10 questions with modern-day yogini Mansi Mahajan!
1. How long have you been practicing yoga and why did you start? Tell us about your journey?
I started practising yoga as a young teen when my mother would have me tag along with her for the yoga class. Then I didn't know that it was going to form the scaffolding of my journey ahead. I kept up the practice even while I was in University in Australia, and I remember once I returned I started practising with a lot more vigour and in 2013 took on the Yoga Teacher Training Course and haven't looked back since.
2. What is yoga to you?
Yoga is totality. It is a play of abhayasa (practise) and vairagya (dispassion). It’s is the movement and the stillness. The softness and the intensity. The yin and yang. Yoga is not something you do. It is our natural state. I often say its like coming back OM!
3. What is your favourite yoga pose/poses?
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana or One-Legged King Pigeon Pose is one of my favourite asanas because it helps to open up the doors that have been locked away out of inhibitions and fears. At a physical level, it is a deep hip opener, but at a spiritual level, it takes you to place between your thoughts, the space from where you’re able to glimpse the soul and awaken divinity. Just like so many asanas that work with not just the anatomy but the consciousness.
4. Yoga to boost immunity. Is that true? Can you tell us about some exercises that can be practiced for this?
Yes, with the practice of yoga, when we contract and stretch muscles, move organs around, and come in and out of yoga postures, we tend to increase the drainage of lymph which is a fluid rich in immune cells. This helps the lymphatic system fight infection, destroy cancerous cells, and dispose of the toxic waste products of cellular functioning, bringing us in optimal health.
Some immunity booting asanas are Camel Pose or Ushtra Asana, Bharadwaja Asana or Seated Twist, Legs Up the wall or Viprita Karni & the Queen of Asanas, Sarvangasana or the Shoulder Stand.
5. What are some of the health benefits that one can get through yoga?
This question is as vast as the ocean! To think about the fact that yoga has been around for 15,000 years simply because of its efficacy simple goes to show that its health benefits are immeasurable. Now even modern science is agreement about the therapeutic effects of yoga practise and pranayama. Yoga revitalises our energy vortexes and increases the flow of prana or vital life force, that is the very basis of our existence. However some of the benefits are cardiovascular health and keeping blood pressure in check, detoxification of the abdominal organs, stimulation of the lymphatic system and adrenals to boost immunity, regulating blood sugar levels, improving lung functions, helping in blood circulation to our outermost peripheries especially through inversions, and keeping the nervous system at its optional health. Through adequate serotonin levels by the practise of yoga, one will feel a natural high, keeping away from depression and anxiety. The muscles will stay supple, bone health maintained, and the body will be agile. These are only a few, but the point is that yoga helps one come into the present moment, which is the only place where life exists, enhancing your inner strength and cultivating mindfulness.
6. What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on their yoga journey?
Just dive in because you don’t know what a breakthrough awaits you on the other side. You may think you are inflexible, or this isnt for you, but break through those barriers, and experience the bliss of being yoga!
7. Yoga and food. How do you think your diet affects your practice?
In Ayurveda, we say that we are what we eat. Yoga and Ayurveda are twin life sciences that are intrinsically connected. What we eat, affects not just our physiological body but also our emotional state. Yoga divides food on the basis of sattva, rajas and tamas. Tamasic foods tend to create lethargy or sluggishness such as stale food, excessive sugar or oil, Rajasic foods create restlessness such as spicy and fried foods, and Sattvic foods create lightness, leaving us energetic, such as Fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables, nuts, grains, and certain spices.
More so, it's not just about the type of food, that affects not just our yoga practise but our life, its also about the time the food is consumed and the bhava or the experience of consuming the food. Meals should be considered a sacred act, for what we eat becomes us. Eating fresh, wholesome foods mindfully is an essential part of practising a Yogic lifestyle.
8. Is there any particular kind of food you recommend eating before and after a yoga session?
Practise should be on an empty stomach, so I would recommend eating something light within two hours or a meal three hours prior. For a light snack, something energising such as an apple or a banana or a handful of nuts for an intensive practice is good to carry you through.
Post yoga, choose carbs plus protein. After yoga, especially if it's a vigorous flow, you'll want to refuel with a meal or snack that has a 3-to-1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein, which can help repair muscle tissues and restore energy levels.
9. What is your favourite go-to snack before and after your yoga class?
I try to practise empty stomach, but if I feel grubby, I like to have a handful of nuts, preferably soaked overnight like almonds and walnuts before yoga practise. After practice, if I’m not famished, I have some fruit, and these days it’s more often than not mangoes like they’re going out of fashion! I always love tender coconut water after practice for hydration. I usually follow that with a big, hearty meal which comprises of a good balance of complex carbs and protein, to give energy and replenishment in equal proportion. I love to think of my plate as a rainbow, incorporating as many colours of plant-based ingredients with each colour representing the chakras in our body they heal and the nutritional value they represent.
10. What are your favourite Nutty Gritties products?
Sports mix! I simply love reaching for that yummy goodness and you don’t know what a melange of berries and seeds can do for your endorphins till you grab a handful! Cranberries, Blueberries, Almonds, Raisins, and Pistachios are a few of my favourite things!