I first heard about Breakaway Matcha in one of David Romanelli’s newsletters. I remember reading that he used to be really dependent on coffee, and this particular green tea cured him of that. As I’m not that dependent on coffee, and matcha wasn’t new to me, I didn’t think much of it.
But David continued mentioning Breakaway in ensuing newsletters. It piqued my interest.
I checked out the website and immediately loved that Breakaway was based in the Bay Area, which is where I grew up. As I read through all the pages, I tapped into the pure passion that Breakaway Matcha comes from. I learned a lot that I wasn’t yet aware of about the benefits of matcha green tea. I also learned that not all matcha is made the same. All but one of Breakaway’s blends are meant to be drank pure – nothing added. I loved that. So I sent them an email and asked if they could send to me in Singapore, where I was at the time, leading a Teacher Training.
Ever since then, I’ve been obsessed with matcha, and it is without fail a part of every single day. It has changed my early mornings from drowsily dragging my feet to being one of the only bright-eyed and bushy-tailed people on the tube. It has changed my appetite for coffee. If you’re wanting to minimize or eliminate your coffee intake, matcha is the way to go. Did you know green tea is the only form of caffeine (I think..) that has an alkalizing rather than acidic effect on your body?
I LOVE drinking a cup of matcha before I do my practice as it is so energizing and even somehow meditative. Because I teach inconsistent hours, I often found myself feeling drained by the middle of the day, and certainly so by the end of the week. It’s not easy to finish a day at 9pm and have to wake up the next morning at 5am, and then have the energy to teach several classes. With matcha in my life, my energy levels are consistent and more abundant, and no matter how late I have a serving, it never affects my sleep the way other caffeinated drinks do.
I’m feeling long term effects as well, in my digestion and metabolism. Honestly the list of benefits goes on and on.
The reason I prefer Breakaway Matcha is that it is matcha in its truly pure form. I have not found ANY other comparable brand here in London. I’ve tried others, but the taste is completely different; you can even see it just by looking at the color. That said, if you cannot get Breakaway, I think that any form of matcha is still better than none at all. With other brands, you might try making a matcha latte with rice milk.
If you’re in the US, there’s no excuse to not try Breakaway. They offer 5 different grades, so if you’re a bit shy to commit right away, start with Blend 94 if you can afford it, or the Culinary Blend at the lowest price point. Use this code for free shipping in the US: LEAHFREESHIPPING
Outside the US, they are offering a free bamboo scoop and sieve with your order! Just let them know we’re friends
I also love the ritual of making my matcha. It asks you to slow down for a few minutes and take some care in preparing something good for yourself. And this fuels good energy through you as well. xxoo
My approach to cleansing / detoxing is like my approach to everything in life: through the filter of my own experience. This includes asking lots of questions, doing research, and ultimately trying it out for myself…all with as open of a mind as possible. I really encourage you to do the same. There is NO ONE – no teacher, no expert – better than yourSelf that can tell you what is most right and best for you.
That said, I feel we can all learn a lot from each other so I want to share my thoughts and experience with you.
I like to do a cleanse a few times a year. I feel like it resets my system. It gives my organs a break from their constant hard work, and it gives my body an opportunity to recharge so it can function optimally. Yes, our bodies are magnificently intelligent and at their best, they cleanse and detoxify automatically. But this is assuming you’ve taken proper care of your body for most of your life. And even with the very best of care, simply with use and over time, it will get rundown. It’s the same with your car, your computer, anything you use on a regular basis. Your car needs a maintenance check; your laptop needs to be shut down every now and then.
And let’s be honest. Most of us are not taking optimal care of our bodies all of the time. Are you always drinking enough water, eating as clean and holistically as possible, getting all your vital nutrients, exercising regularly? Do you live in a pollution-free environment and never let any chemical substance touch your skin? And how about your stress level? Emotions that weigh you down and drain you out? This can all translate to toxic buildup in your cells, and they say that you are only as healthy as each of your individual cells.
I don’t think it’s about attempting to eat perfectly all of the time or attempting to completely eliminate all stress factors. I don’t think this is actually possible. I do think it’s important to reset and restart your system now and again. Clear out any gunk that may be blocking your cells’ abilities to function properly, so that your system and your energy can flow with more ease and vibrancy.
Personally, I’ve tried all sorts of cleanses and detoxes. I’ve done one-day fasts, ten-day detoxes, herbal pills, juices, lemonades, etc. I’ve also tried all different kinds of eating regimens: pescatarian, vegetarian, vegan, raw, blood type-based, and most recently, my misguided attempt to be gluten-free, though I do not have celiac disease or anything like that. I’ve always been curious to jump on the bandwagon of the moment, and I’ve often ended up very confused and left without much I was allowed to eat.
What I seem to always come back to is the rule of moderation. Balance. I don’t completely avoid tasty foods that I would really derive pleasure from, I don’t live in a state of fear and anxiety over whether my stress level is going to lead to an ill-timed stroke, but I also don’t go to McDonald’s. Ever. I try to learn what my body needs to be healthy: a good balance of the food groups, anti-oxidants, omega-3s, veggies veggies veggies. I don’t think there’s any school of nutritional and health thought that dismisses the importance of green veggies. I read up on what I simply don’t need at all (from a nutritional standpoint): refined grains or sugars, hormone-injected meats, alcohol, caffeine, and generally speaking, anything processed, with preservatives, or exposed to pesticides.
This all feels pretty common-sense to me, and I’m sure most people know all of this already on some level. If you stay on track loading up on the good stuff and keeping the not-so-good stuff at a minimum, you’re likely going to be in good health. Which to me means you’re at a healthy weight with normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, you have a good appetite, you metabolize and digest your foods well, you don’t constantly crave junk food or alcohol, you sleep well and wake up feeling refreshed and energized, your moods are reasonably stable, you can think clearly, you feel motivated, your skin is clear, and you’re not always catching colds. If all this rings true for you – amazing! Keep doing what you’re doing. If not, then I’m willing to bet that a cleanse is going to help get you on track.
There are so many different cleanses and detox programs on the market. (By the way, I personally use the terms cleanse and detoxify interchangeably.) And I think a lot of them are ultimately about big business. So I want you to be smart about what route you choose to go. Do some due diligence, talk to people who have personally tried whatever program or brand you’re interested in…never blindly follow anything.
The simplest option that I think anyone can do is to clean up your diet. I would suggest eliminating alcohol, caffeine, gluten, dairy, meat, anything processed, and anything restaurant-made (you never know how much oil, salt, sugar etc goes into the food). This in and of itself will do most people a good amount of good. Do it for a minimum of 3 days, longer if you can. And just so you know, this is not to say I don’t think you should eat meat. That needs to be your own personal decision. But meat DOES require more effort to digest, as compared to pre-digested foods like fruit, and the idea during a cleanse is to give your body a rest. You’ll primarily consume veggies, fruit, and whole grains such as brown rice and quinoa (which actually technically is a seed!).
A next step up from here can be to add system-boosting supplements such as a superfoods powder, the omegas, fresh-pressed juice (mainly vegetables). I highly recommend getting your own juicer…a slow juicer that presses or masticates if you can afford it. I realize they are quite pricey, so if you can’t get one of those, even an old school one will do you good. It just won’t get as much out of your produce, and you’ll have to drink it a bit quicker due to the oxidization process (from my experience, anyway).
If you don’t have a juicer, you can of course buy juice, but please note that most pre-bottled juices sold in stores have been flash pasteurized, which means enzymes/nutrients have been destroyed, and oftentimes you’re left with a high level of sugar. Buy from a cafe that does it fresh, and ask them to make you a primarily veggie one. Or if you are lucky enough to have a pressed juice company nearby, it is soooo worth it!! I know the prices can seem crazy expensive, but you have to remember what you are getting. It can be 6kg of organic produce in one juice, which might cost $10. You’d easily pay similarly if you bought the actual produce yourself, and when buying it ready-made, you save yourself time. If you’re still not convinced, think about all the times you paid the same – if not more – for a drink at a bar!
My preferred option in cleansing is a cold-pressed juice cleanse. When I lived in Hong Kong, I cleansed with Punch Detox. I also worked with them on creating their first detox programs, bringing yoga into the process. Now that I am based in London, I am obsessed with Plenish Cleanse. I just did their 3-day Level 3 cleanse last week, and I felt – and continue to feel – SO amazing.
Plenish Cleanse uses all organic ingredients, and offers three different levels of cleansing. As I’ve had a fair amount of experience with this kind of stuff, I went for the all-greens level. I put my hubby on Level 1. Plenish delivered all our juices to us, with reusable ice packs in case we needed to travel with the bottles, as well as straws and tips in case of “meltdown”. They offer the best customer service, with their founder and nutritionist personally answering emails and offering support. While on their cleanse, they strongly suggest that you not eat anything, but they know that sometimes that just won’t happen. And so they offer a handful of food suggestions they’ve deemed to be safe and gentle on your system during this process, such as avocado or steamed greens. I have to admit – I was actually pretty hungry throughout the 3 days. Since I’m quite active for my job, I did feel like I needed more calories, and at the end of Day 2, when I was feeling really famished, I had my meltdown and ate some of their suggested solid food.
Other than feeling hungry, I had no negative “symptoms”. In the past when I’ve detoxed, I have had those awful sugar / caffeine-withdrawal headaches, and I always craved the feeling of “crunch”. I remember so desperately wanting to eat a cracker! But this time it was pretty smooth-sailing. I had plenty of energy to teach my classes and to do my practice; the cleanse in no way disrupted my regular flow of life.
My husband on the other hand was not very happy with me on Days 1 and 2. A few times he gave me an exasperated look and said, “Why are we doing this again??” To be fair, he is quite a tall man that works out and runs a daily 10k, so I think he also just needed some more calories. He did experience some uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, namely the headaches, which I always consider a good sign as it means the body is flushing toxins out of your organs and sending them back out into the bloodstream, so that they can be circulated out. (I think he was flushing his mochas out of his system!)
But by Day 3, even he was feeling great. Re-energized, no headaches, and enthusiastic about having done the cleanse. He says he would happily do it again, but would probably just plan on eating a bit of solid food from the beginning, so that he can keep a more balanced level of energy.
For my fellow caffeinated people: As an experiment, and since Plenish allows for green tea, I decided to continue with my daily servings of matcha tea. Another one of my obsessions is matcha tea from Breakaway Matcha. Before discovering Breakaway, I didn’t realize that not all matcha is made the same. I have always loved the sweet green-ness of matcha tea lattes, particularly the ones from Urth Caffe – yum! But now I’ve learned the difference between culinary matcha (which you usually need to sweeten and add milk to to make it taste nice) and pure matcha. Breakaway offers pure matcha, and in a few different blends. Each blend has a unique flavor and character…not unlike the uniqueness of wine! Through Breakaway, I have also learned that not all caffeine is the same.
And look, I LOVE coffee. But I gave it up for a long while a few years ago, because I realized that I was psychologically and physically addicted to it. There was a time that if I didn’t have a cup of coffee on a given day, I was irritable. And when I did my first detox, I had heinous withdrawal headaches. I had also somehow bought into the idea that a real yogi avoids caffeine. I decided I didn’t want to be addicted to or dependent on anything, so I stayed off all caffeine. When I decided to come back to it, I tested myself. Could I have coffee one day, and not another? Could I have it for a week straight, and then not at all? Once I realized I could, I gave myself permission to have this vice. I don’t drink much alcohol, I am a pretty conscious eater, I exercise regularly, so if I want to enjoy coffee, I’m gonna!!
Anyway, what I’ve recently learned about coffee vs green tea is that coffee is acidic (bad) whereas green tea is alkalizing (good). So I happily decided to include my matcha over the three days. To be honest I was at first concerned that I was going to feel sluggish, so I started with 2 servings of matcha on Day 1, and then just 1 serving of matcha on Day 2, and stayed caffeine-free on Day 3. This may be why I had no headaches and a good level of energy level throughout my three days. It was awesome to be able to have the energy boost, without losing any of the benefits of the cleanse. In fact, I believe the matcha added to the cleanse benefits, with its anti-oxidants, naturally detoxifying effects, and stimulation of metabolism. It was a really brilliant addition to my Plenish Cleanse experience.
During any sort of self-healing time period, it’s important to make sure you get plenty of sleep, move your body, and treat yourself to baths and even a massage if you can. Take quiet time to reflect and tune into your experience. I happened to time this cleanse with the new moon, which is an excellent time for getting quiet, turning inwards, and beginning anew.
A week after finishing the cleanse, I feel (and actually am) lighter and, well, cleaner! I have less of a taste for junk food (and believe me – I can throw back an entire bag of kettle chips and Haribo gummy bears!) as my body has experienced the wonderful effects of consuming only super clean stuff. All in all, such a good experience; I really can’t recommend it enough. Whether you do a formal cleanse or just clean up your diet, I am sure you will come out of it feeling better, and at least a bit more aware of what actually works best for you when it comes to what you’re eating.
And of course it’s important to continue on with your good habits over the long term. I’m not saying never eat those kettle chips or gummy bears, but you KNOW it’s not good to be eating them regularly. And you KNOW you should eat your greens. I would suggest picking five really healthy foods that you consume on a daily basis, and stay committed to that as best as you can. This will help keep you in balance. My five things are: superfood greens, home-pressed veggie juice, a hearty protein (usually organic eggs or wild-caught salmon), matcha, and a good fat (nuts, avocado, or coconut oil).
I actually MISS my Plenish Cleanse juices…especially Sweet Sexy Green which is my absolute favorite, as well as the Cashew M*lk, which is so soothing and just delicious. Luckily they offer their juices outside of their cleanse programs, so I will definitely be placing orders between now and when I do my next round, which I will aim to do in about 3 months. (I read once that it’s good to cleanse at the turn of every season, which makes sense to me.)
Thanks for reading…I hope this is helpful!
xxx Leah xxx
a super-thoughtful letter about leaving Hong Kong, which was once also my home… by the lovely Kristi Johnson
I remember when I first arrived here in 2003, 2 months before my 23rd birthday, with my hippy rags and nose piercing. I thought I needed nothing more than adventure and my university sweetheart who sat beside me in the fifty square foot space that was our accommodation. It was only a few hours into the journey when I found myself sitting up at 3 am in the morning, jet-lagged and staring out the window of the 17th floor of Chung King Mansions, questioning why I had chosen this place to live, a place I knew nothing about. Nathan road was bustling, neon signs were flashing, and it didn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. It was a far cry from where I had come from, New Zealand, a place famous for sprawling green pastures and dinky little towns. But I had chosen this, I had been desperate to experience something new, something unfamiliar.
As time moved on I became a victim of sensory overload, dragged around by my eyes, ears and nose. I observed the escalators as they transported the population of 7 million or so in a rapid and chaotically organized flow. The trains amazed me, bursting at the seams with humans from all walks of life; local, expat and everyone else in between. Without a seconds notice I was shoved and squeezed into those trains, bringing a new meaning to the understanding of personal space, and as the doors of the train closed I had no choice but to move with the tide, as the sea of people spilled in one after the other. My nostrils worked over-time as various smells swelled around my head making me slightly nauseous. Oily hair, the smell of garlic on someone’s breath, women drenched in cheap perfume. I would hold my breath until the next stop where I was launched from the train like a cork from a bottle of well shaken bubbly.
I remember walking through the supermarkets, a true struggle where my devout vegetarianism was concerned in those days. Both the supermarkets and the wet markets alike hung carcasses, tongues, bladders, hooves and hearts from cows and pigs. Fish flapped around in Styrofoam boxes, waiting to be clubbed across the head, and frogs, turtles and other ‘exotic’ creatures jiggled around in small, netted sacks. The stench was amazing. I mustered everything I could not to vomit. Even the sound of the cleaver cutting through the bone sent me flying into the cosmetics aisle.
Outside local restaurants fish and other sea life were crammed into tanks, facing the similar fate of becoming someone’s hot pot.
Something that always amused me was sitting in the bus beside old ladies or domestic helpers laden with shopping bags full of fresh goodies from the market. There was always one bag that managed to make a getaway, flipping and flapping down the isle in a desperate last effort at freedom.
I remember living on Lamma Island. I remember the summer rain. I remember rolling my pants up to my thighs and bravely wading through the flooded paths for the seventh morning in a row. My umbrella saturated to the core, so much so that the raindrops trickled through it onto my head and shoulders. Men in suits rolled up their trouser legs and sported rubber flip-flops that splashed soiled water up the back of their freshly ironed shirts. Once on the ferry, people dressed and undressed, in an openness and familiarity that could only be found on Lamma.
I remember one day peering out the window of the ferry to watch the brown shade that tipped the breaking waves. Plastic, paper and wood rode the tide and swarmed around the extremely brave swimmers stretching off from the ferry pier. The local elderly seemed to be enjoying their morning ritual, the crown of their heads iced with rubber caps bobbed around in the surging grey/brown water. Two Gweillo (foreign/white men) were wading through the floating bric-a-brac on this one particular day, struggling for breath as they were pulled down by filth and uncontrollable laughter. They threw a plastic bottle to the side, removed plastic bags from their swimmers and hoisted a torn red flag into the air.
One street is selling Gucci, the next one along is scattered with fruit, beggars and the odd cockroach or rat. A true reflection of how diverse one’s life is from another here, how diverse one day is from the next.
I find it so strange how I was once so entertained and inspired by all the rarities and idiosyncrasies in Hong Kong, but the last year or two has been more of a struggle to tell you the truth.
There are moments though, like walking up the windy concreted path to the Peak of Hong Kong, dodging elderly Chinese people involved in their crazy morning rituals of clapping loudly and screaming at one another in an attempt to have a conversation over a blaring transistor radio, where I just stop and feel for a moment, bringing total awareness to the real beauty that surrounds me. In those moments the clapping begins to disintegrate, the hum of the jackhammers fade into the distance and the sweet oriental sound of a Chinese flute squeezes through the bamboo from the small valley down below, growing louder and clearer as everything else begins to fall away. The sound of cicadas chirp in, even the sound of my own breath and the silence of my own mind brings calm to the environment, and as I trudge on, sweat dripping off my chin, I find my rhythm again all the way up to the top.
I lean on the iron fencing and enjoy the breeze for a moment as it drapes itself around me. On a good day, big fluffy white clouds burst out above the magnificent panoramic view of the city and as my eyes search for Kowloon side towards a huge flashing neon sign, I find myself mesmerized. Not only by the shapes and colours of the characters jiggling too and fro on the sign, but also by the city itself. The density, the intensity of the skyscrapers, the small islands scattered around, the large expansive ocean that surrounds it all.
The soft but gnawing hum of all the sounds begin to merge into one deep clarifying rhythm, and I pause for a moment finding gratitude for all that Hong Kong has offered me and what it continues to bring into my life.
I feel truly blessed for all that I have met, experienced and received, but my longing for nature, for a more simple lifestyle, has transpired into an ever increasing need to follow my heart.
So, in June, with Michele and my big bag of tricks and treasures, I will travel across waters again, this time to Europe exactly 9 years after I arrived in this concrete jungle, to bury my roots into an earth so rich that I have no choice but to grow bigger and brighter than I ever.
With love and inspiration,
:: updated on 7 March 2012 ::
After what feels like several weeks of indulgence… ‘It’s the holidays!’ ‘It’s my birthday!’ ‘It’s my wedding!’ …I woke up in the middle of the night last Saturday morning, feeling heavy, bloated, and just not very good. I couldn’t get back to sleep because my body felt so unhappy and uncomfortable. So I put my foot down on myself – as yogis do – and decided it was detox time.
I’ve done and toyed with various sorts of cleanses / detoxes and regiments of eating. I have a propensity to do things to the extreme, so at different points in my life, I have been pescatarian, vegetarian, vegan, raw, gluten-free… Pre-yoga, I even tried the South Beach Diet (no joke). Ultimately, I decided I didn’t want to make eating rules or labels for myself. The strict-ness of it stressed me out. I decided I would just eat whatever I wanted to when I wanted to, which meant mostly vegetarian, sometimes fish & organic chicken or turkey, avoiding processed stuff as much as possible. Generally, I’m pretty mindful about what I consume, because I’m aware of the immediate and long-term effects it has on me. And quite simply, I enjoy being healthy and I enjoy the taste of healthy foods.
I also enjoy red wine and crisps (potato chips). And fried foods like chips (french fries) and salt & pepper squid. So naughty, but so darn tasty. My husband has a major sweet tooth and when he’s chomping away on his English confectionary, hey, I want to have some too! With my relatively lenient perspective on food, the slope became pretty slippery.
At first, I felt kind of okay. And the naughty little voice inside my head tried to convince me that maybe it was fine to have red wine every night and eat the entire bag of crisps (they make a Pesto flavor of kettle cooked British potatoes with no additives. I mean how much does that make your mouth water?). If I’m perfectly honest, part of me so wishes I could have the kind of metabolism where I could eat loads of junk if I wanted, do some yoga, and feel great in my skinny jeans. But alas. I am not blessed with such, genes. I have wobbly bits, get a food pooch after a big meal, and wear those crisps on my hips. My poor diet during the past few weeks also affected my skin, my sleep, my mood, my energy level, & just how I felt inside.
So, detox. In the past, I’ve done proper programs with instruction manuals and all sorts of herbs and regulations. I do believe in those, but I also believe that it’s probably as simple as cutting out the bad things and adding a bunch of good things, without spending loads of money. I think because I’ve tried different eating regimes, etc, I have a pretty good idea of what agrees with me, what I need, and what I need to avoid. And this is an extremely personal thing. I know some people may be totally fine with dairy or wheat. But I don’t think you can ever really know how a food affects you until you clean out your system so that you can actually feel from the inside out.
The body is miraculous, amazing, and just so smart. We have a built-in detoxifying system that is designed to filter the negative bits. But just like having too many apps running on your computer affects its performance, overloading our bodies with unhealthy foods (that sometimes have pesticides & hormones!), not giving it enough good stuff, not to mention mental and emotional stresses which definitely affect us physically, as well as toxins in the air, water, household products, etc…all of this affects our bodies’ natural abilities and functions. And so we become more and more disconnected, and less able to feel or hear what our bodies are communicating to us.
Detoxing is basically like when you have to delete some files and make space on your hard drive for optimal performance. And as with everything important in life, this requires effort, commitment, patience, and focus. Sorry guys, but I don’t think a pill from Whole Foods is going to really do it for you. At least not in the long run. Similarly, fasting or doing something like the Master Cleanse can have an immediate effect in the short term, but it isn’t a sustainable answer for the every day. I’m interested in what I can incorporate all the time on a regular basis, so that I can feel and be – as Oprah says – my best self.
I want to have a balanced perspective on food, I don’t want to feel limited or be super strict. I want what I consume to nourish and support me. I also want to enjoy it! So here’s how I’ve initiated my journey back to healthiness, how I’m ‘detoxing’. Please note that I’m not a nutritionist, but perhaps this can serve as some general guidelines / suggestions for you.
No sugar, alcohol, caffeine, gluten, yeast, dairy, drugs or over-the-counter medicine
FRESH SQUEEZED JUICE: beetroot, carrot, celery, spinach, kale, cucumber, green apple (as you like, but make sure the majority of the juice is VEG)
a good SUPERFOOD drink with no fillers (it comes in powder form)
apple cider vinegar in water with Manuka honey
a probiotic in pill form, or try fermented miso
flaxseeds (soaked in water overnight is best!) / flax oil
Superfood cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, cabbage, kale, radish, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collard greens, kohlrabi, mustard, rutabaga, turnips, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, arugula, and watercress
Other Superfoods: apples, berries, spinach, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, salmon, turkey
Protein: eggs, fish, plain tofu; if you choose to have meat, stick with organic chicken / turkey
Carbs: quinoa, brown rice, rye bread, millet** (PS)
Low sugar fruits only: i.e. berries, kiwi, green apple
Snacks: raw chocolate, almond butter, Manuka honey, rice / buckwheat cakes, Ryvita (wholegrain rye crackers), almonds / cashews, herbal tea
Seasonings: olive oil, sea salt, pepper, fresh herbs, lemon, garlic
Supplemental treatments: acupuncture, massage, colon hydrotherapy
And of course: YOGA or your preferred form of exercise
While detoxing, do way less than you usually do. Sleep a lot. Pay attention to changes in your skin, the whites of your eyes, your energy level, your moods, the clarity in your mind, the quality of sleep, and when you go to the bathroom. It’s normal to experience headaches, pain in the lower back area (this is your kidneys detoxing), lethargic, and just not feel that great at first. This is the toxins being purged back into the bloodstream to be re-circulated out. It will pass.
As for how long to do it, I would go for at least 7 days, but try to incorporate mindful habits for the long term! Hope you find this helpful, and feel free to get in touch with me with any questions or thoughts! xxo
** PS To answer a question I received, I think the pasta-form of these gluten-free grains is okay, but probably not every day. My best suggestion is that you make this mostly about filling up on the fresh veggies (juiced, raw, steamed, etc) and other foods under the ‘Consume daily’ section. If you fill your belly with these good things, you 1) won’t have as much room for other unhealthier choices, & 2) will re-train your tastebuds to crave more of the good things and less of the bad. Don’t be too hard on yourself or too pedantic about detoxing. It’s already an enormous positive step to take away sugar, alcohol, caffeine, etc. This alone will alleviate the toxin burden on your body.
Also, I have some photos with this post on my Facebook Page.
I am generally a non-confrontational little yogini. I am more comfortable bathing in the light than embracing the shadow. I am frequently attached to my rose-colored glasses.
As such, I am often hesitant to speak my mind when I perceive that what my mind wants to speak might be disagreeable in the slightest. Partly it’s my desire to play peacekeeper; partly it’s my insecurity & fear in speaking my truth.
This is all particularly true when I am in teaching mode.
I remember one of the very first classes I taught at Pure Yoga. It was a Hot class in the combined studios 3 & 4 in Causeway Bay, for those of you familiar with the location. For those of you unfamiliar, this is a fairly big space that fits 60+ mats (although by Santa Monica standards, we’d squeeze in at least 100 mats). At all Pure Yoga studios in Hong Kong, the mats are already laid out for you so when you come in, you just pick a mat and plop down. On this particular day, the side that is studio 4 was pretty full, and the side that is studio 3 was pretty empty and people had randomly chosen mats that created funky gaps and scattered energy in the room. There was one woman in particular who was way over yonder, and I asked her in a friendly manner if she would like to move in closer, assuming that she would respond as I would if I were the student. To my utter shock, she simply, firmly, and audaciously shook her head NO.
I walked away with my tail between my legs and later told my colleague Janet about the incident. She told me that next time, I should just make the student move. I was befuddled! That would be so confrontational. But she insisted that I ought to insist. I am the teacher afterall.
Over the next two years, I luckily did not have similar incidents occur (or perhaps I subconsciously chose not to see them). On the one hand, the students got to know me and there’s always a certain amount of trust and respect that grows in time. On the other hand, I became more self-confident. Rather than hiding behind my fear of seeming disagreeable, I learned to more clearly stand in my truth.
Fast forward to a packed Hatha class one Saturday morning. We were on hands and knees, flailing our way into Bryan Kest’s infamous Awkward Airplane pose: one leg out to the side at an attempted 90 degree angle at hip height and the opposite arm out to the side at an attempted 90 degree angle at shoulder height. After a 10-year relationship with this pose, I’m still more “Awkward” and less “Airplane”. I think it is probably pretty challenging for almost everyone. As such, I noticed that half the room wasn’t really in the pose, and I teased the class about it, “I know you’re all pretending you suddenly don’t understand my accent…” or something like that. Most people chuckled, but one woman blurted out, “It’s not because we don’t want to do it, it’s just too crowded in here, there’s no room!”
The less self-assured me would probably have turned beet-red, apologized, and stammered my way through the rest of class. But my actual response was to tuck myself in between two students and do the pose by lifting my leg over one student’s hip and by lifting my arm over the other student’s head. As I was demonstrating, I said, “If the conditions are challenging, find a way to make it work!”(or something else of absolute brilliance, I’m sure.)
I then went on to talk about the classes I attend in Santa Monica, where we squeeze in twice as many mats. Bryan’s classes have been known to be so crowded that mats overlap and someone practices on the landing of the stairwell; Ally Hamilton’s classes often overflow into the second room and she has to stand in the doorway between the two rooms in order for everyone to hear her. I said, “You all have about a foot of space circumventing your mats. This is not that crowded.” (Hopefully they weren’t still in Awkward Airplane as I was rambling on, but I can’t be sure of that.)
After I finished my mini-lecture, I felt really bad. I thought maybe I had lost my temper. I was afraid that that student would go and complain about me to the front desk (like the time a student complained that I was text messaging for 40 minutes of a 60-minute class, a completely preposterous claim) (I was only texting for like 5 minutes) (Just kidding! I have never used any mobile device in class!). But to my surprise, at the end of class, that student came up to me and introduced herself. She said that she really enjoyed class and that it was exactly what she needed. I was so surprised! And relieved.
All of this makes me think about our attachments and expectations when it comes to our practice space.
I took Wendy’s class at Pure Yoga in Central today. When we stood up from Uttanasana, I brushed hands with my neighbor yogini. During a supine spinal twist, my extended arm rested on the mat next to mine. Is this really that big of a deal, worthy of complaining? For someone who comes from the crowded studios of Santa Monica where I have gotten hit in the head by someone’s foot going up in Dog Splits, no, it’s really not that big of a deal. And actually, if you think about it, it’s a pretty beautiful thing that so many of us have all come together to share space, breath, and energy. What a blessing to be a part of this union, this yoga.
I also often hear the complaint that people don’t have space in their apt to practice. Considering how small and squishy HK flats can be (cool, relevant video here), I do understand that it’s challenging. But I have practiced in a 250 sq ft apt that I shared with my friend, where I was completely surrounded by furniture. It is doable.
Bryan once said it best. When I was his assistant, I would answer emails on his behalf. Once there was this question: “How much space do I need to practice yoga?” Bryan told me to reply, “The amount of space you need to unroll a yoga mat.” So true. So simple.
Of course it would be ideal to have space in abundance, and no one wants to be whacked in the head by someone’s foot (especially a sweaty one!). But sometimes these external conditions are out of our control, and what we think is ideal is not a present reality. How will we choose to respond to this? How can we dance gracefully with all the so-called challenges in our practice and ultimately our life? If we’re being difficult and attached to what we deem to be our righteous space when we’re on the mat, what’s happening off the mat? This is especially relevant for all of us living in crowded cities where our bodies and energies are constantly overlapping with others. Does it really serve to race each other to get to the showers first? Is it really necessary to cut people off on the freeway? Can we try to be more generous and compassionate?
Let’s be more focused on creating space in our heart, and less attached to external conditions.
Let’s remember what a blessing it is to even have a studio or home to practice in and a mat to practice on. What a blessing it is to touch the hand of a fellow yogi as you both reach up towards the sky. What a blessing it is to know yoga at all.
And look, next time you’re in a crowded class, in a space-demanding pose like Awkward Airplane, just rest your floating (read: floundering) leg on your neighbor’s hip. I’m sure they won’t mind.
This is definitely one of the most FAQs I am asked, and I love it because the more people we have in our world really dedicating their lives to sharing and spreading the yoga, the better. As with all things, there are many different pathways you can take. I’ll share bits of my own ever-continuing journey, offer some additional suggestions, and include some other related thoughts.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that first things first: practice. For me when I was first preparing to teach, this meant an asana practice for at least a couple hours a day (with an occasional, sometimes reluctant day of rest, insisted on by my teacher), reading lots of books (from the ancient to the current) and a daily (often less than super successful) attempt at meditation. I also enrolled in a Yoga Studies program at a nearby university (UC Irvine), which served as a wonderful introduction to various yoga-related subjects including philosophy, subtle energy, Sanskrit, and Buddhism. I was so fiercely in love with my practice that I saved some money and quit my job (at the time I was in investor relations) so I could just do yoga all the time. I loved my studio so much that I started volunteering there (sweeping the floors and emptying the trash), which eventually led to working in the retail store, managing the studio, and becoming Bryan Kest’s assistant. Talk about “immersion”.
Next up: find a main teacher that you can practice with on a regular basis (addressed in Yoga Thought Bubble 1). This is particularly true for those on the teaching path. Again, it doesn’t mean to only ever study with one teacher, but having one main teacher will be immensely helpful. She will get to know your physical practice and be able to guide and support you better. For example, I had a major fear of Tripod Headstand. I couldn’t even figure out how to approach it. After months of shying away from it, my teacher helped me after class. She didn’t physically support me, but just through her words and because of my total trust in her, I got into it and was laughing at how much easier it was than I’d imagined. And, ask your teacher what his yoga journey has been like, and discover which of his footsteps you’d like to follow. Dare to ask beyond “Who have you studied with?” because I bet there is so much more to why he is the amazing teacher, yogi, and person that he is.
And of course: attend a Teacher Training. I urge you to put a lot of thought into the Teacher Trainings you will attend (yes, trainings plural, as there will likely be more than your first one). Know that TTs are a huge business within the yoga industry, and oftentimes you’re asked to commit thousands of dollars and hours upon hours before you’ll be deemed worthy of using their brand name, and this almost never comes with any real guarantee that you’ll find teaching jobs. I admit that I am biased when it comes to the so-called official certification process, but rather than get into it right now, I will paste the words of Bryan Kest (www.poweryoga.com), who addressed this brilliantly in a recent newsletter:
“We are not associated with Yoga Alliance. If I were to follow their guidelines I would not be able to follow my own guidelines. Their guidelines have no place in my training and should have no place in anyone’s teacher training other than that of their own. I am not an advocate of systematizing the dissemination of love. Yoga has always been passed down freely from teacher to student, in any format the teacher chooses and according to the teacher’s experiences and how the teacher feels they can best give their knowledge to the student. This beautiful practice, that has been happening for 6,000 years, does not need Yoga Alliance’s blessing or anybody else’s.
I am actually not sure why Yoga Alliance exists. Maybe their intentions are benevolent but the result is a fucking bureaucratic mess, tons of red tape and loads of unnecessary paperwork, not to mention more money!”
So I’m just saying to choose wisely. Listen to your gut and intuition as to what is most right for you. Are you really inspired by the teacher leading the TT and are you really interested in learning more about that particular style of yoga? Or are you more drawn in by the number of hours and credibility the TT boasts? Just make sure it will serve to nourish and nudge you forward in your practice.
As for when you’re ready to attend your first TT, it’s really personal. If you don’t know Tadasana (Mountain Pose) or if you haven’t yet experience the bliss of Savasana, it might better serve you to practice a bit more first, just so that you can get more out of the TT. But don’t worry about not being able to stand on your hands or levitate (yet).
I started doing my own home practice after my first TT (with the magnificent Erich Schiffmann), and it really helped me to understand how to sequence, how to verbalize the body’s movement and experience, and how to access my own voice. I enlisted (ok, maybe coerced) my loved ones to be my yogi guinea pigs and taught them classes in my living room. I practiced eliminating “uh” and “um” and “oops, sorry!” and nervous laughter.
For me, all of this was the perfect foundation for teaching. With the help of my teacher, I got my first job at a gym, and I kept expanding from there, to other gyms, small studios, private clients, and my home studio. I said YES to every teaching opportunity that came up, and in a few months time, I was teaching 25 times a week. It was great practice and got me into the groove of really becoming and being a teacher. But that many classes proved not to be so sustainable, so I pared it down to about a dozen (only to move to HK and teach an average of 18 classes a week, half of them in a heated room, which I swear makes teaching 1 class feel like 2!). This again is really personal; you’ll figure out what’s perfect for you.
Finally, know that there will always be more to learn and be open to all of it. I have dabbled in different styles and I attend lots of workshops and trainings with different teachers. Since moving to HK, I also make it a point to go back to my yoga home of Santa Monica once a year and snuggle back into my roots. It is all “continuing education”, a beautiful process of always learning, receiving, practicing, and then offering it back out.
So, in short: practice, find a main teacher, attend a TT, do your own practice, teach loved ones, and say YES!
Inspired by questions from students and friends, here I begin a series of musings on various things YOGA, from the practical to the mystical. It’s an enormous subject matter, that is enormously subjective, so please take my Yoga Thought Bubbles with many heaps of sea salt if you choose to read on.
And please feel free to send me your questions, and we can share in this digital dialogue together.
Yoga Thought Bubble 1: How do I find a good teacher?
I thought it appropriate to begin this blog series with the question of how to find a “good” teacher, as the teacher is usually your foray into the yoga world. I put quotes around “good” (and would use quote fingers if I were speaking to you about this in person) because how you feel about your teacher is so personal. As with all relationships, it is ultimately about your personal connection. Does the teacher say things that stir your spirit, that feel like she simply must be talking specifically to you? Do you feel like you learn and grow in some way, every time you take his class?
I suggest that if it’s possible, read the teacher’s bio or check out his website prior to attending class. The bio usually serves as a helpful introductory blurb to who the teacher is, not just how deeply he can bend backwards. To me, more important than the level of physical achievement a teacher has reached in her own practice is whether her philosophy / perspective of yoga (and of life, really) speaks to you. Of course the physical aspect is important as well; the practice is physical, after all, and in a yoga class, the teacher is using the language of the body, whether demonstrating or offering an adjustment / enhancement. But permeating the physical will be his energy, and whether it is vibrating on the same wavelength as yours. It’s very much like how it would be to listen to a lecture in a language you understand versus a lecture a foreign language.
After reading the bio and choosing a teacher, try to take that teacher’s class at least a few times. As with all relationships, there needs to be a period of getting to know the other person. Sometimes it feels like love at first sight, where you feel really wowed and inspired and changed forever! This might blossom into a long term relationship, or it may not withstand the test of time. In other instances, it may take more time before you energetically warm up to the teacher, so it’s probably best if you don’t immediately write anyone off because you weren’t that impressed or moved during the first class. Speaking from the teacher’s perspective, sometimes it may just be that you caught us on an “off” day.
When you do find a teacher that you really love, you’ll probably find it helpful to maintain a fairly consistent practice with that one teacher. This isn’t to say that you should only go to one teacher. That would be unnecessarily limiting, because you can and will learn something from everyone. I can honestly say that I have either learned or been really touched (not in that way) (well, except for that one time…) by every single teacher I have ever taken class with. But to have one teacher who really knows your practice and who you are as a person is an incredible gift. Whether recognizing when you’re ready to advance in a given pose or when you’re in need of a shoulder to cry on, your main teacher will become your yoga foundation, your yoga roots, your “mentor”, so they call it. This will be someone who is truly interested in your growth and evolution as a person, a depth that can only be reached if you really open yourself up to him/her.
I am infinitely grateful for and humbled by mine.
And not to worry: your relationship with your yoga teacher isn’t expected to be a monogamous one. I asked my teacher about that once, because I felt guilty (thanks, Catholic upbringing!) about wanting to attend someone else’s class. She laughed and thought it was sweet of me to be concerned about her feelings, but as the yoga practice is about detachment from the ego and one big love, she encouraged me to go on and sow my yoga oats. She said, “It’s totally fine and great to take other teachers’ classes as you’ll probably get something different from them, because we’re all teaching from our own personal experiences. But you’ll probably find that you have your home that you always go back to.”
For me, this has proven to be very true. I now live half a world away from my teacher, but no amount of time or distance has really separated us (especially in this wonderfully modern age of technology!). As the years have passed, and time zones and zip codes have changed, and babies have been added into the mix (hers, not mine), she is still my yoga home.
So, to me, finding a so-called good teacher is a pretty big deal. I daresay it’s akin to finding your life partner. Do a bit of due diligence, have an open mind and an open heart, and feel for that intuitive pull in your gut that will always ultimately guide your way.
I think most of you know by now that I am Nike’s Global Yoga Ambassador and Head Trainer for their new yoga program, Nike Dynamic Yoga (NDY). Suffice it to say, I am so honored and excited!!
My main work with Nike has been teaching NDY, leading teacher trainings in China and Europe, and being featured online and in their training manual and DVD. You can have a glimpse of all of this on my Facebook page (leah.beyoga). If you’re not on FB, click here for photos. For those of you in HK, there is a big Nike Yoga exhibit in Langham Place shopping center, with the DVD playing on the TVs. The event runs through 5 Nov. Check it out if you happen to be in the area!
Nike has recently launched the online yoga content, which you can view 2 ways:
1) The simpler route: for a preview
Select one of the featured athletes, i.e. Monyca Byrne Wickey. As her video plays, to the immediate Right, you’ll see boxes you can click on. You can sample some clips with me!
2) The longer route: to download the workouts & to create your own program (Note: Safari seems to like the Nike site better than Firefox.)
Click Get Started, you can skip Creating a Mini (although it’s kinda cute!), and then select Dynamic Yoga. Keep following the steps, LOGIN, and you’ll have your own little yoga program you can do at home. There is an itunes app for this, but the yoga section hasn’t yet launched. Check back in November!
Nike Dynamic Yoga is inspired by athletes and the way they move, which usually happens to be quite different from how yoga asks you to move. Nike wanted to offer athletes a way to incorporate yoga into their training, in a language and method that their bodies could understand. While it was created with the athlete in mind, it’s great for beginners and also for longtime yogis looking to spice up their practice.
For me personally, NDY challenges my endurance and my strength in a different way from just holding a pose. The dynamic movement reminds me of the fluid movements in Prana Flow, but done in a more “conventionally athletic” way. For those of you that have a difficult time getting into certain poses that require a lot of flexibility and joint mobility, the unique dynamic movements you’ll find in NDY will probably help make these poses more feasible.
Deep intelligence and understanding of the body serves as the foundation for the NDY movements; it’s not simply about sit, breathe, and be patient. It’s also not about spin this that way or rotate that this way. (Although those methods definitely serve their purpose as well!) The language and technique of NDY are very simple, making yoga more accessible to more people. This is my most favorite thing about it!
As with all yoga and movement practices, NDY is ultimately a celebration of the body and of yourself. So I hope you enjoy and have fun with it! Let me know if you have any questions.
Oh, and if you’re interested, Nike has a complete line of new yoga clothes which should be in all stores now / soon. I must say I am very impressed with the quick drying-ness of their DriFit fabric, and they have some great colors and styles. (Plug, plug, plug… )
Aside from all this, I’ve recently started teaching at The Four Seasons in Hong Kong, and I’m absolutely lovin’ it! The yoga studio and spa are so beautiful and serene; it’s a really sweet environment. Anyone is welcome, so let me know if you’re ever interested in joining a class.
Please feel free to pass this on.
With big love,
:: hello to my HK yogis ::
Now that I’m a freelance freebird yogi loose in Hong Kong, I will be trying my best to stay connected to you: my students from Pure, my fellow yogis, and my good friends.
In case you’re not on Facebook, I just wanted to share the exciting news that starting next week, I will be teaching regular classes at the Four Seasons! My weekly classes will be:
Wednesdays @ 12:30p-1:30p || Vinyasa Power 2
Thursdays @ 12:30p-1:30p || Vinyasa Power 1
$250 HK includes saunas || jacuzzi || shower || fruit || Fiji water || oxygenated studio (not quite sure what that means…)
Yoga Studio on 5/f
Saunas, etc on 6/f
If I can get a fairly consistent following, I might eventually be able to work out a package / discount deal. Let me know if this is something you’d be interested in!
Regardless of the class title / level, all levels are always welcome, as I will adjust and personalize the class to the needs of who’s present.
I also offer private lessons, so please let me know if you’d like more information on that. In due time, I will add more classes @ various locations to my schedule.
Please forward this info on to anyone you know that might be interested, and please let me know if you know of anyone who would like to be added to these emails.
Thanks so much, and I sincerely hope to see you soon!
With big love,
**If you can’t be bothered with all the hyperlinks but want to see my latest photos, click here.
An nyoung ha se yo!
Most of you probably know that that means “Hello!” in Korean. =)
Life has been super sweet and super blessed here in Asia. If you’ve caught glimpses of my Facebook or Twitter updates, you know that I’ve been traveling around a lot. Most recently, I spent 10 days in Korea. This trip included my brother MYK’s performance at the Epik High concert, an interview with Joongang Ilbo (a major Korean newspaper), and a family getaway to Jeju Island. Oh— and my uncle is now Prime Minister!
The interview / article about me is obviously in Korean, and I will do my best to try to translate it, but as my Korean vocabulary is rather limited, it will likely take awhile. If there’s anyone who’d be interested in translating it for me, please let me know!
I returned to Hong Kong freshly inspired to (finally) try my hand at cooking! I’ve somewhat successfully made some Korean dishes (thanks to my mom and my brother’s stellar girlfriend, Jung Mi) and some of my best friend Julie’s dishes (veggies and noodles for Pad Thai soaking as I type).
It’s been 2 months since I left Pure Yoga, and I have been living my once thought to be far-fetched dream of teaching yoga around the world. I now add Amsterdam, Shanghai, and Beijing to my list of cities where I’ve taught, with Sydney, Wellington (New Zealand), and hopefully other locations to come. I’ll be sharing more details about this adventure very soon!!
With big love,