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Oh Lord Nataraja, what do you eat?
- Rama Vaidyanathan, New Delhi

September 5, 2009

'Oh Lord Nataraja what do you eat?' How about these words being the pallavi of a varnam where the nayika asks Lord Siva to tell her the secret of his perfectly sculpted body? Seriously, look at Him, not an ounce of extra fat anywhere. Well toned muscles, sinuous curves, not frail yet delicate, not stiff yet strong. What a wonderful sense of balance He appears to maintain of creation and destruction. Looking at Him, I am inspired to maintain my own balance - of creating energy and destroying fat, of creating strength and destroying weakness.

It's all about balance. About bringing that crucial equanimity in our bodies. About making a friendly pact between boundless energy and controlled body weight. It is a tight rope walk. Lord Nataraja himself balances his whole body on just one foot. By doing this, He seems to be telling us to look for our own individual balances. If our food intake is high, we may have energy but not the tautness and mobility that a slim body would have. If our food intake is low, we may have a slim body that is weak and lethargic. Either way, we are in trouble. The simple solution therefore is to eat the right things in the right quantity.

Dancers need to eat, and eat substantially. We need to constantly replenish loss of water and salts and depletion of muscle fibre. Energy that we burn out, needs to be replaced. We cannot do without the presence of all the nutrients in our diet. Which is why, it is not advisable for active dancers to get into crash diets, where they completely cut out essential nutrients from their diet. Our body is our instrument. We cannot abuse it either by starving or by overeating. We need to keep it finely tuned, well oiled, pain free and age proof. After all, itís the one and only instrument we possess. We need it for a long time, and most of all we cannot replace it.

What do we eat that will give us energy but will not add flab to the body? There are several books in the market and many accomplished dieticians who can advise on a high energy low calorie diet. 'Don't lose your mind; lose your weight' by Rujuta Divekar is a book I would highly recommend. Every one has different constitutions, different history of hereditary eating habits. We live in different parts of the world with varied weather conditions. What works for one may not work for another. However I would like to share some tips on healthy eating that has worked for me. Lots of milk, cottage cheese, curd, fresh fruits and soups. Sprout salads and a daily dose of nuts. Deep fried foods and sweets restricted to once a week. Tea and coffee without sugar and a big No to aerated drinks. A daily measured intake of carbohydrates and proteins and a love for all kinds of vegetables that exist in this planet. I watch what I eat. I eat that which will generate energy and prohibit fat accumulation. That which will create useful cells and destroy useless ones. That which will sustain the cycle of creation and destruction - exactly what the lord epitomizes.

Oh Lord Nataraja, don't tell me anything. For just by setting my eyes on your wondrous form, I know now what your secret is. I know it and will use it to protect this divine instrument that you have so graciously bestowed upon me.

Rama Vaidyanathan is one of India's leading Bharatanatyam dancers. She has been fortunate to have trained intensively under the legendry dancer Yamini Krishnamurty and Guru Saroja Vaidyanathan. Everyone who has seen Rama perform has been moved by her unique thought process and fresh approach to dance. While deeply routed in tradition she has evolved her own individual style without forsaking the core principles of Bharatanatyam. She belongs to the outstanding category of artistes at the ICCR, is a top graded dancer with the Doordarshan and has received the coveted Sanskriti Award instituted by the Sanskriti Pratishthan in Delhi. Rama has been performing for more than thirty years and is one of the most sought after dancers of her generation.