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Hatha Yoga For Weight Loss

by Jayna Valen

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“Can yoga help me burn fat?”
“I need to get thin fast. Does yoga help?”
“I can’t seem to lose weight no matter what. Will yoga work?”

As a hatha yoga instructor, these are questions I get asked a lot. Excess body weight problems are among the curses of modern living. Lifestyles have become more sedentary, diets more unhealthy. Most of the processed garbage available on supermarket food shelves are devoid of proper nutrition and chock-full of unpronounceable toxins, preservatives and synthetic additives.

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The ideal yogic lifestyle is based on balance and moderation in all aspects of life, but city living has the scales completely tipped. Our bodies now struggle to cope with all that filth, to deal with every negative thing we force upon it while having to perform regular bodily functions. Our systems are malnourished, intoxicated, worn-down, underworked in some parts and overworked in others. Is it any wonder that human metabolism is going haywire?

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Can I Lose Weight With Yoga?

Generally speaking, yes – yoga usually helps most people lose weight. This is because the practice of yoga itself corrects numerous imbalances within the body, from endocrine system issues to a sluggish digestive tract.

However, results of weight loss can vary greatly depending on a number of things, such as:

• How often one practices yoga
• The type of yoga practiced
• The depth of individual yoga practice
• Underlying health conditions (eg. hormonal problems)
• Lifestyle factors (eg. dietary habits, stress levels, consistency of routine)
• One’s natural bodily tendencies and constitution (eg. various doshas per Ayurveda)

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How Can I Maximize Weight Loss Using Yoga?

If you’ve decided to try yoga for weight loss, congratulations! I guarantee that you’ll benefit from yoga immensely, and in many different ways.

The best way to achieve maximum weight loss through yoga is to apply yogic principles to ALL aspects of your life. This is so that an ideal balance in all bodily systems can be achieved. When all bodily systems work together harmoniously, excess body weight will eventually start coming off. My yoga guru always told me that the body has its own intelligence, and I have personally experienced this.

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The late Swami Vishnudevananda, one of the most revered gurus of traditional hatha yoga, famously detailed 5 points on how to achieve a balanced yogic lifestyle:

Proper Exercise (yoga asanas or poses)
Proper Breathing (pranayama, breath control)
Proper Diet (ideally sattvic food or a vegetarian diet)
Proper Relaxation (savasana between asanas)
Positive Thinking and Meditation

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When your body is in a state of ideal balance (or close to it), weight loss will be effortless. With continued practice of yoga, the body will usually pare itself down to a weight that’s healthy for the said individual body type, then maintain itself effortlessly, as long as yogic principles are practiced continuously.

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Remember, it’s a real possibility that your ideal body weight may never make you look ‘slim’, ‘thin’ or ‘skinny’ – but that’s completely okay. Real beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. A healthy body and mind is what makes a person really attractive, so don’t place too much emphasis on weight loss. Rather, focus on getting yourself healthy on all levels. Enjoy your yoga practice and it will do wonders for you!

Related articles:

5 Main Benefits Of Traditional Hatha Yoga

Stretching Safely For Complete Beginners

Kitchiri, The Best Sattvic Detox Food

Do Crash Diets Really Work?

Fashion Photoshoot: Project Israa

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by Jayna Valen and Sashi

Why We Did It

Sashi is a friend of mine, and a civil engineer by profession. Like me, he’s an artist, passion-wise. We often speak about collaborating on art projects but are always too busy with our day jobs. However, it finally happened. This is the first art project we did together. And what can I say? It was an amazing experience. We had lots of fun and learned a lot in the process.

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As a fine art photographer, Sashi loves to explore unconventional ideas. I am no less eccentric, which is probably why we make a good team (when we’re not fighting, at least).

This shoot was pretty much a regular fashion shoot, but since it was the first time we were working together on a personal art project, we didn’t get too crazy with things. He gave me some basic guidelines on the mood and emotions he wanted to capture in the model, but he left the fashion styling and wardrobe choices entirely to me. I didn’t really know what to expect either, so I formed some mental concepts and decided to go with the flow.

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As an ex-fashion editor of CLEO and wardrobe stylist on film sets, I’d worked with a lot of models before. From directing photo shoots and costuming to doubling up as a makeup artist, I’ve done a bunch of these things and thoroughly enjoyed myself along the way, before I ditched it all for the drab stability of financial-services cubicle life. These projects are my escape routes from my self-inflicted, modern-day slavery.

I’ve also been a die-hard fan of Vogue and haute couture since I could read, so you can say fashion is in my blood. My mum is a seamstress; a very good one too. I had all my dresses tailor-made for me right up to my teens. Sometimes, I helped my mum sew, especially during Diwali when there was too much to do. I literally grew up steeped in fashion.DSC_2399-1

My Fashion Styling for the Model

Our model expressed her wishes to be shot in street-style denim and muted colors, with some implied nudity thrown in. In fact, she’d contacted Sashi after seeing his fine art photography with a nude model, so we knew she was comfortable with that kind of art.

I asked if she was okay to try a saree, and she was game. I was excited; I loved draping sarees on non-Indian women. With an Indian woman you kind of know what it’s going to look like, but with a woman of a different ethnicity, it’s always a wonderful surprise.

I requested for a few pictures of her, full-length and without makeup, to get some ideas and inspiration on how to dress her. Then, I began the process of picking the outfits.

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She is from Sudan, and had the exotic, ethnic features of people from that region. I decided to use outfits that contrasted with the idea of fashion that’s generally associated with people of African roots (bright colors, turbans, bold prints, etc.). I asked her to keep the makeup neutral and natural so it would blend with a variety of looks.

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Her major plus points were her lovely figure and long legs, so I decided to play those features up with the clothes I chose for her. I picked a raincloud-grey jersey dress, an acid-wash denim miniskirt and jacket combo, a white and blue Bohemian-inspired ensemble, a sheer beige chiffon top and finally, a black saree with champagne and frosted copper detailing. With the modern clothes, I was aiming for a breezy, natural look – the kind you’d see on a city girl who’d gotten dressed to stroll the streets on a beautiful summer’s day.

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I loved the way the pictures turned out, they were perfect to me. The ones of her in the saree stunned me though. I don’t know how or why, but she suddenly transformed into a goddess the minute I finished draping the material over her. She just immediately became more elegant and graceful. She glowed. A demure, dark radiance. A saree does that to women, I’ve noticed. It brings out that sacred feminine beauty in ways that other outfits simply can’t.

I chose the saree based on her name, which means ‘Night Journey’ in Arabic. Here she is, the dark moon draped in a galaxy of stars. And Sashi captured her resplendence perfectly, in that precise moment when our energies of creation aligned. I created the look, she created the magic and he created the art with a click.

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Sashi Speaks

As a photographer, it would be a crime to say the role of a photographer is only limited to identifying special moments. I can be vilified for such a claim by the photographers’ community. I don’t really care. With the advent of technology, endless auto-modes and presets, anyone can capture a good quality photograph, even with a mobile phone.

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So what separates a photographer from a camera owner? It’s the eye for tasteful details that touch the artist in everyone. It’s just like good music. Everyone likes it but no one knows why and the composer would have most certainly not composed it academically.

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I’ve always been on the receiving end of questions like what is it that I intend to convey through a particular photograph. My answer is always the same; none. Art is just a reflection of our inner being manifesting in completely purposeless action; purposeless as far as satiating our rudimentary survival needs is concerned.  Art is self-expression, something as simple as a wink or showing your middle finger in anger. It should not be academic. Do you calculate how high you have to raise your hand and the moment force to be applied to express the right amount of anger when you show your middle finger? That’s my type of photography. I don’t overthink the outcome. I don’t plan my shots. I don’t think about the rule of thirds, shadows behind the nasal bridge and the grains in the highlights. The details are always there for us to see, everywhere and anywhere, in the darkness and in bright sunshine. You don’t see the stars during the full moon and when you get to see the stars during new moon, you don’t get to see the moon. The moments are just beautifully unfolding perpetually. We fail to see them more often than not.

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I am an impulsive photographer. I click each time I see a good moment from my perspective. I don’t give out too many instructions, let alone clear ones. I told Shrishthi (Jayna) a few things. “I am a fine art photographer. Whoever I shoot and whatever the theme, I want my pictures to be a double edged sword. Seductive without being obscene, raw yet aesthetic, gracefully minimalistic. Strictly no manipulation of body parts. Capture human beauty in its natural state”.

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She suggested a little bit of makeup, some clothes, and maybe heels. I would rather take a lot of stick than to receive a diplomatic compliment. Diplomacy and normalcy are like flaccid dick. Not much use. A hard on is debatable. Men think a hard on makes them superhuman. Women feel it’s equally boring because men don’t last. But there it is; a double edged sword and hoopla. Anyway, I was just kidding.

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All three of us showed up on the day of the photoshoot. I set up some basic lighting. The stylist decided on the outfit, the model posed with the input from the stylist and I clicked. Both of them created the moments and the details for me. They were brilliant. I just needed to click at the right time. I think the outcome of their work was quite impressive.

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Related Links:

What Does it Take to be a Model?

Healing And Rejuvenation With Abhyanga

by Shrishthi Brahmarupa

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Traditional Ayurvedic oil massage, known as abhyanga, has been practiced in India for centuries. A good-quality vegetable oil is massaged into the whole body and left on for a few minutes, than cleaned off in the shower. This simple practice has numerous amazing health benefits. The ancient Vedic health treatise, the Charaka Samhita, says this about abhyanga:

“The body of one who performs oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if subjected to accidental injuries or strenuous work. By having oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age.” – (Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, verses 88 – 89)

If you find yourself suffering from the effects of stress, aging, pollution and an unbalanced lifestyle, abhyanga will do wonders for you. The scriptures recommend that abhyanga be done daily, preferably in the morning. However, I find that a weekly or even monthly session gives wonderful results. It can be a little messy, but it’s well worth the effort.

Benefits of Abhyanga:

  • Keeps the body healthy, toned and youthful
  • Helps eliminate accumulated toxins
  • Improves blood flow
  • Cures stress-related problems
  • Promotes abundant and luxurious hair growth
  • Improves digestion
  • Reduces body odour
  • Helps heal skin damage (i.e. from eczema, psoriasis and acne)
  • Restores balance to bodily functions

How to Perform Abhyanga at Home

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Things You’ll Need:

  • ½ cup of good-quality vegetable oil, preferably cold-pressed and organic (recommended oils: sesame, coconut or olive oil)
  • 2 – 3 old towels (kept specifically for this purpose)
  • A pair of old socks or flip-flops with good sole traction
  • 5-8 heaped teaspoons of chickpea flour (also known as gram flour)

Method:

1. Pick an appropriate spot to perform abhyanga. It should be comfortably warm and free of distractions, such as pets and children. Bear in mind that once you start abhyanga, you’ll be unable to do anything else until the oil is rinsed off in the shower, so plan in advance. You may play some relaxing music if you wish.
2. Put the chickpea flour into a bowl and add enough water to make a thick paste. Stir well to remove lumps. Leave this paste near your shower area.
3. Warm the oil slightly, taking care not to burn it. The safest way is to put the oil in a metal container, then place the container in a larger bowl filled with hot water for a few minutes. Place the warmed oil near your designated abhyanga area. Note: NEVER microwave the oil; microwaving damages the delicate healing botanical properties, and can be very dangerous if the oil heats unevenly.
4. You may have a quick, warm shower with plain water before abhyanga if you wish. I personally do this to remove dust and sweat. If you do have a shower, dab your skin dry before beginning the massage.
5. Lay one of the old towels down on the floor. Undress and sit comfortably on the towel. Dip your fingers into the warmed oil and start the massage, beginning at the crown of your head and moving down your body, eventually ending at the soles of your feet. Take your time – abhyanga should be performed leisurely and lovingly for best results. Use generous amounts of oil.
7. Use gentle but firm pressure, moving in circular motions across the scalp. Switch to long, firm strokes once you get to the neck, shoulders, arms and legs. The stomach should be massaged with firm, clockwise strokes – this greatly aids digestion. Massage every inch of your skin, paying particular attention to joints, chakra centres, the fingers and toes as well as the spaces between them. When massaging the face, avoid the eye area (oil may irritate sensitive eyes).
8. Once you’ve covered all parts of your body, sit in a comfortable position and meditate for about 5 to 10 minutes. Relax and internally observe the new flow of positive energy. Envision your body regenerating youthful, new tissues and eliminating accumulated toxins. Maintain a gentle smile on your face.

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9. Complete your meditation with your palms pressed together and a personal prayer of gratitude to the Universe. I always end my meditation by reciting the Shanthi mantra. Then, using the spare towel, gently but thoroughly wipe all traces of oil off your body. Wipe your feet and toes well to minimise slipping.
10. Put on the socks (or flip flops) and head to the shower. Wet yourself thoroughly, then use the chickpea flour paste to clean yourself, the same way you would with soap. Give your body a good scrub with the paste, then rinse off and towel dry. If you have long hair, you may need an additional amount of chickpea paste to get the oil out.
11. Gently towel dry after your shower and wear loose-fitting cotton clothing. Sit (or lie down) and relax for at least 10 minutes. You may use some music or sip some herbal tea if you wish.

Notes:

  • Make sure the vegetable oil used is of good quality and cooking-grade. Baby oil is unsuitable for abhyanga (it is made of mineral oil, which is a petroleum derivate and has no Ayurvedic medicinal value)
  • Take extra precautions to prevent slipping and accidents, especially in the bathroom.
  • Don’t use soap to wash off the oil – you have just infused your skin with the precious rejuvenating properties of a natural oil, and we don’t want to ruin that with chemicals immediately after. Chickpea flour paste is sufficient to soak up and remove any excess oil; a very thin film of oil left over after showering is highly beneficial. If you prefer to remove all traces of oiliness completely, prepare more chickpea paste for your shower after abhyanga.
  • Abhyanga should be done in a warm room. The shower water should be warm as well. This ensures muscles stay warm and aids circulation, as well as enhances the effects of the massage. If you’re unable to reach all parts of your back, it’s perfectly fine to get someone’s help or use an oiled massaging aid.
  • You may play some relaxing music if you wish.