A yoga teacher’s job description often requires them to be in constant motion on a daily basis. 5 top teachers look to these supplements to keep them radiant and glowing through their most hectic days.
We all know that a moderate, whole foods plant-based diet is the way to go in terms of ideal nutrition. But there are holes in even the most meticulous diets that could use rounding out. Yoga teachers—whose jobs practically require radiant health, not to mention the stamina to be in constant motion on a daily basis—use supplements as the secret ingredient to top off their presumably already-decent diet. Take a tip from these top teachers and try these five supplements for a little extra zing in your sun salute.
Recommended by: Tias Little
Rich in iron, protein, GLA (gamma linolenic acid, part of the omega family) and B-12, a chlorella/spirulina combo has earned a glittering reputation for boosting your immune system and aiding in detoxification.
“The optimal supplement for me includes chlorella/spirulina,” says Santa Fe, New Mexico-based Tias Little, founder of Prajna Yoga. “I take it in powder-form first thing in the morning an hour prior to my yoga practice. I drink it mixed with 16-ounces of water and a shot of stevia. Oftentimes, I mix it with Maca Root”
“I find that the concoction brings wakefulness to my tissues,” says Little. “Not only is it hydrating, but I feel light and clear. In my practice, the root powder enables me to move mindfully and carefully. The spirulina brings a fluid and buoyant quality to my tissues. It supports my circulatory rhythms of blood, lymph and extra-cellular fluid. So the combination of grounding (via the Maca Root) and levity (via the spirulina) provides balanced support to me in my practice.”
A little-known fact about spirulina: NASA and The European Space Agency have undertaken research to quantify its benefit as a dietary supplement for astronauts on space missions.
And chlorella’s claim to fame is that it’s one of the few plant sources with vitamin B-12. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that chlorella helped to improve the health-markers of vegans and vegetarians study participants with a history of B-12 deficiency.
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Recommended by: Sarah Finger
Ashwagandha, one of the most popular Ayurvedic herbs and sometimes called Indian ginseng, has been prized for millennia for its ability to reduce inflammation. That super power is attributed to its high concentration of withanolides, naturally occurring steroids that combat stress and boost strength.
“I am not big on taking too many daily supplements because I really believe in our body’s intelligence to create and ward off what it needs to maintain homeostasis,” says New York City-based Sarah Finger, co-founder of ISHTA Yoga. “However, I take Ashwagandha without fail. It is considered an ‘adaptogen’ in that it helps the body to cope with daily stress.
“Living in a very busy city like New York City takes a toll on the nervous system, and I have found that by taking Ashwaganda, my focus is better and I am especially feeling positive effects in my yoga and meditation practice,” says Finger. “I am more able to slow down my breath and sit for a more extended period of time without distraction.”
An added bonus of Ashwagandha is that it not only decreases stress, but food cravings. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Evidence-based Complementary & Alternative Medicine found that a daily Ashwagandha supplement helped participants manage food cravings better.
Recommended by: Gina Caputo
You know when Starbucks gets in on something, it’s a thing. Since 2017, Starbucks has rolled out turmeric lattes in their UK locations. But long before the advent of golden lattes, turmeric has been considered a godsend for a range of conditions, including arthritis and high cholesterol.
A 2012 pilot study published in Phytotherapy Research found that turmeric reduced joint pain for participants with rheumatoid arthritis better than a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, NSAID.
“I take a turmeric tincture daily,” says Boulder, Colorado-based Gina Caputo, founder of the Colorado School of Yoga. “Turmeric is a root, that is a relative to ginger, and its active compound, curcumin, has shown to have rather powerful anti-inflammation properties. Some studies have shown that also helps boost antioxidant-capacity and helps to fight free-radical damage.”
Caputo prefers a tincture, as opposed to taking it as a powder or capsule. “It’s easier to bring with me when I travel and I digest it more efficiently since it begins in your mouth itself via your mucus membranes,” says Caputo. “Also, apparently turmeric is more stable in an alcohol base. I have noticed consistently good gut-health as well as consistently painless joint mobility. I attribute this to good hydration, balanced diet, regular and diverse movement practices and a little help from this amazing Ayurvedic herb.”
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Recommended by: MaryBeth LaRue
Diindolylmethane, or DIM, is possibly the best supplement you’ve never heard of. According to the DIM Resource Center at the University of California at Berkeley, DIM can powerfully boost your immune system. A bioactive compound derived from cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, shows promise as a chemoprotective compound for breast cancer and prostate cancer—although more research is needed.
For LA-based yoga teacher Marybeth LaRue, co-founder of Rock Your Bliss, a daily dose of DIM is an indispensable part of her ability to self-regulate and find an even keel.
“I take milk thistle and DIM daily as a way to balance my hormones,” says LaRue. “DIM has been especially influential for me as it has gotten rid of my brain fog entirely (often caused by hormone imbalance), keeping my skin clear, regulated my periods, kept my endometriosis cramps at bay and majorly reduced any PMS symptoms. I know for myself that no amount of meditation, asana or positive talk helps if my body is feeling wildly imbalanced.”
5. Protein and Greens
Recommended by: Tiffany Cruikshank
When it comes to protein powders, increasing research suggests that a blend of pea and rice protein powder can provide optimal levels of B vitamins. Both pea and rice protein contain no dairy or gluten, and are amongst the most hypoallergenic protein sources on the market.
Seattle, Washington-based Tiffany Cruikshank, founder of Yoga Medicine, swears by a combo of protein and greens powder. It gives her an extra boost her body needs before embarking on her morning practice.
“This combo does just the trick for me—not too heavy, but keeps my blood sugar steady through even a longer practice,” says Cruikshank.
“I’m a huge supplement fan,” says Cruikshank. “I’ve used many different supplements to support my health over the years for many different things.”
“The products I’ve used the longest and most regularly is a combo I mix together with MediClear Plus by Thorne and Vitality Super Greens by Body Ecology,” says Cruikshank. “It’s my magical travel potion. I’ve used this for the past 12 years to support my energy levels while traveling. I attribute a lot of my health on the road to this mix.”
“The MediClear protein powder supports my blood sugar, mood, energy and helps support liver detox pathways to clean out toxins I may be taking in while traveling.”
“The Body Ecology Vitality Super Greens starts my day off with greens and good nutrition and I love that it includes adaptogens, fermented algae and veggies.”
See also 3 Ayurvedic Recipes to Boost Energy and Brain Power
Your Diet and Hormones Are More Connected Than You Think—Here's How to Balance Them Naturally with Food
A hormone-balancing diet requires healthy digestion, stable sugar levels and a well-functioning liver. Let us show you how to get back in balance naturally.
Just like you, I’ve suffered from many hormonal imbalances. At first, I bought into the belief that hormonal problems are genetic or that the causes are “unknown.”
Some of you may have been told that there is little you can do about your hormones apart from taking birth control pills or supplementing your body’s natural hormones. This may be the case for some women, but what I have discovered on my journey is that there is more.
I’ve found that hormonal balance requires healthy digestion, stable sugar levels, and a well-functioning liver. Restoring your gut, sugar levels, and liver health will not only rebalance your hormones but will reverse many other, seemingly unconnected ailments that might have been plaguing you for years, such as seasonal allergies, hives, chronic pain, depression, and anxiety.
I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to lead large online communities of women who have gone through my hormone-balancing diet, with life-changing results. When I polled the community about the biggest change that this way of eating had created for them, I thought I was going to read replies pertaining to weight loss, better sleep, or better mental function. To my surprise, the biggest benefit the women reported was having learned to “listen” to their bodies.
This skill will set you free.
For some of you, just eliminating gluten and dairy from your diet might resolve years of suffering. For others (and that’s me), it takes some real tuning in and figuring out what foods your body loves and what it rejects. By eating the “rejected” foods, you are in a constant state of inflammation that won’t bring you to hormonal balance and bliss.
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I learned to cook because I had to—to save my life and sanity. I’m 45 years old. I’ve gone through having Graves’ disease, Hashimoto’s disease, adrenal fatigue stage II, estrogen dominance, and hypoglycemia. I’ve battled chronic Candida, heavy-metal poisoning, bacterial infections (H. pylori), and parasitic infections (many times!), and I’ve had active Epstein-Barr virus (aka mononucleosis). Despite “eating well,” I’ve suffered irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). For years, I dealt with an addiction to coffee and cigarettes. My neurotransmitters were so out of whack at one point that I became abusive to the one person I loved the most, which ended our many future plans and hopes. Yet despite all this, I came out on the other end. I’m in better health today than I have been since I was 20 years old.
What I have learned is that our health is a journey, especially for those of us with difficult childhoods, past trauma, and undetected lingering infections. This journey can be highly frustrating and unrewarding at times; after all, I’ve committed my life resources to healing and I do not always get the results I hope for. Nevertheless, I’ve come to appreciate this journey, as with every obstacle comes deep understanding and discovery that you will learn and benefit from. What fascinates me equally is how this journey has armed me with the “soft” coping skills of patience and self-forgiveness. Without those, there will be no healing.
So, back to hormones. They are responsible for how you think, feel, and look. A woman with balanced hormones is sharp and upbeat, with a good memory. She feels energetic without caffeine during the day, falls asleep quickly, and wakes refreshed. She is blessed with a healthy appetite and maintains a desired weight with a good diet. Her hair and skin glow. She feels emotionally balanced and responds to stress with grace and reason. When menstruating, her menses comes and goes with no or little PMS. She has an active sex life. She can maintain a full-term pregnancy. When entering perimenopause or menopause, she slides into a new phase of life with ease. If that doesn’t describe you, your hormones are imbalanced. Don’t despair. You are not alone. Millions of women experience hormonal imbalance. The good news is, you can rebalance your hormones naturally and resolve your symptoms. Here are a few quick ways to start to assess what imbalances you might be suffering from.
See also Yoga for Women’s Health: The Best Pose & Acupressure Point to Relieve Menstrual Cramps & PMS
High Cortisol: You are in a state of chronic stress, and your adrenals are working extra hard. Family issues, poor relationships, job problems, finances, overexercising, and past trauma and abuse could be causes, as could chronic digestive issues or infections.
Low Cortisol: If you have low cortisol levels, you have had high cortisol levels for a while now and your adrenals are therefore too tired to produce sufficient cortisol. To confirm whether you do have low cortisol levels, it’s important to get a diagnosis from a qualified functional physician and get a urine or saliva test four times a day.
Low Progesterone: Low progesterone can be caused by excess cortisol levels (from chronic stress) or excess estradiol, the antagonistic estrogen produced in your body or introduced externally as synthetic estrogens (known as “xenoestrogens”) from skin-care and house-cleaning products. High cortisol levels are inflammatory and can block progesterone receptors, inhibiting progesterone from doing its work. When stressed, we end up with less progesterone.
High Estrogen (Estrogen Dominance): This condition can manifest in a few ways. You could have more estradiol (E2), the antagonistic estrogen, compared with estriol (E3) and estrone (E1), which often happens when many xenoestrogens, or synthetic estrogens, are present in your life. Second, you might have insufficient progesterone to oppose estradiol (even if your estradiol levels are within range). Estrogen dominance can also happen when there are more antagonistic estrogen metabolites (which are the byproducts of estrogen metabolism). Visceral fat also produces estradiol. Women with high testosterone levels (and often polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS) can suffer from estrogen dominance, too. This is because testosterone gets converted to estradiol in the aromatization process. Inhibiting this process can break the cycle of estrogen production and relieve symptoms of estrogen dominance.
See also Yoga for Menopause: Alleviate Symptoms with Yoga
Low Estrogen: Declining estrogen levels typically happen to women going into perimenopause and menopause, but I have seen young women suffering from stress and toxic lifestyles experience this too. The ovaries are producing less estrogen because of aging, stress (and high cortisol levels), or toxicity.
High Testosterone (Androgen Dominance): The leading cause is high sugar levels. Polycystic ovarian syndrome is commonly caused by androgen dominance. While making dietary changes, get a formal diagnosis of PCOS and high testosterone level.
Low Testosterone: Most often, when the adrenals are exhausted, they also underproduce testosterone.
Underactive Thyroid (Hypothyroidism and/or Hashimoto’s Disease): Sadly, too many thyroid conditions go undiagnosed because of incomplete tests and wrong lab ranges that conventional doctors use. The consensus among functional practitioners is that 30 percent of the population experiences subclinical hypothyroidism (this means the symptoms are subtle). This could be an underestimate. One study in Japan found 38 percent of the healthy subjects to have elevated thyroid antibodies (indicating the body’s immune system attacking the thyroid). Another study reports that 50 percent of patients, mostly women, have thyroid nodules. If you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, it was most likely caused by Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune condition. When you put out the fire in your gut and the immune system, you may see your thyroid health improve and symptoms subside or go away.
Insulin Resistance or Leptin Resistance: If you eat processed carbohydrates (including cereals, puffy rice, breads, bagels, pasta, cakes, and cookies), sugar (found in incredibly high amounts in most packaged foods), or processed proteins (such as protein shakes), it’s likely you have a problem with sugar. It first manifests with high and/or low blood-sugar levels (you feel cranky, unfocused, lightheaded, and tired when hungry) and ends up with a full metabolic disorder such as insulin or leptin resistance. Women suffering from high testosterone or PCOS tend to have elevated sugar levels or insulin or leptin resistance. The good news is this: These conditions are completely reversible with diet, exercise, detoxification, and stress management The key to balance is not too much or too little of any hormone. Where fat is stored in your body can tell a bigger picture—one of a hormonal imbalance.
See also 6 Tricks to Make Your Supplements Work Better for Your Body
Listening To Your Body
Once you know about the role of food in balancing hormones, you can create daily eating habits that work best for you. Certainly, eating a whole-food diet and an abundance of green, leafy vegetables while reducing the amount of processed foods, sugar, and alcohol in your diet is a good place to start. But there is no one-size-fits-all diet plan or nutritional protocol that will work for every single woman. You have probably noticed that the same food affects you and a family member or friend differently. Perhaps your best friend can’t stop talking about how great quinoa is, but you find it upsets your stomach. Or, you love fermented vegetables as a good source of probiotics, but your colleague can’t tolerate them, breaking out in hives and feeling itchy and anxious after just a bite. One person’s health food can be another person’s poison. The only way to find a diet that supports your health is to respect your body and listen to what it tells you about which foods are friends and which are foes. Start with small changes and the recipes here, and see what you notice.
See also Yoga for Women’s Health: The Best Pose & Acupressure Point to Reduce Irritability During Your Period
About the Author
Magdalena Wszelaki is a holistic nutrition coach and founder of the popular Hormones & Balance online community. Learn more at hormonesbalance.com.
Excerpted from Cooking for Hormone Balance by Magdalena Wszelaki, HarperOne, 2018. Reprinted with permission.
6 Best Kitchen Gadgets Every Yogi Needs in 2019
Want to eat like a yogi? Here’s what helps Yoga Journal executive editor Meghan Rabbitt stick to a sattvic, healthy diet that fuels her practice.
I’m a sucker for kitchen gadgets.
Sure, my old bread maker and fondue pot have ended up in the dust-covered kitchen-gadget graveyard in my basement. But there are plenty of others that are in regular rotation in my home kitchen—and help me create tasty, healthy meals that fuel my yoga practice. (Here’s looking at you, Instant Pot!)
Considering healthy eating is on all of our minds right now, I decided to round up the biggest game-changers for me—the kitchen gadgets I believe every yogi needs to make healthy eating a cinch this year.
See also What to Eat Before and After Yoga, According to Top Nutrition Experts
This Napa Valley Vintner’s Ritual for Inner Calm is Better Than Meditation
The best part? Pour yourself a cup of tea and you can do it, too.
Annie Favia’s morning meditation begins with a cup of tea—always loose leaf and preferably wild foraged green. As she waits for her water to reach a roiling boil, about 180 degrees, she carefully selects 5 to 10 leaves and drops them into a glass pot. After she rinses the leaves with a small amount of water, she refills the pot. The 60 seconds it takes for the leaves to brew is her favorite part of the ritual.
“I love watching the leaves slowly unfurl and smelling the aromas they release,” she says. “Herbal teas are brimming with floral, fruit, woody, and earthy components, just like wine.” As the tea steeps, she admires the subtle change in color, then decants the pot before pouring her first cup.
“Herbal teas look and smell so enticing, but you must be patient as the tea cools down,” she says. “If you drink tea when it’s too hot, you’ll miss out on the flavors.” On cool mornings, she wraps her hands around the mug for warmth. While the tea cools, she closes her eyes and takes in the changing aromas. The deep inhales clear her head for the day. “That first cup is my time to think,” she says.
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Once her personal tea ceremony is completed, she retreats to her yoga studio. Favia has had a home practice for the past 15 years, but it was only recently that she created a dedicated space. “It’s my sanctuary,” she says of the light-filled carriage house on her family’s new Napa Valley homestead. “It’s where I set my intention for the rest of the day.”
Using Her Green Thumb to Craft Cult Wines
Before she took up yoga, Favia found her zen in some of Napa Valley’s most renowned vineyards. “There’s a very meditative quality to working the land and being out in nature,” she says. “I find yoga clears my mind just like working in the vineyards does.” She honed her viticulture skills under legendary grape grower David Abreu and is married to winemaker Andy Erickson, who has overseen the cellars of cult producers including Screaming Eagle and Dalla Valle.
In 2003, Favia and her husband launched their own eponymously named label, Favia. Some 15 vintages later, they’ve found a home for their family and their winery on a historic parcel of land in Napa Valley’s Coombsville AVA. Favia puts her green thumb to use in the vineyards, as well as an herbal tea garden. She says she chose to focus on herbal teas because they are caffeine free. “As I get older, my body can’t handle alcohol and caffeine like it used to,” she jokes.
Tea leaves are harvested with just as much care as the grapes, hand-picked to retain their whole flower and leaf, then immediately placed in a temperature controlled drying room to preserve their freshness. The leaves are dried at low temperatures, to capture as many natural oils as possible, so they drink with bright, clean flavors.
See also 4 Healing Teas to Pair with Your Yoga Practice
Turning Tea into a Business
Favia’s love of tea started way beyond she had her first sip of wine. As a child, she spent hours with her mother picking herbs in the garden for fresh tisanes.
“I still equate sitting and having a cup of tea as shared time with my mom,” she says. When Annie moved to California, she studied with the late tea master, Winnie Yu of Teance in Berkeley, and started growing any varietal she could get her hands on, gifting mason jars of teas to friends. When Favia’s mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer a few years ago, she gifted her daughter $10,000 to start the tea business she dreamed of.
Last year, Favia launched ERDA, a loose leaf tea company aimed at making Americans treat tea as if it were a fine Cabernet. “The American tea culture extends to a bag in a paper cup that we drink on the go,” she says. “I think tea should help people slow down.”
See also Editors’ Picks: Hot + Cold Teas to Enliven Your Practice
How to Drink Tea Like a Sommelier
Like an aged wine, a quality tea evolves over time, says Favia. After the first pour, the leaves can be re-infused up to five times and each new cup will offer subtle, yet distinct characteristics. “The entire process is a sensory evaluation, similar to how you’d enjoy a fine wine,” she explains. “Sight, smell, and taste all unfold. You get so much more out of the experience if you are sitting and enjoying the tea as a mindful practice, rather than brewing it quickly and taking it to go.”
Annie says her biggest take away from a three-day tea preparation workshop with Winnie Yu was how mindful the entire process can be. The actual tea preparation helps get you in the mindset of drinking more thoughtfully: Favia carefully chooses her tea leaves and always uses a glass pot to ensure the brightest flavors. Just as a sommelier decants a bottle of wine to let it breathe, Annie allows each cup a moment to cool and open up. She takes a deep inhalation before her first sip, contemplating the aroma. “Just like wine, the tea should have an entry, middle, and finish,” she says. She notes the change in color and taste from her first cup to her fifth.
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