How Barefoot Walking Can Transform Your Health

How often do you see people walking barefoot these days? In places of worship you may say. If you saw someone walking barefoot, you may even think he is an eccentric! True that ! But, allow me to take you on the ‘barefoot in the park’ track, unravelling its numerous benefits. Kick off your footwear for a while and allow your feet to feel the ground.

My experiment with walking barefoot started randomly on an impulse. While I sat reading a book with my home footwear on, I felt unusually warm in the soles of my feet. Still immersed in my book, I slipped my feet instinctively out of the slip-ons and sat with my feet bare, for the rest of my reading. A lovely feeling of coolness coursed through my feet and into the rest of me. I felt refreshed; I put the book down and sat wondering where the goodness of it all came from. The sensation triggered a something in me and I walked out barefoot in my compound for a stroll to test it out. Into my 100th step, I sensed that it was that connectivity to the earth that had rejuvenated me. I am not exaggerating. Don’t take my word, try it out yourself. So here is more on the advantages of walking barefoot, a result of my research and experience. It has now become a part of my ‘keep-healthy’ habits.

Born barefoot, we leave this earth barefoot too (except in some faiths), but most of what we experience between the two destined points, we cover our feet up with protective footwear. To understand how important being barefoot is, lets travel back in time to our infant days when our first tottering steps felt the ground. Isnt that how we all learnt to get a grip on our feet and balance ourselves? The muscles of our feet oriented themselves when we first commanded them to hold us up. But in a few months our parents got us ‘soft baby footwear’ and being barefoot became a rarity.

Have you ever wondered why pains and aches were almost non-existent in our childhood? Because we played barefoot and walked barefoot too sometimes. As we grew into our teens and adolescence, we donned more footwear and walked less barefoot, thereby inhibiting the senses in our feet and allowing the tiny muscles to weaken.

Pic Courtesy : Ojai Healing Movement Sanctuary

Amy Mathews, a movement analyst has this to say, “Shoes can make the feet passive and unconscious because they do all the work for us.” The arches of our feet are crucial to providing support and balance to our bodies. The more we allow our feet muscles to weaken, more the number of pains and aches in our legs and lower back. Barefoot training can help us keep our feet muscles conditioned, and in some cases even reverse some amount of damage done.

Get In Touch With Your Feet : Reconnect with the various muscles and senses in your feet and you may ward off future injuries. There are 26 joints that make up our toes and feet and along with them are the supporting muscles, ligaments and tendons. Lets learn to pay attention to them and see how we feel. Flex the feet, curl them up, wiggle the toes, stand on toes and heels alternatively (take support if you need), touch and tap the tops and bottoms of your toes. Wake up their sensory awareness and make them agile.

Being Earthed : Another fascinating dimension to barefoot walking is the ‘earthing’. Scientific research and early studies have shown several health benefits of kicking off shoes and treading the ground barefoot. We have a connection with the Earth and its magnetic field. Earth’s electrons have their own charge, the negative ions. When we come in direct contact with earth, our bodies gain from it tremendously, reducing inflammation, increasing antioxidants and improving sleep. Earthing research and observations describe Earth as a ‘global treatment table’. A great book to read to learn more about this is  Earthing by  Clinton Ober.

We live in a strange yet miraculous world. For a change, we are going to be asking for something negative !! Before your eyebrows shoot up, let me tell you that we are talking about positive and negative ions. Modern life and technology have made our lives easier through gadgets and electronics, yet there is a price attached to it and if that price involves our health, we need to sit up and take notice.

Ions affect our health. Positive ions are not a blessing, negative ions are. If you wish to know more about ions, click here

There is a proliferation of positive ions in cities or any place where electronics and electro-magnetic frequencies are used. We are surrounded by smart phones, laptops, televisions, microwaves and cell phone towers, which emit abundant pro-inflammatory positive ions. These flood our bodies, thereby giving birth to several inflammation issues. Barefoot walking allows us to absorb Earth’s negative ions which in turn balances the positive and negative charges within us. Many health issues get sorted out nature’s way thereby (4).

‘Earthing’ is the first and quite influential benefit of walking barefoot, but there are many other benefits of walking barefoot as well. Such as:

Health Benefits Of Walking Barefoot

Yogis and spiritual heads in most parts of Asia still sleep on the floor to get connected with Mother Earth better.

  • In a review published in the Journal of Environmental and Public health, patients with chronic pain who slept on grounded carbon fiber mattresses saw a reduction in their pain, and slept better (1).
  • Earthing changes the electrical activity in the brain. It also helps skin conductivity, moderates glucose regulation, reduces stress and boosts immunity (2).
  • Barefoot walking or ‘earthing’ increases the surface charge of red blood cells, thereby avoiding clumping and the resultant heart diseases. It may also help regulate the endocrine and nervous systems (2).
  • Nature walks’ open up our minds amidst the greenery. Walking creates physical and emotional rhythms. Even a light stroll helps release endorphins.

Improves Sleep Quality

Remember our ancestors slept on the ground with minimal bed linen? Have you gone swimming in a lake or the ocean sometime and slept better that night? In both of the above, ‘earthing’ happens naturally, replacing positive ions of the body with the negative ions of the earth, thereby removing tension from the body. Walking barefoot is also supposed to enhance the circadian rhythm if done on a regular basis.

Keeps Us Alert

Exercise systems like Yoga, Tai Chi and martial arts are all performed barefoot, but do you know why? Masters in those sciences claim that being barefoot wires our brain and helps keep us alert at all times. Doing squats and lifting weights barefoot is gaining popularity as natural resistance is the best resistance from which the body benefits immensely.

Ionic Balance

We all are aware that our bodies are 70% water. When we walk barefoot, that water becomes more conductive and alert. An ionic balance is achieved within our cells and tissues, resulting in better health and keeping inflammation at bay.

Pic Courtesy : Top 10 Home Remedies

Enhances The Senses

Our cavemen ancestors walked on sand, grass, wood and pebbles and had strong legs. They enjoyed better health because the nerves and pressure points in their feet got better stimulated, and allowed more chi energy to flow to different areas of the body associated with those pressure points. By wearing footwear all the time, we are shutting out many sensory experiences and letting those nerve endings remain unstimulated.

Instils Mindfulness

When we walk barefoot, we need to watch where we are walking. We need to be in the present moment. Walking is a primal pattern and a sub-conscious activity for the homo-sapiens. When we allow our feet to come in contact with the ground barefoot, we let ourselves be drawn into a more conscious state.

Improves Overall Posture

Reiterating a fact mentioned earlier in the blog – we were made to walk barefoot, but one of the prices we have had to pay in return for civilisation and industrialisation is our dependency on footwear. Constant use of footwear weakens certain muscles of our feet, legs and abdomen.. We then rely on other muscles to compensate, leading to bad posture, pains and aches. When we walk, jog, run or play barefoot, we gift ourselves health. Those muscles that remained shielded from adequate use are now being put to work and have gained strength, giving us better stability, balance and posture. India’s Milind Soman who completed the Ironman Challenge in 15 hours, 19 minutes and 29 seconds in his first try runs barefoot most of the time. Milind Soman is an Indian supermodel, actor, film producer and fitness promoter. He along with Reema Sanghavi founded Pinkathon, India’s Biggest Women’s run created with the objective of spreading awareness about women’s health related issues, breast cancer in particular.

Benefits of barefoot walking, my thought lane

Milind Soman, the Pinkathon ambassador running barefoot

How To Walk Barefoot

Start Slowly : Set aside footwear for a while. Walk barefoot for at least 5-10 minutes a day to begin with. Are your soles complaining of hard surfaces? Did they feel poked and pricked? Are they really so tender or have we brought them to it? Time then to make a start and get them accustomed. Start walking barefoot at home for a day or two. Then step out and walk on bare ground, your feet may take it better. “It’s better to practice for 10 minutes a day than an hour once a week”, says Matthews.

Focus On Your Feet : Most often, as we take a step forward and roll the foot from heel to toe, our weight travels from the heel to the big toe. Walk around a bit and see for yourself. The little toe hardly touches the ground. The bones in the outer foot are the strongest and designed to support our bodies. The arch of the foot largely depends on how our feet roll. But, when the body weight travels directly from the heel to the toe, the arch tends to become weaker and collapse. Hence, try to shift your weight from the heel to the outer bones and from thereon to the little toe. This can immensely help people with flat feet. For the rest of us, it can help strengthen our knees, pelvic floor and muscles of the abdomen, when practiced over a period of time.The human body is a marvel, isn’t it ?

barefoot walking can transform your health, my thought lane

Milind Soman, actor and fitness enthusiast running barefoot

Where To Walk Barefoot : Start walking around barefoot at home. Then step out to try the natural ground. Walking on grass or sand is ideal and fun, but how many of us are so lucky? You have the option of visiting a park or the beach for a few minutes everyday. But, if your feet can take it and if you have no other choice, you may walk on the gravel or tiled pathways in your compounds. If your surroundings permit you in terms of safety and hygiene, try walking on the mud patches lining the streets. It’s really no big deal, just a matter of training your feet and that should take you a couple of days at the most.

Take care if you have broken skin or open wounds. Do remember to wash your feet under running water after ‘walking barefoot in the park’ !

Europe has provided over 100 shoe-free parks and paths to its citizens, with specially designed paths laid with either grass, logs, smooth stones, water and mud. In India, we do not have public spaces for such walking, but a few gyms and sports rehab centers have equipped their floors with indoor and outdoor walking tracks.

When To Watch Out

As with any exercise or new activity, we need to tread cautiously. Too much too soon can end up in some kind of an injury. Avoid walking barefoot if you experience any pain in your feet or legs. Give it a break and start again after resting them adequately. But do try it out and start a healthy habit. Walk, jog or dance barefoot, you will reap the benefits for sure. Consult your doctor if you have any health issues that may interfere with walking as a fitness activity per se. All general physicians may not be aware of the benefits of barefoot walking, they are neither trained nor aligned in recourse to nature. However, sports medicine doctors and fitness professionals are sure to be in the know-how and should be able to help you in case of doubts or advice. As we turn more and more towards naturopathy, make barefoot walking a part of your life, for at least five minutes a day.

Sources :

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-9099/the-surprising-health-benefits-of-going-barefoot.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3265077/

https://healthywildandfree.com/the-effects-of-walking-barefoot-5-minutes-daily-are-astonishing/

http://www.naturalnewsblogs.com/negative-ions-friends

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Seven Reasons Why Breathwalking Can be Uplifting

Benefits Of Breathwalking Go Beyond Mere Weight Loss

I would choose an outdoor walk over a treadmill in a gym for my cardio anytime. For reasons of it being the most natural activity in the most natural ambience. My Fitness Walks are like rituals, I give them my best every time and gain an abundant lot in return.

I try to put in new dimensions to my fitness walks now and then. This time around breathwalking or meditative walking caught my attention. I started it on an impulse. I had heard of shower meditation, which motivated me to incorporate mindfulness into my walks. Much to my surprise did I realise (later) that breathwalking is being put to therapeutic use in the treatment of certain health conditions.

Meditation has brought a lot of peace into my life in the past few months and mindfulness in my walks became it’s natural extension! Fitness trackers keep a count of steps, I chose to count my breaths ! I truly did not expect to sustain my newly found interest to last more than a few minutes, let alone complete my walk ! But it stood by me and here is my count : 1096 breaths in a 60 minute walk covering a distance of 6 km. I was thrilled alright, but why did this walk seem different? I felt energised, extremely satisfied and calmed despite the weather being stiflingly warm, and being drenched in sweat. I had my first taste of meditative breathwalking.

meditative breathwalking, my thought lane

Counting steps is easier than counting breaths. The inhaling and exhaling takes longer than simply putting one foot in front of the other. It threw me off at the start, but by the time I reached the 10th count, I had kind of settled down to the rhythm of my breathing. From then on I thoroughly enjoyed focussing on my breaths and kept a steady count. Here is what I gained by meditative breathwalking, but before that the ‘how’ of it all.

How To Breathwalk

Breathwalking in health and wellness terminology is described as an exercise technique that synchronizes walking steps, specific breathing patterns and focussed attention.

  • Begin your walk at your normal pace.
  • As you settle into a rhythm, start counting your breaths. I suggest you make it a fun activity rather than setting off with a grim determination to get it right. Rest assured, in about 10-15 minutes you will get the hang of it. The idea is to cultivate openness, relaxation and an awareness of your mind and body.
  • If you are a brisk walker, inhale for four steps, exhale for four. Just a guideline, feel free to set your rhythm. Slow walkers may have to test it out for themselves, whatever works for you.
  • Feel your diaphragm move up and down.
  • Breathe through your nose, especially if you are on an outdoor walk. It helps filter dust particles while helping you maintain proper balance of oxygen and carbon-di-oxide.
  • Align your neck with your spine, tuck your tummy in and do your breathwalk.
  • If at any point you feel stressed or tired, stop counting. Breathe and walk normally, relax and take a relook at the process. There must be something that you are not doing right. Start afresh and concentrate on getting closer to the right way.
  • Take a break if you feel stressed, but get back to breathwalking soon.
  • Avoid chatting up with other walkers, it will hamper your rhythm. A tip : Keep socializing for later. Do not show any signs of slowing down your speed if a friend is walking towards you. That way they will get a hint and will not disturb you.
  • Start your walk with a warm up and keep a cooling down regimen and stretch regimen after you finish.

The Benefits of Meditative Breathwalking :

1) Brings Better Focus To Your Walking. Meditative breathwalking shuts out all the crap and lets you focus on yourself and your fitness activity. You begin to observe your body, your gait, your form and a natural thought is given to correct them all if you are out of sync

2) Calms You Down. We live in a stressful world and we are wont to welcome calmness in any form. Just like in a meditative state, your breathing gets regularised, and with that a sense of calm envelopes you even while your body continues to be in momentum. You must experience meditative breathwalking.

3) Increases Your Speed. Contrary to what most people would think, you speed up with meditative breathwalking. A calming effect is a slowing down you think? In most cases yes, but if you are conscious that you are doing a fitness walk, it works the other way. With every breath that has now become deeper, you inhale more oxygen and you are in no hurry to exhale. It’s just a natural and involuntary process. You hold the breath in for a few seconds and exhale slowly. By now the rhythm would have been set and with more oxygen, you will feel more energised and move effortlessly. There is a certain smoothness to your walk, unless a ditch on the road, or a passing car, or a dog come in your way.

4) Feel More Positive. Any guess why? Your mind is so engaged with counting the breaths that it shuts out everything else. All those bothersome thoughts and memories about your workplace, your home, your relationship or your finance recede to the background. A random thought may cross your mind now and then, but wont stay long and neither set forth a whirlwind of related emotions. Your mind has to get back to counting your breaths. You have just managed to push negativity out of your radar and your mind is kind of at peace. This is the biggest plus of meditative breathwalking and precisely why you feel top of the world at the end of your walk.

5) The Opportunity To Improve Your Form. Yes, with your focus on the ‘now and here’, you tend to start watching yourself. Right time to correct your gait/walking form (doesn’t matter that you are in front of a mirror). Take my word, you will make an effort. Tuck your tummy in, pull back your shoulders if you round them as a matter of habit, and keep your neck in line with your spine. Your body is now aligned. Notice how confident, tall and energetic you feel. A few days into this practice, you may be able to make it a habit for life! Meditative breathwalking has just changed one aspect of your lifestyle!

6) Burn More Calories. Walking is instinctive to our species and is as natural as breathing. Add a technique to it, it sets a chain reaction in your body and the benefits just multiply. For one, your fitness walk has just become more efficient and effective. Two, with proper form comes the burning of more calories. You certainly have read somewhere that just keeping the right posture burns calories. An excerpt from my earlier article, Are You Looking For Weight Training Basics To Get a Sculpted Body?  Did you know just sitting and standing in correct posture can burn a few calories? When you maintain proper posture, your muscles are being worked to maintain the alignment of the body, thereby adding to your calorie burn”.

7) Better Sleep. You have walked faster and fitter. You have burned more calories. You are relaxed despite the brisk walk. You feel more positive. You have improved your form and you have counted breaths till the last step of your fitness walk. There is a sense of achievement within you. It’s now time to hydrate, so grab some water, head home and eat up a healthy meal. Assuming this is your evening walk, your body feels well conditioned and you head for a restful deep sleep. If you are a morning walker, your entire day ahead of you pans out more energetic. So both ways, meditative breathwalking is a boon.

Two Ways Of Meditative Breathwalking

When I began meditative breathwalking, I ventured into counting the total number of breaths through my entire walk and here are the stats : 1096 breaths in a 60 minute walk of 6 km. I felt great at the end of it alright, but I had to handle the task of remembering the 100s as I crossed each one of them. It taxed my memory cells, but then why not use it to my advantage I mused and kept at it. It helped keep all the random, uninvited guests of my mind, the thoughts at bay! I had to focus harder than I had to in the other method, but again it was a challenge I took up and it worked!

The other method is to count your steps for every breath cycle. Inhale for four steps and exhale for four steps. This method helps you keep a steady speed, however you may have to reorient and synchronise if you happen to increase or decrease your speed. Those who are well versed with breath control and Yoga may do well with this, while beginners may find it stressful to follow it to the T. Exhaling is often longer than inhaling, hence some may find respite in 2 or 3 counts of inhaling and 4 counts of exhaling.

Breathwalking is simple and fun. Once you get it right, it can pave the path to physical and mental fitness. A lot of competitive and non-competitive sports and fitness trainers insist on and inculcate breath control to improve athletic performance. Paying attention to the flow of breath while letting go of other thoughts that command your consciousness can be very uplifting. Anyone can do it anywhere, even if you are taking a walk in your compound. It is of tremendous help to the elderly when they get worked up. Teach them breathwalking, it will do them a world of good.

A 2007 study published by the World Journal of Gastroenterology found that breathwalking had a positive effect in patients suffering from chronic hepatitis C, obesity and insulin resistance.

Meditative breathwalking is a union of three rhythms – stepping, breathing and mental counting. Enough to calm down a chattering mind and appreciate the present moments. Fitness and wellness are all about sharing, your feedback and comments could give me new perspectives. Till then, wishing you wellness!

Sources : World Journal Of Gastroenterology , Kundalini Research Institute

Gait Analysis Will Help You Choose The Right Workout Shoes And Stay Safe

I was introduced to gait analysis by Dr Kannan Pugazhendi, the eminent sports medicine specialist of Chennai, and since then I have never bought workout shoes sans the gait analysis. He strongly advises on making right and sensible choices when it comes to sports and fitness gear, before we invest our several thousands on them, with special emphasis on shoes. Rightfully so, since our feet have the crucial task of bearing our body weight while we run, or sweat it out in the gym.

Very often people buy walking/running/workout shoes based on their budget. Next on priority comes the look or style of the shoe as well as the comfort. It is not enough if the shoe fits you snugly. We do not all have perfect feet, some are over pronated and some under. Each requires a shoe that can offer support to specific affected parts of the foot. This is where professional gait analysis steps in to help avoid injury and optimise performance. Wrong or ill-fitting workout shoes can be trouble-makers leading to foot, ankle and knee aches and pains, not to mention the concomitant lower back pain that follows knee pain faithfully like a bad coin ! Read here on why it is important to choose proper shoes while exercising in any form.

Years ago I used to get the foot scan done at Adidas, for that was the only option available at that time. It was pretty basic. In recent times, however Running Lab has come to Chennai and the Asics flagship stores are equipped with gait analysis system. Of the two, I prefer the Asics stores. Their staff is better trained to do the gait analysis and their system is more advanced and detailed. While the general term is gait analysis, Asics calls it the FOOT ID. I have reproduced here their official description of the process.

“ASICS FOOT ID is a destination area of the ASICS shop offering static and dynamic measurements, including foot shape analysis and gait cycle analysis. ASICS FOOT ID static measures the foot shape and ASICS FOOT ID dynamic analyzes the consumer’s gait while running”.

What Is Gait Analysis ?

Gait analysis measures the degree of pronation of the feet. When we walk or run, the outside part of the heel strikes the ground first. Simultaneously, within fractions of a second, the foot rolls inward and that is called ‘pronation’. Pronation acts like a shock absorber and optimally distributes the force and impact of the heel hitting the ground.

Over-pronation is when the feet roll inward too much.

Under-pronation (or supination) is where the feet don’t roll inward enough.

So, what gait analysis does is that it matches the client’s degree of pronation with the correct shoe type, thereby balancing over or under-pronation. That in turn helps reduce the risk of injury and improves walking/jogging/running efficiency.

Gait analysis is helpful for runners as well as those that indulge in indoor workouts. It is extremely important for people who walk/run on treadmills. Here is how the process goes.

I went through similar here at the Asics store in Express Avenue and here are the pictures.

asics gait analysis system, my thought lane

Gait Analysis treadmill and the six step guide

After I filled in my registration form, the laser sensors were pasted at specific points on my feet and the static foot analysis was conducted, one foot at a time.

static foot analysis, my thought lane

Static foot analysis

The results showed like this

WHAT IS VIDEO GAIT ANALYSIS?

A pair of test shoes were then given to me and I had to walk/run on the treadmill with those on.

dynamic foot analyser video

Tester shoes and dynamic foot analyser video

It involves running for a few minutes on the treadmill, while a video recording is made of the runner’s feet. I did a brisk walk. I have a knee injury and hence didn’t opt to run. In conclusion, the static and dynamic test results were analysed digitally and here is the story it told me about my feet.

(One can then try a variety of shoes selecting cushioning, structured cushioning or maximum support options according to the results.)

gait analysis sampler, my thought lane

Gait Analysis sampler

A model of an indoor workout shoe (since I am not a runner and indoor gymming is what I do) was then suggested to me based on the results above. Syed Noor, the store manager explained to me on what my feet demanded, and why that particular model of shoe would do me good. It offered support at the arches of my feet and yes, it felt better than my previous shoes that had probably been worn out – they were a year old or a little more than that.

asics store manager showing the recommended shoe model

When the store manager suggested the recommended shoe model

How To Avail The Gait Analysis

There is a fee of INR 500 towards the gait analysis which is reimbursed when you buy a pair of shoes from the Asics store. If that does not fall under your scheme of things, you can avail the gait analysis for the fee and buy shoes of your preferred brand.

If you havent paid attention to gait analysis in all these years, it is time to do so. Our feet do not like being messed with and deserve all our attention and more to keep them supple and conditioned, strong and efficient. Choose your workout shoes right and stay safe ! Wishing Wellness !

Muscle Training Basics And Tips For Beginners

Why Muscle Training ?

Muscle training or resistance training is even more important than cardio training. We can manage to get cardiovascular workouts through several activities like walking, swimming, cycling, trekking et al. But muscle training is what is going to hold us in good stead as we progress in age. Our bones are bound by muscles and give our bodies the shape that we all dream of, that shape that we sometimes envy on others.

Image courtesy : livestrong.com

Note : The words strength training, resistance training and muscle training are used interchangeably. Resistance training increases muscle strength by making your muscles work against a weight or force. Different forms of resistance training include free weights, weight machines, resistance bands and your own body weight.

This blog post is the result of a query of a 23-year-old in the gym a few days ago. Her goal was to shed weight and slim down. My question, “how about muscle training” got her eyebrows up in wonder with a counter question, “isn’t muscle training for men only?” And then “can you help me with some basics if I have to do strength/muscle training?” I felt sad that even in these days of burgeoning fitness information on the net and social media, this young thing still remained seeped in that muscle myth. Hope this helps those like her. I have taken a lot of inputs from the American College of Sports Medicine to tabulate the following tips.

Generally healthy populations overlook the importance of resistance training, but the truth is that they need it too. For these reasons :

  • It increases the amount of muscle and elevates bone density in young adults.
  • Resistance training benefits both men and women with a sculpted and toned appearance.
  • In older adults, resistance training helps offset age related bone loss. It helps develop and maintain the strength and ability necessary to complete daily activities as well as fitness programs.
  • For all individuals, strength training allows more ease in daily activities and instills confidence and pride.
  • It enhances moods by releasing endorphin hormones.

How To Muscle Train ?

All beginners, make these your goals :

1) Learning the fundamental exercises correctly

2) Preventing injury by keeping proper form

3) Designing a program that will encourage adherence.

  • Begin with resistance training about twice or thrice a week and allow a day of rest between workout days.
  • Initial muscle soreness is inevitable for beginners..
  • Rest and recovery is crucial.
  • Proper warm-up is most essential. Five to 10 minutes of light cardiovascular exercise followed by gentle dynamic stretches.

In the beginning, any stimulation is progress.

Image courtesy : Internet

  • Do not get stressed with the amount of weight, number of repetitions, or number of sets at first. They can wait for later.
  • Focus more on learning and executing proper exercise technique.

Your muscles are not the only tissues being strengthened. Connective tissues, such as tendons and ligaments also adapting to the strain of the new workout. Your muscles will be the first to feel stronger after starting a training program, but your tendons need a few weeks to adapt to the new muscle activity and strength.

  • Injury in the first weeks is very likely if your focus is on increasing the weight instead of learning correct technique.
  • Give yourself as many sets and repetitions as you need to learn technique. Ask for proper supervision.
  • Avoid getting overly fatigued, mentally or physically, in this phase.
  • You cannot attain perfection on the first day. Stop an exercise if you become frustrated.
  • Tip : In the first three weeks perform one set with weights that will allow 12-15 repetitions. In the next few weeks progress to two to three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions.
  • Not all exercises require the same number of sets in a workout.
  • Heavier weights need longer rest periods.
  • One or two minutes of rest for light weights.
  • Two or three minutes for moderate weights.
  • More than three minutes for heavier weights.
  • Look out for signs of fatigue and adjust rest period lengths.
  • If dizziness or nausea occurs, it is time to stop the workout.
  • Increase the rest period, decrease the weight or sets.
  • Fatigue within prescribed ranges is natural, pain is not.
  • Relook at your technique or consult a medical practitioner.
  • Avoid temptation to do too much too soon. It can demotivate you or injure you.

How To Choose Muscle Training Exercises

Your choice of exercise must depend on your body type and condition, previous injuries, and flexibility. Focus on exercise technique and activating specific muscle groups.

  • You could start each training day with multiple-joint leg exercises (squats or lunges). These exercises activate a better hormone response than upper-body exercises.
  • In most individuals, these movements performed correctly, are safe, can improve coordination and prevent injuries from everyday activities.
  • Next, exercises that target the chest (i.e. bench press) and shoulders (shoulder raise) can be paired with exercises that target the back (seated rows and lateral pull-downs).
  • Abdominal and lower-back exercises help build stability and support. The bridge pose (top of a push up) or the bird-dog exercise top the chart.
  • A total body exercise program could look like this :

1) Proper leg presses or squats, dead lifts or leg curls, knee extensions (for those with healthy knees).

2) Bench press, horizontal rows, crunches (for those with a healthy lower back, and always balanced with lower-back exercise).

3) Lateral pull-downs, shoulder presses, arm curls, triceps extensions, and calf raises.

  • Beginners, performing a total-body workout may not take more than 45 minutes. It depends upon the rest period length and number of sets.
  • To progress, beginners can experiment with repetition ranges and increasing weights. Your muscles need to be pushed to do better.
  • After about nine workouts or three weeks, alternate heavier weight days with lighter weight days.

1) You could do sets of 12-15 repetitions, 8-10 repetitions, 4-6 repetitions, and back to 12-15 again.

2)Days with fewer repetitions can take more weight. On a 4-6 repetition day, lift a weight that you would be unable to, more than six times (or fewer than four).

  • But remember to maintain proper technique when increasing resistance from one day to the next.
  • In the learning phase of a training program, make sure a certified personal trainer monitors you.
  • Be it weights or machines, a certified trainer can guide you and help you.
  • Many free heavy weight exercises (particularly bench press) should never be done without a spotter.

Finding an exercise program that you can consistently perform is the key to effective strength training. Resistance or strength training is guaranteed to keep you fit and physically independent for the most part. With focus and emphasis on the fundamentals and basics, it can be rejuvenating and rewarding.

Caution : Beginners, please start your muscle training under the supervision of certified trainers.

Image courtesy : Internet. Working out under the watchful eyes of trainer

Do not attempt workouts on your own with charts downloaded from the internet or follow instructions from books blindly. We are all in a rush today, want quick results and turn to Google for anything and everything. Unfortunately, there are some areas like fitness and nutrition where Google can only give us pointers. Educate yourself and then take expert or professional help.

Hydrotherapy For Painful Joints And Muscles

The Alternative Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis

If painful joints are not letting you exercise, all is not lost. If you are convalescing from an illness and wish to work out, do not lose hope. You can look to water for help, hydrotherapy will come to your aid. The world over, there are thousands afflicted by different kinds of pains, particularly osteo-arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis and they work out under water. Hydrotherapy is a blessing to aching muscles and inflamed joints.

Weight resistance hydrotherapy exercises

Weight resistance hydrotherapy exercises

What is hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy is the use of water to treat a disease, pain or to maintain health, where the body is immersed at various depths. Water is proven to have many healing properties :

  • Water can store and carry heat and energy.
  • Water can dissolve other substances, such as minerals and salts.
  • Water cannot hurt you, even if you are sensitive to your surroundings.
  • Water is found in different forms, such as ice, liquid, or steam. Ice may be used to cool, liquid is used in baths and compresses at varying pressures or temperatures, and steam is used in steam baths, or in inhalations.
  • Water can help blood flow.
  • Water has a soothing, calming, and relaxing effect on people, whether in a bath, shower, spray, or compress.
  • Exercise in water takes the weight off a painful joint while also providing resistance.

The benefits of exercising in water

Some of the benefits of water exercise include:

  • Increased muscle strength, posture and balance
  • Enhanced sense of wellbeing, mood and sleep quality
  • Greater mobility and flexibility of joints
  • Improved endurance and fitness
  • Eases stiff joints and relaxes sore muscles
  • Reduced pain and fatigue (tiredness)

Ask regular swimmers, they will tell you how a general feeling of wellness sweeps over them, every time they do their laps. Why, even beginners have reported feeling light in their bodies and energetic after their dips. Hydrotherapy differs from swimming in that it involves special exercises done in relatively warm water with a specified water temperature.

You don’t have to give up cycling for painful joints, cycle under water! The picture below is only illustrative to bring home the point.

aqua gym workout under water, my thought lane

Aquagym workout

What is hydrotherapy used for?

Hydrotherapy is used to treat many conditions, but we are going to focus in this article on arthritis, joint muscle and nerve problems. Other conditions that can be alleviated through hydrotherapy are acne, colds, depression, headaches and stomach problems. Tepid water can stimulate stress–reducing hormones, while cold water is harnessed to reduce inflammation. Alternating hot and cold water is known to stimulate blood circulation and improve immunity. Hydrotherapy is safe and an ideal way to exercise during pregnancy and for the advanced in age – blog posts on that coming soon.

hydrotherapy quote, my thought lane

Image Courtesy : John Kippel Quotes

In many hydrotherapy treatments, herbs and essential oils are added in steam and sauna treatments, with steam as a carrier of essential oils – to be inhaled to treat respiratory issues. Since the late 1990s, it is even being used in critical care units that targets a variety of conditions, including disorders of the nervous system like the Guillain-Barre syndrome. In other cases, to infuse a general feeling of well-being similar to therapies in spas.

How safe is hydrotherapy?

Generally safe if administered properly by trained therapists. A discussion with your doctor is however a must before you opt for hydrotherapy. Different people react and respond differently to it, just like most other treatments. We must remember that hydrotherapy is an alternative therapy, at most it can compliment the primary medical therapy. Hence it is not advisable to forego your conventional medical therapy.

While hydrotherapy works wonders for general fitness and flexibility, certain conditions like arthritis and rheumatism show tremendous improvement. In some cases, it has helped avoid surgeries.

How does hydrotherapy work for arthritis and rheumatism?

  • Since the temperature of the water in the pool is regulated and monitored, the warmth of the water aids in letting your muscles relax and eases pain in your muscles/joints. It is best to first condition your body in the tepid or warm water by just wading, walking around or just being, before you begin proper exercises.
  • Water supports your weight and allows you to increase your range of movement of your joints.
  • Water provides resistance, hence by pushing or lifting your arms and legs against water will result in improved muscle strength.
  • Hydrotherapy exercises can be customised to target specific parts of your body and keeping in mind your medication.
  • Activities such as stretching or walking through water can exercise the joints without putting them under strain.
Hydrotherapy stretches

Hydrotherapy stretches

There are scientific studies to show that hydrotherapy benefits arthritic and rheumatism patients hugely. Back pain is another condition that can be treated effectively with hydrotherapy.

An excerpt from an article on Aqua-therapy by Dr Kannan Pugazhendi, the reputed sports-medicine specialist of Chennai, who recently has been awarded the ‘Distinguished Doctor’ by the Rocheston Accreditation Institute, New York : It promotes blood circulation to the joints and all other parts of the body by means of Hydrostatic pressure through which pain can be alleviated. Strengthening of weaker muscles and increase in balancing capacity can be obtained by fluid resistance (viscosity) of the water, i.e. moving the part of the body immersed in water.

Water has the property to absorb heat 1000 folds more than air. Therefore, exercising in the water helps to burn more calories resulting in reduced body fat as compared to working out on land. On the other hand, water is competent to conduct heat to the immersed body 25 times faster than air which alters the sweaty mechanism and promotes peripheral circulation with less physical activity.

A word of caution : Since water provides that extra support, one is likely to overdo the exercises. Consult your physiotherapist or even better, work under his/her supervision till you have understood your capacity and are well on your way to recovery.

You don’t know swimming? No sweat!

The pool is quite shallow in most cases (about chest height). Some pools come in gradient heights, so you can exercise in your comfort zone. Steps that lead you down into the pool along with handrails offer support if you do not feel like a fish! Either way, water is fun and soothing to be in, so make the best of it.

hablis hotels swimming pool with steps, my thought lane

The pool at Hablis Hotels with steps

When is hydrotherapy not advisable?

Certain health conditions may either not permit hydrotherapy or are best avoided for reasons of hygiene. At all times, inform your physiotherapist should you have these issues:

  • A wound or skin infection
  • A virus or stomach upset
  • A raised temperature
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Breathing difficulties
  • A kidney condition requiring dialysis
  • Angina or heart problems
  • Incontinence
  • A chest infection
  • Chlorine allergy
  • Uncontrolled diabetes, asthma or epilepsy.

How long should hydrotherapy continue?

At the end of the prescribed course of hydrotherapy with your therapist, you will have gained a certain amount of confidence, and the healing would have been in process. Your therapist will then suggest that you continue with the prescribed exercises on your own.

Some pools have designated timings when the temperature of the water is raised to facilitate hydrotherapy sessions. Sign up for those hours. Now that you are comfortable in water, take swimming lessons if you are a novice, it is a wonderful exercise that builds your stamina, tones your muscles and whats more, is a fun way to exercise.

Safety suggestions

And finally learn to be safe:

  • Have your therapist by your side, but a good way to warm up is to swim gently or go for a ‘walk’ through the water.
  • Building up fitness is a gradual process, so begin with no more than 20 minutes of exercise in the beginning.
  • If you feel light-headed, sick or dizzy at any stage, get out of the water.
  • Don’t rush yourself, if you feel out of breath, slow down.
  • Perform each movement as gracefully and smoothly as you can.
  • Keep the body part you are exercising under the water. This may require you to squat or bob down at times.
  • If a movement causes pain or discomfort, stop immediately.
  • Drink plenty of fluids during and after exercising.
  • If you have painful joints or sore muscles for more than a few hours after your class, try to go a little slower next time.

I have written this blog post to create awareness about hydrotherapy and to make a difference to those who find it difficult to exercise due to rheumatoid arthritis and the like. Please do share it with people you think that need this info and of course your comments and feedback is eagerly awaited.

Kegel Exercises For Men and Women, Start Them While Young Still

I have been spending a lot of time in the past few months tending to a very dear one at a senior citizen’s home. Old age is painful physically and psychologically. A common thread in the travails of old age I noticed is urinary incontinence and that probably tops the list in most cases. We cannot undo the damage resulting from weak bladders, we cannot do much after the onset of urinary incontinence, we cannot alleviate the pain of the seniors that have reached that stage, but we can certainly prepare ourselves even while we have age on our side. Hence this blog post on Kegel exercises.

What is Kegel exercise?

Pelvic floor muscles support the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum. Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and hold your pelvic organs in place. They can be done just about anytime. Men and women should strengthen their pelvic floor muscles, it is a myth that only women suffer from urinary incontinence.

Kegel exercises are known to improve your sex life too.

Why Kegel exercises?

Factors like pregnancy, childbirth, surgery, ageing, chronic constipation and coughing and obesity can weaken the muscles of the pelvic floor region resulting in several kinds of leaks.

Exercising muscles of the pelvic region can arrest or alleviate these conditions of stress incontinence and urge incontinence :

  • If you leak a few drops of urine while sneezing, laughing or coughing (stress incontinence)
  • If you have a sudden urge to urinate so strong that you cannot wait till you reach the toilet (urge incontinence)
  • Pelvic floor weakness due to childbirth which results in sagging of pelvic organs leading to urine control problems.
urge-incontinence

Saved from Pinterest

Who should do Kegel exercises?

Rakhi Kapoor of Dwi Maternity Studio, Chennai,  well known for her specialisation in pre-natal and neo-natal physiotherapy recommends the following :

  • It is best to start Kegel exercises during pregnancy or after childbirth but nothing stops us from beginning even earlier in preparation.
  • Men and women that are obese.
  • Men and women who do heavy weight-lifting as part of body-building.
  • Men and women that are on weight-loss programs.
  • Athletes or anyone who is into strenuous exercising.
  • Genetic weakness of the pelvic muscles.

There is a common belief that women who undergo C-section surgery during childbirth are spared of muscle-weakening in the pelvic region and therefore, need not concern themselves with related health issues. Far from truth. In comparison with normal deliveries, the level of muscle-weakening may be lower, nevertheless not to be taken for granted. Further, another pregnancy may be coming up. Either way, Kegel exercises are a must to combat ageing issues.

However, some women suffer from severe urine leakage issues when they cough, sneeze or laugh. Some others unexpectedly leak small amounts of urine due to a full bladder (overflow incontinence). Kegel exercises may not help much in the above scenarios. It is best to see a doctor.

How to do Kegel exercises? (Women)

how-to-do-kegel-exercises

Saved from Pinterest

  • Find the right muscles.To start with, identify your pelvic floor muscles by stopping urination midstream. If you succeed, you’ve got the right muscles. Now that you have identified your pelvic floor muscles, start the exercises in any position. You may find it easier to do them lying down for starters.
  • Perfect your technique.You need practice to perfect the technique. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles, hold the contraction for five seconds, and then relax for five seconds. Do it four or five times in a row. As you progress, increase the muscle-contraction for 10 seconds and then relax for 10 seconds between contractions.
  • Maintain your focus. Avoid holding your breath during the exercises, instead breathe normally. Focus on tightening only the pelvic floor muscles. Be careful not to flex the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks.
  • Repeat three times a day. Aim for at least three sets of 10 repetitions a day after you have the technique right.

A word of caution : Do not ever use Kegel exercises to start and stop your urine stream when not required. Doing so will lead to incomplete emptying of the bladder and can end up in urinary tract infections.

Kegel Exercises for Men

If you thought only women are afflicted with urinary incontinence, ask those that have elderly males at home. Male urinary incontinence is manageable and preventable with Kegel exercises – a practice of the exercises for five minutes, two to three times daily. In some cases, men have regained complete control of the bladder. An added advantage is that Kegel exercises can help with more intense orgasms and improve erections.

What are Kegel Exercises for Men?

In men, the muscles below the bladder benefit from Kegel exercises.

Most often, the weakening of these muscles is caused by a weak urinary sphincter resulting from surgeries for prostrate, an overactive bladder or a weak bladder that fails to contract.

How to do Kegel exercises? (Men)

The process is the same for men and women.

  • Try to stop or slow down urination midstream.
  • Focus and do not tense your abdomen, leg muscles or the buttocks.
  • Do not hold your breath, breathe freely.
  • If you succeed in slowing or stopping the flow, then you have identified the right muscles.
  • Practice till you are able to use the right muscles each time.
  • You might find it easier to do the exercises lying down at first so that you don’t have to resist gravity.
  • Contract the muscles for a slow count of five, release likewise. Repeat 10 times.
  • Do a set of 10, thrice a day building it gradually. Do not become tense if you cannot progress fast. The key is to get it right and then look for more repetitions.
  • After you achieve a certain comfort level, do the exercises standing, it exerts more weight on the muscles, thereby improving your control.

Be patient, it may take a few days to a few weeks for you to see results as with any exercise. Keep a record of urine leakages each day to help track your progress. See a urologist if you do not see any significant improvement, they can help you locate the muscles and offer tips to do the exercises efficiently.

Tips to get the best out of your Kegel exercises ( Men & Women)
  • Be consistent : Do your Kegel exercises at the same time each day.
  • Consider doing them first thing in the morning while brushing your teeth, or while standing at the kitchen counter fixing your morning cup of tea or coffee.
  • While you are at work on your chair, talking on the phone or at a traffic signal. The best part of these exercises is that you can do them almost anywhere anytime. Trust me, no one will ever know you are doing them!!
  • There should be no movement of your tummy, back, shoulders or legs; you should not be able to see any movement of anyone doing the exercise correctly and no one should see any change in your body while you perform the exercises.
  • Continue doing the exercises for ever, even after you have seen best results, i.e complete control of your bladder. Like every other muscle, pelvic region muscles need maintenance too.
  • You can incorporate Kegel exercises in you workouts like squats, calf raises, planking, butt squeezes or even ironman. A few pictures below to illustrate the point
  • Add Kegel exercises in your daily routine if possible.

It is never too late to start Kegel exercises if you haven’t already. Present day gynaecologists work with physiotherapists to offer pregnant women Kegel exercise sessions to help keep their bladders in good stead during and post pregnancy. Not everyone from the older generation has had access to the know-how of these exercises. But YOU can start now. Rakhi Kapoor makes it a point to impress upon all those that accompany the to-be-moms to her clinic, the importance of Kegel exercises.

Educate people around you and spread awareness whenever you can, they will remember and thank you in their advanced ages. You can help your elders make a beginning, now! Like I said, it is never too late to start Kegel exercises. Your 50+ life can be stress-free. Help spare the 70+ and 80+ seniors the discomfort of diapers.

Wishing Wellness !

PS : The nature of this blog is informative and not prescriptive. 

You Can Lose Weight From Drinking Water The Right Way

The title is not a gimmick to catch your attention, but the gyan comes from Ayurveda and nutritionists.

We all are aware that our bodies need hydration on a regular basis, everyday. Did you know that most bodies lose 100 ml of water per hour as a natural course? More loss of water then again due to exercising and excessive sweating if you live in hot, humid climates. Replenishing the lost fluids is a must if dehydration is not to set in, but let us see how to make the best out of drinking water at the right time.

Chanakya, a superb economist and a philosopher that India produced 2300 years ago also touched upon physical well-being in his works. He had this to say of water “When water is consumed half an hour before eating a meal, it is like holy nectar. When one drinks water during a meal, it works more like medicine. But drink it immediately after the meal and it works like poison”. There is much medical foresight in his words.

If you are one of those that drink water soon after the meal even before you wash or wipe your hands, time to take a re-look at the practice or rather give it up completely. Find it hard to give up the habit? You may not think so after we tell you the why and how to drink water at the right time the right way. In fact, with proper hydration habits, you may not really find it a necessity to drink water after a meal. Believe me, it’s just a habit.

Research has long-established these facts :

  • Ingesting water soon after a meal leads to the dilution of gastric juices, thereby interfering with proper digestion.
  • In addition, it puts pressure on the liver and pancreas to secrete more enzymes.
  • When we disturb the digestion process, the nutrients are not sufficiently absorbed by the body, cravings set in and we tend to eat wrong.

It’s a vicious circle, so lets move away and form good water drinking habits, especially if you are aiming at losing weight.

The benefits of drinking water 20-30 minutes before a meal :

  • It prepares the stomach to receive food.
  • It activates the digestive enzymes.
  • It helps produce ample saliva.
  • It aids in better and faster digestion.

If you drink water during a meal, it does no harm nor does it offer any benefit. It merely liquefies your meal.

The ill-effects of drinking water soon after a meal :

  • Your body is in the process of breaking down chunks of your solid meal.
  • Drinking water immediately dilutes the digestive enzymes.
  • The body has to work harder and longer to digest the food.

Do you know what happens to your body metabolism with improper digestion? It goes for a toss and with metabolism slowing down, little help with weight management and optimum health. And do not forget to watch your moods at such times, they can swing!

Good Water Habit Tips

ONE GLASS ON WAKING UP

  • Will do you a world of good.
  • It hydrates and rids your circulatory system of stubborn free radicals and residue from burned calories during the night.
A GLASS OF WATER 30 MINS BEFORE A MEAL
  • Makes you feel fuller with zero calories and keeps calorie intake in check.
  • Water wakes up the taste buds and moisturizes the stomach lining, clears leftover tastes from earlier meal.
DRINK WATER 1 HOUR AFTER LUNCH
  • A glass of water one hour after lunch will allow the nutrients to get better absorbed by the body.
DRINK WATER WHEN YOU FEEL HUNGRY
  • Sometimes thirst can be mistaken for hunger pangs in between meals.
  • Drink a glass of water, you could be dehydrated. If hunger stops, you know what it is.
DRINK WATER BEFORE AND AFTER A WORKOUT
  • Protects you against dehydration during and after workout from lost fluids.
  • But avoid drinking immediately after workout, your stomach may cramp. Just a few seconds gap will help.
DRINK WATER BEFORE A BATH
  • A glass of water before a bath will help keep the blood pressure under control.
ONE HOUR AFTER DINNER
  • A glass of water one hour after dinner and before bedtime will replenish any fluid loss during the night and aid in cell renewal process during sleep.

Nutritionist  and weight management consultant Kavita Devgan‘s take on Hydration and Weight Loss : Both are strongly connected. A given that water helps speed up metabolism and dehydration slows it down. Here goes how : Kidneys that are responsible for chucking out waste from the body do not get their supply of water when dehydrated. Liver then becomes the standby taking over the kidney’s job, in the process doing less of its own. Hence it metabolizes less fat hampering weight loss or even maintenance! You really can lose weight from drinking water the right way.

Kavita Devgan gives tips on ways to incorporate the required amount of water in your diet if you are one those that cannot stomach plain water every time.

  • Drink water as it is
  • Sip it in the form of tea, coffee (limited of course), green tea or other herbal teas
  • Eat water by consuming foods with a high water content in them like watermelon, muskmelon, papaya, pineapples, apples and veggies like cucumber, lettuce, tomato, broccoli, carrots etc in your daily diet.

She advocates consuming water through foods as much as possible, since water absorbed through foods remains longer in our stomach. But the ideal way would be to combine all the three.

Drinking water mindfully is half the wellness work done. Inculcate right water drinking habits from childhood amongst the kids around you. Change your own if you are not already into it. Spread the word to the elderly even, it will do them a world of good.

Health And Fitness, Go The Natural Way Says Milind Soman At Hablis Hotels

When Milind Soman talks on fitness, people listen. We listened too in rapt attention, at Hablis Hotels. A chat session on fitness and nutrition was organized at the hotel. Milind Soman, the brand ambassador for Pinkathon was staying at Hablis for their Chennai run and how could we let him go without engaging him in his pet subject and ours too? Wellness!

Hablis Pinkathon team

The Hablis-Pinkathon team

Hablis Hotels has been Pinkathon’s hospitality partner, rather the wellness partner for the last two years and Milind Soman and his entire team do not have to struggle  with their wellness needs as the hotel understands. They love the ambience and the hotel’s commitment to mind-body-social wellness.

More about Milind Soman and Pinkathon:

Running 1500 kilometres in 30 days for Greenathon-NDTV to spread environmental awareness, he became a Limca record holder. A national swimming champion, he has sports and fitness in his blood I guess. In 2015, he completed the Ironman Triathlon in 15 hours and 19 minutes in his very first try. What did he have to do to win this title ? A 3.8 km swim, a 180.2 km cycle ride and 42.2 km race in that order without a break and required to complete within 16 hours. Whew! I am burning calories just writing this!!

In 2012, Pinkathon , India’s largest womens’ only running event was set up under his guidance to promote good health and spread breast cancer awareness and has since then been conducting runs in several cities of India every year.

Milind Soman the Pinkathon ambassador

Milind Soman, the Pinkathon ambassador

Coming back to the wellness chat with the fitness freak that Milind Soman is, we gathered around him with the hotel’s chef team and many other wellness enthusiasts to collect as many health tips from him as we could. He had a point, he wished to address the chefs, for it is they he said that need to understand wellness as they roll out dishes that satiate the palates of the guests. He encouraged chefs to spend time working out despite their crazily busy schedules. A fit chef is a live example of what healthy lifestyle can do to a body. At the end of the session, he donned the chef’s hat and whipped up a simple healthy salad.

Chef Sathya and Milind Soman at Hablis Hotels

Milind Soman dons the chefs hat at Hablis Hotels and mixed a healthy salad

So they begin with the basics. What fosters wellness?

MS : A balanced life in all ways. Right eating, right exercising, enough sleep and mindful living. The word ‘right’ simply translates to ‘mindfulness’ in this context he explains. For when one is mindful, one begins to do most things right, cutting out negative habits, inculcating a positive approach and keeping an open mind. Hablis couldn’t agree more.

Do you know that our bodies produce happy hormones called Serotonin? Serotonin regulates moods and makes us feel happy and these hormones get released into our bodies when we eat healthy food and exercise. Exposure to sun also helps, but make sure you get a few minutes of tender sunlight and not the harsh noon sun. Ask people who exercise and they will tell you what it does to their beings – induces happiness!

How does one determine what is right when it comes to eating, exercising and all else?

MS : Life is all about learning and continuing to learn till our last breath. Remember your grandma’s words? She was and is right. Did she advocate moderation in everything that you did? Follow that. Our ancestors’ fundamentals were strong and that is precisely why most of them kept good health till their ripe old age. Did she use jaggery more often than she used sugar? Did she pour a spoon of ghee on your plate of rice? Did she admonish you in childhood when you grimaced at eating fruits and vegetables but ran out to buy sweetmeats and savouries from the neighbourhood store?

Get back to grandma’s wisdom. Couple them with sensible new-age concepts and you will get wellness on a platter. Getting there is not easy though, you have to become a student first.

FIX : Begin by consulting reliable nutritionists and fitness coaches to know whats best for you and from thereon, become a student of wellness – it can be life-changing!

Milind Soman firmly believes that to become fit and remain that way, we all have to invest time and money in getting familiar with the basics and then on, learning to apply them in our daily lives. True that. Fitness and wellness ‘learned’ will remain with us longer than when we are spoon fed by trainers and nutritionists. We have one body to last us a lifetime, we would do well to train our minds and bodies on the path to fitness.

There is so much information on health out there, it is confusing.

MS : I agree. Read only that is relevant to you, take one step at a time. Adopt simple eating habits and food. Avoid workouts that tax you and leave you drained. And as rule of the thumb, steer clear of crash diets and quick-fix workouts, even if they are suggested by your trainers. Good health is acquired over time, every cell in the body learns to absorb and reacts to every act of us, human beings.

When I say simple food, I am referring to food that is local, seasonal and easily available without having to chase fancy ingredients. Look for nutrition in them and learn to make a balanced meal that consists of carbohydrates, proteins and a reasonable amount of fat. If someone tells you to go off carbs or fat, pause. Unless it comes from your doctor or therapist! Please don’t worry too much about gluten that is being talked about in all circles. Not all are allergic to gluten and till you are, there is no reason to block it out. Try getting most nutrients from the food that you eat everyday. 

Milind Soman practices what he advocates. His staple diet be it at home, or while he travels is Khichdi, the simplest dish to make and full of nutrition. It is accompanied by lots of vegetables, and fruits are a part of his breakfast. This is not say that he does not enjoy other foods. He gives in to temptations once in a while, but then sweats it out the next day.

Khichdi

Khichdi, a nutritious Indian delicacy made from rice and lentils

Khichdi is a comfort food but healthy, made from rice and lentils spiced differently in different parts of India. Click here to get a recipe and then browse on google for variations in taste. He touched upon jaggery and ghee and here is what he said:

Jaggery and Ghee :

Jaggery cake at hablis hotels by chef sathya

Chef Sathya baked a jaggery cake at Hablis Hotels to welcome Milind Soman

Milind Soman has moved over to jaggery from sugar long ago. Knowing his passion for jaggery, Chef Sathya of Hablis Hotels baked a jaggery cake to welcome him and it was yummy. We also felt encouraged to bite into an extra piece knowing it was made from natural ingredients. Milind extends a word of caution here : choose dark coloured jaggery, the light shaded ones could be bleached and try to buy it from organic stores – all that said, consume jaggery too in moderation like everything else. A tip worth noting.

MS : Ghee has made a comeback and for good reason. It was never bad, he continues. Ghee became a victim of health fads and thankfully the very same people have now embraced it as a must-eat. One spoon of ghee everyday has tremendous health benefits, but do consult your doctor if you have any health issues.

(More on ghee and jaggery in blogs dedicated to them, there is so much to write about!)

MS : Say No To Refined Foods :

If you wish wellness for you and your families, stay as close to nature as possible. By that I mean,

  • Consume food made from natural ingredients.
  • Refined foods are a no-no, they satisfy your palate but add empty calories.
  • Keep tinned/canned food for emergencies only and discourage your kids at an early age to do so too.
  • Reward your kid with a healthy food every time they win something, you are doing them goodness for a lifetime.
  • Similarly, we do not need external health supplements. Eat healthy and balanced meals and try to make food your medicine.
  • Our ancestors’ (Indian) eating habits are a treasure-house of home remedies. Read, consult, understand and apply those tips and you are well on your way to good health.
  • Include lots of vegetables and fruits in your everyday meals.
  • Eat fruits on an empty stomach or eat them one hour before or after a meal. Take this as nature’s command and do not ever eat fruits along with a meal.

I could see a smile of satisfaction on the chefs’ faces, for Hablis strongly implements the ‘no tinned/canned ingredients’ concept. Milind Soman was excited that the hotel uses only fresh and seasonal produce in all its cooking. Chef Sathya and his team do rounds of the market almost every day to procure fresh fruits and vegetables and every sauce and dressing is made in-house.

We see around us a lot of people injuring themselves while working out. What is the best way to exercise?

MS : Start working out under supervision and gradually build your knowledge of the body and workouts. Listen to your body. Challenge it but do not push too many barriers – leave it for later when you are in intermediate or advanced stage of fitness. The safest way to build healthy strong muscles is with body-weight exercises. The chance of injuries is lesser. That is not to gainsay the role of weights in building a fit body, but weights have to be borne with caution and a certain technique.

 The key to a toned body is form or posture to begin with. When form is right, you cant go wrong. Practice proper posture in every walk of life. Chefs, you need to be on your feet for most part of your working hours, nothing is more important than maintaining right posture if you want your body to cooperate with your work!! Tuck your tummy in at all times and do not slouch. If you feel good within yourself, you will churn out good food.

 Train your bodies for functional fitness. We need energy and a fit body to do all the pulls and pushes in our daily lives. We do not lead our lives in the gyms. I know people that can lift the heaviest of weights at the gym but ask them to bend down and pack a suitcase, they complain of back pain. Focus more on strengthening your body holistically rather than building it for how you want to appear. With fitness comes good posture, with posture comes confidence and with confidence you are bound to look good.

Milind Soman’s workout pattern : Run, run and run and at other times, do body-weight exercises. He runs long distances three to four times a week and works out to strengthen his core and upper body. He has trained to run marathons and is equipped to run right. Running does not come easily to many of us and so let us do what  suits our bodies and life-style keeping in mind all of the above. Thank you Milind Soman!

We are hoping to get more from him on health and fitness when he stays at Hablis Hotels next. In the meantime, Hablis Hotels, Chennai’s urban wellness destination has a lot of interesting wellness facilities like their Infinity Swimming Pool, open air fitness zone, Spa with customised soothing, blended oils and all their restaurants serving food made from natural, seasonal fruits and vegetables. You can also take home wellness in jars that comprise of dehydrated fruits, whole spices and spice powders, seeds, millet cookies, jams and pickles. Contact :

Hablis Hotels, 19 GST Road, Guindy, Chennai 600032, India, Tel : 91 44 4023 5555

Spices That Help Keep Cool In Summer

Summers are blazing hard in most parts of India and scurrying for cover from the harsh sun into air-conditioned spaces is top of our minds. The loss of appetite, indigestion due to the heat, dehydration, sun-burns, prickly heat, I could go on and on with summer woes. While a lot on ‘hydrating ourselves in summer’ is being written about and suggested, I am taking the spice-route to keeping cool.

According to Ayurveda, summer time is categorised as the ‘Pitta’ or fire season and certain spices can help ease the discomfort the season brings along. Listing a few here with some tips, but its best to get experimental and creative and add these spices in as many foods and beverages as possible. These spices are not specific to Ayurveda alone, but are used in everyday cooking in most cuisines.

Researching these spices was fun, but proved to be a tough job filtering information pertinent to this blog. I would love to write in detail about each spice some day when the need arises. But what stood out amongst all the spices was their power to combat inflammation in the body caused by the rising heat of summer. Thankfully, they are all everyday spices and not some exotic stuff that we have to go looking for. But it’s always best to go for organic produce like these.

Organic Mint :

Mint leavesPeople turn to mint most often as a remedy for bad breath, but there is more to this herb than being a mouth freshener. It is interesting how mint (pudhina) helps cool the body. See what Naina Marballi, an Ayurveda physician says “Packed with menthol, it helps soothe ‘pitta’ by dispersing heat and cooling you down by opening up the pores of the skin thereby encouraging sweating”.

  • Add freshly picked mint to your summer salad or lemonade. Actually grow it in your backyard garden, even pot it. Its got its uses throughout the year.
  • Did you know it eases indigestion and chest pains?
  • It can relieve heart-burns.
  • Can be used to lighten sun-damaged skin. Grind mint leaves, mix with rosewater and lemon juice and apply it to the affected areas.

Try this : Get a jar of infused water with watermelon and mint. Keep it refrigerated overnight and sip on it all day long.

Organic Fennel :

Fennel seeds

Fennel is known as saunf in India and widely used in many cuisines for its nutritional benefits. We are now adding its cooling properties to the list. It is also a popular mouth freshener in many cultures.

  • They stimulate intestinal juices, hence aid in digestion. They are also known to reduce acid-reflux. Precisely why chewing a few fennel seeds is recommended before and after a meal.
  • It is an excellent source of Vitamin C and is known to calm inflammation of the stomach and intestine which is on the rise in summer.
  • Known to protect eyes from inflammation too.

Make this summer energiser : Soak fennel seeds in water overnight. Strain the water, add a pinch of sugar, black salt, lemon or anything else you like. Replace refined sugar with palm sugar for added benefits and drink it the next morning.

Organic Turmeric :

freshly ground turmeric from organically grown roots, my thought lane

Freshly ground organic turmeric

The golden hue of turmeric is mesmerizing visually and how it adds that dash of colour to food! It is also known as the wonder spice, Ayurveda’s favourite.

  • Turmeric cleanses the liver and purifies blood.
  • With the healthy chemical ‘circumin’ at its heart, turmeric promotes healthy heart functions.
  • With its astringent properties, it acts as an inflammatory agent, is an anti allergen and an anti bacterial. All the above go into lending it excellent cooling properties.

Most of Indian cooking uses turmeric in at least one of the dishes, for our grannies knew better than us about its healing properties.

You must try this : You can make a delicious and soothing tea using honey and turmeric paste.

  • Bring four cups of water to a boil.
  • Add one teaspoon of ground turmeric and reduce  to a simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Strain the tea through a fine sieve into a cup, add honey and/or lemon to taste.

Organic Green Cardamom :

CardamomJust the word cardamom sends whiffs of flavourful fragrance to your olfactory senses. This is one spice that can be added to almost any Indian dish to add that ‘goodness aroma’ to food.

  • It is known to counteract stomach acids and relieve stomach cramps.
  • It is a good digestive aid, just why cardamom is added to most rich foods.
  • Why, in India, it is even added to tea, making it ‘masala chai’!

Try This : Cardamom can be added to a cup of cold and warm milk alike to turn them into comfort beverages. Add it to lemonades, smoothies, desserts or simple plain yogurt.

Organic Coriander:

Indian-Coriander-Seeds and leavesPrecious coriander is treasured in India, China, Europe and North Africa as a highly cooling herb, as also to flavour meats and vegetables. The seeds and the leaves of the coriander plant are both cooling when used in foods. In Europe, it is more popularly known as Cilantro.

  • It is known to stabilise blood sugar and aids digestion.
  • It tones down the inflammation in our bodies caused by the heat.
  • It is known to contain oil in it that makes it a great relaxant.
  • Coriander aids appetite and digestion.

Remember to eat this herb raw – when cooked it wilts and loses its flavour. Hence, chefs always sprinkle their dishes with the leaves for the finishing touch. But the seeds are almost always ground into fine powder to be used to flavour dishes while they get cooked.

Organic Saffron :

Saffron strandsSaffron is another versatile spice that is widely used in sweets as well as curries and meats. This spice is known to be a mood enhancer and that is due to its cooling fragrance and flavour. It is even used in teas and beverages, adding a certain richness to every dish or beverage.

Try this summer beverage : Add some saffron and a couple of cardamom pods to boiling water and let it boil for a few seconds. Add tea bags to it and allow it to steep to the desired strength. Strain it and sweeten with your favourite sweetener.

Organic Cumin :

Closeup view of cumin and cumin powder

The very aroma of cumin is cooling. A savoury spice that adds oodles of taste to grain dishes, vegetable recipes and soups.

  • Used in small amounts, it acts as a detoxifying and a cooling agent.
  • It is known to remedy bloating issues due to accumulation of gas in the body.
  • When someone around you has prickly heat issues, remember to include cumin in their diet.
  • Drinking cumin water induces sleep and rest.

Beat the heat : Add Cumin powder to buttermilk to give that extra dollop of taste and cooling.

Organic Cinnamon :

cinnamon sticks and powderCinnamon is a spice that can cool in summer and warm you up in winter.

  • It reduces inflammation, lowers cholesterol and increases brain power.
  • It regulates blood sugar and here is something interesting, it can curb your cravings if you have a sweet tooth. So all those watching their weights, time to add cinnamon to your diet regularly.

The herbs and spices nature has provided us with are a bounty of health benefits. Very often, or almost always we tend to focus merely on the taste and flavour aspects. I stand guilty too till I started blogging about these spices. It helps if we are to use these everyday spices knowing their medicinal properties. One way of reminding ourselves is to probably make a chart of the spices and pin them on somewhere in the kitchen.

Just like so many of you I am going the organic way too, wherever and whenever I can. If you are looking to find all these spices under one roof, you could head to Hablis Hotels and buy their Hab-Life merchandise.

Hablis Hotels, 19 GST Road, Guindy, Chennai 600032, India, Tel : 91 44 4023 5555. Ask to be connected to SPICE restaurant to buy their merchandise.

Wishing Wellness ! So long !

 

Spinach Powder Smoothie And A Dip In A Jiffy

I could write an Ode to Spinach, the most loved of the ‘greens’ that tops the list of weight watchers’ must-eats. And that translates to having it handy most days of the week, right ? Well confession time : Not all of us are organised enough to have a well-stocked fridge on all days, at least I am not! I know how it feels to be stranded, been there often!!

Dried Spinach Powder has come to my rescue from the time I was gifted a tiny 50 gms jar of the marvel powder by Hablis Hotels while I dined at their rooftop, open-air restaurant, Hab-Life Novella. I have now bought for myself a bigger jar of the Spinach Powder from the hotel and have donned the chef’s hat experimenting as often as possible. My previous blog titled ‘Spinach Powder, The King Of Super Foods’ is almost an ode to it, but in prose!! Listing it multitudinous benefits, check it out in the link above.

This post is a continuation with a couple of simple recipes using dried Spinach Powder. It is so versatile, you could use it in almost every dish, barring the desserts of course!

I whipped up this yummy spinach powder smoothie for myself at breakfast along with two scrambled eggs. My son took a sip of it and asked for it to be his post-workout meal. That was my woohoo moment, I had won over one member of my family to Spinach Powder. You will see for yourself how wholesome the smoothie is. He did add a scoop and a half of his whey protein by the way to suit his heavy workout.

Spinach Banana Smoothie With Dried Spinach Powder

banana and spinach powder smoothie, breakfast or post workout meal option, my thought lane

Banana and Spinach Powder smoothie

INGREDIENTS :

  • 1 ripe banana (medium-sized)
  • 1 tsp Greek yogurt (regular, firm, low cal curd will do as well. Just make sure it’s not sour)
  • 1 tsp peanut butter or almond butter
  • 1 tsp organic honey
  • 1 tsp dried spinach powder.

DIRECTIONS :

  • Blend all of the above to a fine, smooth consistency and you have a yummy green smoothie in 5 minutes.

Serving :

  • 1 tall glass, good for one person.

I believe in consuming my health food and drink fresh and therefore haven’t tried chilling the smoothie or preserving it for later use. If you do try, I would love to hear from you in the comments.

Here is another simple spinach powder recipe that I tried at an evening with some friends that came home for dinner. Served it with fresh vegetables , but it went well with nachos too. A perfect hors d’oeuvre accompaniment.

Tofu Spinach Dip With Dried Spinach Powder

tofu and spinach powder dip, my thought lane

Tofu and Spinach Powder dip. Image Courtesy : Yummly

INGREDIENTS :

  • ½ organic Tofu slab – medium firm and drained
  • 2 tsps dried spinach powder
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 4 tbsps lemon juice
  • ¼ yellow onion
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsps nutritional yeast
  • Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS :

Add tofu and all the other ingredients to the bowl of a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. It took me under 10 minutes to get this Tofu and Spinach dip done, thanks to the dried spinach powder.

Serving :

  • 2-3 cups.

I am looking forward to trying out more recipes where I can substitute fresh spinach with dried Spinach Powder and will post them soon (if they turn out well!!)

In the meantime, if you want to buy dried organic Spinach Powder, you can head to :

dried spinach powder, my thought lane

The goodness of Spinach in a jar, Spinach Powder fro Hab-Life

Hablis Hotels, 19 GST Road, Guindy, Chennai 600032, India, Tel : 91 44 4023 5555. Ask to be connected to SPICE restaurant to buy their merchandise.

Wishing Wellness ! So long !