If you have school going children and you live in Shrewsbury, MA, it is quite unlikely that you have not heard of Gauri Chandna. She is popular beyond the geographical lines of the city or the state as well, on account of her multi-faceted and multi-talented personality. She is the Founder and CEO of Aadhaarshila The Foundation Stone (ATFS Learning Center), is a teacher, a creative writer, a model and someone who can definitely shake a leg. But if I was asked to choose one thing about Gauri that I personally find most fascinating, it will definitely be her limitless energy and forever positive attitude. So off I go to meet her to find out more about how she manages a very busy and demanding schedule along with family and social life, remaining remarkably positive all the time.
Gauri and husband Niraj, both are electrical engineers and college sweethearts. They moved to US in 1997 and for a while worked in the same company. Childbirth and then a lay off in 2001 gave Gauri an unexpected opportunity to examine and reconsider her career options and what she wanted to do with her life. The idea for ATFS was born on a friend’s suggestion and took off from Gauri’s basement soon after. The academy catered to a growing demand for enriched learning and is now located in a big building, very close to Gauri’s house.
I throw my first question at Gauri – What does health mean to you? “A relaxed mind, optimal body weight and a positive outlook on life”, prompt comes the reply. I digest the sentence and reflect to myself that this mantra actually sums up the formula for complete health. On the role of diet and lifestyle in one’s health, Gauri thinks these are not only critical but should be personalized as per one’s own constitution and physiology. She cites an example of her experience with carbs. She had always noticed ‘slowing down’ with even moderate amounts of carbs consumption and therefore has minimal carbs in her current fitness regimen.
Gauri’s personal journey towards a life of healthy and preventive practices can convince anyone that it is not too late to start paying attention to their health. Gauri’s decision to take her health into her own hands came about sometime in 2009. After running a grocery store in addition to ATFS, added additional stress in her life during 2007 – 2009. An overextended lifestyle, lot of junk food, weight gain and reduced mobility – all contributed in raising a red flag in Gauri’s mind that action needed to be taken. Her rich exposure to spirituality and philosophy from 2002-2007, gave her the clarity of mind to know that things were not right with her diet and lifestyle choices. With determination, she decided to make fundamental changes in her eating and living practices. Today, Gauri not only religiously follows the changes that she adopted in 2009 but constantly works on making improvements and on keeping it interesting as well.
Gauri’s current fitness regime includes a daily 3 mile walk, yoga stretches, a mile on the treadmill, followed by relaxation and meditation techniques. Her diet comprises mainly of veggies and proteins. With a primarily vegetarian family, Gauri has earmarked her Sundays for mega cooking sessions (as lot of us know), wherein she gets loads of fresh vegetables and cooks for the entire week. Her favorite veggies are – broccoli, mushroom, spinach, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onions and a lot of ginger and green chilies. She prefers to make traditional Indian dishes but is open to experimenting other cuisines as well.
As for her family, Gauri has constantly made an effort to set an example for her husband and her son and the efforts have paid off. Her husband who was overweight until recently has now gone off carbs and has started joining Gauri on her walks. With parents setting up a model behavior, how far can the child be? Ansh is making much better choices in food and lifestyle than previously. The family avoids sodas and candies and processed foods quite conscientiously.
Some other interesting practices that Gauri has adopted to keep herself physically and mentally on track are: sleeping on the floor, posture check and correction several times a day, a nightly prayer before bed to thank as well as filter out the negatives and carry only the positives forward to the next day and what she calls ‘aligning alongside the wall or wall hugging’. She drives away monotony in her regime by designating a theme for her exercise routine. Paying close attention to which part of her body can use ‘special attention for the day’, she pampers that body part or organ through her focused massages, stretches, and thoughts. Being musically inclined, playing music in the background helps keep her daily chores interesting and light. A daily pre-shower whole body oil massage helps keep her skin supple and healthy. And that is an important step in prevention, because after all skin is the body’s largest organ and also the first in the line of defense.
Speaking of prevention, Gauri keeps a sharp eye on any new symptom or changes in physiology or anatomy. If she finds anything amiss in herself or a family member, she immediately starts scanning for a possible cause and if and when identified, tries to eliminate it. Treatment or management is always with herbal supplements, either off the counter or in the form of home remedies. She also uses homeopathy a lot.
As I walk away from the meeting, I am feeling positive – a sure infection from Gauri’s exuberant and bubbly persona. The fact that she has shown a remarkable turnaround from a not so good diet and lifestyle pattern, to being incredibly healthy and fit today, holds possibilities for many in our community who are just waiting for a ray of hope to make that turnaround in their own lives. Gauri Chandna, I hope you become their beacon of hope and inspiration. Amen to healthy people and healthy communities!
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