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The High Priestess of HIIT

The High Priestess of HIIT

Meet Protima Tiwary — HIIT junkie, fitness blogger, and ab goals for every woman out there!

Get Your Greek On!

Get Your Greek On!

Greek belly dancer Amartia is bringing fun, sassy bellydance to Baltimore!

The Accidental Yogini

The Accidental Yogini

You know how some people are able to brighten up your day, with seemingly no effort at all? Ashwini Kaikini is one such person. This ray of sunshine has the uncanny ability to fill people with positivity with just a hug, a text, or (if you’re among the privileged) a voice note.

I’ve known Ashwini for about 4 years now, though she & my husband have been friends for a decade (maybe a little more). We bonded over being dancers, and over a shared love of sushi. And over the last few years, Ash has been a constant source of happy vibes and positivity in my life. She shares this joy and energy everyday with her students at Vritti Wellbeing, and at the Kathak classes she teaches at Nrityanidhi with her sister, Shoma.

Ashwini Kaikini performs at a Nrityanidhi show

While she still considers herself a dancer first, Ashwini Kaikini is a yogini in a pure sense. Her approach to life has always been one full of spirituality and self-awareness, something I noticed early on in our friendship. It’s hard to ever find her in a bad mood or a negative slump, something that has always amazed me about her. I once asked her about it, and her response was, “There’s more to life than one bad day. Nothing is permanent, so why stress myself out over yesterday? Tomorrow’s going to be a lot better!”

See what I mean? Ray of sunshine.

When asked about what inspired her evolution from dance to yoga, she replies, “It was a calling. I have been practicing Yoga since 2008, approximately. It has been on and off, ever since. But it has always been my go-to, feel­-good factor. I had a long break of about two years, and then I felt a strong calling back to it around mid-2015. This time it came with a much bigger purpose — to reach out to many souls, for healing, and to spread the word of kindness, peace, and love. So I attended a professional course, and decided to go for it in Jan 2016.”

And so, Vritti came to be.

Ashwini Kaikini meditates atop a volcano in Bali

Ashwini has always danced to her own rhythm (pun unintended, but so fitting!). I have known her to sit for hours on her terrace with her golden retriever, Zen, simply staring at the sky and contemplating her place in the universe. I have also seen her pack her bags and travel alone to Bali to hike, meditate atop volcanoes, and learn to cook — simply because it called out to her.

Ashwini practises and teaches Hatha Yoga. Talking about her journey to becoming a yogini, she says “When I read about the yamas and niyamas, I realised they are beautiful concepts, and that I have somehow always included them in my life. So now I try to include them in a much more conscious manner. It is wonderful to see that as my practice has strengthened, some of the disciplines — especially with food — have come automatically. I haven’t made any special effort to follow them, but the more I have become aware and taken the journey within, the easier it has become to listen to my body and follow.”

As she explains how she adopts the principles of yoga and meditation into her everyday, Ashwini tells me about how meditation doesn’t necessarily mean sitting with your legs crossed and your eyes closed, while chanting ‘Om’. She often takes to social media to talk about how simply spending quiet time with her dog Zen is also meditative. “There are times when I turn off the music during early morning classes. I realised that we could hear birds chirping in their morning bliss, and that was far more therapeutic than any music could be. I love those moments of witnessing the sun at dawn, and feeling the light breeze. There are many moments of stillness, we simply need to learn to appreciate them.”

Ashwini Kaikini with her dog Zen

Ashwini’s family is one that believes strongly in the power of individualism, and following your own heart. Undoubtedly, this has played a huge role in how the Kaikini sisters have grown and evolved, and always followed their calling.

Signing off, I posed Ashwini the mandatory TDF rapid-fire. Here’s how it went!

The Dance Floor: Bangalore or Bali?

Ashwini Kaikini: Short term, Bali. Long term, Bangalore. My heart will always be here.

TDF: One thing most people don’t know about you.

Ashwini: I can be naughty and goofy at times, but that is reserved for a select few.

TDF: Sushi or sev puri?

Ashwini: Never make me choose between food! *laughs* Both. All. Everything *wink*

TDF: Kathak or Yoga?

Ashwini: I dance through my postures, and I find the yog in my dance.

TDF: Luxury resort or backpacking hostels?

Ashwini: Luxury resorts!

TDF: If you weren’t a dancer, you would be…?

Ashwini: Lost.

Want to train with this lovely lady? Ashwini Kaikini conducts regular Yoga and Kathak sessions in Bannerghatta, Bangalore. Follow Ashwini and Vritti on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram too! Ashwini can also be contacted at vrittiwellbeing@gmail.com .


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Healthy Options When Eating Out : The Breakfast Club

Healthy Options When Eating Out : The Breakfast Club

It’s a common saying — ‘Abs are made in the kitchen’. While it isn’t quite as simple as that, one can’t deny that diet is a massive factor in your fitness journey. Your HIIT workout can easily be undone if you eat pizza 3 days […]

The Quest For The Perfect Body

The Quest For The Perfect Body

“The perfect body”. Something we all want, but only see in movies and on social media. The quest for the perfect body is one we can all relate to. There’s only one problem, though. What exactly is a “perfect body”? I’m going to let you […]

An Un-Belly-evable Workout

An Un-Belly-evable Workout

Much has been written, said and salivated about belly dance. Scant few have done it justice, or given it the respect it deserves.

What most people are blissfully unaware of is that belly dance originated centuries ago, not as a form of entertainment or seduction, but as a religious act. Temple priestesses performed the dance in worship of the Mother Goddess, Isis, for her blessings of health, fertility and prosperity.

Since its origin, belly dance has been used as a form of pre-natal and post-natal exercise. The gentle movements, hip tucks and muscle isolations help strengthen the core and pelvic muscles, thereby not only relieving the daily discomfort that most expectant mothers experience, but also easing the actual labor. It even accelerates the ante-natal healing process, and helps the new mother get back in shape after the delivery. The original recipe for a ‘Yummy Mummy’!

Belly dance fitness is a great workout for women

The fitness benefits of belly dance are many. An intensive yet low-impact cardio-vascular workout, a 90-min belly dance session can burn as many calories as the same duration of aerobics or Pilates, without risking injury to joints. With regular practice over time, the dancer’s body is infused with improved flexibility, stamina, and strength. International icons like Shakira, Beyonce and Rihanna swear by belly dancing to keep their curves in the right places, and women across the globe are turning to this ancient art form for their fitness needs.

Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t only the abdominal region that’s exercised. Belly dance works every part of the body, right from the calves to the shoulders and even the knuckles! Nandita Shetty, 25, has completed 4 levels of belly dance and can’t wait to learn more. “Belly dancing has been one of the best things to happen to me”, she says. “Apart from making you feel like a goddess, it’s a brilliant workout. It’ll help you find and beautifully express your inner sensuality… along with giving you killer toned calf muscles!”

On a more holistic level, belly dance isn’t just about knotting a coin-laden scarf around your hips and shaking about. It connects deeper. It unleashes a sensuality that most women not just lock away, but are sometimes even unaware of entirely. The muscle isolations can even help relieve menstrual cramps, and the gush of feel-good endorphins leaves the dancer aglow. As they dance and witness for themselves just what their bodies are capable of, they grow to accept and love their bodies. In the words of a student who believes belly dance has transformed her, “So what if I’m 3 times Cameron Diaz’s size? I’d like to see her do what I can!”

And best of all, there’s no age limit to belly dance. Sybil D’Souza, 72, is an ardent fan of belly dancing, and the oldest and most enthusiastic student at Bellyrina Dance Academy. Says she, “I always wanted to learn the art when I was younger, but never got the chance. Now that I’ve finally joined a class, I’m in love. It has me feeling like a girl of 17 again!” On the other end of the age spectrum is Ria, 6, who “loves showing my friends all the moves I learn. I especially love to shimmy and hear all the coins in my scarf jingle”.

This post was originally published on my Medium account.


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