Meet Stephanie, the clinical psychologist and mindful blogger @theyogapsychologist , who has made it her mission to change the glossy, yummy mummy image associated with yoga into something accessible for all.
Since July last year Stephanie has been teaming up with vegan duo ‘This is what we are made of’ to host what quickly became our favourite yoga brunches in North London. Much like Stephanie’s approach to yoga, Lydia and Tal, founders of ‘THIS IS WHAT WE ARE MADE OF’, take a refreshing stance on vegan-ism; busting myths that vegan food is bland, expensive and difficult to make.
Following their most recent hot and sweaty yoga class and hot (and fortunately not so sweaty) brunch of vegan shakshuka we caught up with the trio taking over London’s wellbeing scene to find out how they set it up and what they have in store for the future!
PlusMinus: Hi Stephanie! Tell us a bit about yourself!
Stephanie: I’ve always had an interest in health and fitness, but more so with running and team sports before I discovered yoga. When I discovered yoga I experienced an immense grounding connection, a real cathartic space to just be.
PM: How did you come up with the concept and what inspired you?
S: Yoga and healthy eating support one another beautifully. So we decided to collaborate the yoga with ‘This Is What We Are Made Of’ vegan kitchen, particularly in an area where both are lacking but demand for each is growing.
We were hopeful of offering the event within a local community at a more affordable price, to highlight that both yoga and vegan eating do not have to be expensive! It is about introducing yoga and veganism to new people, sharing like-minded interests in a welcoming and open connecting space, and promoting the positive effects of yoga and veganism on well-being in a social event.
PM: Are beginners welcome?
S: Absolutely! Yoga really is for everybody and every body, and should be accessible for all. The Yoga Brunch event is suitable for all levels, from first-timers to well-practiced yogis.
I teach reflexively with the flow of the session, acknowledging and listening to each yogi’s differences to set an appropriate tone and pace.
There are so many misconceptions about yoga: it is not that you can’t do yoga because you are not flexible, not being flexible is a reason to start practicing yoga! And you are never too old to start, because we were all beginners the first time we stood on the mat.
What are the benefits of practicing yoga?
S: Scientific studies have shown that there are a vast amount of physiologically benefits to yoga:, yoga can increase your blood flow and heart rate, lower your blood pressure, boost your immunity, support digestive processes and protect your spine and joints.
Yoga also promotes a sense of relaxation by reducing anxiety and making yogis feel more grounded in the present moment, which further enables yogis to widen their perspectives, improve relationships and feel more confident in dealing with the challenges that life may bring.
PM: What fitness/health tips do you swear by?
S: Daily morning meditation has been part of my routine for over 3 years now (I started with Headspace app, very accessible for beginners); it really helps to bring clarity in thought and focus for the day ahead.
First thing every morning I drink a warm lemon water, followed by a green juice for breakfast. I mainly eat veggie food, and my plate has to be full of colour! I no longer drink caffeine and indulge in herbal teas instead. But I really have a sweet tooth and love chocolate – dark chocolate is a great alternative, as are vegan snacks!
This year I’m trying to treat myself to one facial or massage a month. It’s important to treat ourselves sometimes!
PM: A girl after our own heart! What are your plans/dreams for the future?
S: Future plans are to establish more yoga classes in the local community, and promote yoga into more diverse communities to de-mystify any associated myths of exclusivity associated to its practice.
I am also hopeful of building a culture of well-being in the NHS and taking yoga into the clinics for staff and clients. I’d like to continue my professional development into Thai Yoga Massage and Massage Therapy, and incorporate all the yoga and therapy skills into my very own dreamy little zen pad offering holistic therapies for the mind and body.
PM: Do you believe that yoga should be accessible and affordable for all?
S: YES! The commercialisation and glossy image of yoga portrayed in the media hypes an ideal that yoga is for a certain body type/person, with an unaffordable price tag to match. As yoga teachers and yogis alike we have a duty to promote yoga as a practice available to all, at every level, across multiple contexts in all walks of society.
‘THIS IS WHAT WE ARE MADE OF’ say…
We’ve been close friends for seven years, and both turned vegan about two years ago. We were inspired to set up THIS IS WHAT WE ARE MADE OF after being invited to cook at one of our local pubs and host a ‘Vegan Night’ to show off how delicious and accessible vegan food can be!
A lot of our food is inspired by our nearby Turkish and South Asian hubs, but also our parents, places we’ve travelled and our general love of eating!
We find that buying food locally, both from the Turkish and South Asian supermarkets that offer a range of new and exciting ingredients to explore and also cheap fruit and veg stalls, means that indulgent vegan cooking can definitely be achieved on a budget.
Shortly after hosting our first ‘Vegan Night’ event we were inspired to incorporate one of our other shared passions and start running a weekend ‘Yoga Brunch’. Steph leads an hour-long yoga class and then we provide vegan brunch spread after, made up of either a freshly made juice or smoothie, a fruit salad pot, a sweet bake or treat and a sweet or savoury hotpot. One of our most popular brunch dishes has been the Mexican hotpot with frijoles and smoky peppers and tomatoes on a bed of spinach, served with guacamole and tortillas.
We like to think of the event as accessible to people of all yoga abilities and food tastes – whether vegan or not! It’s great bringing together a group of strangers to do yoga and feed together, and enjoy the communal aspect of the event.
For more info from the Vegan Pop-up Kitchen’s next events check out http://www.madeof.uk/ and www.instagram.com/whatwearemadeof .
You can check out the trios’ next Yoga Brunch expected to be announced in the next few days, at the Salisbury Hotel, 1, Grand Parade, Green Lanes, St Ann’s Rd, Harringay, London N4 1JX. Look out for it on their Facebook Page!