Wild & Wonderful Chiang Mai



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If I’ve been missing here of late it’s because I was away having the maddest, wildest time exploring Chiang Mai, Thailand for a week and I’m still reeling! You can read about it on this link: How to Make the Most of Chiang Mai

I’d heard there’s a lot more to Thailand than its beaches but a week in Chiang Mai’s streets, mountains, hot springs, caves, waterfalls and adventure sports made me forget about beaches. From the time I sat in the taxi van outside the airport to my last afternoon there at the lovely cafe-with-a-cause Free Bird Cafe, it threw at me one surprise after another. But I know I’ve only scratched the surface and I will be back for more someday!

Big thanks to Cox & Kings for sponsoring my trip, in association with the Tourism Authority of Thailand in India.  As always, all opinions and insanity are entirely mine  :)

Ziplining, Chiang Mai, Thailand


The Beginnings of a ‘Lucky’ Traveller



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Ladakh, Lake Pangong Tso      A moment long awaited 

When the travel daydreams first invaded, I was in my mid-twenties and juggling two jobs. Teaching Yoga early mornings and editing legal journals all day. Within the pressure cooker of that lifestyle, I felt a deep desire to ‘see the world’. A desire that needed examining, not ignoring.

Getting Real about Daydreams

What places/experiences called out to me and why? Was I chasing a feeling that I could just as well experience in my city? Or did I feel drawn someplace else with a yearning that nothing else could satisfy? How badly did I want it? What sacrifices was I willing to make? What if the place turned out to be a massive disappointment once I got there? What if most places are best visited in the imagination (or NatGeo) and in real life are just over-hyped caricatures of themselves? What if I get robbed/raped/mugged/all-of-the-above as a lone woman exploring a big bad world? Was I running away from something? What was my deep-down purpose of travel (hoping I had one)?

It may seem like over-thinking, but I needed to answer these questions for myself long before I started looking up hostels and international flight bookings. Knowing my reasons for travel gave me the conviction to go ahead with my plans without second-guessing the hell out of them. 

Getting Real about Travel

Two big assumptions underlying the ‘lucky’ traveller myth are that travel is all expensive and all fun.

It isn’t all expensive: There are so many ways to travel non-expensively these days. The more comfort, certainty and convenience one needs, the more one has to spend. Be willing to rough it out and you’re left richer both in spirit and wallet.

It isn’t all fun: Ever looked at a dried lemon peel hoping to find nourishment from it? Gotten lost with a dead phone under a dark sky on an island where no one speaks any language you know? Frozen your legs off in khaki pants on the world’s highest ski resort? You can hazard a guess, but I can tell you from first-hand experience – none of those are fun. But it’s also true that it’s not an adventure unless you are miserable at some point. I’ve seen even the most organized travellers get into big trouble on the road. But when you immerse yourself in the highs of travel enough, the lows don’t keep you off the road. Instead, they magnify the highs and the risks deepen the appeal.

How do I fund my travels?

As a freelancing Yoga teacher and writer, I don’t get a fixed monthly paycheck. But I fund my travels the same way most people fund the things important to them – be it a car, a cell-phone, a higher education or a wedding. By making it a priority. Travel is doable – if I prioritize it. The way many people I know prioritize weekend drinking, televisions (and other dubious devices), endless shoe collections, big fat weddings, fancy cars to get stuck on non-fancy roads in, and expensive colleges that have one neck-deep in debt before a first job. I don’t question anyone’s right to choose differently from me, unlike judgmental conformists who rain their list of ‘shoulds’ at me. Different circumstances, perspectives and goals = different financial decisions. What I find strange is when financially comfortable people tell me I’m ‘so lucky’ I ‘get to’ travel, and ‘if only’ they could as well. Of course I’m fortunate and privileged to be able to travel, but that is no bigger a fortune or privilege than a higher education, a car, a big fat wedding, overflowing wardrobes, frequent movies and dinners – some of the many things I consciously and gladly forgo to save money, time and energy for travel. I’ve yet to hear someone being told they’re ‘lucky’ they wear good shoes, drive a car or use a snazzy handbag. Somehow it’s understood they must have planned and worked for them, and nothing fell out of the sky on a ‘lucky’ recipient’s head one fine day.

Luck German proverb


Financial Intelligence & Prioritization

Two qualities I’ve seen in all the frequent travellers I’ve known. Too bad financial intelligence isn’t a school subject, and many learn it the hard way. I fully recommend devouring books on the subject (such as Money: A Love Story, Rich Dad Poor Dad, and many more), talking to anyone who may know more than you about it, and getting as financially intelligent as you can. I’ve a long way to go, but even being a beginner on the subject of financial intelligence has been highly empowering.

Prioritization began with an honest look at my (not society’s) priorities in life.

  • Doing things my well-thought-out way instead of blindly conforming?     Yes please
  • Being accountable to myself as a freelancer instead of a fixed paycheck and boss?      Worth a shot
  • Backpack and hostels over dinners and dresses?      Any day
  • Researching cost-effective travel options instead of overspending?  Definitely
  • Uncertainty and misadventures over meetings and desk-job?                 Where do I sign!

Pruning my social circle proved a HUGE money-saver. I saw that nights out with people who don’t inspire/conspire anything beyond the next drink wasn’t worth even the cab fare. And if I ‘fell in love’ with something in a shop window, I listened to the voice in my head calculating how many days in a Croatian hostel I could buy instead. The choice was suddenly simple, and every single choice added up over time into a sizeable travel fund, many travel opportunities, and the will to just go.

And that’s the gist of how this traveller began to get ‘lucky’ – lucky enough to be a diligent, money-conscious and prioritizing traveller. Let me know in the comments your thoughts/questions. Glad to spread the luck!

Yoga Meets Kettlebell


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There are two kinds of travellers one sees on flights. Those that haul their own baggage up into the cabin and those that cannot. With my relatively small frame I’m often presumed to be the latter, until I swing my 8 kg bag into the cabin and settle into my seat. With all the smugness of someone whose functional training just proved highly functional. Apart from my Asana practice, I might also have a chunk of cast-iron (with a suitcase handle no less) to thank for it.

Body-weight lifting (and balancing it on all of two palms) is one of my favorite parts of Asana practice, because of all the strength, focus and playfulness they spark off. Lifting one’s own body weight is a challenge one faces on the Yoga mat often, so what new dimension would an external weight – a 4 kg ball of iron – add to my practice? How would its off-set center of mass interact with my muscles, and most importantly, would this be fun ?

Once used to measure grains and goods, the kettlebell (or Girya in Russian) has been around for centuries before invading gyms everywhere. With its unique design, it was only a matter of time before entire workouts began to grow around it. A dumb-bell centers the mass with one’s hand but the kettlebell has no such intentions. Its center of mass is about 6 inches from the handle, and shifts depending on the exercises you do with it.

As someone who doesn’t see herself mindlessly and endlessly lifting weights while loud ‘music’ thumps on (#notahimbo), I headed in the direction of incorporating kettlebell moves into my time on the Yoga mat. Breath awareness, mindfulness, presence, focus and grounding – some of the regulars in Asana practice – made themselves particularly useful with the kettlebell, in static and dynamic poses.

Here’s some Yoga-meets-kettlebell moves I explored, and the little observations that peppered the way:

  1. Kettlebell Rowing in Warrior 3: If your core wasn’t already engaged enough in Warrior 3, our new cast-iron friend is about to fix that. With a side of powered up arms and a base foot that will have to ground itself all the more. Begin with the weight-lifting arm pointing straight down and then row that arm as high up as you can. Exhale on the exertion, elbow pointing to the ceiling. Your triceps, biceps and deltoids will personally thank you for this. Keeping the gaze fixed and the mind still is more than half the battle in maintaining balance.



2. Side Elbow Plank variation: Do not try this unless you are sure of having the strength to hold up the weight. Keep a firm grip that activates your arm muscles enough to keep holding the weight. That forms the expression of the pose, which wouldn’t be possible without solid grounding and a strong core. Once you have the latter two, feel free to explore your own detours from the pose.

Yoga meets kettlebell

3. Half Moon with kettlebell: Time to strike that elusive balance again. Helps if you keep the extended leg active with the foot flexed, and as always let the base foot ground with all its might into the floor. Let the hand press down on the block to make a firm foundation of it. Hold for about 5 breaths to begin with. Ideally, the base foot is parallel to the long edge of the mat, and that is something I’m still working on in my experiments with the kettlebell.

Half moon pose, Kettlebell

Breathing makes it better! Ujjayi breath or any long deep breaths with a steady rhythm add a lot of power to your exertion as they help you access your deep core muscles. I feel a lot more focused and in control when I’m breathing like I mean it. Keeping your spine long allows your lungs to expand fully and keeping the jaw relaxed allows the diaphragm to smoothly expand and contract. To begin with, try each of the above for 5 breaths and gradually step it up.

Precautions: A full-body warm-up is a must before any workout, primarily to ready your muscles and prevent injuries. And a cool-down post-workout to prevent muscle soreness. Make sure the neck stays comfortable at all times and keep a neutral spine to prevent low back pain. Alternate kettlebell workouts with lighter, non-weight-bearing workouts, so that your muscles have enough recovery time.

For beginners: If you are new to the kettlebell and Yoga, then develop a basic familiarity with either for at least a few months before you combine the two. Here’s a good place to begin: Kettlebell Commandments. Look for a qualified teacher to teach you the basics before you explore and experiment.

In my pursuit of strength and grace under pressure, I’m glad to have found a rewarding (and often unnerving) challenge in my kettlebell. For more Yoga-meets-kettlebell moves, follow me on Instagram @namita_nefarious and let me know your thoughts in the comments !