Medical School, Dance and everything else

‘Praveena, how do you manage Medical school, dance, blogging and everything else you do?!’

I am not going to give you the cliched ‘Time management’, ‘organisation’, ‘commitment’ talk. That is given in life regardless of what you want to pursue.

I am going to tell you how much I struggled. Honestly it was tough. Society prefers me to do one or the other, but not everything. This is because society does not believe that I can do all of it well.

I wanted to prove society wrong. I think it is completely okay to have a passion for multiple things. I think it is also okay to pursue it simultaneously with the right mindset.

Being a medical student (now doctor!), dancer/choreographer, having a small wedding choreo business and blogging sounds glamorous but it involved a lot of sacrifices at different stages of my life.

To pursue my medical studies, there were moments in my life that I had to stop dancing. To pursue dancing, there were moments when I had to put dance over medicine. When I wanted to establish my business, I had to sacrifice my health and well being and travel more between cities (driving two hours from Birmingham to London and back doesn’t sound as strenuous but imagine doing that nearly every weekend for the past year!). To blog, I had to invest so much more time into reading.

To pursue it all at the same time, I had to sacrifice my social life big time…and I still do. I couldn’t go out as much because I would have to be awake early the next day to drive back to London/Birmingham. I stopped watching TV shows for a whole year, because I genuinely did not have the time. The big reminder is, this is the CHOICE I made. Others may not be like that and that’s completely fine. Just remember to make a choice that is true to what you want.

During each stage of this process there were failures and disappointments I experienced. As a result I was constantly being judged for my choices. By several people, but I put that all to the side because I knew exactly what I was doing. It may have not been the way others may have done it, but that’s okay because I am slowly getting through it.

Sometimes the balance has tipped and I have made mistakes. It was not all as smooth as it looks. My health, my education, my dance career, business, blogging have all suffered at some point or another. Nonetheless, finding the drive to get through and find the light at the end of the tunnel was key.

Moral of the story – be ready to sacrifice. Be ready to commit. Be ready for criticism. Make the choices to pursue what you love. You do not need anyone’s permission except your own to do good. So just do it!

The journey has only just begun. Being a student did make it a lot easier to pursue everything I wanted to and establish a strong foundation for my passions. I will start working in a month and a half. Therefore, work life is going to present to me a whole new set of challenges, so I do not know what is going to happen and how difficult it is going be. That’s the perks of life though right…ready to take on the next set of challenges to further establish my profession, passion and everything else.

Why Twitter?

I recently re-started using Twitter after ages!!

When I say re-started, yes I mean it. I used to be an ardent fan of Twitter back when I was in 1st and 2nd year of university. Towards the end of 2nd year/beginning of 3rd year my use of twitter waxed and waned and I completely stopped using it. I’m in my 6th and final year of university (at last!!) and I have jumped back onto the Twitter bandwagon. This time however, the purpose of it is very different!

I had a personal twitter account when I was 19/20 years old, which I used for several purposes. Predominantly it was to share my personal emotions and feelings about certain situations – yes, that whole phase in life where social media was used to indirectly (or directly in some cases) target people who we felt had hurt us (looking back I cannot stop cringing!).

Now, 4/5 years later, I am older and wiser. I am slowly on a mission to find my purpose, which means I want to aid people in any way possible to do that. This was my reason for changing the way I started to use social media.

It started with Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and now Twitter. I wanted to use it as a platform to share wisdom and motivation. Therefore, with a new Twitter profile, I decided to begin this new journey. Why? Because we are all in this game of life together. We need to grow together which means we need to help each other out.

Now that I have started using Twitter a lot better, I feel like I am learning more and contributing more to the world of wisdom, which is exactly what I wanted to do.

For those who want to follow me on Twitter, it’s @PraveenaUK 😄

Your Lunch Break

I am sat in my hospital library having just finished a wonderfully refreshing book by Laura Archer called ‘Gone For Lunch – 52 Things to do in your lunch break’.

I have not started working yet but I know that when I do, I will do my level best to ensure I invest at least a good 10 to 15 minutes for lunch – (based on what my friends, who now work as doctors are saying, getting a 5 minute lunch break is a blessing; so let’s see what work life has in store for me!).

Reading this book made me really think about how important taking some time out to invest in ourselves is, especially during a long working day.

How many of us truly give ourselves a well-earned lunch break? We try to multi-task by doing admin jobs whilst eating, we scroll through our phones whilst we eat, or we do not give ourselves an opportunity to eat at all. We get so focused on having to finish work on time that we think working through our lunch break will enable us to do that.

The impact of not giving ourselves a lunch break can be negative on the quality of work and the quality of our health.

We are all entitled to a lunch break. I do not think there is any professional work-place that expects us to work for 8 to 12 hours constantly. So why do we expect that for ourselves?

For us to work productively, we need to have a break. Giving ourselves a fun activity to do during that break will make us look forward to the break and ensure we take it (even if it is for 15 minutes). It also means we return to work after our lunch break, with so much more energy and our productivity will increase. This in turn will make us enjoy work that much more, because we are not tired and we are not hungry.

Remember, we are humans. Not robots. We are entitled to a lunch break so why deprive ourselves of it?

Work. Break. Work – a cycle of full enjoyment!

What is prayer?

Many of us invest a lot of time into prayer, and many of us do not. That is a personal choice and there is no right or wrong about the need to have to pray. However, a statement in a book I read recently made me think a lot deeper about what prayer actually is:

‘Prayer is about [focusing] less on ourselves and more on others’.

I found this statement very interesting indeed and made me realise the difference between meditation and prayer – both of which I do practice.

Meditation enables me to focus on myself. It is all about me and bringing my energies back to neutral. When I pray, I pray to focus on the world around me and makes me aware of those closest to me.

So does prayer have to be considered a religious practice? Absolutely not. Praying has always been associated with religion and there is nothing wrong with that at all. I do nonetheless believe prayer does not always have to be a religious practice. Our thoughts of well-being for others is a form of prayer isn’t it not?

Prayer I think is a practice for humanity to focus, love and grow.

I pray for love across the world!

Late Night Musings

It is 00:19. I have not been blogging in a while, so when I did get into the swing of things today I could not stop myself.

I do think a lot. My thoughts can be my biggest strength and my greatest weakness. However, blogging is a way in which I have started to become more aware of my thoughts.

The struggles and challenges are not a reflection of me. However, the way I deal with them is a true reflection of me.

I constantly face physical, mental, emotional and spiritual difficulties in life. I could be an individual who looks at these challenges as my own failing in life. However I am so proud of myself. Each of these challenges is an indicator that I do not like playing it safe. It is a sign that I am trying! I like doing things that push me and take me out of my comfort zone.

Every day, week, month and year I make sure to strive higher than the previous. Others may not see any growth or difference, but I see it constantly.

With every patient I talk to, every book I read, every blog I write, every dance cover I do, every competition I take part in, every performance I do, every day I survive, I am growing into a better person. This is all taking me one step closer to being the best version of myself.

My hair care routine

I get a lot of enquiries about my hair care when people meet me in person, or via social media. I honestly do not do much, but whatever I do is tailored towards long lasting healthy hair, especially because I have never always had amazing hair. Even now, I have areas of thin/bald patches which have slowly been getting better over time.

A lot of the habits I have acquired are from my mother. She has amazing hair, *touchwood*. I have grown up practicing the following natural rituals which have actually helped my hair grow healthily and long. These have worked wonders for me, but everyone’s hair type is different so I cannot guarantee it will work for you, but nothing beats staying natural!

1. I wash my hair no more than twice a week. Washing my hair too much makes it very dry and increases the chances of me developing dandruff which then increases hair fall. So I usually wash my hair once or twice a week max.

2. Before I wash my hair, I make sure to massage coconut hair oil into the roots of my hair and my hairline. Ideally I would do this the night before I wash my hair, but sometimes due to busy schedules this may not be the case. Even if I do this one or two hours before washing my hair, I see the benefits. The oil has helped me fight off a dry scalp. Putting oil is one thing but actually massaging it into my scalp is what I believe has stimulated hair growth.

3. I use as natural of a shampoo as possible. I’ve started realising that the shampoos with loads of chemicals or are nicely scented actually dry my scalp a lot more. I’ve been using a coconut-based shampoo recently which my mother got me. It is slightly pricey but it has been brilliant for my hair.

4. I do not blow-dry my hair. I’m scared of blow-drying my hair! The moment I have washed my hair I soak up excess water with a towel and then let it dry naturally. I really don’t think that deeply about having to go out with wet hair. It is not the end of world!

5. I do not straighten, curl or dye my hair. I’ve been against using heat products on my hair. I have seen so many girls around me who started off with voluminous hair and then lost the volume over the years due to heat and dying products. I’m quite comfortable with my hair as it is. Sometimes it is a mess, but whatever. I’m comfortable and that’s all I care about.

6. I do trim my hair from time to time. I was so bad at this, I will put my hands up to it. I love my long hair and I would go months/years without cutting it. My mum would look at my hair and tell me off in tamil because according to her my hair would go through periods where it would look like a ‘rat’s tail’! (No offence to a rat’s tail of course). She nagged me a lot and once I did cut my hair, I realised how healthy my hair looked then looked.

7. I aim to drink plenty of water and have plenty of fruits, veg and protein. Many individuals forget that the health of our skin and hair is a direct reflection of the food and drinks we consume.

My mother is a woman who is 50+ years yet her hair is still so voluminous, full of colour and health. I have been religiously following her advice about hair care because I have never had the best of hair. When I am her age or more, I want to have healthy hair so the process to get there starts now.

Hope you found this useful! 🙏🏾

How I deal with my mistakes and failures

I took part at The Bhangra Showdown 2018 on Saturday 3rd February 2018, which took place at the Genting Arena, NEC, in Birmingham. This explains why I have been so quiet on all social media platforms; having to balance studies and full time Bhangra training is extremely tough.

Now those who follow me closely, will be probably remember that Kings of Gaana 2017 was meant to be my last official university dance competition. This is partly right. I was very much done with the university dance competitions. However, over the Christmas holidays, I got a phone call from my ex-jodi/captain who explained to me how they have had one female dancer dropout and would love to have me join the team from mid-January onwards. Something made me say yes straightaway. I have always known how strenuous Bhangra training is, yet I do love it so I said yes.

I had around 2 weeks to learn the routine, formations and get my stamina up to a performance level. Challenge accepted.

Some may be thinking, why would I go into the Bhangra competition scene again after having such a successful year in 2017 at The Bhangra Showdown. Well, my success should not be measured by my achievements. Instead my success should be measured by my journey and experiences, which ultimately contribute to my growth. I did not want my ego to take over. Every year I do Bhangra, I learn something new technically or culturally. Why would I want to stop that process of learning merely because of two trophies myself and the team received last year?

Looking back at the past 2 weeks, they have been the most stimulating, challenging and demanding two weeks, physically and mentally. However, I could not have asked for a better opportunity to grow, learn about myself and meet genuine life-long friends.

Our university has had an extremely successful year for the past 6/7 years – either placing 1st or 2nd. This year was definitely not one of them. We did not win, but most upsetting was that we did not even place. Our team not placing did not hurt me as much to be honest, because I always tell myself everything happens for a reason. However, what was bugging me for some time was whether I was responsible for it. The captain, co-captain and I were responsible for setting up markers on stage for the performance. Long story short, we messed up. The stage dimensions we had set up were a lot bigger than those that we had practiced on. This meant that throughout the performance we were travelling a lot further across stage which ultimately had a knock on effect on our energy levels.

The old me would have cried and sulked about this and I would have held myself responsible for the rest of my life. Such a way of dealing with mistakes and failure is not the right way at all.

I am now wiser. Therefore, my approach to this situation was a whole lot different. I told myself the following:

• These things happen on stage and it is unavoidable. I tried my best there and then to rectify the situation to the best of my ability.

• I am a performer, the number of competitions and performances I have done; the number of mistakes I have made – none of this stopped me from recognising my potential as a dancer, so why should this isolated situation do that?

• We practiced stage set-up numerous times and nothing of the sort happened before, so it happening on the night of our performance was just a bit of a shock to the system but it made me realise that this is what performing is all about.

• The reality of performing really hit me. Therefore, next time I do perform I will make sure to fight back stronger and trust me any mistakes I have made will never happen again. This is a promise I make to myself.

• The mistake, our failure as a team, does not make me or my team bad dancers at all. In fact, looking back at how much this team has gone through, I do not think the UK has seen an emotionally or physically stronger team before, and trust me on that because it is my 7th university dance competition team I have been part of.

What have a learnt about myself?

1. I have grown mentally and physically. My perspective of my mistakes and failures is more positive. I see the opportunity and potential for growth in each of these events. This is an ultimate reflection of my spiritual growth. I love it, and I feel so much more awakened.

2. People may be judging me – ‘Praveena is a perfectionist and performer, so how could she make such mistakes?’ Well, believe it or not folks, I am human which means I am allowed to make mistakes as any other human is. I have no need to judge myself based on others’ judgments. I used to be a perfectionist, but I realised that perfectionism is not good for my well-being and it restricted me from opening my mind to the realities of life.

3. My mistakes do not define me. How I deal with and grow from my mistakes is what defines me. I promise myself that I will not make, or let anyone make such a mistake like this ever again.

4. I have the mental and physical strength to learnt strenuous routines in such a short space of time. I never thought I could get on stage with very little training time, but I realised that I actually could – this achievement is more precious to me than any win, trophy or accolade.

I am a strong human being. The competition is done now, so I can fully focus on dedicating my passion for dance to myself, all of you and most importantly to God.

Judgements – A Default Weakness

We have judged, and remain to judge. This may come in the form of judging others. However, more often than not we judge ourselves, and we are not even aware that we are doing it.

We judge ourselves based on the judgements others pass on us. Let me give you an example of this from my own life. I have several relatives who have made sweeping judgmental statements about me. This, at one point, tore me apart. One day I looked in the mirror at the girl staring back at me and told her, ‘You are not a bad human, your way of approaching life maybe different to many you know, but that’s okay. You do not have to conform to another’s norm. You need to find your own norm, for which you need to find yourself and be comfortable in being the person that you truly are.’

I have also had moments where I have not had the confidence to say ‘No’ to certain situations, just because of the fear I had of being judged. This brought upon me a lot of mental clutter because I did not know what I truly wanted out of life, I was just floating around and getting by life. I started losing focus on my goals and passion, and most importantly myself. This began to change for me when I separated myself from my own judgments. I accepted myself for the person I am. I am an introverted person, who is very task orientated. I do have a social life and that social life for me is dance rehearsals/training – I am not ashamed of admitting it anymore. Yes I do take time to just not think about anything medicine or dance related: once in a blue moon. I do it to re-nergise myself when I do get back into Medicine and Dance modes the following day, and not to escape that life I have chosen.

Anyone can be and do whatever they want. I will not judge, neither will I judge myself. By witnessing my judgement and taking control of such thoughts, I am one step closer to being judgement free.

This blog is platform via which I am making this promise to myself:

I am me. You are you. I define who I am and who I want to be; you define who you are and who you want to be. Life truly is simple.

Hula Hooper since the day I remember

When I tell people that hula hooping is a way in which I workout aside from dancing, people start laughing.

‘Hula hooping?! Hahah!’

Yes, hula hooping!

Maybe people find it funny because it has always been associated with 6 year old children playing in the playground at school. Therefore it is understandable why they may find it amusing to hear a 24 year old adult hula hooping to keep fit.

This is a short piece explaining the reasons for why I hula hoop so regularly and the benefits I have found:

1. It is super fun! And I mean it. I find going to the gym to work out, or even working out at home an arduous task. Hula hooping however gives me an opportunity to watch a movie whilst my abs are working at their 100% to keep a hula hoop at my waist. It’s so convenient and brilliant because this way I get to catch up on any missed TV shows whilst I am hula hooping – multi-tasking at its finest!

2. It has definitely helped tone my abs. I’m a Sri Lankan Tamil girl which means rice is incorporated into every meal of mine at home. This then predisposes me to developing a ‘rice belly’. By hula hopping regularly, I have been able to keep my abs quite toned and my central control is pretty amazing if I say so myself.

3. For some bizarre reason, hula hooping has greatly helped with my stamina. I never sweat or am out of breath when I hula hoop, but I have realised that when I do spend half an hour to an hour hula hooping everyday, it does improve my stamina quite a bit.

These are all merely my own opinions by the way, and I do not whether or not scientific research has been done into its efficacy.

Ultimately, hula hooping has helped me elevate my mood and therefore I feel so much better in myself.

Do I look like a joke to people?

My recent realisation about how consumed people are getting over social media happened as a result of a situation I was faced with.

Several individuals who have started up their own businesses in the Tamil community, especially in the realm of fashion and beauty, use social media widely to promote their brand. I think it is definitely a brilliant tool to use to promote brands because of how broad the audience is.

However, a recent encounter made me realise how people are getting engulfed by social media, and particularly Instagram. Let me describe what this was. There have been an influx of shoots taking place where several stylists, make-up artists, saree and jewellery vendors get together to showcase their products via photos and videos which can then be shared extensively across social media. I am not criticising the intentions behind it at all, because that is exactly what businesses need to do to promote their brand and help it grow.

What did make my blood crawl (quite literally) was that I was approached by one of these vendors to come along to one of these shoots. I am a dancer and I have been using social media to showcase my dance work. Therefore, naturally I thought that I was probably needed to choreograph a video shoot, or something along those lines. But no… wait for it…

The reason they wanted me there was to plaster all over my social media (my Insta story and insta feed) that such a shoot was taking place, because I have an active followership. They wanted as many people to come together to plaster all over social media, so the shoot could get a buzz on social media.

I was not available for the date anyway so I did not commit to it. Nonetheless, after a few weeks I started to think more about this. This is what cross my mind:

Do I look like a joke? I have built myself as a dancer through years of training. I found it so disrespectful and to be very honest very disheartening that people will do shoots just for social media and to create a buzz. That is exactly how it came across to me. I am all for promotion if the intentions are right. If I believe in a product or brand, then I will of course promote it without a doubt. However, to ask a person (me) who does not even belong in the fashion industry to come along so I can stand around and be on my phone to record and post on my insta story came across as very desperate to me.

I apologise to all those who genuinely do such shoots for the sole purpose of building their brand and using it to build their portfolio. Building a portfolio can be done through several avenues, but it has become so easy to rely solely on social media. That is wrong.

Let me conclude with a message to all vendors. This may come across as a harsh blog. Yes it is. I was hurt. Very hurt.

I love photoshoots, so this is nothing against the industry at all. I have previously modelled for my friend’s fashion line, and looking at all these shoots inspires me to think further about my own fashion. I like engaging with genuine shoots with an intention to inspire people. I do not like engaging with shoots which are merely done for a social media buzz. There is a fine but important line to draw.

Every time anyone does a shoot now, think about why they are doing it. If anyone wants their brand to last, they cannot just merely rely on impressing people. If this the case then social media is being misused. Whatever type of brand it may be, think about how it can be escalated to a level where it is positively impacting people.

Sorry about the rant guys x