pictures, every one returning from a vacation has these glowing cheeks, twinkling eyes and they look like in the pink of health!

Here’s why.

Holidays fulfil our needs for primary foods. Down time with ourselves, deep conversations and bonding with loved ones, laughter, mindless chatter that switches us off from all the serious stuff we’ve been focussing too much on. All this is extremely important for good health – physical and mental!

Laughter has been shown to reduce our stress hormones such as cortisol, reduce pain and boost the release of endomorphins (hormones that relieve pain) and other happy hormones. All these changes lead to improved hormonal balance, boosted immunity and stress reduction. The body releases weight a lot easily when hormonally balanced and stress free. And this creates a great environment within our body for any kind of healing or weight loss to happen.

Secondly, we also relax and sleep more on vacation. Unless you are on a hectic tour, your year end vacation promises to be that ‘me’ time when you let go of routine and just follow the rhythms dictated by your body’s current needs. Relaxing, doing ‘nothing’, sleeping as you please are a healing therapy in this day and age of wake up alarms and everything done by the clock! So make sure you do more of this, guilt free.

I know a lot of people just end up swimming, strolling on the beach, hiking up the hill top or just walking all day if sightseeing on their holiday. I even got my whole family on a trampoline once on a holiday. So much fun! And all these count as exercise right? So you see, how much potential your holiday has to be fun and healthy, anyway!

So you see a holiday is such a healthy time 😉 provided you are doing all the above.

In the pictures below, one is taken after walking down over a 100 steps of an amphi-theatre in South U.K. and another after hours of walking the streets in Japan. Walking is my preferred way to commute locally, when on vacation.

Now the thing most of us struggle most with on a vacation is eating healthy. That is where all the conflicts and stress comes in. As an avid traveller myself, I do too. But over the years, I have learnt how to strike the right balance between feeling free on a vacation as well as eating healthy enough to not feel regretful later.

So here are some best practices I swear by!

  1. When it comes to food, Balance is the key. Let’s face it. Unless you are on a retreat, you will not get the cleanest possible foods around. So focus on what is easily accessible – Fresh fruit and Salads. As a thumb rule, I always make at least one meal a day with just fruit and always include salads in the other meals. If I am able to do this much, I pat myself on the back and peck on other foods that I may not fancy so much. I often ask chefs to customise sauted vegetables for me, and they are mostly happy to oblige with something special.
Below are pictures of some delicious healthy meals and breakfasts from some of my vacations in Thailand, Bali, Goa, Auroville, London and Japan!

  1. Keep Healthy munchies handy. Those in between meals are the times we end up indulging in stuff, which as some would say ‘a minute on the lips, forever on the hips’. Those chips and candies, that street food that calls out to us when the hunger pangs suddenly strike and you’re still not ready for a sit down meal. So in order to not slip up, keep healthy munchies in your bag, always. I have a small box which fits my day bag, and I pack some healthy munchies in every morning before heading out. Here are some ideas for the munchies to carry  –
  • trail mix
  • seeds
  • dry fruit
  • khakhras
  • granola
  • makhana

Although, this cannot be relied upon, you might actually be surprised to find some really healthy and fun snack options on the road while travelling.

I found cool cucumber sticks in Japan, cut and whole fruit at airports, fresh juice at bars and markets in Thailand, London, Goa, Zurich and Japan! _MG_9092

  1. When you indulge, do it guilt free and do it mindfully. I have seen my friends, load up on that pizza or ice cream and then swallow guilt down with every bite. Know that the guilt weighs the heaviest (more than the food even) and it’s so not worth it. So here’s another thumb rule – Give yourself the permission to indulge in one meal every day on vacation. Think about what is it that you would really like to have, find the best place to have it, build a good appetite before that meal and then go right ahead and enjoy, guilt free, savouring each bite mindfully.
  2. Ease on Alcohol. Contrary common belief, more alcohol is not at all equivalent to having a better time. If you must have some alcohol, do it responsibly. Your body will thank you for it; you yourself will feel empowered for not having gone overboard. Create your own reasonable intake limit, and stick to it. Do not mix it with an aerated beverage and definitely never start on an empty stomach. And remember to stay well hydrated.

So here’s wishing you and your families all the happiest and healthiest holidays ahead. I am off for a vacation myself, so catch you all, bright and new from your holidays in 2019!

5 Steps to Connecting with Nature in the City!

Living in a big city, surrounded by concrete and often confined to indoor spaces, do you feel disconnected with nature?
Having lived in cities like Delhi and Mumbai most of my adult life, I have been there too and intuitively felt my health and well-being quotient go up when in nature!

Lately I have delved deeper into this, and come to discover that no matter where we are, nature is abundant and omnipresent. And we can connect and derive its benefits, free of cost.

So here are my top 5 steps how you can connect to nature, no matter where you are, and gain enormous health benefits. The best part? They take MINIMAL TIME and are absolutely FREE OF COST.

1. Deep Breathing.  Have your ever realised that every time you inhale, a part of the universe enters you and each time you exhale a part of you merges with the cosmos. So inextricably connected we are to the universe through each breath. Yet (in my Yoga Guru’s words) we are ‘breathe illiterate’.

Observing our breath and deep inhalation even for 2-3 minutes with our eyes closed, few times a day can refresh our mind, relax our heated nervous system, and can positively impact our stress levels, hypertension and even regular aches and pains.

  1. Fresh air. City life often restricts our contact with natural fresh air. We live in air-conditioned homes and offices, and travel in air-conditioned cars in between the two! It is like washing many rounds of clothes in the same water, even though it gets dirtier with each round.  Besides air conditioning reduces up our skin’s natural capacity to take heat or cold. Hence whenever possible, open the windows and allow fresh air to come in. Turn off the air conditioning from time to time. If at office, come out to air conditioner free zone at least every 2 hours.

If you can get yourself to go for a brisk walk or a run at the crack of dawn, (that’s the time you will find the air to be the freshest) then you’ve got 2 birds (deep breathing and fresh air) with one hand!

  1. Sun-gazing. You’ll be surprised how accessible the sun energy is in the city, especially from high rises, and this makes it easy to practice sun gazing to gain its miraculous benefits.

One of the biggest impact sun gazing has shown is that it impacts the size and health of our pineal gland, our master gland that regulates all hormonal activity in the body and consequently our energy levels, cell functioning, absorption and utilisation of nutrients and healing.

To begin with all you need to do is watch the rising and/or setting sun (when it is red) for 3-5 min to allow its healing energies to penetrate through the eyes. Gradually increase the amount of time as per your eyes’ capacity.

  1. Grow your own potted plants. We are genetically programmed to touch and be in contact with plants and soil and spending even 5 minutes a day nurturing a plant has been known to cause positive changes in our blood chemistry and consequently our state of being. Plus the delight of harvesting the herbs we are growing and throwing them into a fresh salad, is simply priceless!

Check out some exciting salad recipes here

Don’t have space for a couple potted plants? Go for micro greens, as they can even grow in a small dish on a windowsill (and micro greens contain up to 40 times more nutrients than their grown counterparts).

  1. Walk barefoot. For all the antioxidants we are looking for in our super foods and berries, the simple act of walking barefoot on the ground is the most powerful (and cheapest) antioxidant on the planet.

Walking on sand or grass increases your skin’s exposure to a larger surface area, hence it is even more effective, however, do not shy away from walking bare feet on soil or a concrete surface in your building area as that too works!