Having spent her formative years in Hong Kong and London, Ecuador-born Nikita Ramchandani was well on track towards a fruitful career in finance: After graduating at LSE and Columbia in Mathematical Finance, she worked at Morgan Stanley in New York for five years. But not long into her role, the long hours and sedentary nature of the desk job began to take its toll, kickstarting a passionate lifestyle overhaul.
“I got into all sorts of training, circuit training, interval training, just to get my body moving from sitting all day,” said Ramchandani. “I would wake up at 4:30am every day, work out for two hours at the gym, meal plan with friends, do yoga at night, and then go to sleep at 10pm so I could wake up at 4:30am again. I loved it.”
Ramchandani enjoyed developing her healthy lifestyle so much, in fact, that she decided to move back to Hong Kong, a place where she grew up, to set up her own yoga studio, Kita Yoga, which officially opened at the start of the year.
But Ramchandani didn’t always have her mind on yoga. “I had this misconception of yoga being very spiritual, and kind of woo-woo or out there, so I never really got into it, but when I did, I felt great! Physically, it is challenging and I think people underestimate that.”
As she delved deeper into the world of fitness, yoga returned into her life from being just a brief interest in college to a leading force in her wellness journey. “Yoga was more like my rest day, but it wasn’t until I saw the benefits of it, both from a mindfulness standpoint and how it was changing my body that I started to get really interested. I started taking teacher training just to understand deeper what it was doing for my body.”
Ramchandani shares with us how she keeps the momentum going in her fitness journey:
I became a trainer… around two years ago. I was still working in finance. Training really changes your perspective on things. You realise that you have such a flipped idea as to what’s important in your life, and so when I saw the benefits that it had for me, that’s when I decided that I wanted to provide people with an experience — curating a class and holding a space for other people and seeing how it affects them, is what made me want to teach. This space, Kita Yoga, was more to create a community, where people can get a holistic view of the practice of yoga — from restorative yoga to introducing people to yoga’s sister science, ayurveda, and not necessarily with just myself teaching it.
My fitness philosophy… is all about how I feel. I think that a lot of people focus a lot on aesthetics, which I understand completely, but for me it’s how I feel. You feel good when you bring everything together. If you’re just working out all the time but not complementing that with rest or good food, I don’t think you’re getting the full benefits [of exercise].
The key to staying motivated… is to make the small changes rather than shocking yourself and coming back from that. When I first started getting into fitness, you get frustrated when you don’t see anything happening, because you have an image of how you want to be. Focus on it as a lifestyle — it’s not about ‘this moment’ or ‘dry January,’ because you want this to be a long term thing for your whole life. What keeps me motivated is when I notice how I feel, when I’m doing things for myself that make me feel good. When you are able to benefit from it, you will [naturally] want to do it yourself, without it becoming such a pressure.
When I workout… before and after class, I usually go through some breathwork, or some quick seated meditation, just to get people grounded. In cities like Hong Kong and New York, people are always running all over the place and you just need to get them into the practice and into the setting, into their bodies, and get them that focus and energy.
My workout schedule… varies depending on how I’m feeling — last year I would do high intensity workouts every day together with my friend who is a trainer at TopFit. This week, I’ll teach the 6am class so it’s not really my workout. I’ll go to H-Kore and take a class taught by one of our Kita Yoga teachers — resistance training and weight training is something I’ve brought back into my schedule. Then I’ll take a yoga class or two, just because I’m here at the studio. I totally am over-exerted but I feel amazing.
What people don’t pay enough attention to is… sleep. Running the studio, wanting to take classes for all my teachers to support them, and implementing my own workout routine and eating well at the same time is a lot to think about. You could be doing everything right, but if you don’t have enough sleep, you’ll feel so exhausted.
When I am good, I go to bed at 10:30pm. I create a nighttime ritual so I get into the mode for sleep. I brush my teeth, I take ashwagandha — an herbal supplement to help with adrenal health and cortisol levels — and magnesium before I go to bed. When I’m good, I take half an hour to just zone out. Put my phone and laptop away, keep it outside of my bedroom. I take down my thoughts in a journal because sometimes I think in my sleep. But when I’m not good, like it’s been recently, I’ve been answering emails at 12:30am.
For power food… my breakfast is the best thing ever. I love smoothie bowls. My morning protein smoothie has Fage Greek yoghurt — anyone who knows me knows I love Fage! Super high in protein, I mix it with PB2 powder (powdered peanut butter), collagen protein, and coconut milk. Then I add goji berries and a dollop of coconut yoghurt on top. It keeps me going the whole day. It’s my biggest meal for the whole day, and the rest of the day, eggs, eggs, eggs.
I believe in eating… in moderation. I try not to do any refined sugar — people tend to demonise foods a lot, but I just feel better when I don’t take sugar. Fruits are okay, but everything in moderation.
The best exercise for weight loss is… high intensity interval training, to start. Different things work for different people, it depends on your goals. I’m a believer in cross-training, so if I had to pick one exercise it’d be something that brings everything together. Right now I’m weight training and doing yoga with it — resistance training together with stretching the muscles out after works really well together.
My workout playlist includes… music curated to match the energy of the poses you are doing. In New York, we loved making it eclectic and fun, there’s even hip hop yoga classes, which is really fun, but there’s a line where you question ‘is it still yoga?’ I like to keep the music but still stay authentic to what the yoga practise is. I love Odesza, Years & Years, Marian Hill, sometimes I play French rap, like PNL — and I’ll definitely play Drake, why not?
Kita Yoga, 1 U Lam Terrace, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, +852 5323 1978, kita-yoga.com