Category Archives: Healthy Living

Execution is Everything : An Agile True Story


Never in a million years did I think I was going to enjoy teaching/coaching of any kind until a few years ago.

My younger son was in third grade and trying out for the travel basketball team in our town that was know to have  a very strong basketball following. We were there on time and as the tryouts proceeded, I sat by the bleachers, cringing as he under performed. The kid was neither fast nor accurate. After a grueling two hours, we knew he was not going to be picked.

Prior to this, I’d thought he was going to do well. He had a passion for the game and would shoot hoops every spare moment he had. That was not enough for today’s competition. He could have used an adult to have trained him. A personal coach. He needed to be taught the fundamentals of the game and ball handling. Since his father was not around to do this, I decided I had to play a bigger part in making it happen. The boy loved the game and I wanted to make sure he had all the help he could get to make it to Travel the next year.

The Story:

I signed up to coach the under 9  or U9 basketball Rec league for our city. I had no prior coaching experience and did not know the rules of the game, as it was played in America. The last time I’d played basketball was as a sophomore at a boarding school in India. The rules I remembered were different and the terms were completely new to me.

To compensate for the above, I asked the City to provide me with an assistant coach who knew the game well. The city was only too willing to accept as during that time, it was difficult to find parents who were willing to coach.

The two time NBA Most Valuable Player, Steve Nash
The two time NBA Most Valuable Player, Steve Nash

Next, I bought myself a whistle, a whiteboard and a series of Steve Nash videos. The videos helped me with planning out practice and drills. I read about the psych of a male third grader and realized they had to be kept very busy. Their attention span directly correlated to their interest and understanding of an activity. That meant I had to prepare for every minute of practice so our time was beneficial to everyone involved.

The Plan:

The U9 Team.

The first day of practice, I was nervous to talk to this group of white kids and parents. Am pretty sure they came thinking 1. That I was a guy because my name probably did not give them a good indication  and 2. That I knew the game well. Both of which was not right. I was however, straight with them. Their kid was going to be coached by a Sri Lankan, American who hadn’t played the game in over twenty years BUT I had a plan to execute and excel. Parents were going to have a part in it if their child learning the game was important to them. The boys were going to be challenged and have equal game time, no matter how badly they performed.

Sprint and Retro:

We had practice twice a week and games every Saturday. Practice involved drills and plays with suicides for mis-behavior. They were kept busy and worked hard during the hour and a half. That was essentially our sprint plan. Five minutes before pickup, we would talk about what went well and what didn’t. Each kid got 30 seconds to talk or touch base with me later. They loved it. I told them they would grow up and do this when they got a real-world job and they all got a kick from it.

When a kid missed practice, I would send them drill instructions to practice in their garage. Parents were surprised we were taking it this seriously.


None of us expected to win every game but we did. We won all but one game that season with a record setting final game of the season. Not only did they have to reset the score board to 0-0 because we were leading by 30, I am proud to say that every player on the team made at least two baskets. It was the most exhilarating moment of my life to see the satisfaction in both the children and the parents.

Gauge Results:

It warmed my heart to see the mutual respect and excitement that grew within team, coaches and parents during those twelve weeks of games.

That Fall, when my son tried out for fourth grade travel, he blazed through. He made the team and that meant I could no longer coach Rec. I did however discover that I found great satisfaction in empowering others and that with a dedicated execution plan, we end up having surprisingly sweet outcomes.

4 years later, traveling with his basketball team.
4 years later, traveling with his basketball team.

Apologies for the long hiatus

I’ll come right out and apologize for this long hiatus.  Life happens and I started a fabulous new job that allowed me to pursue another not for profit passion of mine.

If there is one thing I have learned from starting this blog, it is that writing takes time, creativity and energy.  I was drained and needed to take a break. The upside is, while I was gone, others have been making progress and carrying our torch.

First among them is the Dark Is Beautiful campaign. With monthly workshops, active blog posts, advocacy for fair representation of the people in media, they continue to do an amazing job from Chennai, India.

Melanie, from Beautifully Brown keeps handing out way better tips than I could.

But most of all, we are hoping that today’s parents continue to instill confidence in their children. Tell your children they are so dark and beautiful!

I also believe that in the last 6 months, there has been some positive activity where Indian designers have used truly dark skinned models. Wooohooo! Read more about it on my next blog post.

Finally this is very difficult for me but I am going to step it up and post pictures of myself, because, thanks to my wonderful parents and family, I’ve always felt radiantly beautiful and parade around with abundant confidence.

That picture you see of me was taken three decades ago. My brother and I were brought up to believe we were great looking people. We know and knew no different.

Let freedom reign! Allow yourself to see the superstar in you! 


YOGA: By the Browns, for the Browns.

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This is Aly, a 20 year old self-taught yogini!

Since I turned twenty-two this year, i’ve really been paying attention to all of my habits. As a birthday resolution I decided to rid myself of 1 bad habit and create 3 new positive ones: workout six days a week, learn how to play the guitar, and learn four new yoga poses per week. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know much about yoga when I first started, but since I’ve been getting my stretch-on. I feel better than ever! Thus, I decided to dive deeper into the practice and learn about the roots. What I found really surprised me!

History of Yoga:
For those of you who have never heard of Yoga, or for those of you who want to know more, it is defined as a physical, mental, and spiritual practice linked with Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain schools. Yoga presumably began in South India and has been mentioned in various vedic texts, the Hindu Upinishads, and the Pali Canon.



Yoga is popular among both men and women, and across all ages. It can be done outside, indoors, in a car, with weights or without.
Yoga has clearly been around for milleniums, even in the western world. Yoga gurus (instructors of the yoga practice) from India introduced their skills in the 19th and 20th centuries and is now a popular and effective form of physical exercise.
(For more info on the history of yoga, check out YogaJournal)


Benefits of Yoga:
The American Osteopathic Association (AOA)  says yoga is a “healing system of theory and practice”. Dr. Natalie Nevins (DO, board-certified osteopathic family physician) lists several benefits of yoga:

1. Increased flexibility, muscle strength, and tone
2. Improved respiration, energy, and vitality
3. A more balanced metabolism leading to weight loss
4. more

Goal of Yoga: 
People do yoga for a multitude of reasons: to lose weight, to achieve peace, to stretch after a workout, or just to try something new. The origins of yoga stem from the need to achieve “moksha“, the Sanskrit word for “liberation”. The way one applies moksha to the practice of yoga really depends on your own philosophy, be it religious or not.  All I know is, practicing yoga every day has allowed me to feel more free than I ever have before.

Yoga Resources:

1. YogaJournal - the #1 authority on Yoga and the Yoga Lifestyle; It is helpful for all kinds of practicers, beginners and advanced. They have their own magazine too!

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2. Yoga U Online – Yoga “University” for aches and pains, chronic diseases, emotional health, wellness, and longevity.


3. Instagram – surprisingly, Instagram is the social media home to real-life yogis all over the world! My favorite page is one by a 20 year old self-taught yogi, Aly. She completed the famous Kayla Itsines workout regimen and decided to teach herself the art of yoga. I love following Aly because not only is she a brown babe with some amazing moves, her leggings and sports bras are cuter than ever. Some of her photos are below!

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 5.03.04 PMScreen Shot 2015-02-28 at 5.04.40 PM



A tribute to my hero

We start our stories with my hero of course. My mom.

A true Cinnamon Spirit girl herself,  she should be credited with all the confidence I have and here’s why….

  • Her ability to follow through.
  • Her sense of loyalty, honesty and  fairness.
  • Her sense of excitement and adventure.
  • Her ability to give generously to those who need and be excited about it.
  • Her ability to evolve and grow younger and stronger as the years progress.
  • Her ability to inspire change and progress.
  • Her ability to love everyone and appreciate the beauty in them.cinnamon-spirit-young-mom

When I was as young as eight I remember my mother telling me how beautiful she and my grandmother thought I was. I was way more dark skinned than my siblings. Thanks to mother, I grew up thinking I was super attractive.

Mother was born into a very respected Tamil family in Central Sri Lanka. This community was cultured but fairly primitive in it’s progressiveness. It continues to be a male dominated society. So much so that she was not allowed to pursue an education beyond grade 8.


Our parents were married in 1958 and lived in a joint family household for a period before my father moved to Colombo. Her cultural exposure most likely started in Colombo with lessons in cake decorating, sewing, embroidery and other vocations. She had a thirst for knowledge that 60 years later has not waned.

As most families do, our’s saw plenty of hardship. Death, riots, disease and disappointment but through it all our mother was one constant rock upon which waves flowed.

She took life by the horns and steered us with firm love. 

Her compassion has changed the lives of not just forty of my siblings and their descendants but countless others who she hosted for various reasons.

She has been more progressive than those who were born into power and privilege. Perhaps some of her strength came from the faith my father had in her ability till the day he died. Whatever it maybe, she was a force to reckon with.

When people say I look like my mother, it makes me happy. I hope I can be half as successful as she has been.

This is a tribute to my biggest supporter and friend…

Kodainayaki Rajeshwari Ganeshan


Tell your children they are so dark AND beautiful

Parenting and coaching are the most powerful weapons humans have. To effect a human mind to last generations is a responsibility we should not take lightly.

This New Year Cinnamon Spirit encourages all parents living in countries that distinguish between dark and fair to use the following terms of endearment when addressing their children.

You are so dark and beautiful.

Avoid and discourage people saying “She or he is dark BUT beautiful”. There are no buts about it. Those of us who aren’t damaged by society, love our dark skin. I for one would never trade it.

You are dark and beautiful. You are fair and beautiful. You are yellow and beautiful. You are black and beautiful. You are white and beautiful. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.

This article is inspired by RohiniMani’s work.

Brown Sparkles Too!

It’s Holiday Season again! All around the world people will be celebrating winter holidays like Pongal, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Thaipusam, and of course, bringing in the New Year (Jan 1st, 2015). If you’re searching for the perfect dress to show off your beautiful brown skin tone, what better way to sparkle than wear sequins!

Mindy Kaling – writer, comedian, star of her hit show The Mindy Project, and absolutely fabulous brown skinned fashionista embraces sequins as well as chunky jewelry and bright colors. Where many women of color will shy away from these kinds of bold moves, at Cinnamon Spirit we think you should be the shining star of the party!  Mindy agrees “I wear all of those things, because I like looking at it. It makes me feel happy and excited to wear it.” In the photo below, she wears a beautiful dress and skirt combination. This scene was from the Pilot Episode of The Mindy Project, and to be honest she looks gorgeous! I love that the kind of sequin pattern on top is so much different than the metallic embellishment on her skirt. From far away, it looks like a dress, but when you look closely we find that Mindy has connected the 60s disco-ball and the Victorian Era in the best of ways. While Mindy’s outfit does technically break the mixing-prints rule in fashion, it is a definitely haute look that I think any brown woman could pull off. sequin

Anouksha, 21 fashion blogger from the United Kingdom has found a way to glitter during finals week. Here, she wears a black bomber jacket from H&M, black stockings, and casual tan booties from MissGuided. Paired with her gorgeous vintage flapper, and stuffed bagpack, she get’s an A+ for style. SONY DSC

I found another stunning gold and black sequin dress from BeBe while looking for my own sequined New-Years-Me Dress. I can’t tell what is more radiant, the model’s deep brown skin or her dress. I’m too focused on how happy she looks while twirling around in it!


So maybe, you’re working for the holidays. You can still bring your briefcase of glitter with you! Katerina L., a 27 year old from Voronezh, Russia wears her sequins subtly. This outfit is a perfect day to night outfit that can be worn at lunch with friends, and then again at office party. Her sweater is also from H&M and her skirt is from Mango. She and her skirt, look delicious.Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 6.21.45 PMMy personal favorite is an Etsy Legend worn by a beautiful Indian Model, Menaka Iyer. She is 23 and from Toronto, Canada. I’m sure once you see this dress, you’ll be dying to have it.  She wore this vintage, one of a kind dress to New York City for the first time. “I had my first mimosa in NYC – Dream come true!” Menaka says excitedly. Although I couldn’t find the dress’s link, I did find that her feather earrings are from Spring and her muted (but also black sparkly heels) are from Nine West. tumblr_ng8w2oIHJP1tg7w7jo1_1280Obviously not many of us can afford to splurge and spend thousands of dollars on a holiday dress (we’re too busy getting presents for our friends and family), so I’ve compiled a few under $50 options:

Lony Women’s Sequinned Party Dress ($39 from
Shining Open Back Long Sleeve with Sequins Dress from (only $33.80 with Free Shipping Worldwide!)

Stay tuned to see what sparkles I picked for my holiday dress! Stay warm this season my brown-skinned beauties!

Our definition of beauty …

At the turn of the 20th century, bronzed skin became the new fashion must-have. Coco Chanel famously got sunburn on a yachting trip, which spurred her acolytes to start spending more time in the sun. Doctors of the day began prescribing sun therapy, which was quickly adopted by the upper classes, as were outdoor sports.dark women

We believe the following have always been standards of beauty that will stand the test of time.

  1. The Happy Confident Smile: It doesn’t matter what you are wearing, how thin or thick you are, how tall or short you are, how rich or poor you are …. A smile that says you are happy with being who you are, tops our list.
  2. Sunshine Spirit: The ability to make others smile is someone with the Sunshine Spirit. This is a beautiful thing. It brings about a beautiful atmosphere of well being to those around you and cynosure to you.
  3. Being Fit: Will you be able to run if there were to be a zombie apocalypse? Human beings were meant to lead active lives. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind and less time at the doctor’s. Studies have shown that one’s skin glows from adrenalin, so we think this is all around beautiful.
  4. Neat clothes:  We think some energy spent on keeping your clothes straight (washed, mended, ironed) goes a long way in adding clarity to everything around you.
  5. Cleanliness : No matter how beautiful you are, if you haven’t showered and smell bad… forget it. You ain’t gonna be considered beautiful.



’tis the season to be brown!

The holidays are coming up, and i’m sure i’m not the only one looking forward to the Turkey, gingerbread cookies, and cranberry sauce! Oh and of course the being-surrounded-by-family-and-friends part is fun

One dish that comes as a side to this season is always a serving of sweet potatoes. They come in pie form, melted among marshmallows, crispy wedges or condensed into soup form.  Whether you like sweet-potatoes or not, there’s no stopping these shape-shifting vegetables from entering your home on Thanksgiving. In light of the sweet potato’s inevitable upcoming appearance on your plate, I’ve decided to  write an article entirely about its skin enhancing benefits. I’m sure there are other ways to make your brown skin glow this season, but I can’t think of a better way to do that right now than eating a big heaping of sweet potato fries.

Jenné Claiborne from Sweet Potato Soul
Jenné Claiborne from Sweet Potato Soul

I first learned about the sweet potato’s skin enhancing benefits from an article on Everyday Health about ten foods that are actually good for your skin. Sweet Potatoes was one of them. When added to a healthy diet, sweet potatoes give you a boost of vitamin A. According to WebMD, people commonly take vitamin A as “treatments for acne and other skin conditions, including wrinkles” (1). After looking into this further, I found  Jenné Claiborne of Sweet Potato Soulan online vegan workshop that provides you with diet plans and so many delicious recipes, many of which are based on sweet potatoes. Jenné Claiborne has been featured in Reader’s Digest,  Vegetarian Times, Shape, and many other publications. She is a beautiful dark skinned woman who works in New York City as a professional chef. She creates recipes, videos, and spreads her passion for a healthy lifestyle. She is a certified holistic health counselor having earned her title from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in 2012.

Jenné says if you want beautiful skin – who doesn’t – it all must begin at your plate. She says you do not have to eat exotic “super-foods” to feel the beautification. In fact she reccomends sweet potatoes, broccoli, almonds, and avocados. She developed her love of sweet potatoes when she was growing up in Atlanta, Georgia. She considers them her soul food. On her website, she has numerous recipes dedicated to sweet potatos, some of which are listed below.

Maybe you can incorporate one of these into your Thanksgiving meal this year:
1. Sweet Potato Burgers with Green Tahini - feeling all-american? try this twist on the traditional beef burger.
burgers hummus
2. Sweet Potato Hummus with Fennel Seeds and Smoked Salt - maybe you want to add some mediterranean into your Thanksgiving, just make sure to bring the drinks to match, Opa!

3. Creamy Sweet Potato Portabella Pasta – Nothing says Thanksgiving like a big Italian family. Maybe you can squeeze in room at your table for a sweet potato, or a few.



Have a Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! Remember to stay radiant and be thankful for your gorgeous brown skin!

(As a reminder, we are not doctors here at Cinnamon Spirit. Therefore we do NOT recommend starting any treatment without consulting an appropriate medical professional first. )