I didn’t have a fever for the last thirty years says Prof. Dr. H.T. Sreenivas, coming from a Wrestler’s family

Co-Authors: Venkataraman Ramachandran / Sumanth Shampur

Full Length Interview with Prof. Dr. H.T. Sreenivas on physical fitness.

As we go into the next episode of Health & Fitness talk on Physeek Cafe, Dr. Sreenivas talks about his personal diet and fitness regime. You can rest assured of some fascinating insights that will come out as part of this discussion.

Can you tell us what is your daily diet regime – What is your intake as part of a daily diet, Let’s say how would it be when you get a cold or fever – Everyone is kind of curious to know as to how doctors would treat themselves in such scenarios

Dr. Sreenivas gives a right smile here and quotes that he hasn’t had the feeling of a fever for the last 30 years or so.

Importantly, my regular diet principle is to have a quantity of food sufficient enough to satisfy my hunger along with the required amount of water needed every day. My diet is mainly Ragi and less rice. I eat a lot of Badam (Almonds) and regularly intake goat meat, country chicken, fruits, sweets and so on, all within its limitations.

Physical exercise is a main part of the daily routine in addition to diet – Surya Namaskaara is something that I do every day. I can recall having started exercise from the age of 15.

Now comes an interesting anecdote from the doctor – I belong to a wrestler family and both my father & grand father were wrestlers. Remember me also having the experience of rolling down in the red soil at the “Akhadas” (training centre for wrestlers) during my younger days. He recommends the younger generation to go to Akhadas instead of Gymnasiums

Let’s get into a little more detail on the wrestling anecdote, probes Vijay. You come from a family of wrestlers, who are considered to be people of mammoth strength. There is a perception that intake of food by wrestlers was quite huge, maybe not now, but in olden days. Now, have you followed any fitness regime associated with wrestling during your younger or youth days?

During my younger days, I remember that we had our own poultry (not caged) farm with around 50 odd types of chicken. Besides, they used to supply different varieties of birds from veterinary hospitals. My fancy was mainly around fighting cocks. There was a practice those days wherein a rooster was cut about the time when it would grow into an age of maturity.

Having had multiple varieties of chicken/birds in our poultry, I can remember that there were 2 types of chicken, all of whose eggs laid for a period of 2 years were consumed by me and I used to have them raw almost on a daily basis

Not to be missed out, I used to drink a lot of milk as well every day.

The focus now shifts back again to exercise and Vijay asks – Is there a particular exercise that you stick to – For e.g. You mentioned Surya Namaskaara?

I will tell you something that I do every day right from the age of 12, which was when I entered the wrestling Akhada having red soil, Dr. Sreenivas responds in detail.

My elders taught me a very good exercise – Dhanda (a variety of push-ups which is slightly more complicated, also called the wrestlers push up) and Baithak or Baski (again a variation of Squats or Sit ups). My current routine is to start with 1 Dhanda & Baithak each and then go on until 5 increasing the number by 1 every time. The routine would continue again by reducing the count back from 5 to 1 by 1 Dhanda & Baithak each. Doctor refers to the gradual increase and decrease of count from 1 to 5 & 5 to 1 as “Aarohana” and “Avarohana” respectively. Now, that would make it 30 Push ups and 30 Squats/Sit ups. He goes on to add that the numbers used to be much higher in his younger days.

Additionally, Dr. Sreenivas starts to explain the importance of “Kukkutasana” (Rooster posture). The relative example mentioned is about the aged ladies working in farms wherein they follow this posture while working and also keep moving in the same posture. He calls Kukkutasana the “Grandmother of all exercises” which if done can avoid any kind of pain. Such exercises would ensure that people are never overweight or obese which was a rarety in the olden days. Unfortunately, today’s generation seems to be obese in their teenage and one main reason is due to wrong food habits.

Dr. Sreenivas goes further into elements of food and principles of taste

Sarva rasa abhyasam – Balya Kara (Good health / fitness)

Eka rasa abhyasam – Dourbalya Kara (Lacking in health/fitness)

Eating only one type of rasa always, for e.g. eating only rice is a sign of Dourbalya Kara. One should have things of different varieties or taste (E.g. Wheat, Ragi, Seasonal vegetables, fruits and so on).

Principles of taste (Rasa):

Madhur – Sweet

Amla – Sour

Lavan – Salty

Tikta – Bitter

Katu – Pungent Kashaya – Astringent

He adds – One must be very careful in the amount of Tikta & Kashaya that he or she takes. The proportion of quantities should be ideally based on how they are described in the old Ayurvedic texts (“Samhitas”). Nowadays, there are a number of new medicines added into the umbrella of Ayurveda which if not taken in the right proportions can affect the body. For e.g. During the treatment of Diabetes, excess proportion of Tikta rasas can definitely reduce sugar, but leave the patient emaciated and also affect the Dhatus.

Sapta (7) Dhatus

Rasa, Rakta, Mamsa, Meda, Asthi, Majja and Sukhra would be plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, bone marrow and reproductive fluid respectively.

It is clearly mentioned in the Ayurvedic texts that excess amounts of Tikta and Kashaya can lead to dreaded diseases (E.g. Pakshaghata – Paralysis). One has to be extremely careful with the intake of astringent and bitter medicines. Yet another example is Triphala (with Karakaya or Haritaki in it) consisting of astringent rasas along with the other rasas which can be harmful when given to pregnant ladies because of the Kashaya (Astringent Rasa). The same is beneficial when given to a newborn infant wherein it is rubbed, made into a paste and given for the baby to have a lick. So, there is a difference when the same rasa is given to the baby after it is born and to the mother when the baby is still in the womb.

How long can a person perform Kukkutasana – Grandmother of all exercises ? Can it be practiced every day ?

Yes, It can be practiced every day. One can do any exercise depending on his strength and capability. Ideally, the onset of sweat when doing the exercise indicates that half of energy has been used up. Hence, It is fine to continue for another half after the onset of sweat, when it would mean that full energy is probably exhausted or used up.

Anyone indulging in rigorous exercise needs to consume a lot of ghee.

Is there a limit to which a person can push his body as far as physical exercise is concerned – Any sort of threshold defined to which a person needs to stick to?

Threshold would depend on one’s capacity and amount of practice put in the past. One also needs to keep the age factor in mind when doing exercise.

Vijay concludes the wonderful interaction that provided a lot of insights by giving a T-Shirt (as a token of appreciation) from Physeek fit team to the Doctor for the interview and time spent in answering all the questions in detail.

Reference

Ayush booklet launched as part of the international yoga day by Ministry of Ayush, Government of India.

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