Food, Science and Yoga

Sport Scientist Karishma Boolani doesn’t give you hard-to-follow diets. She changes your entire food ecosystem and the way you eat.

Books are one of the great loves of my life. I grew up with them and our relationship continues to flourish. Being a bookworm, I had little interest in athletics as a child, but I was always fascinated with the human mind and body and how it worked. Even though I wasn’t of an athletic disposition, my curiosity for anatomy and how body mechanics work inspired me to pursue a double major in Neuroscience and Behavioural Psychology at Melbourne University. While at university, I interned at hospitals and spent time in OTs where I got to witness open-heart surgery, facial reconstructions, breast implants, ACL reconstruction and even an 18-hour neurosurgical procedure.

As a student in Australia, I didn’t limit my learning to science. I did courses in Sufism, brewing coffee, and photography, but the subject that piqued my interest the most was human science, anatomy, and body mechanics. My deep interest in the human body was also a result of my own health, which was far from perfect, and so I decided to get another degree and attended Bond University on Australia’s Gold Coast to study Sport Science.

I came back to India in 2013 and back then, nobody at home had an idea what Sport Science is. I constantly had to explain how it works and why its application is universal even though it’s called ‘Sport’ Science. To create awareness about the subject, I joined one of India’s top sports education companies (KOOH Sports ) and worked to create sports programmes and add a layer of Sport Science to physical education programmes in schools across the country. But, I soon realised that the concept was too nascent in India and that I would have to find a different approach.

Yoga and HUMANICS

HUMANICS is India’s first Sport Science consultancy and I founded it with an aim to apply Sport Science to improve human health, well-being and performance. While I was working on setting up HUMANICS, I started a daily yoga practise as well but this wasn’t my first experience of yoga. My grandfather is an ardent yoga practitioner and still practises at 92. When I was at university, I designed and tested yoga-based interventions for Sport Science. In one study, I implemented a 20-min sun salutation practice as part of a daily cardiovascular conditioning routine. I studied the physiological impact of yoga-based interventions and designed programmes that were extremely easy to implement but deeply rooted in both Sport Science and traditional practices.

I’ve always been exposed to yoga and it was my dream to unite my yoga practice with Sport Science. HUMANICS is an educational consultancy that addresses a variety of factors that affect human ability (physical, mental and emotional). I designed a four-part programme based on Sport Science which includes:

The Food Lab – Human Nutrition Science
The Movement Lab – Human Exercise Science
The Mind Lab – Human Neuroscience & Psychology
The Metrics Lab – Human Assessment Science

There is a deep connection between my yoga practice and the work I do at HUMANICS. This interconnectedness is especially evident in the way that I think and feel about food. Yoga asanas work to strengthen every part of our internal machinery. It is a practice that affects body, mind and emotions as it is impossible to achieve any state of health without an intelligent balance of all three. Food plays an essential role in keeping the body and mind healthy and any yoga practitioner will affirm that nutrition is a necessity for asana practice. In Ayurveda, food is even classified as per a person’s dosha (constitution).

The Food Lab at HUMANICS follows the same principle. We create nutritional interventions or programmes and training that suit an individual and work best for a specific individual’s mind and body. We study the elements of food and each ingredient to find out how it impacts the human body. Once we classify the best ingredients or superfoods, we research ways to source the most superior quality of these ingredients and even educate our food partners on how to grow and supply the food so that its nutritional value remains intact. For example, we make our own ghee with milk from only grass fed cows. We work with local farmers and teach them sustainable methods to grow food. Once these ingredients come to us, we work with a team of chefs to design healthy recipes using these superior ingredients.

We don’t prescribe diets. We change your entire food ecosystem and the way you eat. Once we develop recipes using ingredients that are good for you, our team will then train your home cook, chef (if you’re a business owner), or institution (schools, cafe, etc.) on how to use superior ingredients and create food that’s suitable for your well-being.

HUMANICS is based on Sport Science but it applies to everybody. I was never an athlete, but I know that to play sport, an athlete needs her mind and body to function at its optimum capacity. I want everyone and not just athletes to benefit from Sport Science and I hope to create this positive change with HUMANICS. We apply Sport Science to achieve optimal human health — in body and mind

To give you a taste of what we do, I’ve shared the recipe for Harra Bharra Kebabs. It’s one dish with three recipes. Why? Because I designed the recipes to suit your dosha.

Harra Bharra Kebabs

Base Recipe for Harra Bharra Kebabs

Spinach: 1 bunch
Almond flour: 6 tbsp
Grass-fed cow ghee: 2 tbsp
Churna mix (as per your dosha): 1 tbsp

Vata Churna

Whole fennel seeds: 1tbsp
Whole coriander seeds: 1tbsp
Whole cumin seeds: 1tbsp
Ground turmeric: ½ tbsp
Ground dry ginger: 1tsp
Himalayan pink salt: 1 tsp
Asafoetida (also known as hing): ½ tsp

Grind together using a coffee grinder.

Pitta Churna

Whole fennel seeds: 1 tbsp
Whole coriander seeds: 1 tbsp
Whole cumin seeds: 1 tbsp
Ground turmeric: ½ tbsp
Whole cardamom seeds:½ tbsp
Chopped fresh or dried mint leaves: 1 tbsp
Ground ginger: 1/4 tsp
Ground cinnamon: 1/4 tsp

Grind together using a coffee grinder.

Kapha Churna

Whole coriander seeds: 1 tbsp
Whole cumin seeds: ½ tbsp
Whole fenugreek seeds: ½ tbsp
Ground ginger: ½ tbsp
Ground turmeric: ½ tbsp
Ground cinnamon: ½ tbsp
Ground clove: ½ tsp
Whole black peppercorns: 1/4 tsp

Grind together using a coffee grinder.

Method

Wash spinach. Blanch the spinach (boil, then cool over ice) and squeeze excess water. Blend into fine puree in a food processor and transfer to a bowl. Add almond flour until a dough-like consistency is formed. Add churna mix as per your dosha. Divide the mixture into 45 gm balls and shape into tikki.

Add grass-fed cow ghee to a non-stick pan. Dip the tikkis in almond flour and sear in the ghee till golden brown. Serve with grass-fed cow ghee mixed with chilli powder or Greek yogurt mixed with pink pattaya.

Mumbai-based Karishma Boolani is a Sport Scientist and the Founder of HUMANICS.

February 18, 2020
Photos Simon Meier

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