Inspiring people offer their perspective on what it means to Eat Like a Yogi, and how we can all better serve the planet and each other.
“The more clear and focused my eating is, the more clear and focused my practice is.”
Anne Phyfe Palmer, 500-ERYT, RPYT, founded 8 Limbs Yoga Centers in Seattle twenty years ago and has grown it from one room to four award-winning neighborhood yoga studios. Anne Phyfe (that’s her first name) is also a writer. Her essay “Dashed” was published in the anthology Three Minus One and she recently completed a memoir about yoga and ambition and how loss brought the two into alignment. (Photos by Melina Meza.)
Q: When and how did you come to yoga?
A: When I moved to Seattle a friend introduced me to Physical Culture, an amazing studio of dancers who taught fitness classes. I started with a teacher who used African, Cuban, Hawaiian, and Brazilian music and movements. It blew (and rewired) my mind. When she left Seattle she recommended the yoga teacher at Physical Culture, Kathleen Hunt, who taught in a style very similar to Jivamukti Yoga. I was hooked from the first class. It was so physical, and so spiritual; it packed all of my self-care needs into one 90-minute package.
Q: Do you have any poses you are working on, currently?
A: I don’t really work on poses—I think they work on me! Two of my favorites, though, are side angle pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana, in Sanskrit) and half moon pose (Ardha Chandrasana, in Sanskrit). Both are standing lateral poses that invite me into the present in a stable but intensely dynamic way—as opposed to the activation of backbends, or the inward focus of forward bends. They all have their place, but I know that I need to use my body strongly in practice, as well as keep my pitta nature in check.
Q: What is your favorite thing about yoga?
A: It is an embodied practice—a way to connect to deeper elements of life through the body. For me, yoga is a daily practice that is sometimes just maintenance and other times transcendant.
Q: What does it mean to you to Eat Like a Yogi?
A: To me it means to be mindful of what I put in my body, because that affects how I come to the mat/cushion. I don’t drink very much because of how it makes me feel in the morning, which is when I practice. I mostly eat vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, but I am not a purist. I have a Trader Joe’s Crunchitos habit, for example. I also eat some meats and lots of seafood, but I do notice that the less meat I eat the more peaceful (sattvic, in Sanskrit) I feel.
Q: Is there a correlation between the way you eat and your yoga practice?
A: The more clear and focused my eating is, the more clear and focused my practice is. When I indulge in foods I enjoy that aren’t necessarily good for me, I am less apt to practice when I wake up. I have found recently that sugar has a huge impact on my body (and thus my practice). It makes my joints hurt, especially in the morning, which makes practice less enjoyable. I am currently avoiding sugar and love how that makes me feel.
Q: Which item in the Manifesto do you feel is most relevant right now, and why?
A: Number 3: It’s okay to hold opposing beliefs.
When I first started to study yoga I found myself confused by the many seeming contradictions in yogic teachings. This came from the black and white thinking I was brought up with, and the desire to be right, and do things “right.” My teachers, especially women like Rama Jyoti Vernon and Shari Friedrichsen, have taught me that yoga enables us to hold it all, the “good” and the “bad.” It increases our capacity and widens our perspective.
Q: What do you believe is the most important thing yogis can do when it comes to creating meaningful change on the planet?
A: What came to mind first regarding the planet itself is that I seriously think everyone needs to stop driving gasoline-powered cars. My husband and I drive electric bikes and are lucky to live close enough to work to bike commute. We recently purchased a Nissan Leaf (they are really affordable used!) and that motivated us to get solar panels installed, so now our transportation is solar-powered! And honestly, our Leaf is the best car I’ve ever driven.
Socially and politically, I believe that increasing awareness of racism, especially its specific history in America, is vital to changing the completely wacko power structure in our country. It isn’t easy, or comfortable, but if we are not diving in and learning how to bring unconscious bias and the incredible effects of systemic racism to light, we remain contributors to its devastating outcomes. Our country has incredibly racist laws and behaviors at its core, and was financially built on slavery. Equity and freedom, the ideas that our country was founded on, will take a LOT of people increasing their awareness, sharing/surrendering power/privilege, and a lot of dismantling. I am currently devouring The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Truly everyone who is interested in social justice in our country should read it, ASAP. I look forward to meeting angel Kyodo williams this year; her book Radical Dharma is a must read for yoga and meditation practitioners.
On the more interpersonal level, I believe that being PRESENT, avoiding reactivity, and allowing ourselves to sit in discomfort is how we stop wars—against our bodies, against other bodies, against other countries, ideas, and religions.