I have been practicing Bikram yoga for nearly three years now and I am still very much in love with it. I have been doing yoga since 1991, and I think I have tried most forms of yoga, but for me, Bikram takes it to a whole other level.
I believe raw foods and Bikram yoga are two very complimentary practices. The heat is really good for a raw body that may tend to get chilly, and both practices are about committing to a pure and disciplined relationship to the body so we can experience them as an amazing and wonderful vehicle to live in.
Through Bikram, I’ve learnt so much about my body and my relationship to it. And of course, I’ve also learnt a lot about which raw foods and superfoods are the best for peak physical performance and intense workout regimes, and that’s what I want to share with you here. Currently, I practice Bikram three or four times a week, and I find that’s enough to keep me in shape without over-exerting myself. To do classes every day is an enormous strain on the body, and I do wonder how people do that without taking proper care of their diets.
So here are my top tips for a raw vegan Bikram practice, and indeed any form of strenuous workout.
- Chlorella contains a unique substance called CGF, which means it rebuilds cell walls. This makes it ideal for anyone who exercises a lot, particularly taking it after a session. The easiest way to take it is in tablet form – I would recommend around 20 at a time, either before or after exercise.
- MSM acts as a carrier in the body. It’s exceptionally good for the joints. I would start off with just a teaspoon and work up to a tablespoon. It has a bitter taste that is hard to disguise; pop it in water or juice and knock it back. I find drinking it before my practice exceptionally beneficial, and I notice that I can get deeper into the postures by what feels like a couple of inches when I have drunk my MSM water before class.
- Maca is the best thing I know of for energy and stamina. I take a tablespoon most days, although I would recommend starting with one teaspoon. It’s a great source of protein and calcium, and it would be my first recommendation to all athletes.
- Chia is a South American seed which also provides a clean, long-lasting source of energy. One of the great things about chia is that it’s so easy to digest, so when your body’s working really hard, you can conserve energy with digestion and use it directly for fuel. Have a spoonful in a glass of water with lemon juice as a hydrating drink, or make a chia porridge for breakfast.
- Avocados are one of the great loves of my life. Such a perfect source of energy, so easy to digest, and so simple to eat. My favourite way to eat them is like a boiled egg: just slice one in half and sprinkle on a little salt.
- Seeds are another fantastic source of protein. I use chia, hemp, flax, sesame, pumpkin and sunflower. Seeds are where I get the bulk of the calories in my diet. I make seed cheeses, mayonnaises, pates and crackers, which I eat most days.
- Green powders are essential on a vegan diet. If you’re not eating any animal products, and your body is under any kind of strain eg adolescence, pregnancy, chronic illness, or a strenuous exercise regime, you’re not going to be able to meet your body’s requirements without including liberal amounts of green powders. As well as chlorella, you can include spirulina, Klamath lake algae, wheatgrass and barleygrass. A teaspoon isn’t going to cut it – I would recommend more like a tablespoon a day. I use our green powder blends Out of the Woods and Greener Grass.
- Staying hydrated is utterly essential when you’re sweating a lot. For Bikram yogis I think five litres a day is minimum. That could include coconut water (full of electrolytes), chia drinks, nut and seed milks, herbal teas, kombucha, and juices. Green juice is my lifesaver, I have a litre most days. One of my top tips is to mix a teaspoon of wheatgrass powder (or even better a fresh wheatgrass shot) into your coconut water – both are excellent blood cleansers, and when taken together are supremely rebalancing.
- Mineral drops are a good way to up your mineral intake, strengthen the bones, and replace the nutrients we lose when we are sweating. The brand I use is Ultratrace, which is a form of concentrated minerals from the seabed. I put 10 drops at a time, into my milks usually.
- Fermented foods when we’re stressing our bodies out with a lot of exercise, we can risk depleting the intestinal flora, especially when we are sweating so much. I eat fermented foods most days in the form of fermented vegetables, and I also drink kombucha and kefir every day – usually between 500ml to 1 litre in a day. All the ferments are best if you make them yourself, which isn’t a difficult or time-consuming process. If you’re not that committed right now, you can buy them in the health food stores.
Remember with the superfoods that usually I advise small doses, but if you’re burning it off all the time, you can take a bit more. Keep stepping the dosage up until you find your level. You can’t overdose on superfoods; what you can do is take too much and set off a detox reaction, but if your body needs all those minerals, vitamins and amino acids, you’re going to feel absolutely wonderful when you give it what it’s asking for in such a pure and easy to digest form as the above superfoods.