Tag Archives: body

Standing Tall As a Brown Boy

Hey M10! 

Please put down that Agatha Christie novel for a minute. You don’t know who I am, so it will come as a huge surprise when I tell you that I’ve walked with you every step you’ve taken. Bear with me – I’m not being mysterious; those are the facts. You’ll get to know me well in a few decades. In the meanwhile, can you take some time now to chat with me? I have something to share.

You are not quite 10 years old. It’s summer, and you’re in Mandya with your parents and sister at your cousin’s wedding. You are happy, enjoying the festivities, and having a great time playing with your other cousins. Suddenly you’re not having fun anymore. I know why!

An adult walking by your little group pauses to poke you in the ribs with a comment that begins to prey on your mind. “Look at that! Even Gita is taller than you are!” It dawns on you for the very first time that other people see you as a short person. Is Gita ‘better’ than you by that measure? Apparently, height matters. Why am I not as tall as Gita? This question rises to the forefront of your consciousness and dampens your enthusiasm and spirits. I see you brooding.  Concerns about your height will continue to nag you.  I want to share some thoughts about this. Before I do, I want to bring two others into this discussion.

Hello M13.

You’ll recognize me someday as that enigmatic voice from the future checking in on you.  Stop hanging from that horizontal bar and drop to the ground. Come join me and M10 on the bench over there. We should talk. You know M10 well, though he doesn’t know you yet. 

Finally, you are a teenager! You’ve spent the last four months fighting and recovering from a serious case of Infectious Hepatitis. You’re even punier now than you were before you fell ill, and you don’t like what you see in the mirror. Shouts of “Arrey Chotu!” from the playground ring in your ears. You are sick of being the first boy on the left every time your class lines up by height in the school ground at the start of PT period. You are determined to grow tall, big, and strong. You’ve heard that gravity compresses our spine and joints, and squeezes cartilage, and contracts muscles. You’ve read in a magazine that hanging from horizontal bars can help fight the effects of gravity. Your lower body is stretched and the spine elongated to promote growth. You are in your ‘spurt years’ and determined to push it along. You want to be six feet tall! 

Your dream will never be realized. All your life, you will have to contend with the unpalatable reality that your sister is taller than you are. Hang in there, M13. There’s more to you than your height. Let’s talk it over as soon as we get one more to complete our quorum.

M42.

Look here! Can I get your attention for a few minutes? You don’t know me, but you know these young men all too well.  Take a break from your busy day to chat with us. I promise to make it worth your while. You do recognize M10 and M13, don’t you?

You recall hanging from the horizontal bars in vain as a teenager, trying desperately to grow taller. Almost 30 years have gone by, and you’ve made do, standing upright and stretching to your full 5’-3½“ frame. You’ve continually struggled with a conviction that people don’t take you seriously at first, because you do not command an imposing presence; that you are too small to make an impression. You feel passed over in social gatherings and mixers, and initially at work as well. There’s a memorable incident during the international-student orientation on Stanford Campus. You’re chatting with local community members there to welcome incoming students and help them settle in a new country. A nice well-meaning lady asks innocently, “are you here to go to Palo Alto High School?” You see her utter astonishment when you say, no, you are enrolled at Stanford; whereupon – and much to your chagrin – she blurts in amazement “wow, you are already an undergraduate.” You don’t have the courage then to tell her you are actually here for the Ph.D. program in Engineering. That incident haunts you for a long time until it gradually becomes a funny story. Over the years, you feel passed over for opportunities at work and play because of your small stature. You feel inferior. You literally feel small. It has been a rough ride at times; then you slowly learn to overcome these feelings, understand your own true worth and use your strengths to flourish.

Good, we are assembled together! Let’s start with introductions.

We are all the same person, guys!

M10, you will become M13, then M42, and eventually, one day in the distant future, you will become me.

I’m M73. I want to chat about our feelings of inferiority and how we’ve come to terms with them over the years. Like most things, it’s been a gradual learning process. It gave us heartache and anguish over the years. We experienced many difficult days; first chasing a dream that was never realized, then struggling with feelings of inadequacy, and confronting unfairness both real and perceived. It took us a long time to understand that physical height was not the only measure of a person’s stature, even if society frequently behaves as though it is, by judging us from first impressions.

We learned that the other qualities and skills we possessed more than made up for any physical shortcoming. We even learned to joke about it; “I’m not short, I’m vertically challenged,” we’d remark to others. We learned that this supposed shortcoming wasn’t really one at all. Our height is determined by a combination of factors not in our control, including genetics, the environment, and the circumstances and conditions in which we grew up. We realized that physical attributes are transient – they can and do change, and what matters most, in the long run, is the heart, the mind, and the attitude that we bring to our lives. We figured out that people’s attitudes changed when they got to know us for who we were, and what we were capable of. In the hearts and minds of those that mattered, we were ten feet tall. Along with our realizations, our stature grew! Guys, look at the bright side; our feelings of inadequacy did not turn into an inferiority complex; we didn’t turn into little Napoleons!

What’s the message for us? We should continue to learn from the experience and counsel of those who are wiser than us. Continue to reflect and learn from our own experiences.  Understand that life can be unfair, and though we do not control the cards we are dealt, we can teach ourselves to play the best game possible with the cards we have. We should continue to make the best decisions we can at any given moment, with the information that we have. A true sense of self-worth, happiness, and fulfillment, and doing what we love with those we love is what life is all about. We must derive that sense from within us, not from the outside.  We can and must continue to learn about ourselves, and consider how to live our lives in the best way possible as we move forward, by reflecting on our past. 

Each of us can learn to stand tall in our own way; look forward by looking back to understand our past

I wonder what advice M80 will have for all of us!


Mukund Acharya is a regular columnist for India Currents.

Stay Fabulous At 50 By Staying Fit

Let us face it. In your 50’s your body is not the same as it was in your 20’s and 30’s, as aging changes many things internally. However, exercising after your 50’s can add healthy years to your life, and it is important that you exercise caution and the right thing in the right way. And with the ongoing pandemic and lessons that COVID-19 is teaching us, there is no doubt that you need to be fit of all ages to battle new-age health challenges. While a significant proportion of Americans are active, less than 25% of adults meet national physical activity guidelines and 40% have obesity as per the ACSM American Fitness Index 2020 report. And as you age fitness is harder while more necessary.

Know Your Body

As the body begins to age, it is not as receptive to unexpected changes and this becomes just another reason to work out and uphold a certain level of fitness.

“As you age, adapting an active and healthy lifestyle is of prime importance to help regulate and monitor your health base. Moreover, indulging in exercise and body workouts on a regular basis can guard you against unwanted heart ailments, diabetes and can also avert you from certain forms of cancer. Working out regularly can also lessen discomfort related to arthritis. By refining one’s stability and balance, suppleness, stamina, fortitude, and strength, older adults can live restored and healthier longer,” says Shalini Bhargava, Fitness Expert & Director at JG’S Fitness Centre.

Exercise Mix

Endurance exercises, such as low-impact aerobics, walking, using cardiovascular equipment such as elliptical trainers, cycle, and swimming based on the level of physical conditioning and current status of health at least five days each week is recommended.

The 50s are when chances of developing osteoporosis goes up and therefore it is imperative to add toning exercises; cardio alone is not enough. Pilates, yoga, and weight-training are some of the options to maintain muscle mass and tone up. These exercises should best be done under professional supervision to avoid injury. Swimming is yet another great workout for this age-group as the risk of injury is much less.

“I would suggest you do either 15 minutes of toning regularly or 45 minutes, thrice a week in combination with a cardio activity of course. During a cardio workout, you are bearing your own body weight, the bones work against gravity and hence reduce mineral loss. I am 52, so I ensure I weight train for two days, dance for two days, and walk for at least four hours a week,” says Suman Agarwal, Celebrity Nutritionist, Author, and Founder of Selfcare India.

Since their movement becomes decreased at that age, they need to focus more on their flexibility and mobility.

“One should avoid strenuous training and sprinting on the treadmill. Not many chest movements should be done and overhead pressing movements should be avoided. Whenever one feels uncomfortable, they should stop immediately and not continue,” says Prosenjit Biswas, Fitness Manager, Skulpt gym, Kolkata.

Do it Right

Sujeet Kumar of Fatcherry International

Start slowly, especially when embarking on a new exercise routine, and ensure you have professional supervision.

Anjali Sareen, The Zone Mind & Body Studio avers, “Choosing a fitness program based on one’s own goals and needs is a must. Selecting fitness routines based on current popular trends or because your friends are doing them or out of convenience of location or price should not be deciding factors. A better option is to focus on personal training sessions with an experienced professional. These sessions can be customized to suit your fitness level, goals, and take into consideration any health concerns or injuries. An experienced professional will be able to include a diverse range of exercises and programming to cover all aspects of a complete fitness program from physical goals to energy and mind gains.”

“Active warm-up reduces resistance to stretch and increases elastic properties or ability to stretch where activity includes stationary cycling, fast walk, or rowing machine. “Proper breathing techniques are often helpful in relaxing and may help reduce stress levels and voluntary muscle tension to avoid internal organ injuries. Maintaining a neutral position of your spine, hips, shoulders, and neck can be greatly improved by using the hand not grasping the ankle to grab the back of a chair to maintain a balance. Gradually decrease in exercise intensity at the end of any cardiovascular exercise to allow heart rate and blood pressure to decrease,” explains Sujeet Kumar, Director & Coach, Fatcherry International Pvt Ltd.

Look Out

Once over 50, it is best to avoid strenuous exercise like long-distance running, high-impact aerobics and weight-training exercises like deadlifts as these can put you at a higher risk of injury. As you age, your muscles shrink, hence opt for low-intensity cardio and toning activities. Avoid running on a treadmill or brisk-walking on an incline as both forms put pressure on the knees. Instead, jog on the ground.

Himay Chikani and Amrin Memon, Co-founders, AH Fitness opine, “Untrained seniors who begin exercising should start at a relatively low exercise intensity and volume. The early phase of the training program should be directed towards learning proper exercise techniques and minimizing the risk of injuries. Advanced and demanding exercises should be incorporated gradually into the program.”

Diksha Chhabra, Fitness Expert, Nutritionist & Founder, Diksha Chhabra Fitness Consultation adds, “High-intensity training, plyometric training, skipping, running or certain movements of weight training like Deadlift, Pull-ups, Leg extensions, and Heavyweight training needs more attention and care while performing as this is the age when your joints start showing signs of detrition and workouts with multiple joints involved or a moment of pressure can put unnecessary jerk on the joints can lead to a long term injury. Hence one must practice controlled momentum and intensity with or without weights for long-term activity.”

Take Care

Always warm-up before starting your workout and cool down when you finish. When you injure yourself at a young age, recovery is much faster. At 50, injuries take longer to heal. Stretches are a must as shoulder, lower back, and knee pain are most common for those in the age bracket.

Sheetal Tewari, Holistic Health Coach, Yoga and meditation teacher, Sound Healer advises, “Do not overdo. The thumb rule is not overdoing anything just because you like it and it’s exciting to try new workouts. Don’t succumb to peer pressure. Choose what works for your body type not what everyone else is doing.” Do pay attention to your body’s signals and try new exercises but with complete precautions.

Dr. Ashish Jain, Orthopedic surgeon, P.D Hinduja Hospital & MRC, Mahim, Mumbai explains, “The aim now is to get into ‘anti-aging’ mode. Weight training must continue with maximum possible intensity to help maintain muscle mass and bone density. I suggest focusing more on leg workouts as they comprise the larger body segment and need to be strong for the coming years ahead. Squats, leg press, knee extensions, hamstring curls, and calf raises help in overall leg development. Some form of daily cardio is essential too and I suggest ‘low impact’ options like walks, swimming, cycling, and cross trainers.”

Consistency is the key. So, stay fabulous at 50 by staying fit.


Bindu Gopal Rao is a freelance writer and photographer from Bangalore who likes taking the offbeat path when traveling. Birding and environment are her favorites and she documents her work on www.bindugopalrao.com.

Five Reasons to do Yoga this Holiday Season

Holidays can be a busy time to say the least; in spite of the joy surrounding it, you are pulled in different directions physically, emotionally and financially. For me, every year when the holidays come around, I resort to yoga. Yoga has been a constant thread in my life, one that I seek especially when my cup is overflowing.

The term yoga comes from the Sanskrit word Yujir which means ‘to yoke.’ The Bhagavad Gita says, “Yoga is said to be equanimity” (2.48); “Yoga is skill in action” (2.50). The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali say, “Yoga is the suppression of the activities of the mind.” An asana practice helps us achieve the higher goal of yoga. For me, asanas create equanimity which furthers my intention and understanding of utilizing that skill in all action that Lord Krishna is talking about. Asanas help calm the mind to take on the world a little better everyday. So if you are overwhelmed with love, joy, stress, foodlists, shopping lists or just too much on your plate, consider yoga this holiday season. 

Here are five reasons to give yoga a chance.

Stillness

What I crave most is silence when I’m consistently going to holiday parties and hosting guests. Carving out a few minutes for silence can really reset the body and mind’s rhythm and re-center me so I can face life’s busy-ness again.

Poses I love: Balasana ( Child’s pose), Viparita Karani (Legs up the Wall), Shavasana(Corpse Pose), Surya Bhedana (Sun-Piercing Breath) and Chandra Bhedana (Moon-Piercing Breath).

Detox

Who does not need a mind and body detox after the holidays? Inversion poses are really helpful for blood circulation and thus promoting detoxification and moving fluid to the lymph nodes.

Poses I love: Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downdog), Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana (One leg dog), Salamba Sirsasana(Headstand), Dolphin pose

Digestion

All that turkey and stuffing along with endless gingerbread men keeping you bloated all holiday season? I find that my digestion is sluggish, especially paired with the colder temperatures. A few simple poses that aid digestion can go a long way. 

Poses I love: Bharadvajasana (Seated twist), Pavanmuktasana (Wind Relieving Pose), Salabhasana (Locust) and Agni Sara.

Gratitude

The economic commercialization of the holidays makes us forget the true reason for their existence. Yoga makes me stop to give thanks for the opportunity to have and love family, community and God in my life. Giving thanks makes the chaos of my life worthwhile.

Poses I love: Apanasana (Knees to chest), Malasana( Yogic Squat), Ustarasana (Camel Pose), Balasana (Child’s pose), Padmasana (Lotus Pose).

Burning Calories

Okay let’s get real, everyone puts on those extra pounds during the holidays and everyone is seeking to burn calories. No time to go to gym? Yes yoga can help burn calories too! A vinyasa flow including the following poses can help tone and strengthen.

Poses I love: Plank pose, Utkanasana (Chair pose), Surya Namskar (Sun Salutation), Chattaranga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose), Navasana (Boat pose), and Agni Sara.

Preeti Hay has been a lifelong student of yoga. She has written for Yoga International, Yogi Times, India Currents and Khabar Magazine among others.

Building Resilience

In this fast-paced society, we are increasingly stressed for longer periods of time. Dr. Sanjay Gupta – neurosurgeon and Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN – describes an epidemic of chronic stress in the HBO documentary “One Nation Under Stress, with 8 in 10 Americans experiencing stress daily. Stanford neuroscientist Dr. Robert Sapolsky explains that while stress response originally evolved as a life-saving and coping mechanism to deal with external threats or dangers, we now generate stress responses to non-life-threatening situations including interpersonal conflict, deadlines, health concerns, jobs and finances. The United States of Stress 2019 reports that chronic stress affects people of all gender and ages, particularly younger people, exacting a stunningly toxic toll on the body, brain, mind, and soul. Its ongoing assault wears us down, measurably aging — or “weathering” — our insides, for some of us much more than others. Chronic stress zaps brainpower by damaging neural pathways and skewing judgment. It compromises the immune system. It taxes the heart, kidneys, liver, and brain. Multiple studies show that high stress adversely impacts physical and mental health leading to higher levels of chronic pain, addiction and suicide. Learning to deal with stress can be a powerful addition to our personal-wellbeing arsenal.  

The American Psychological Association defines Resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress … It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences. This article explores the relationship between stress and how your brain functions, and simple techniques to “bounce back” to – to build Resilience.  

Dr. Amit Sood tells us how. As a physician and professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic he created their Resilient Mind Program. Now executive director of the Global Center for Resiliency and Well-Being, he’s an internationally recognized expert on proven resilience techniques. “Cognitive and emotional loads we carry have increased progressively over the past two decades” he says; our brains possess a finite ability to lift these loads and get overloaded, “just as our ancestors’ backs were when manual labor was predominant.” This excessive load decreases quality of life, so we have to find ways to increase our lifting capacity if we don’t have ways to reduce it. “Resilience is our capacity – the core strength – to lift the load of life,” he says. It has several components: physical, spiritual, cognitive and emotional. Cognitive resilience relates to the amount a person can remember and handle, while emotional resilience measures the amount of negative emotion one can manage before getting stressed. Research led by Dr. Sood and several others shows that higher resilience correlates with better emotional and physical health, better relationships, success at work and the ability to handle adversity and grow despite downturns.

Our body hosts resilience in the brain and heart, our two main active organs. Heart health impacts physical resilience while cognitive, emotional and spiritual resilience are centered in the brain. “We understand how exercise, diet, sleep and sometimes medications keep the heart healthy and strong,” Dr. Sood explains, “with recent advances in neuroscience we are just learning that how the brain operates is critical to cultivating resilience.”

The evolution of the human brain has given it some operational vulnerabilities which predispose us to chronic illness and premature death. These can be traced back to the instinctive suspicion about everything around them that our ancestors developed in a quest for survival. Suspicion was their means to deploy attention, and is the genesis of our negativity bias today. Their need to constantly scan their environment for external threats has led to our wandering, jumpy attention. Although we have since collectively created a completely different world where the cause of death has shifted from external injury to heart disease and cancer, these brain vulnerabilities persist. Dr. Sood points out that while our brains tire after 90 minutes of cognitive work, we work 12-14-hour days, enabling emotional and cognitive vulnerabilities to manifest and influence our actions. “Nature gives us ‘baseline’ brains and hearts, and we have to keep ‘upgrading’ them through training,” he says, “resilience boils down to becoming aware of how our brain operates – particularly its vulnerabilities – and learning how to overcome them.”  

How can you do this? Dr. Sood has developed a structured approach in the Resilient Option. At its core is an integrated three-step process to develop awareness, attention and attitude (positive mindset). First, become aware of the brain’s vulnerabilities and take charge to train its attention and attitude. Second, develop an intentional attention that is strong, focused and immersive. Third, cultivate a resilient mindset or attitude through practices that best resonate with you such as meditation, prayer, music, or working out. This approach enables you to view your world in a broad context instead of a short-term one that could frighten or stress you. The resilient mindset is built around five guiding principles: gratitude, compassion, acceptance, meaning and forgiveness that reframe your perspective, integrating teachings of several disciplines including psychology, cosmology, spirituality to develop your unique model of self, life and fulfilment. You start by assigning one day in the week to each principle, and develop short specific practices that are emotion- and relationship-centric. Short practices are key for success – Dr. Sood refers to the ‘two-minute rule.’ We all struggle to sustain lengthy practices because of inherent weak attention and the tugs and pulls of our daily lives. In time, you integrate the three steps and five practices into your daily life, pre-emptively experience more joy by the practice of gratitude and compassion, and recover quickly from negative experiences or moments of negative emotion because you are able to more easily find gratitude or compassion through that experience and have learned to accept, find meaning and forgive. You live a life of your choosing, and are not reactive but responsive and intentional. Your energy increases and you develop better relationships. Fifteen years of research and over 30 clinical trials have proven that this approach is easy and powerful, enabling positive changes with little time investment. Find out how resilient you are.  Get your resiliency score, and start building it with these tips from Dr. Sood.

With sincere thanks to Simon Matzinger at Unsplash for the use of his beautiful photograph.

Sukham Blog – This is a monthly column focused on health and wellbeing.  

Mukund Acharya is a co-founder of Sukham, an all-volunteer non-profit organization in the Bay Area established to advocate for healthy aging within the South Asian community.  Sukham provides information, and access to resources on matters related to health and well-being, aging, life’s transitions including serious illness, palliative and hospice care, death in the family and bereavement. If you feel overcome by a crisis and are overwhelmed by Google searches, Sukham can provide curated resource help. To find out more, visit https://www.sukham.org, or contact the author at sukhaminfo@gmail.com.  

 

Best Foods For Building Lean Muscle

If lean muscles could be built from beer and chips then everyone could be looking huge with well-defined muscles. Unfortunately this is not the case. It takes a lot of exercises and healthy eating habits to develop lean muscles. But wait; did you know that there are certain foods that can help you to build lean muscles faster? These foods have particular properties, which increase the rate at which your muscles burn fat to look more defined. Below are my recommendations for best foods for building lean muscle:

Salmon
While fish has gained a lot of glory as one of the best sources of white meat, salmon takes the lead when it comes to the types of food, which are responsible for building lean muscles fast. Salmon contains a unique blend of the right proteins, B vitamins and other essential nutrients such as magnesium, which is crucial to the repair and formation of new muscles. Besides, scientific evidence has pointed out that salmon boosts mood, which goes a long way in preventing unhealthy eating habits and therefore contributes directly to lean muscle development.

Eggs
Eggs have always been identified as the best source of proteins, and indeed their ability to boost the development of lean muscles extend beyond the protein value. Eggs are highly functional due to the yolk, which contains sufficient amounts of cholesterol. If you are troubled that the amount of cholesterol could hike from excessive consumption of eggs, it is time you knew that the type of cholesterol obtained from eggs has been shown to lower the amount of bad cholesterol which is mostly associated with cardiovascular infections. Eggs therefore boast of the highest biological value, a measure that depicts how well they support your body’s protein need.

Almonds
Almonds carry a substantive amount of Vitamin E, in a form that is best absorbed by the human body. Vitamin E is required in the body especially after exercising because it is a potent antioxidant, which prevents free-radical damage that could prevent effective muscle development after workouts. The moment such kind of destruction is prevented; lean muscle development will be accelerated.

Leafy greens
Leafy greens have gone beyond the boundaries of keeping your skin glowing to facilitate the development of lean muscles at a faster rate. They contain a lot of iron, whose function is to speed up the circulation of oxygen during workouts. Similarly, leafy greens contain enough proteins to help build lean muscles further. Some of the greens that have a higher amount of proteins are spinach and kales, and should therefore be consumed in large amounts.

Apples
When it comes to fruits, apples play a crucial role towards the development of lean muscles. These fruits are packed with specific polyphenols, which prevent muscle fatigue while increasing muscle strength at the same time. Apples should therefore be used as pre-workout carb sources because they allow you to train harder and over an extended period of time.

Oats
These are some of the most unique grains that you will find in the local store. If you consume half a cup of rolled oats for instance, you will get 5 grams of proteins and a number of vitamins which boost metabolism and promote muscle growth. If you observe most bodybuilders, you will find out that they consume oats at the start of their day because it is the kind of diet that that keeps one satisfied for long besides preventing the accumulation of abdominal weight.

Peanuts
Peanuts are mostly consumed for their protein content, forgetting that they contain a host of other nutrients such as potassium, magnesium and plenty of iron. In a single serving of roasted peanuts, you get 12 grams of proteins and all the aforementioned nutrients. Besides roasted peanuts, peanut butter is a good alternative, but one has to be careful not to choose the sweetened varieties.

Beef from grass-fed animals
Beef contains zinc, iron, B vitamins, cholesterol and proteins. These are some of the best components for anyone who wishes to develop lean muscles, but they should be obtained grass-fed animals. Compared to conventionally raised animals, grass-fed cattle contain a higher level of conjugated linoleic acid, which helps the body in shedding fat in order to develop lean muscles.

In summary, there is a wide variety of natural foods which have particular properties vital to the development of lean muscles. However, it is also essential to note that food alone cannot help one to develop lean muscles. As such, one should consume such healthy and balanced diets besides regular exercising before the results start to appear.

Puja Mukherjee is a certified Fitness Trainer, who woke up one morning to drop everything in the pursuit of her passion for fitness. She says the best part about her job is to liberate her clients from their preconceived notions about fitness and see them be dazzled. Follow her at www.getmeanmuscle.com

References.
http://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/muscle-building-foods
http://diet.allwomenstalk.com/foods-to-help-you-build-lean-muscle
http://www.muscleandfitnesshers.com/nutrition/15-best-lean-muscle-building-foods
http://fitlife.tv/top-vegan-foods-that-build-lean-muscle/