After her father underwent a triple bypass, Debra decided to go vegan and, a year later, start practising Bikram Yoga. Read her advice for other vegans (or wannabe vegans) who wonder how they, too can effectively mix a plant-based diet with a regular practice.

Tell us about your very first Bikram Yoga class …

My very first class was in Vancouver roughly three years ago. I had tried other forms of yoga and found them lacking – or, rather, just not a fit for me. I was looking to improve my fitness level on every level and Bikram appealed to me in that way. I felt totally spent after my first class and my initial reaction was, “This is impossible; I cannot do this.” My follow-up thought five minutes later was, “Wow, I think I might love this – be quiet ego!” Despite feeling sore the next day, I went back for more. You know what? Going back straight away actually alleviated my sore muscles! I was happily hooked!

These days I practise three or more times a week, and the benefits have been amazing. Bikram Yoga provides the challenge that my type A personality requires, but it also requires laser focus on the posture at hand, which helps to quell my monkey mind. Besides feeling fitter, happier, calmer and more ready to deal with life’s many challenges, my stress level has decreased and I simply feel that my overall wellness has improved. I actually embrace the fact that some classes I do really well and others, well, not so much. It is a great metaphor for life: “Progress, not perfection.”

How does being vegan relate to your practice?

I have been a vegan for fours years. The impetus to become a vegan was due in large part to my dad’s coronary artery disease and subsequent triple bypass at the all-too-young age of 55. In terms of how veganism relates to the practise of Bikram Yoga or any type of physical exercise, a whole foods, plant-based diet has been championed by the likes of Lance Armstrong, Venus Williams, Carl Lewis, Brendan Brazier and many more professional athletes. In my opinion, a well-thought-out whole foods, plant-based diet doesn’t impede your performance, it aids it.

Do vegans need to do – or eat – anything special in order to practise Bikram Yoga?

The most important part of Bikram is water, which is very plentiful, widely available and very vegan! If I struggle in a class, it is usually because I am dehydrated. I also believe that, though many people may not fully adopt a vegan diet, the more plants one eats the better. Again: progress, not perfection! Or, as Buddha said, “The middle way,” which in my belief is the most loving path one can take.

What are your favourite pre/post-yoga vegan snacks?

My favourite vegan companies are Healthforce Nutritionals and Living Intentions. A handful of Living Intentions Superfood Cereal with cacao, reishi mushrooms, maca, coconut and lots more yummy ingredients keeps me going. Healthforce also has an amazing product called Vitamineral Green, which I mix with OrganicLives’ protein powder and almond milk a few hours prior to class. OrganicLives has an amazing raw foods menu and product line – it’s a vegan oasis in the heart of the city!

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