The South African Performance Expert Who Blends Biohacking, Biomechanics, Body, Mind, Relationships, Environment & Beyond To Optimize Human Performance.

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shayamal vallabhjee
Lifestyle, Podcast, Recovery, Sleep

I first met my guest on today's show, Shayamal Vallabhjee, in India and immediately became intrigued with him when he sat down to dinner with me and a friend and began to delve into unlocking flow states in athletes through breathwork.

It turns out he has over two decades of experience in coaching professional athletes towards not only cultivating a winning mindset, but also customizing their training loads to their biomechanics and physiology—then optimizing their bodies, minds, relationships, and personal environments to skyrocket their careers.

Shayamal describes his new book, Breathe, Believe, Balance: A Guide to Self-discovery and Healing, as an “out-of-the-box approach” to performance enhancement. It is one part memoir and one part guide to self-discovery—an intimate account of the lessons he learned while growing up during South Africa's apartheid era, from living the life of a monk to traveling the globe with professional athletes. Using his knowledge and experience from the worlds of science, spirituality, and psychology, in this book, Shayamal takes you through an introspective and self-healing journey. From understanding the importance of self-love to decoding the science of healthy relationships to learning to be emotionally present in every conversation to engineering your environment for success, Breathe, Believe, Balance helps you take a deeper look at your life. Offering a scientific analysis of the human psyche and packed with useful questionnaires, his book is your guide to self-transformation and personal mastery.

Shayamal is a South African born sports scientist, psychologist, and high-performance coach. He holds two master's degrees in clinical and organizational psychology. Shayamal's dream of wanting to play sports for the country he grew up in faced an insurmountable opponent in institutionalized segregation in apartheid South Africa. Not quite ready to quit sports, he studied sports & exercise science. After returning from the Cricket World Cup in 2003 (technical analyst of Indian Cricket Team), he realized that, irrespective of one’s academic qualifications and experience, racism was going to be a barrier to growth for people of color. To escape the pain of discrimination, he lived a monastic life for just under four years at the Hare Krsna Temple in South Africa. During that time, he discovered the close parallels between modern psychology and ancient Vedic philosophy. Shayamal has since studied various spiritual philosophies and worked to bridge the gap between spirituality and psychology in an attempt to guide his clients: the world's best athletes and CEOs.

Shayamal is a 4x TEDx speaker, a recipient of the INK Fellowship, the Australia India Youth Fellowship, Men’s Health Trainer of the Year, and Wellness Guru of the Year 2019. He serves on the Global Advisory Board of Herbalife Nutrition, Adidas Running, and the UK Risk Management Forum. He has authored various books on Sports Science and Motivation and lectured at academic institutes globally for more than a decade. As a motivational speaker, Shayamal has delivered more than 350 keynote addresses.

Shayamal has served as a consultant to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, Kenyan Athletics Team, Indian Olympic Association, United Nations Youth Forums, and on the peer review board of numerous academic scientific journals. He has been a high-performance coach or sports scientist to the South Africa High Performance and Women’s Cricket Team, 2003 Indian World Cup Cricket Team, South Africa Davis Cup Team, Indian Davis Cup Team, Kings XI Punjab (IPL), Bengaluru FC (3x Winners of Premier League in India), Jaipur Pink Panthers (Inaugural Kabaddi Champions), and the St. Lucia Stars (Caribbean Premier League). He has been the sports scientist with the Indian contingent at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, London 2012 Olympics, Delhi Commonwealth Games, and 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games. He has worked on the ATP Tennis Tour for six years with individuals like Mahesh Bhupathi (12x Grand Slam Champion), Sania Mirza, Max Mirnyi, Gael Monfils, Marin Cilic (US Open Winner), and more.

In 2012, he founded the HEAL Institute, Mumbai’s first sports science and rehab practice. Currently, Shayamal is the founder of QSV Inspiration Media, a digital content startup, seed-funded by AR Rahman, Shekar Kapur, and Samir Bangara. Shayamal has been featured as an expert on four National Geographic Documentaries and has had his own shows on Star Sports and ESPN.

During our podcast, we explore many concepts in the book and beyond, including:

-Shayamal's journey to becoming a high-performance coach…09:55

  • Grew up during apartheid era of South Africa
  • Wanted to play cricket at the national level, but was unable to due to his race and public policy
  • Cricket Union paid for scholarship in sports science
  • Went from a cricket player to a member of the medical staff for the national team
  • Being a person of authority on the team forced Shayamal to “fast-track” his learning and growth
  • In 2003, he was hired as a technical analyst for the Indian national cricket team (analyzing biomechanics of team and opposing players)

-How Shayamal analyzed biomechanics of athletes to strengthen his team and exploit weaknesses of the opposition…14:22

  • High-speed digital cameras and patches placed on joints to analyze movement
  • Looking for changes in technique, managing chronic injury such as stress fractures
  • This technology has changed professional sports, both competition and training
  • Silicon Coach
  • Prozone Camera System

-A victim of blatant racism, Shayamal reorganizes his life's priorities…18:20

  • Was short-listed for a position on the South African national team, only to realize it was to fulfill a minority quota
  • Bitter with life, Shayamal moved into a Hare Krishna temple where he stayed for 3.5 years
  • Suffered lack of sleep due to the temple's 3 am wakeup, forcing him to adjust his sleep schedule
  • “Discipline is sticking with something long enough to break you before it makes you”

-How systemic failure in the Indian athletic scene led to Shayamal's first entrepreneurial endeavor…22:43

Why Shayamal hesitates to call himself a “biohacker”…28:35

  • The word “hack” has somewhat dubious origins
  • Not trying to “hack” anything; trying to understand the best way to work with the body
  • Respect the body, rather than “hack” the body
  • “Hack” is thought of as a shortcut
  • Understanding the Five Elements to keep the body in balance
    • Water:
    • Air:
      • Breathwork
      • Stimulating parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems
    • Space (fasting):
      • Fasting is the primary form of detoxification and cleansing
      • One of the only principles that are uniform in every religion and faith across the world
      • If sick, food takes energy that could be used to heal the disease
      • Hippocrates used fasting as a form of therapy
    • Fire:
      • Every life form on earth needs the sun to grow
      • Draw energy from the sun via sun gazing early in the morning, or at sunset
      • Sun-ripened foods absorb energy
      • Cooking the food in earthen pots
    • Earth:
      • Eating plant-based foods
  • Understand what you're taking in, and how it affects the acid-base balance
  • Understand the impact of sound on sleep
    • Each room has an ambient sound (35-45 dB)
    • If sound is consistent, the brain will eventually block it out
    • It's the fluctuations of sound that disrupt sleep
    • NIOSH Sound Level Meter app
    • White noise machine in the room, slightly louder than the ambient noise in the room
  • To understand the impact of a supplement on the body, take one at a time; check pH of urine 7-8 hours after

-How to analyze, and then optimize, your personal environment…46:50

  • Two environments:
    • External: Everything you see, taste, touch, hear and smell
    • Internal: Your mind
  • The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Sri Swami Satchidananda
  • 5 states of mind:
    • First two are a direct result of one's environment (external and internal)
    • Third, aware of environment, but awareness he can transcend it if he chooses to do so (cannot be sustained for long periods of time)
    • Fourth, a person can sustain an enlightened state for a long period of time
    • Fifth, so enlightened they change the environment around them
  • Novak Djokovic on beating Federer at Wimbledon: “There was a moment in the game…where if I had any chance of winning, I had to remove myself from that environment.
  • There will always be a time when an environment supports what you are doing, but there will always come a time when the environment does not; if you do not cultivate the ability to pull-out of that environment, you are at the mercy of that environment
  • The external environment of athletes can be broken into two:
    • Work environment: The playing field or the gym
    • Home environment: How they are resting
  • Standardizing conditions while athletes are traveling
  • Take away as many excuses from the athletes as possible
  • Suunto and Firstbeat for HRV and heartrate monitors for team analysis even from 150 m away using digital bluetooth coding to identify each athlete

-Testing blood and internal biomarkers…58:45

-Optimizing circadian rhythmicity and beating jet lag while traveling…1:02:25

-The importance of relationships when optimizing the environment of a high performer…1:05:22

  • Relationship between athlete and coach makes all the difference
  • The better an athlete is, the harder it is to push him out of his comfort zone
  • Help them understand who they are, then what it takes to get the most out of them
  • Coach's job is to keep them pushing when the brain tells the body to slow down
  • The environment inside a locker room is everything for a team's performance
  • People who did not have optimized relationships were the ones who struggled with gut issues, sleep issues, performance issues
  • Two mental states in which an athlete works: Confidence bordering on arrogance and humility
  • The coach is crucial to finding the proper balance
  • Vedic literature – Chronic disease enters the body in one of two ways:
    • Through the mouth; in what you eat, what you drink
    • Through the brain; the quality of your thoughts, stemming from unhealthy relationships

-What new technologies and practices Shayamal is excited about right now…1:11:36

-And much more!


Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

Resources from this episode:

– Shayamal Vallabhjee:

– Podcasts:

– Books:

– Other resources:

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Do you have questions, thoughts, or feedback for Shayamal or me? Leave your comments below, and one of us will reply!

Ask Ben a Podcast Question


5 thoughts on “The South African Performance Expert Who Blends Biohacking, Biomechanics, Body, Mind, Relationships, Environment & Beyond To Optimize Human Performance.

  1. Mary says:

    This was one of my favorite episodes. Ben it would be great if you could have him back to talk more about his Ayurvedic studies. Also what an amazing story that Shayamal shared about overcoming obstacles of racism in his life.

  2. Shelly says:

    Hmm going to give this a try, but do you think Keto diet works well?

    https://bit.ly/2JMq2r5

  3. sam says:

    Hi Ben,

    You are not funny. Try not to make any jokes.

    Thanks

  4. Sarah says:

    Fantastic guest! Would love if you could do a deep dive into the field of German New Medicine.

    1. Shayamal says:

      Hi Sarah,
      The Psychic Root causes of diseases are very interesting. There is enough validated science to back it up and after studying Vedic Medicine, I discovered it’s been understood for a long time.
      I’m often asked about why it’s not spoken off or promoted more often. I guess it could cripple the medical industry and cancer industry in particular. On the same point, how much of modern medicine is preventative focused.
      Would love to deep dive into this with Ben.
      Thanks for writing in.
      Shayamal

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