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A Sweaty Bikram Yoga Review

As mentioned last week, I started doing Bikram yoga. I got one of those group coupon deals for 10 days of yoga for 10 bucks. I’d originally planned on going every other day, but I only made it to three. For ten dollars, that’s still a pretty good deal!

I tried out the two studios owned by Bikram Yoga Toronto. Twice in the Beaches and once on Bloor. Both locations had really friendly and welcoming staff, but the latter has the nicer studio. The floors at the Beaches location remind me of a kitchen linoleum, whereas the Bloor location has nice wooden floors.

Logistics aside, I really want to talk about my experience with hot yoga. Specifically, Bikram.

First, a little about Bikram.

  • It’s done in a 40 C (105F) room with 40% humidity.
  • It consists of 26 “asanas” or postures and two breathing exercises that are done twice in a row.
  • It’s 90 minutes long.
  • The combination of heat and postures are supposed to be good for blood circulation, delivering more oxygen to joints, muscles and organs.
  • Sweating is supposed to be detoxifying. One instructor pointed out the more you do bikram, the less salty your sweat will get.

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Now, I know a lot of you are wondering about the heat. Honestly? I didn’t mind it! I loved getting so sweaty, and detoxifying or not, I really did feel refreshed and rejuvenated after.

One thing about Bikram is the postures aren’t that difficult. There are no vinyasa flows or really hard warrior sequences. For the most part, they are static  poses that don’t get your heart rate up. Doing them in a normal room probably wouldn’t seem that trying, it’s really just the heat that makes it difficult.

I also never pushed myself as hard as I do in other classes because I wanted to be careful not to overdo it in the heat. In some ways I guess I was missing out because of this. Also, it’s hard to go deeper into poses when your sweating and sliding around everywhere!

Even though I liked the heat, I have to say I did not enjoy the posture series. Which for me, is key. It did get a little better with each class, but it was never something I looked forward to. I often found myself counting down the poses to just “get it over with.”

My least favourite is surprisingly the Pranayama breathing we started each class with.

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It’s this really strange throaty breathing where you have to tilt your head back. I’m sure this gets better the more you do it. But for me, I couldn’t take breaths deep enough and it hurt my neck. The instructor would say “I know this hurts but…” As a trainer, I just don’t dig the idea of purposely putting strain on your neck.

Half of the class consists of standing postures. Other torturous ones included awkward pose…

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Followed by a forward bend where you put your hands under your heels, press your elbows into your calves and press your chest against your thighs.

I clearly had to bend my knees to do this. But if you listened hard enough, you could hear me swearing under my breath going into this pose.

Svanasana in Bikram happens halfway through the class when you transition to floor postures. In most yoga classes, I breathe a sigh of relief when we move to the mat. Not in Bikram.

The 17th posture had us place our arms underneath our body with palms facing down. My arms screamed in pain every time we did this. Another instance when the instructor would say “I know this hurts, but…” We would then lift our legs off the floor. You wouldn’t have to listen hard to hear me groan and curse during this one.

Finally, some people are blessed with the ability to do backbends in yoga. I am not. It’s something else I find incredibly painful and fear for my back while doing them.

Someday I will reach my feet in camel pose. But it certainly was not happening in Bikram.

Because you do two sets of every posture in Bikram, you get a slight rest between each. For the laying series, you have to flip around and lay in svanasana for a few seconds between each posture. It felt like I was flipping on to my back every 30 seconds a million times over. I know this seems like a petty complaint. But doing that in 40 degree heat actually made me feel the most sick and dizzy in class. None of the actual postures tired me out as much as that constant flipping over onto my back.

In all, it’s quite clear that I will not be returning to Bikram. I’m definitely happy I tried it. Like I said, it’s not the heat that bothers me, I just don’t get anything out of the posture series. I’ve done Moksha hot yoga before and really enjoyed the flow of that one. The room is slightly cooler and the postures aren’t set in stone like Bikram.

After years of complaining about sun salutations and vinyasa flows, can you believe I actually missed my chaturangas??

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I can’t wait for my next Ashtanga class :)

 

Question of the Day: Have you done Bikram? What’s your favourite kind of yoga?

Grateful for Cafe Gratitude

There is one more San Francisco foodie experience I must share with you. I know I am still leaving out the gala dinner. I will get to that in some form or another. But first things first.

Over the weekend, I chowed down on burgers, octopus, pork, buttery croissants, to name a few. But not all of it was animal based. In fact, I ate a lot of vegan while there too!

It started on Friday after a yoga class at San Francisco’s Yoga to the People. Astrid and I showed up with 50 lbs of luggage, only to find out we had to climb five flights of stairs to get to the studio.

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You have got to be kidding me.

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I think we could have skipped the sun salutations, we were already warmed up when we got there!

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The climb however was worth it, as the studio was gorgeous. Large and bright, with windows overlooking the San Francisco cityscape. I know some people think doing a yoga class is a weird way to experience a city. I did the same thing while in Banff. However, finding new yoga studios is one of my favourite ways to experience a new locale!

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The class itself was wonderful. Not so much “hot yoga” as “warm yoga.” Enough to open you up. Crazy leg postures, including a low lunge for what felt like 10 minutes. I left feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and completely elated!

It was with this feeling that I first experienced Cafe Gratitude.

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A small vegan restaurant that specializes in mostly raw dishes. Apparently they used to operate on a by-donation basis.

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I loved everything down to the cloth napkins.

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My table started with an I Am Abundant Sampler Plate.                  

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Sprouted almond hummus, hempseed pesto crostini, spicy cashew nacho cheese w/flax chips, olive tapenade, buckwheat crackers, spring roll & mini house soup.

Cafe Gratitude only just started serving warm dishes and didn’t even have an oven when we were there. Thus, only served two of their cooked options. I opted for the I Am Trusting Tamal Plate.

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A hamdmade corn tamal made with stone-ground heirloom masa and filled w/ seasonal vegetables served with beans, salsa verde & Mexican cilantro coleslaw.

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I don’t think I’ve had a tamale since I was in Mexico 8 years ago!! I loved the cilantro slaw and the green salsa.

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The best part though were the pieces of squash in the tamale. Great for taste and texture.

After lunch, we decided it would probably be in our best interest to order dessert too.

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I Am Devoted Coconut Cream Pie: Rich coconut cream pie in a coconut-date crust. Holy coconuts!! I definitely would not compare this to the real thing, but that doesn’t mean this version still wasn’t delicious. So coconutty and surprisingly fluffy in the centre considering no cream was used.

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Group shot stolen borrowed from Ashley :)

Come Sunday evening, I found myself with no official schedule or dinner plans. When I heard a group of bloggers were hitting up Cafe Gratitude, it sounded like just what I needed after a weekend of heavy food.

I hummed and hawed over what to get once again. Picking the menu up, feeling overwhelmed, then setting it down again.

I finally decided on a dish that caught my eye on that first visit. I didn’t want to leave wondering what it tasted like!

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I Am Festive Taco Salad: Shredded romaine lettuce with crumbled pumpkin seed-walnut taco filling, guacamole, salsa & cashew nacho cheese, topped with flax chips.

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I loved the flax chips. Some people thought they were a touch too spicy, but they were right up my alley. The walnut taco filling was good too, however there wasn’t enough of it. Cashew nacho cheese was creamy and spicy, but this time too much of it! I totally blanked and forgot to ask for it on the side.

Even though I got just a half order of the salad, my belly filled quickly from all the delicious food ingested over my weekend at the Foodbuzz Festival in San Francisco.

Sometimes it’s easy to zip through vacations so quickly that they’re gone in a blink of an eye. Suddenly, you’re laying in bed watching Mad Men in Toronto thinking, “Wasn’t I just soaking up the rays in California?”

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Thankfully, Cafe Gratitude slowed me down just long enough to appreciate being in that moment. With new blog friends, enjoying wonderful food, in a place I never expected to be.

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Picture copied borrowed from Raya.

And for the record, Cafe Gratitude gets extra points for proper signage.

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For all you Americans who say “bathroom” ;)

 

My other Foodbuzz Festival/San Francisco recaps:
California Dreamin’
The Bakery That Changed My Life
All Good Things Come To An End
A Food Lover’s Paradise
A West Coast Story

La Dolce Vita

Hello friends!! How were our weekends? This my last free weekend before I start my part-time job at the running store so I tried to make the most of it!

This morning started off with one of the goodies I scored for helping out The Simply Bar at Toronto’s Vegetarian Food Fair yesterday (recap here).

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Simply Bar is known for their protein bars made with soy crisps. Now they have a new Simply Protein Oatmeal made with the same crisps!

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I mixed 3/4 cup with an equal amount almond milk and nuked it for 2 minutes. It’s strawberry flavoured and I wanted to get a good taste of it plain, so I only added almond butter to the top at first.

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But then I spotted the strawberry yogurt in my fridge and knew it was meant to be!

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I like my yogurt on top of hot oatmeal like a frosting, but my mom prefers it on the bottom with the hot oatmeal on top. To each her own ;)

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Ooohhhh yeah. Honestly, I reallyreally enjoyed the oatmeal!!! It was nice to make oatmeal without having to add extra protein in the form of eggs or powder. I need protein in my oatmeal, as just carbs in the morning leave me hungry and lethargic for the rest of the day. The strawberry flavour is just sweet enough, and the soy crisps didn’t get lost in the mix. Can’t wait till this stuff hits the stores!

The oatmeal was also incredibly filling. It got me through a free hour-long hatha yoga class at Lululemon, and then a loooong wait for brunch.

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My roommie and I have been wanting to try Lady Marmalade here in Leslieville forrevverrr. It’s gotten several good reviews, but more so, we just wanted to see what this line-up is about!!

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Every Saturday & Sunday there is a line-up at this place going out the door. We figured the food had to be good if so many people are willing to wait for it.

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After an hour our third new roommie (!!) showed up and we were finally seated.

By that point we all knew what we wanted after staring at the menu for so long ;)

Both of my roommies (soon-to-be and current) got the organic buckwheat fresh fruit crepe w/ lemony yogurt, house-made cranberry-almond granola, berry coulis & honey.

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Ummm yeah. That thing was a beast!

I went for something a little more savoury: organic tofu scramble w/ shitakes, bokchoy, spinach, scallions, sesame & a bit of a kick, served w/ basmati brown rice or potatoes, toast & a salad.

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I asked for the potatoes and my toast dry. Didn’t really make a difference though because the scramble was still sopping with oil :(

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I was expecting a smaller tofu scramble, similar to scrambled eggs. This was just okay. The potatoes and bread were great though, so that’s something. It’s our goal to visit all the brunch places in Leslieville, so now we can officially cross this one off the list!

Current roommie and I then bid adieu to soon-to-be roomie and we wandered the ‘hood for a little bit.

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We decided that Leslieville (East Toronto) consists of three things: brunch places, stores for dogs or babies, and specialty antique shops. I don’t want to break out the “Y” word, but some may describe it as a little yuppie ;)

With Sunday morning yoga and brunch out of the way, there were just two things left to do: grocery shop and cook!

This week I’m trying out some light meal planning. Since I’m only one tummy, it doesn’t get that complicated. Essentially just a couple dishes I can have for lunch & supper leftovers this week.

First up, something cold I can bring to work:

Tofu & Quinoa Salad

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I knew exactly what I wanted for this, so instead of following a recipe, I created my own! (Chef Michael Smith anyone?)

  • 1 cup dry quinoa, cooked with 2 cups water
  • 1 block extra-firm tofu, cubed and browned in a pan
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup chickpea broth (from the can, or the water you cook it in)
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped (around 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • pepper to taste
  • optional: 2-3 tbsp olive oil

All mixed up and chilled for several hours.

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I’ve been reading about how wonderful parsley is in my nutrition textbook, so I threw it in with reckless abandon. Fun fact: it has twice the iron of spinach! The taste turned out just as I’d hoped. I’ve now got some waiting for me on top of spinach for lunch tomorrow :)

Now, onto a hot dinner!

Not Your Average Shepherd’s Pie

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This one comes from a recipe over at Foods of April and can be found here.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of lean ground turkey breast
  • 1 cup low sodium broth (I used organic beef broth)
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 2 cups green beans (I defrosted some)
  • 1 cup of corn (I defrosted some)
  • 1 1/4 cup cauliflower “mashed potatoes”
  • Pepper
  • Garlic seasoning

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook ground turkey with onion, pepper, and garlic seasoning until well done.
  3. Place turkey in a casserole dish or oven safe deep dish container.
  4. Cut up the green beans (optional) and layer on top of the turkey.
  5. Add the corn.
  6. Pour the broth over the veggies to coat.
  7. Spread the “mashed potatoes” on top of the veggies.
  8. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the “mashed potatoes” start to brown and look like a crust.
  9. Cut into 4 servings and eat!

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I made it just as the recipe suggests, however my cauliflower is a little different. First, I was too impatient to let it cook all the way, so it didn’t quite “mash.” I have made it several times before though, so rest assured it will get creamy like potatoes if you have an ounce more patience than I.

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I added chili powder to both the turkey and cauliflower for an extra bit of kick. Instead of cream cheese, I added cottage cheese to the cauliflower. My only complaint is that the broth made it soupy, I would definitely omit that next time!

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Of course, what is shepherd’s pie without a healthy dose of ketchup??

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April is so cute. Her recipe says it makes four servings – I got three. And a very satisfied belly afterward ;) Comfort food at it’s finest. Can’t wait to have it again for dinner tomorrow!

 

Yup, yoga, brunch, grocery shopping and cooking. Can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday. Well, maybe. Next week I’ll be talking running all day and getting paid for it! Life is sweet my friends :)

 

Question of the Day: What is your favourite dish to eat for leftovers? Okay, when I was a kid my mom used to make giant pots of spaghetti. I would always eat the leftovers for breakfast reheated in the microwave with half a pound of melted cheddar cheese. It was awesome.

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