High Tea

Tea sommelier Snigdha Manchanda’s passion for the humble drink brings much more to the table than just different varieties of tea.

(Published in Go-getter, June 2014)

High Tea

 

Playing Green at Arena Pantanal

Image
The eco-efficient Arena Pantanal stadium

There aren’t many global events that capture the world’s imagination quite like the World Cup does. With the 2014 edition well underway, India Art n Design, an Indian art/design website and e-zine, has focused on the design aspects of this mega event. So if you like football and design, you’ll find their articles to be very relevant right now. From the design of the football and the player’s jerseys, to some of Brazil’s FIFA stadiums, the stories delve deep into what went into the creation of these essential aspects of the World Cup.

One of the articles is about the eco-efficient stadium in Brazil called Arena Pantanal. Effectively blending modern design and sustainability solutions, Arena Pantanal is yet another newbie structure on the map of Brazil that will go down in the history of football and other events.

Three games have already taken place at this green stadium. So if you missed any of them, don’t forget that Japan will play against Columbia tomorrow (June 24, 2014). Click here to read this article.

Transformation by Design

Image

As World Design Capital 2014, Cape Town is using design-driven events as a means of social, cultural and economic change.

Visit India Art n Design to read more about the exciting design-driven events happening in Cape Town!

Tried-and-tested Super Asanas

Source: By Kennguru (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), via Wikimedia Commons
Source: By Kennguru (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), via Wikimedia Commons
I’ve been regularly practicing yoga after an exceptionally long break. I’ve always loved it, especially the focus that each asana brings during the session and the mental clarity and energy that sticks with me all day long. Strangely, I had never managed to sustain my interest in yoga since the time I started practicing it, which was roughly eight years ago. So I’m really quite happy with this bit of progress that’s happening right now.

Everyone has a favourite yoga pose. I’ve come to realise that I particularly enjoy a mix of the standing and reclining asanas. I feel great after doing each one of them, and sometimes—when I don’t have too much time—I perform just these poses, or, what I like to call Super Asanas. If your excuse for not practising yoga has been lack of time, I’d highly recommend doing just these. You just need to try it to experience the bliss. Here are the Super Asanas that are sure to give you a host of immediate as well as long-term benefits.

Dhanurasana

Also known as the Bow pose, this asana is great if you want to tone your legs, strengthen your tummy muscles, beat stress, open up your chest, neck and shoulders, and add flexibility to your back. Even though I find this particular asana more difficult to perform than most of the other asanas, I still make sure to incorporate it into my daily yoga session. I especially love that feeling when the front of my thighs get stretched as well as that relaxing stretch on my middle and lower back.

Trikonasana

This asana, also known as the Triangle pose, has got to be my favourite! Unlike most asanas, one needs to keep their eyes open for this one. I love how it completely stretches my thighs, hamstrings, sides, shoulders, calves, groin and hips. And, with the my eyes fixed on the different movements (your eyes need to follow the tips of your fingers), I find it to be one of the best stress relievers! After doing 5 sets on each side, you’ll feel energised, focused, balanced and ready to take on the biggest challenges of the day.

Janusirasana

This head-to-knee pose is one of the best ways to stretch your leg, back and arm muscles. I try to hold this pose for five minutes for each leg. I’ve noticed that the more I practice it with a calm mind, the easier it becomes. As the days go by, my ability to hold this pose for a longer time without much muscle tugs, pulls or quivers, has improved. I also try to incorporate Janusirasana during my cool-down session, especially after a heavy leg workout. It’s an excellent way to allow your muscles to relax and cool off after exercising, besides making you more flexible. Don’t forget to exhale as your head touches your knee.

Utkatasana

Even though Utkatasana, also known as the Chair Pose, might look simple, it is actually a tad challenging. But its benefits run high! I love any exercise that involves focussing on a distant point. I’ve found that sitting in an ‘imaginary’ chair has helped to improve my concentration and awareness, along with strengthening my thigh muscles and lengthening my back. Do a few rounds of this asana and you’ll also notice that your posture improves to a great extent.

Surya Namaskar

Performed as a salutation to the sun, this practice is, in actual fact, a combination of asana and pranayama (breathing). I like to try and do at least 25 Surya Namaskars every day. Yes, I know, each Surya Namaskar takes at least a minute (if not more to complete, especially when you hold each pose). And sometimes it can seem like too much of a rigorous workout to even get into. But, once I’m done I can’t help but think about how amazing it makes me feel.

My flexibility has improved greatly as has my stamina because it’s much like a cardio workout (expect a bucket load of sweat). I’ve read that it helps every organ in the body to function to its optimum, besides purifying blood, improving blood circulation and the functioning of nerve centres. I like to start off with 10 sets, holding each of the 12 postures for as long as I can. I practice the next 15 using fluid and dynamic movements.

Shavasana

This asana takes me back to my college days when I first started practising yoga. I can’t, for the life of me, believe that I attended the 7 am yoga class at the Yoga Institute in Santacruz, Mumbai! Even today, it’s hard to imagine myself performing a series of contortions at such an early hour. Anyway, by the end of the class, after performing Shavasana, the sleepy-headed me used to enter such a heightened state of relaxation that I almost always fell off to sleep!

Jokes aside, Shavasana—generally performed as the last asana—is much like a cool-down of sorts and has the practitioner lying on his or her back while releasing all forms of muscular tension. There’s not a day when I don’t practice it now (minus the nodding off bit, of course). Whether I’ve done 120 squats or 50 Surya Namaskars, I find that Shavasana is, perhaps, one of the best ways for my body to completely cool itself down after stretching, thereby eliminating the possibility of injuries. I also perform this asana as a pick-me-up when my energy levels are running low on certain days.

* This article is based on my personal experience. Each posture is best explained by your yoga instructor, after consulting with your doctor, should you suffer from any disorders.

French Pavilion at Expo Milan 2015

 

Vegetables, herbs and hops creep through the vaulted fertile ceiling
Vegetables, herbs and hops creep through the vaulted fertile ceiling

Ever imagined a sustainable market place, where food is not only grown and harvested but also sold and consumed under a single roof? Well, looks like this is about to take shape. France’s entry into the Expo Milan 2015 is a pavilion with a ‘living’ roof that will grow everything from vegetables and crops to herbs and hops, and will also house a restaurant and an exhibition centre.

Read more about this reinterpretation of the traditional market place on India Art n Design.

More than just souks and sand

I often find myself looking through photos of destinations on my bucket list. Like the stunning cliff-town of Santorini, the temple city of Macchu Picchu in Peru, North Canada for a glimpse of the extraordinary Northern Lights, Sri Lanka for endless cups of tea on a paradisiacal island, Turkey for its grand mosques and open-air markets—the list is endless. While these places feature on most people’s bucket lists, there are others that don’t usually find their way to such lists. One of these places that I recently discovered is Oman. Here I was imagining Oman to solely be a land of deserts and souks, dates and spices. But this state in Southwest Asia is so much more than that. Think beaches and forts, castles and nature in all its glory. Yes, tourism in Oman is indeed booming, and there couldn’t be a better time than now to visit it.

I first heard about it from a friend who had visited Oman last year. She came back with stories of unspoiled coastlines, dolphin watching, cities with an old world charm and bustling markets. I started looking up imagery and blog posts of this unlikely travel destination only to be surprised at the number of tourists it welcomes every year. Who would have thought really!

Something that really piqued my interest in Oman was its natural beauty, and when I do visit, I definitely don’t want to miss the Bandar Khayran Reserve, given my love for nature and wildlife holidays.

In Oman, it seems like journeys are as interesting as the destination. Even though the reserve is a 40-minute boat ride away from the heart of Muscat, you won’t be bored during the commute, for you’ll be marvelling at the rocky mountainous landscape, the white-washed houses that overlook the deep blue as well as architectural points of interest. And, of course, the friendly dolphin pods swimming alongside your boat!

When you actually reach your destination— Bandar Al Khayran waters— you’ll have plenty to indulge in. Snorkelling and scuba diving reveal a new world of diverse species of underwater life including coral reefs and colourful fish. Oman seems to rank high on the eco-tourism map and it definitely seems like my kind of place, more so, because of the Ras Al Hadd Turtle Reserve.

Thousands of sea turtles migrate annually from other shores to lay their eggs on Oman’s shoreline. I hope to visit between July and October, as this is the peak time for turtle watching. Interestingly, Oman’s waters play home to five of the world’s seven species of sea turtles! Whales also frequent Oman’s shores particularly in A’Sharqiyah South Governate, Dhofar Governate and Al Wasta Governate, albeit at irregular intervals. Still, I’m definitely not going to give this a miss! If it’s your lucky day you might get to see one or two of these gigantic creatures of the ocean.

Besides spending time in the midst of nature, I also like to delve into the region’s history and culture. Oman is an ancient land that’s rich in history. The relics of innumerable forts and watchtowers are evidence of its well-preserved culture. Some forts like Nizwa Fort have been restored with impeccable care and are worth a visit, as is the Jabreen Caste that dates back to 1670. The palace’s frescoed ceilings carry Islamic-era inscriptions and intricate paintings. Strolling through the palace’s many rooms is sure to take you back in time.

I’m especially excited to see the Sun and Moon room, which was used by the Immam as a room for meetings and discussions. More intriguing is the fact that the ceiling of the Sun and Moon room is adorned with Islamic-style calligraphy. The room has 14 windows—seven are located near the ceiling and the remaining seven are at the bottom of the room—that keep the atmosphere cool throughout the year. This ‘natural’ cooling mechanism was devised to allow cool air to enter from the lower windows and to expel warm air from the upper ones.

I believe that the best way to soak in a region’s culture is to see it through the eyes of a local. This might be possible if one were to visit Oman’s many colourful souks that sell everything from incense and spices, to traditional textiles and local jewellery. Alongside Oman’s charming culture is luxury in all its forms—chic hotels, swanky malls, yachting and fantastic restaurants. Beauty has an address and from the looks of it, it can be found in Oman. Here’s where you’ll get all the information you need: http://www.omantourism.gov.om