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4 ways you can keep yourself healthy and happy

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4 ways you can keep yourself healthy and happy

Tune into these new approaches towards well-being and happiness that will help improve your strength, spirit and emotional intelligence.

THE PRENATAL STRETCH

PREGNANCY brings with it an entirely new universe of experiences - physically, emotionally and mentally - and coping with them may be overwhelming for some. While there is ample emphasis on the specific diets that expectant mothers should follow, far less attention has been given to the exercise regime that should be undertaken in the months leading up to delivery. However, a curated routine is essential to support the wellbeing of mums-to-be and to physically prepare them for childbirth.

Prenatal yoga practitioner and founder of Zaazen Wellness Centre, Jayati Sehgal explains, "Medically speaking, a number of physical changes take place during pregnancy. Joints in the body soften up and become more elastic to make room for the growing baby. As a result, the body becomes more prone to pain and discomfort." She adds, "This, in turn, may lead to increased instability, postural changes due to a shift in the centre of gravity, cramps and back aches."

In order to improve joint mobility and to strengthen the body, she recommends practicing asanas such as Bhujangasana, Marjariasana and Ustrasana (all of which are modified from their original form during pregnancy). Another change that is commonly observed is the feeling of breathlessness due to the effect of the progesterone hormone and later on, because of the upwardly enlarging uterus. For this, Sehgal advises practicing Pranayama or breathing exercises throughout pregnancy. Currently, a growing number of pregnant women are turning to prenatal yoga for a focussed exercise routine. Though a fairly new concept in India, the practice is gaining favour for its results both before and after childbirth.

"The main idea behind it is to strengthen and develop the body to make it easier to give birth naturally and to enable a healthy and energetic pregnancy," she explains. Along with providing overall agility and strength, this form of yoga also addresses specific concerns during pregnancy, such as water retention that leads to swelling of the hands and feet, digestive issues dues to a slowing down of intestinal movement, stress and anxiety.

While the benefits are many, prenatal yoga needs to be practiced with a lot of care and precautions due to the delicate condition of the pregnant mother. As Sehgal warns, "Before you join a prenatal yoga class, make sure to get your doctor's permission. Most doctors recommend prenatal yoga to their patients, but in certain cases such as a low lying placenta, IVF, twin pregnancy or breech position, various precautions have to be taken by both the prenatal yoga teacher and the student." As a result, the supervision of a certified prenatal instructor is crucial, especially since the exercises vary with each trimester and an injury needs to be avoided at all costs.

"Updates must be shared after each doctor's appointment and scan. The main scans are done at 12 weeks, 20 weeks, 30 weeks, and 37 weeks. If possible, try to give your prenatal teacher access to your doctor in case of any issues, so that together they can plan the program best suited for you," she states.

Sehgal teaches Hatha prenatal yoga, and a session consists of joint mobility exercises, Surya Namaskar, asana practice, Pranayama, and meditation. While attending classes three to four times a week is considered ideal, for those who can't, she advises attending a class every two to three weeks (since that is the interval when exercises change) and then carefully practicing at home.

Zaazen Wellness Centre is located at E60-62, Greater Kailash I, New Delhi. Appointments can be made at 98110 24233

INCREASE YOUR HAPPINESS

FLASH THOSE PEARLY WHITES: Smiling has been proven to instantly boost levels of happiness because the brain gets tricked into cheering up. The act of smiling sends a signal to the brain to release feel-good hormones like dopamine (which increases happiness) and serotonin (which reduces stress). The result? You simply can't help but feel better about the world. HEAD OUT WITH FRIENDS: Sure, you have a major work deadline/an online series to complete/are the laziest person alive, but studies have found that those with strong relationships are the happiest, healthier, and more resilient to trauma. Choosing happy people to hang out with can also increase your happiness levels by 15.3%, according to research.

CHANGE YOUR INNER DIALOGUE: Feeling off for no particular reason? Chances are that you're mulling over something in your head that isn't particularly pleasant. Try sitting quietly and allow your mind to freely think what it wants, then replace the negative thought with a pleasant, forgiving or happy statement. Another way to snap out of the blues is by choosing one positive statement about yourself and repeating it in your mind through the day. You'll be cheered up in no time.

THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: Rather than complaining, try focusing on something you are grateful for, or at the very least, are glad has happened. Researchers have found that grateful people experience less feelings of envy, frustration, regret and resentment. Gratitude also reduces aggression, increases levels of empathy, enhances self-esteem and improves sleep. That's enough to thank for, to be honest.

HIGH ON YOUR OWN SUPPLY

Working with yoga, breathing techniques, chakra balancing and other healing techniques, Delhi designer and now yoga teacher Malini Ramani has curated a version of Kundalini Yoga that caters to the young and restless in search for inner peace.

Held by appointment in small groups of three to four people, Ramani - who is a Yoga alliance certified practitioner - takes people through sessions that are over an hour long with one intention: "I'm going to get you high on your own supply."

"I first tried Kundalini Yoga ten years ago, and I felt an instant energetic high," she states, continuing, "This is a practice where the individual connects with their inner source of energy through yoga mudras, kriyas, meditation and mantras. Kundalini is a dormant energy that rests at the base of our spine, right below the root chakra. It is a female energy. Once we awaken it, this energy lets us live our life to the highest potential." For the uninitiated, chakras are explained as the seven nodes of physic energy that comprise the subtle, energetic body in each living being. They are represented by the colours of the rainbow and focus on different aspects of the person's life, such as happiness, security, will power, love, communication, etc. The aim of this form of yoga is to align and balance the chakra energies to improve the physical, emotional and psychic health of the person.

Ramani's classes are a combination of the traditional aspects of the practice, combined with her own techniques and peppy, dynamic style. Participants wear white clothes and tie a white turban on the head, in keeping with the proponents of Yogi Bhajan, the founder of Kundalini Yoga, who believed that colours have an effect on consciousness. "White increases the auric waves around your body and makes it clearer," shares Ramani. Additionally, she even encourages practitioners to wear bright red lipstick to add some fun and celebrate their beauty.

The tempo is fast paced, and Ramani guides you through it with reminders to "breathe through it all" and "let the negativity go." Yoga breathing techniques are an integral part of the session, and the effects are palpable, as they leave you feeling both relaxed and invigorated simultaneously.

Mantras are also chanted intermittently during the session. It begins with a mantra that means 'I bow to the Creative Wisdom, I bow to the Divine Teacher within', followed by chants such as 'Sat Nam' (Truth is my name) and 'Ma' to connect to mother earth.

Ramani has also added other techniques like Emotional Freedom Technique (tapping) and sound healing to her version of the practice, which she calls the 'Malini Kundalini'. "Practicing this form of spiritual yoga has helped people deal with issues like anxiety, insomnia, period pain, even removal of obstacles are increasing prosperity, there are endless combinations," she says. "It has opened up many possibilities for me, and I feel that my life is more in the flow now, in the right direction. Synchronicities happen all the time," she adds. For those who cannot attend the classes but want to try it out, she recommends making use of the vast information available online. "There are thousands of Kundalini videos on Youtube, and you can follow many of the teachers like Maya Fiennes (the Hollywood actress) and Gurmukh." In comparison to the west, Kundalini Yoga has made small ripples on Indian soil. For those who are curious, Ramani's approach is one way to discover this form of energybased yoga.

Malini's Kundalini Yoga is held in Saidulajab, New Delhi. Bookings can be made at 9314289673 (Varsha).


GUT INSTINCT FOR A GOOD DETOX

Food fads and supplements can help you only that much to achieve overall health. It is increasingly being understood that the well-being of the internal organs and in particular, the gut, determines largely how you feel, how great your skin looks and even strong your immunity would be. According to Carol Singh, co-founder of Antidote juices, "In Ayurveda or TCM (traditional Chinese medicine), it is believed that all disease begins in the stomach, especially when it is faced with poor digestion and dysfunction of either the gut or other organs that aid the gut to assimilate nutrients, such as the kidney, liver, spleen and gall bladder."

The gut mainly refers to all the organs in the gastrointestinal tract, starting from the mouth and oesophagus to the stomach and intestines. "A strong gut is vital for healthy skin and hair, balanced hormones, a good metabolic rate, mental stability, and generally to keep disease at bay," she states.

When the homeostasis of the bodily functions gets disturbed, another by-product ends up being the inflammation of the internal organs. However, the symptoms of internal inflammation may not always be easily visible. Singh explains that some conditions that can arise include excess belly fat, water retention, chronic fatigue, brain fog, skin rashes like dermatitis and eczema, erectile dysfunction and high blood sugar levels.

"You don't need to fall sick to know that most processed foods will increase inflammation in the body. This is because added substances (preservatives, food colours, flavours, stabilisers) and altered state of ingredients (pasteurised, homogenised etc) are seen as foreign elements by the body and hence it tries to fight off the unwanted chemicals," she states. In order to control inflammation, Singh recommends consuming local, seasonal and fresh vegetables. "Cleaning out your diet is one of the best ways to improve gut health and reduce inflammation," she states.

"To keep the gut healthy, increase your intake of good fibre with leafy greens and whole grains. Replace white polished basmati rice with more fibre-rich options like brown rice, red rice, wild rice, black rice or unpolished whole white rice."

She also suggests that you switch eating bread for whole grain rotis instead. "A teaspoon of psyllium husk or isabgol with almond milk or water at night is also very effective in soothing the gut," she states. To detoxify the liver, she suggests doing a fast either monthly or biannually, depending on your health requirements. "I recommend drinking a glass of freshly squeezed grape juice with some lemon for an effective liver detox."

Looking after the kidneys is also crucial as they help in flushing out the toxins and purifying the blood. "A great way to supplement the kidneys is by soaking black raisins overnight in warm water and drinking the water in the morning on an empty stomach. And yes, you should eat the raisins too," she adds. Antidote will be curating a Liver & Gall Bladder cleanse in July. Details can be found at Antidote.co.in.

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