Sunday, December 19, 2010

Nutrition For Yoga: The Simple Stuff That Really Works

Recently I gave a couple of 'food for yoga' seminars over in Perth. It was very interesting to me to hear from participants at the start of each seminar and learn what they would most like to know more about when it comes to nutrition and optimal health. Some of the big points that came up again and again (aside from the obvious; what to eat before or after class) were how to stabilise energy, how to improve digestion, and how to deal with cravings. Energy really seemed to be the stand out point - given how busy we all seem to be, especially at this time of year, this makes a lot of sense! In my experience, when it comes to living a life full of 'va-va-voom', regular exercise like Bikram yoga is just the beginning. Choosing wholesome foods in their natural state, and being organised enough to eat them regularly (I'd suggest every 3 hours) is really the key. The best part is that by learning to fuel your body with the best foods for energy you'll also notice your energy in the yoga room will improve tremendously.

With that in mind, here are my top points for creating an ideal 'food for yoga' nutrition plan.

  • Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants
  • Aim to eat 4-5 times per day, including some form of protein at each meal. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a peasant, and dinner like a pauper
  • Choosing a protein and good fat breakfast will fuel and energise you for the day ahead, and may prevent afternoon sweet cravings
  • Eat until you are seven tenths full and save the other three tenths for hunger
  • Include all three macronutrients at each main meal. These are protein, fats (good fats), and carbohydrates such as seasonal vegetables
  • If stress is an issue for you, minimise caffeine and alcohol intake
  • When it comes to real food there is nothing evil. While some choices of fruits or vegetables may contain more nutrients or less sugar than others you really can’t go wrong with food in its natural state
  • Drink roughly 1/3 a litre of water for every 10kg of body weight
  • Use a food diary or food tracker to keep you accountable to the realities of your food choices
  • Examples of good fats include organic coconut oil, olive oil, flaxseed oil, raw nuts or seeds, and low-mercury fish such as salmon or sardines
  • A serve of protein is generally the size of the palm of your hand. Green vegetables can be eaten in up to 2 fists worth per meal.
  • Avoid creating strict rules around food: it’s better to occasionally eat the chocolate rather than spend the whole day obsessing about chocolate and the fact that you ‘can’t’ have it!
  • Quality counts: it’s better to pay the grocer than the doctor
  • Never eat something that is pretending to be something else – artificial sweeteners, textured protein, margerine or butter replacements, low-fat foods in general. Instead, choose and enjoy a small amount of real food as close to its natural state as possible.
  • Minimise foods with ingredients you can’t pronounce
  • Don’t buy food where you buy petrol. Eating on the run is a fast way to poor health and increased body fat. In the same way, it’s not food if it arrived through your car window
  • Avoid getting to the point of starvation as you’re far more likely to reach for low-nutrition convenience foods
  • Eat animals that have themselves eaten well
  • Break the rules once in a while: All things in moderation; including moderation! (My favourite rule!)
What would you add to this list?

Reference: Some of the above points (including the last one :-)) have been updated by one of my favouriet 'foodie' books: Michael Pollan's 'Food Rules'.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Healthy After-Class Car Snack!

Now I know you always follow the rule about not eating 90 minutes before class, don't you? At least I hope you do! Last week I made the mistake of delaying my breakfast until 11am for a 12 o'clock class. Trust me, eggs and bacon (even without the toast) going jumpy jumpy in your belly is not so fun. And there's nothing more frustrating than not being able to do a pose you have finally started to feel that you've mastered - like camel - because you don't want the person behind you to get a technicolour image of your last meal. I'm sure I don't have to tell you I am back to heeding my own advice about keeping pre-yoga food either further away from class, or much lighter in content!

But there is a catch of course, isn't there? Whilst the last thing you feel like doing right after class is eating, the hunger can really start to hit with a vengeance about half an hour later. And if you have a little way to drive, or perhaps some errands to run, you can be left with a dizzy head or - and I'm not sure which is worse - giving in to the temptations of a nearby 7-Eleven.

Solution? Keep healthy and simple snacks in your car. Nuts or fruit are great, but if you have a spare half hour this weekend why not make something more interesting to keep in your car for Bikram days?

Healthy 'Superfood' Chocolate-Nut Balls
  • 1-2 cups of leftover nut meal (leftover from making your own nut milk, but you can use almond or other nut meal as a store-bought substitute
  • 1/2 cup dried berries of your choice (goji or cranberries are the most ’super’ choice). Try drying your own berries in a low-moderate oven with the door cracked – blanch in hot water for 5 minutes first and then dunk in ice cold water to preserve the color. It will take 4-12 hours to dry fruit in the oven, and the berries should be pliable when done.
  • A couple tablespoons raw organic tahini
  • Natural sweetener such as raw honey or agave syrup – to taste
  • A couple tablespoons cacao powder for some truly super chocolate-y goodness
Mix it all together with clean hands – the end result should be slightly sticky. If it’s too wet just add some more cacao or some shredded coconut, and if it’s too dry simply add some more tahini and sweetener. To finish, roll small balls in a mix of cacao powder and coconut. Store in an airtight container in the fridge and enjoy one or two as the perfect mid-afternoon energy boost – one that satisfied the sweet tooth and is truly healthy!

This recipe gives you just a starting point to introducing superfoods into your diet. If you’d like to take a bigger step forward in this area, check out my tasty choc-blueberry superfood smoothie, and stay tuned for more info and recipes!

Not just Food for Yoga - Food for Life!


If you enjoyed this post then please visit me over at my regular blog for tips on nutrition, lifestyle, motivation.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

How To Make Your Post-Yoga Buzz Last For Hours!

There’s little doubt that a great Bikram class can boost your energy, your mood, and even your motivation for the day ahead or the day to come. Personally I love practicing first thing – it’s such a great chance to shrug off that morning fog and get me charged up for the day ahead. But at the same time I love evening classes - they're so brilliant for winding down after a busy day.

Whatever time you practice, I’m sure you’ve noticed how great you feel after class, but have you also noticed how sometimes after a few hours you either crash or simply struggle to find lasting energy? If this is happening to you even occasionally pay special attention to these few simple tips. I guarantee you really will notice more of a happy spring in your step!

1. Consider your pre-yoga hydration

It’s easy to get so caught up in your busy day that you forget to drink enough water for exercise or even for everyday health. If you just can’t seem to get on top of this try setting your phone or computer alarm to go off every hour, or at least 30 minutes before class, and drink a tall glass of the good stuff. If morning yoga is your thing, keep a glass of water by your bed and knock it back as soon as you wake.

2. Learn how to breathe

If you’ve ever tried to hold a pose with your to-do list running through your mind and the weight of your world on your shoulders then it’s safe to say you’ve skipped out on proper breathing. Here’s a tip: breathing is not actually meant to be shallow, through the mouth, and largely into the chest cavity. Take time to breathe properly by slowing down your pace, taking deliberate breaths through the nose, and aiming to generate the first two thirds of the breath into your belly rather than your chest. Try counting to 6 on the inhale and 6 on the exhale as many of our wonderful teachers advise. You can do this both in and out of the room.

3. Adjust your posture

We all know that Bikram is definitely a great way to pump up your heart rate and get those lungs burning but it's not always automatic to think about great posture - even with all the frequent reminders! Try not to determinedly force your way through a posture. Focus instead on holding yourself tall and relaxed (with correct breathing), and take the time to truly listen to what the teachers are saying.

4. Get into nature after class - even for 10 minutes

There really is nothing that can beat a few minutes in the great outdoors. And you know I’m not talking about the smoggy outdoors of the city or even suburban streets. If you have a park or reserve nearby to where you live then make the effort to head down there pre or post class and enjoy breathing some truly crisp air. Perhaps you could consider riding or walking to class occasionally, or taking time to walk through the nearby Carlton Gardens afterwards? Time amongst nature is said to recharge our natural energy fields and rejuvenate our soul. A little over the top perhaps, but hey – if it works it works!

Do you have any questions for me about how to get more energy out of your practice? Or perhaps you have a tip to share; something I’ve missed that could help both me and other readers?

If you enjoyed this post then please visit me over at my regular blog for tips on nutrition, lifestyle, motivation.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

10 Favourite Foods For Health And Energy

Definitely the most common question I hear time and time again is “what should I eat?”. Sometimes it's more specific, such as “what should I eat before or after class”, or “what should I eat to help me sleep?”. I've written about this before but I really don't think it's a topic that can be discussed too often! Today I'd like to keep it really simple, and just share with you my all-time favourite foods for health and energy. They are, for the most part, perfect any time of the day and will serve you well either before or after your practice, or both. Red wine, of course, may be the exception there :

I've chosen these foods because I consider each of them to be a superfood, either due to extremely high nutrient-density, antioxidant properties, or just for the fact that they're super-satisfying while also being really good for you!

Without further ado, here they are.

1. Eggs - nature's wonder food, and yes it is okay if you eat them daily, particularly if they're free-range or organic. Read more on that here.

2. Avocado - a starchy and fatty fruit, but good for you in so many ways! Avocado has the type of fat that will actually help you burn more stored fat, and it will keep you going for ages. I love it on salads, or just plain with real salt and pepper.

3. Coconut oil - boosts your metabolism, reduces inflammation, and may even decrease cellulite. Need we say more? This medium-chain saturated fatty acid works directly on the liver for energy and will NOT be stored as fat. As with all fats, make sure it's organic. Read more about coconut oil here.

4. Organic, grass fed beef or lamb. When it comes to choosing your protein, quality is definitely key. Organic grass-fed meats contain higher amounts of essential fatty acids, and are free of the toxifying antibiotics and pesticides that contaminate conventional meat. Protein is essential for daily detoxification, cell repair, and metabolism. A definite must for all yogis! If you choose not to eat meat, be sure to read up on alternative protein sources and healthy vegetarianism.

5. Organic red wine. Red wine is an excellent source of resveratrol, a heart-protecting antioxidant. Choose organic to avoid highly allergenic pesticides (and because it tastes so much cleaner!)

6. Raw vegie salads. There's nothing quite like eating a huge bowl of fresh, raw vegies to get you feeling crisp, clean and uplifted. Add extra zing with red wine vinegar and freshly squeezed lemon or lime, and top with some goats feta for good protein and fats.

7. Nut butters. Almond butter is a staple in my house - a teaspoon of it is the perfect 'tide me over' snack, and something I often grab if running out the door to Bikram and feeling a little hungry.

8. Raw cacao powder. Carb-free, sugar-free chocolate in it's natural state? The highest natural source of magnesium and antioxidants? Enough said! I mix some with whey protein powder (see below) or with coconut oil as a tasty and satisfying treat.

9. A quality protein shake is perfect for either before an early morning class (just have half), or afterwards when you don't want a heavy meal. This one is organic and also contains essential fats and plant-based carbs.

10. Full fat cream and berries. Organic full-fat dairy is easy to find (even in Coles), and - if you can tolerate dairy - is an excellent source of natural fats and proteins. Eating full fat cream will stave off sugar cravings, and contrary to popular belief eating (real) fat will not cause you to gain weight but will actually help you burn fat! Read more about that here.

For regular healthy food tips check out my Facebook page 'Healthy Food for Busy People'. I post pictures of meal ideas, and day to day tips on simple and healthy nutrition.

Food for Yoga. Food for Life.


Please leave a comment, or send me an email ( If you're keen to learn more about getting the most out of your body then visit me on my regular blog, It's all about how to feel and look amazing both inside and out through correct nutrition and lifestyle.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

How To Have Your Best Class Ever - Guaranteed

Have you ever noticed how tough it is to truly slow down? Life has made us all so busy that it’s all we can do to rush breathlessly from one appointment to the next. Constantly running a few minutes later than we’d like to be and always worriedly thinking of all the other things we could or should be doing.

Or is that just me?

Of course living our lives in that go-go-go mode is definitely something we have control over, and it’s something we choose to do. Like it or not, every behaviour or habit you have – both good and bad – is the result of a choice you’ve made. A conscious or unconscious decision to live your life a certain way, to BE a certain type of person.

Motivational speaker Anthony Robbins says that we’re all motivated by pain or pleasure and I really believe that to be true. Me, for example, I’m an expert at using pain to motivate myself. The pain of feeling like I’ve been unproductive, or haven’t ‘put enough in’ or am not living up to whatever obscure standards of exercise, work and life I’ve set for myself. It’s not the most fun way to live and so lately I’ve been trying something new. I’ve been consciously thinking about pleasure as motivation.
The pleasure of feeling calm. In control. Of challenging myself with only a realistic number of tasks each day and then doing the most important one first so that I enjoy the reward of accomplishment, however great or small it may be. I’ve noticed that as a result I’ve been naturally slowing down. And all of a sudden I’m enjoying life more. I’m present more. Not all the time, but I’m getting there.

How about you?

Have you ever really thought about the benefits of slowing down? For example. Did you know that taking the time to eat properly has more benefits than just not being caught with salad between your teeth? It results in:

• Better digestion
• Improved satiety
• A sense of calm
• The chance to enjoy a social interaction
• Weight loss (linked to improved digestion)

And how about Bikram?

Wouldn’t you like to have your best class ever – every time? I’ve discovered that when I deliberately focus on being present in class I’m able to walk out of there with more than a sweaty glow on the outside. I feel myself glowing on the inside because I know I’ve stretched myself both physically and mentally to the utmost of my ability. Taking the time to listen to the teacher’s guided meditation is something it’s all too easy to forget. Ever been guilty of running your to-do list in your head while in class? Of checking out someone else’s technique instead of focusing solely on yourself? I know I’m not the only one.

How about time with your family? Your loved ones? How often do you truly take the time to listen, to be with them, with no phones or distractions. Engaging. Finding connection.

The truth is that on a hormonal level rushing around all day is one of the worst things you can do. It causes nervous system overload, impaired digestion and breathing, poor energy, and it definitely isn’t so good for your overall happiness is it? What’s more, it’s a hard habit to break. But wouldn’t you say it’s worth it?

The pain of trying to do everything, be everything, remember everything - or the pleasure of enjoying your life? Which one is more important to you? I know which one I’d like to choose.

My recommendation? Don’t try to slow down your whole life at once. You might go crazy! But why not start with your next Bikram class. Take a few deep breaths while you’re still in the locker room. Remind yourself that it’s your time. That yes, there might be umpteen things for you still to get through that day, but that dwelling on them in the hot room will only rob you of optimal relaxation and therefore the ability to get through your list later. And when you do walk into the class, stop. Breathe. And be ready to listen. Truly listen.

I guarantee you’ll have your best class ever.

Food for Yoga. Food for Life.


Please leave a comment, or send me an email ( If you're keen to learn more about getting the most out of your body then visit me on my regular blog, It's all about how to feel and look amazing both inside and out through correct nutrition and lifestyle.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Build A Stronger Practice By Balancing Your Hormones

One of the things that first really grabbed me about Bikram was that it extends so much beyond just the physical. I remember that even amidst the anguish of my first every class I noticed the teacher speaking about how this practice could build a stronger mind, a more determined spirit, and could even play a part in correcting hormonal imbalance - for example, the link between the compression poses and regulation of the thyroid (metabolism-governing) gland. "How could that be?", I thought. "I mean sure, all exercise (in theory) improves the metabolism, but how can a specific pose directly influence a certain hormone."

Being the anal gal that I am, I had to do some research of my own. And - as I'm sure you can guess since I'm writing about it - I found it all to be true. And then some. You see, each aspect of your hormonal system is controlled not just by internal influences (the foods you eat, for example), but by the external as well. Exposure to environmental toxins would be an example of negative influence to the hormonal system.

But the good news is that the very second you enter the hot room, you're assisting your body to correct hormonal imbalance, increase your metabolism, and even give you the building blocks for balanced emotions and improved moods. This practice really is the ultimate inside-out workout, isn't it?! And everything from the heat which works to eliminate toxins to the smallest adjustments in the way you hold each pose has the ability to powerfully influence the way your body responds. That's just one reason why it's so important to really listen to what the teacher says and avoid making your own adjustments. If you can master this you'll start to experience some of the best classes of your practice to date.

Anyway, I'm getting slightly off the topic I had in mind. The point I wanted to make today is that the practice itself already gives you such incredible transformation, but - as with anything - there are always a few simple things you can do both in and out of the room to maximise these results. And why wouldn't you? Balanced hormones will assist in every area of your health, from your weight and energy, to your sleep, your moods, your digestion, your mental focus, your libido, and - yes - definitely a stronger practice.

So with that in mind, here are my top 5 tips for balanced hormones and a stronger practice:

1. Don't undo all your good work by skipping out on proper nutrition. Visit this previous article for tips on the best pre/post Bikram foods.

2. Be sure to get good quality sleep whenever you can. As much as we all have so many things we 'should' be doing, the basis of excellent health and longevity is adequate rest. Trust me - the more you cut back on sleep, the more you shorten your lifespan. If you have to live with reduced sleep for whatever reason (which, as a new Mum, I definitely relate to), then it becomes all the more important to follow the other 4 points listed here!

3. Try supplementing your diet with the occasional superfood such as raw greens, coconut oil, or maca powder - known for it's unique ability to balance hormones, improve energy, and assist in weight management. Just add it to your pre or post yoga shake.

4. Make up your mind that you will, in fact, view your yoga as a 90-minute meditation. Not a chance to revise your to-do list, not an opportunity to play-back at-home arguments or even joyful activities, but just a time to focus on you. The greatest gift you can give yourself is to be present.

5. Supplement your practice with the occasional functional weight training workout. While Bikram does help to build strength, variety in exercise is important, and building some lean muscle is one of the simplest methods of increasing your metabolism and providing your body with the building blocks to healthy hormones.

And if it all sounds like a bit too much, then why not try focusing on just one of these points each week for the next five weeks? I'd love to hear how you go as well as if you have anything to add. Either leave a comment below, or contact me here. Good luck!

Food for Yoga. Food for Life.


Please leave a comment, or send me an email ( If you're keen to learn more about getting the most out of your body then visit me on my regular blog, It's all about how to feel and look amazing both inside and out through correct nutrition and lifestyle.