Sunday, May 31, 2020

Surya namaskar

Since I already wrote about Burpees, I also thought of writing about Surya-namaskars (Sun-salutations) as a wonderful full-body exercise to be done everyday in the morning.

Rather than randomly stretching my body and being lethargic till I get my first shot of caffeine, I find the sun-salutations as a very good form of stretching that wakes me up and recharges me. I typically target to do 12. Why 12? Well, I don't know - I just associate 12 with the Sun and doing anything less seems too little and any more, I get too tired and sweaty. 12 sun-salutations takes me approximately 6 minutes or less, just enough to not procrastinate and get my stretching done.

Now, it is an ancient yogic exercise. That means there are several variations and if you search for videos on YouTube, you can get lost in the wonder world of sun-salutations. I personally follow the method shown in the video below, but if you have a yoga instructor, I suppose it's best you follow that method.

And if you adopt the fast method of doing salutations as demonstrated by Baba Ramdev below, I am sure you can squeeze in 100 over (108?) Surya Namaskars like Burpees and get your cardio exercise done right in the morning!

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Athleisure clothing

I recently learnt a new term in clothing - Athleisure My simplistic mind interprets that term as "wearing athletic clothes for leisurely purposes". In this lock down and work from home experiment I have discovered a few things:

  1. Even if I am working from home, it's best to have a routine - So everyday I get up at almost the same time, do a small morning ritual and then get started with my work
  2. It's still good to have a work/life balance - While work hours have gone through the roof, I still like to demarcate my workday and personal time by changing apparel. I don't like to work in my pajamas cause it makes me feel lazy.
Now, now, like many of you know - Singapore is a tropical country. Shorts and t-shirts are the most comfortable apparel to wear literally anywhere. So my work from home attire is mostly that. I also realized that if I wear athletic shorts and t-shirts (active wear) to work at home - I sweat a bit less while working (its terribly hot in the afternoons) and every time I get a small break, I can squeeze in some reps. So athletic wear has become my new favorite clothing.

And while I researched for this article,  I understand that this trend ain't new. It has been around since the 1980s. Last year alone Americans bought 44B USD worth of athleisure apparel. So here I am again playing catch up! So this is a public service message only if you have been an old man like me, and have never heard of this convenience before!

Sunday, May 17, 2020


One body weight workout that you can do anywhere without any equipment and which helps boost your endurance as well as has a major cardio-component in it is - Burpees. They have proven to be mighty useful in the days of the pandemic as a quick exercise to be done for your cardio. I haven't gone out for a run/ jog or swim for almost 2 months now, and without the Burpees, I would have had no cardio exercise at all. My lovely coach has thoughtfully been giving us some crazy challenges with Burpees (including a 500 Burpees in 4 days challenge recently).

The Burpees have an interesting history. They were invented as a much milder form of exercise by a New York based Physiologist named Royal H. Burpee in the 1930s (hence the name!). The US military subsequently adopted it to be an exercise to measure fitness of army recruits during the World War II. According to this article, being able to perform 41 repetitions in a minute was considered excellent and anywhere less than 27 was considered poor. (I come in the very very poor category currently).

If you have ever participated in a Spartan race then you may recall that the punishment for failing an obstacle is - 30 burpees. Like most lazy people out there, I hate them. The exercise starts out looking simple but in a matter of a few repetitions, every inch of my body starts burning! No wonder it is used as an exercise to evaluate your level of fitness.

Burpee Animation from

So next time when you feel like you need to get your heart rate up in a confined space (like your home or even in your hotel room), all you need is 5 minutes and as many burpees as you can!

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Taming your wandering mind

Since the lock-down I have been trying to discipline myself by better using my time. Things haven't been as rosy as I expected them to be, but well, at least I am trying.
So for the last 4 weeks I have been trying to make way for 8-10 minutes everyday for meditation (baby steps). Coming from India, meditation is something that everyone talks about and a lot of people practice it regularly. I know of at least a dozen of my friends who meditate regularly, so I thought I should follow their footsteps and experience the miracle of meditation.

So far, my meditation has been going the same way as my yoga. I have been sitting there pretending to focus on my breath while all sorts of thoughts wander through my mind. Reminds me of this video about the monkey mind by Mingyur Rinpoche. I try to focus on my breath but in a matter of few moments I lose my focus.

I don't think I am getting anywhere yet. But I think 4 weeks is too short a timeline to see any tangible benefits. So I shall continue and see if I can progress. I am intrigued by people who can pull it off so regularly!

Friday, May 8, 2020

The Distraction (curtailment) box

While I have stayed off social media for a long while now, my smartphone addiction is still an intriguing bit that I am unable to comprehend. Since the beginning of this year, I have been on a quest to understand this compulsory need to involuntarily check my mobile phone several times a day. It started with the download of an innocuous looking wallpaper from the Google Store called the "Unlock clock". All it really does is - show a count of how many times I "unlocked" my phone since the start of the day. It was scary at first to see that I checked my smartphone 60-80 times a day on a typical workday and it went down to 30-50 times a day on most weekends.

Subsequently I chanced upon a book titled "The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-tech World" and it jolted me back to reality. I realized that I am addicted to "information seeking" and subconsciously seeking out new information every few minutes from the easily accessible Internet and WhatsApp on my phone. Besides wasting my time on unnecessary information, I was also losing out on getting bored. So I came up with this rather simple idea. I went to Muji, bought a random plastic box with holes for handles on both sides. Now, I keep my phone in the box when I am at home. I call it my "Distraction Box" and I keep it far away from my living room and my Work from Home room. The advantage? I don't subconsciously check my phone anymore. Every time I am tempted to casually check my phone, I have to go through the special effort of going to the room where the box is kept, opening it and taking the phone out. This entire act, actually motivates me not to check my phone unnecessarily.

Distraction Box

Now, I just go occasionally (8-10 times a day) and read all the WhatsApp messages I have received, reply to them, put the phone back in the box and get on with my life. If I do get a phone call, the phone is always connected to my Bluetooth and I can still take the call.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Sit/stand desks

I love sit/stand desks. So much so that we have 2 at home. When we furnished our home first, I bought the mechanical variety that needs me to physically bring it up. Later after a few months in an IT show we saw an electronic one with 4 programmable pre-sets that can store (Up + Down) heights for 2 people. I went against my minimalism principles and ended up doing an impulse purchase. We have had this desk for 2+ years and I love it. I don't regret my decision to buy, and now in this global work from home experiment, I am so glad that I bought it. With my cheapskate ergonomics, its a nice setup for me.

My sit/stand setup

The advantage of having a desk like this is - I can occasionally stand-up and continue working and then when I feel tired, I can bring it down and sit. I have a daily 15 minute stand-up meeting with my team everyday morning (and I love to take it literally "standing" with my coffee!). If you have been sitting on the fence about having a sit/stand desk, I will implore you to seriously consider buying it!

We have been working from home for more than a month now, and as of today, it looks like we will work for at least a month more. So, it's better we get used to this new way of working and not yearn for going back to office any time soon!