Super Shrink Me – Ike Allen – Reverse Vegetarianism

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In episode 76 Lucas speaks with Ike Allen, founder of Avaiya, filmmaker, philosopher and creator of Super Shrink Me, a film where Ike eats junk food for 30 days and he does just fine. In our Q & A we get answers to, yoga and boxing, downward facing dog technique, best time of day for yoga and so much more. The nutritional tip has to do with: reverse vegetarianism. Listen to learn more about all that stuff.

In this Show, You’ll learn:

  • Loose 10 pounds eating fast food
  • Calories burned in yoga
  • Warming up before yoga
  • Reverse vegetarianism

Links & References from the Show

Got questions?


Welcome to the Yoga Talk Show, your one-stop destination for all things yoga, health and wellness.

So hello and welcome, everyone, Lucas Rockwood here with the Yoga Talk Show. Thanks for joining us. I’m joined today by Ike Allen. He’s the founder of Avaiya. He’s a filmmaker, a father, a philosopher. He’s joining us from Boulder, Colorado. I’m here in Barcelona, Spain today. And I’m really excited to have this featured guest. Ike created a film called Super Shrink Me, which is a follow-up film to Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me, in which Ike eats junk food and he does just fine.

And so he’s the creator of a bunch of other very interesting films, which I’ve actually just learned about and which are right up my alley. I’m into metaphysical films, I’m into every kind of documentary film you could imagine, but one of them is called A Course In Miracles The Movie, which I’m excited to learn more about.

So Ike, thanks for joining us. (00:57) I’ve given people my limited, brief overview of you, but if you could, just take a moment to tell us about you and your work so we can get to know you a little bit more before we jump into some questions.


Absolutely. (01:10) I have made several films over the years. I grew up in the restaurant business, and about eight years ago I stumbled into the filmmaking industry, when I said I want to make a film about the nature of reality. It ties into the origins of yoga and non-duality and Avaiya and all these things. I said, I really want to take a look at what is reality and is the world illusory. Is it a dream? Is it temporary? So I set out, I said well the best way to really get some quality time with people is to make a film about it so I can actually say I’m a filmmaker. Don’t you want me to interview you?

(01:44) I set out and interviewed about 50 people on that, and we took a look at is the world an illusion and what does that mean. And that’s where we spun into A Course in Miracles, because it’s such a similar philosophy. We have some A Course of Miracles people in the film, we have quantum physicists, we have spiritual philosophers. But what I learned along the way was, wow I sort of like being a filmmaker. So a big part of what I do now is to create films.

(02:08) So I’ve created a lot of philosophical, non-dualistic oneness sort of films, everything from gratitude to empowering women, and then my partner and I, my girlfriend Ande, she said you’ve gotten a little heavy. I know you don’t want to give up everything, but I could probably show you how you could eat healthier food at fast food, fast casual or quick-service restaurants, as they’re often called. I could show you how to eat healthier at these places, everything from McDonalds to Kentucky Fried Chicken to the nicer places over here like Panera and things like that, and I could actually show you how to get in shape. In 30 days, I bet you could lose at least 10 pounds, and you’d only have to make a few changes.

(02:54) So it was a little bit of a spinoff from what we’d been doing, but I thought well this is an interesting concept. Could I actually learn to keep going to these quick-service restaurants and maybe I’m still getting the sandwich that I normally get, and I am a poultry and seafood eater, so could I walk in there and actually eat a chicken sandwich, but then instead of getting French fries get a side salad. And even McDonalds sells Newman’s dressing.

(03:17) So we set about doing this and we filmed a lot along the way, and the film is Super Shrink Me. It will be out on the November 14th. It will be entirely for free on the website. And what happens? What happens of eating lunch and dinner at fast casual, quick-service restaurants? Now, I drank a smoothie every day because I really got into the smoothies, and I went from sort of despising kale to it becoming this dream vegetable. I seldom have a smoothie that doesn’t have kale in it now.


It’s interesting. For people who are listening who don’t know the story behind Super Size Me, it had to be at least 10 years ago there was a book an then a film, or maybe the other way around. Morgan Spurlock, this guy goes on this 30-day fast food binge, and he eats every single meal at McDonalds, basically. Every single thing he puts in his mouth, every single thing he eats is at McDonalds. And no big surprise, he doesn’t do that well in terms of his health.




And it’s one of these films that I got really excited about and then I would tell people about, and they kind of shrugged their shoulders and said that’s ridiculous. Everybody knows that would make you sick. It’s kind of like going on a 30-day Budweiser binge. That’s going to do you some harm.




In any case, the film Super Size Me, one thing that it did well is it brought attention, for some people it was really a revolution. They said wow, this really does make you sick. Because Spurlock put on all this weight and he has his shirt off in the film and he’s getting these doctors saying stop this, your triglyceride levels are through the roof, and it really created quite a stink.

On the flip side of it, there was a lot of people saying of course that will happen. If you drink yourself or eat a bunch of crap food, yes you’re going to get sick. (05:18) And so there was kind of some reactionary movement against that, too, and that kind of seems like what this film is about. Is that accurate?


(05:28) Yeah, it definitely is. Are most quick-service restaurants the healthiest food on the planet? No. But really nothing is as healthy as sitting in our house, growing our own vegetables, probably eating a raw diet. I eat salad now every day. Ande has me eating salad every day. I’m not sure what it’s like in the rest of the world, but in the United States of America there are quick-service restaurants all over the place, and everyone’s not going to give it up tomorrow. Perhaps it would be wonderful if we gave it up tomorrow, but I don’t know. People like to go out to eat, they like it quicker, so why can’t you go to McDonalds and get a salad with Newman’s dressing? Why can’t you go to Taco Bell and get something healthy?

(06:14) And in the last 10 years, since Super Size Me came out, enormous changes have happened. Even McDonalds, and I’m not a spokesperson for McDonalds, but I look at what they’ve done. They’ve lowered the sodium across the board on their menu by 12%, and some people would jump up and say well they need to remove 90% of the sodium, but the reality is they would lose their audience from a business standpoint. They have a long-term plan to slowly decrease salt and other things in food and bring in healthier choices. We’re in this evolutionary process, and I think when we give up wanting to point our finger at someone and say, oh they’re wrong or they’re bad and we look at how can we actually make a difference and how can we actually make the world a better place, sometimes it’s by supporting these places.

(06:58) Sometimes it’s by when you’re in a rush and you really haven’t prepared your food, go to McDonalds and order a salad. But really if you’re going to pull up or go in, order the salad because then it sends a message to them, oh people of planet earth want a salad, and they’ll shift. They’ll sell a salad, they’ll sell us red leaf, they’ll sell us butter lettuce, they’ll sell us whatever we want if we say this is what we want. They will start selling it.


It’s an interesting thing. I’m a huge advocate of people voting with their dollars, and I also rally against big business. I’m a McDonalds hater, but I agree with you 100%. The moment Wal-Mart started selling organic milk is the day that organic became mainstream, and the power of big business to change everything is so much more leveraged than small business. And of course it starts with these small group and these small advocates, but the day that McDonalds starts serving grass-fed beef, that’s going to be a revolution. Will that every happen? I don’t know, but it is an interesting paradox.

Another example that comes to mind is China. China manufacturing quality of work, air pollution policies have just been kind of the worst of the worst for years, and now 20 years from now it’s predicted that they’ll be leading the green revolution in terms of solar, in terms of energy-efficient factories, in terms of workers’ rights and things like this because they have to. There’s an economic reality that the global economy demands it.

So it’s always this interesting balance, and it’s really hard as a consumer to figure out. Is it nature? Is it nurture? Is it that I have to boycott these things? Or do I have to use these things responsibly? It’s really a big challenge, and I think a lot of people find themselves in that situation. I’m a guy that spends most my time dealing with health and wellness stuff, and so we try to keep people away from fast food restaurants and we try to keep people away from the fast casual, or whatever the name of the day is.

The challenge is though, just like you said, they’re everywhere. And the bigger challenge, which people in my community like to lie about, is just the straight up economic reality of the fact that fast food is cheap. 100 years ago, poor people ate really well. They’d eat a piece of a meat and a potato or something, and these days poor people unfortunately, the most calorie-dense, tasty, convenient food is really, really bad for you. And so it’s a really challenging situation, where we have the biggest food suppliers, biggest people unsure exactly what their clients want.

And while I would never advocate somebody eating at McDonalds, it is an interesting thing that you point out. If people go in there and just start ordering more and more salads, you watch that salad menu explode. They will gladly start serving salad. They couldn’t care less. It is a food making machine. They’ll make whatever people buy. So it’s an interesting time that we’re in, for sure.


(10:00) Yeah, and again, it is changing so fast. We interviewed a lot of restaurant concepts and we interviewed a lot of food manufacturers while making this film, and this film is going to be a part of a bigger series, but in this one we take a look at Einstein’s, which is a bagel company over here, they have over 600 stores, and we all love bagels and bagels can be great but if you’re trying to watch your weight in America specifically, a bagel is a lot of calories. So now they’ve created bagel thins. One of the top sellers they have is they have a sandwich in the morning for people that are looking for that, and you get a bagel thin, you get an egg white, it has asparagus on it and mushrooms. So it’s mushroom, asparagus, egg white, bagel thin sandwiches, and this is a mainstream restaurant concept over here.

(10:49) So again, the change is happening. Whether you’re for a big business or small business, even small businesses, small concepts here in Boulder and when we travel, they’re providing healthier and healthier choices. Lucas, we could both still go into the wonderful diner, but it’s not the wonderful healthy diner. It’s awesome food, but it’s not necessarily healthy food. I could go back to New England and go to a diner and be like, this is the most incredible food in the world, but McDonald’s may be better than my favorite hometown diner, as far as health and wellbeing goes.


So the end of Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock is, whether it was staged or not I’m not sure, but he’s vomiting in the drive-thru line and he’s gotten himself so sick on fast food that he’s about to die. (11:37) So I’m curious, what was your experience, when you kind of top-graded your fast casual, your fast food, however you want to call it? When you top-graded that and you said listen, the reality is there is a way to eat this and do pretty okay, what was your experience? Because you’re doing this for a 30-day period as well, is that right?


Yeah, yeah.


How did you end up? Did you feel more energized, less energized, equilibrium, same/same? What was the net effect of it for you?


(12:04) Well, what I can tell you is that I did lose at least 10 pounds in those 30 days. So I ate at those quick-service restaurants for lunch and dinner and I drank a smoothie every morning. That helps with controlling calories a little bit. And Ande had me doing more exercise. But I lost at least 10 pounds, as I’ll say until people watch the film, so naturally I was thinner and there’s a psychological component of being better. It could be said I was eating way more salads while it was going on. I felt lighter, I felt clearer. I’m sure I was taking in way more vitamins and minerals and fiber, because again, going back to McDonalds and again I’m not a spokesperson, but a lot of their buns now even have a portion of them being whole grain. But then you go to places like Panera or Einstein’s or a lot of these other concepts and you can get 100% whole grain things.

(12:59) So I mean, I felt a lot better, but the biggest thing I come back to is losing weight. I had let myself get a little soft, let myself get a little lazy, and when we all lose weight, no matter what we’re eating I would say, there is a feeling that comes over us. The pants get a little bit loser if they’ve gotten tighter, and it’s just the psychological euphoria of, yes.

(13:22) But again, I ate a lot of vegetables. I ate a lot of salad at these places, because a lot of them you can say I want extra vegetables or you can go out to fast casual Chinese concepts and say I want extra vegetables. And I definitely ate less meat on the journey. Not no meat, but I definitely ate less meat on the journey, because I started shifting and going, oh well instead of a side that’s chicken at a quick-service Chinese restaurant and a side that’s veggies and the rice, I would choose sometimes two sides of veggies.

(13:55) And the other thing is, it’s the awareness of walking into concepts and saying, do you have whole grain, do you have steamed brown rice instead of fried brown rice or is it really whole grain rice. So I felt incredible. I felt incredible, and I was also doing the smoothie every morning so I was getting a lot of greens, a lot of kale from the garden, a lot of fruits, a lot of vegetables. Probably even more water in my diet, Lucas.


It’s interesting. There’s health geeks like me, and we’re eating spurlina and eating chia seeds and practically doing lines of flax meal and these kinds of things, and then there’s people are just naturally able to find a balance. The truth is, the people who never have to worry about their weight, most of those people really aren’t eating that great, which is a very weird paradox for people to wrap their head around. But I found that a lot of people that do really well find a happy balance and they don’t live on the fringes, which I would put myself in the category of living on the fringes for better or for worse. It’s just my personality. And I think people can really get away with a lot, and just taking really careful, common sense.

But the one thing that I want to come back to, which I get a little riled up about and I’m curious what your stance is on this, is you go to any city in the world really and you go to any poor neighborhood in the world and you go to a McDonalds or Burger King or any of the low-end fast food restaurants and you’ll see it filled with obese people. And this is not stereotypical of any place anywhere. It’s really kind of universal. And I spend a lot of time in Asia, and traditionally Asian communities are really, really thin and even now for 10 years I’ve been living and working in Asia a lot and you go by the fast food restaurants and people are gaining weight there.

(15:46) I guess the thing that I struggle with is a lot of people blame the consumer, and then a lot of people blame the manufacture. And I’m curious where you fall on that line. Is it McDonald’s fault? Is it the consumer’s fault? Is it everybody’s fault? Whose fault is it that we have this obesity epidemic? Whose fault is it that 30% of the population is going to get diabetes? Whose fault is it that 60% of the population is obese? Did you come to any conclusions through your experiment?


(16:16) Well, it gets tricky, right? Because you could easily blame restaurants and grocery stores and food manufacturers and say it’s their fault because they’re educating us. We as the end consumer often rely on the food companies to tell us what we should eat. Now, it could be said that that just evolved over time and now we need to change our thinking. It could be said they’ve manipulated us, and I’m not really a big fault guy and that sounds like a political statement, but I just sort of look at what is.

(16:45) And here’s where we’re at in our society, is there’s a lot of unhealthy food, there’s a lot of access to food, there’s a lot of food that’s in TV shows, every corner we turn. When I was a kid, being 44, we didn’t have a billion cAnde bars at the convenience store on the corner. There’s food everywhere. So there’s two elements. There’s clearly food everywhere, and a Snickers bar is not as perishable as an apple, so there’s one element. And the reality is if most people walk into a store, they want to eat the Snickers bar. They don’t have the self-willpower to choose a Snickers bar.

(17:18) I don’t think it would matter if you walked into a store and half of the racks were fruits and vegetables and half of the racks were cAnde bars. Most people, what they really want is the cAnde bar, and they have to exercise their own will.

(17:33) Now there’s another component, at least again I can speak for where I’m at. I have two young kids, Lucas. I’ve got an almost nine year old daughter and an almost six year old daughter. When you have young kids, you stress that almost, they’re almost, or they’re eight and-a-half. They’re almost nine and almost six. They don’t want to be seven when they’re seven and-a-half. So they’re almost nine and almost six, as they tell me.

I see a lot of my friends that have children, they want to keep their kids inside because there’s the media that says oh there’s bad people driving around looking for kids. They want to keep their kids safe. I see more and more people that buy their kids every electronic device and they keep their kids inside because the neighbor might try to kidnap a kid or might do something inappropriate or whatever, and I feel like that’s a big thing that I see with parents and kids, is we don’t push or kids or we’re so busy we don’t push our kids to play, in our country it’s basketball and baseball and soccer’s gotten bigger and bigger here and American football and stuff. We don’t push our kids to get out there, and we also have a fear. There’s a fear that exists, at least here, where it’s like, oh my God who is the neighbor and Mr. Jenkins is down the road and is he really the nice old man that’s baking cookies.

(18:50) At the end of the day, it falls on the individual. In 2013, in the 21st Century, in my opinion, there’s a lot of education. We all have computers, or many of us have computers. We all know that a cAnde bar is not as healthy as a pear. We all know if we drink too much alcohol that’s out the door, and we’re naturally going to choose the cAnde bar. So it’s a matter of being consciously aware of the choice you’re making and getting out and getting exercise, because yes you could eat at McDonalds and you could stay thin, or eat all kinds of fast food and stay thin, if you wanted to. It may affect you long term, but it really is a combination in this day and age.

(19:30) In the 21st Century, whose responsible to me is me. That’s all I can speak to, ultimately. I’m responsible to me. I let myself get a little lazy. I let myself make unhealthy choices. I grew up in the restaurant business; I’m educated. I know too much fat, salt and sugar is a bad thing. I know that not enough exercise is a bad thing. No one’s keeping me from that information. It stares me in the face. It’s on magazine covers, it’s on commercials, it’s everywhere I look, it’s taught in the schools. We all know, at the end of the day, the buck stops right here.

The person that’s responsible for each person’s weight loss is the one that’s in the underwear that you’re wearing right now.


Yeah, it’s interesting. I completely can understand where you’re coming from. It’s interesting that you mention kids, because as a nutritional coach and author and all this stuff, nothing taught me more about food than having kids. I’ve got two kids, nine and two, and you think you know what sugar does to your body until you see what it does in a kid’s body. It’s like this immediate, immediate visceral reaction. But I agree with you, it’s interesting. And for me and for my health, I agree 100%. I feel 100% wholly responsible, whether I gain weight, lose weight, get cancer or don’t, I take full responsibility.

The challenge is though, I just feel like I’m really a privileged guy. I’ve lived in a bunch of countries, met some pretty interesting people and have been fortunate enough to get self-educated and just know how to learn, know how to teach myself. I’ve never really had any formal education. But I meet and work with people, a huge part of what I do is working with the obesity market and we have thousands and thousands of coaching clients who we work with who generally they need to lose 50 or 60 to 100-plus pounds and they’re considering bypass surgery and all kinds of really extreme things.

And I guess for me, I just feel like we have a different set of cards, and I don’t have better genes but I have a better education base. And that’s not because I went to a better school, it’s not because of anything, it’s just kind of the luck of the draw. Perhaps it was my family, perhaps it was my social circle, it becomes okay for me to experiment with food. It became okay and actually desirable for me to get passionately, intricately understanding of how the biochemistry of food affects our hormones, and I meet really, really powerful, educated, successful people who just haven’t got a clue. And even your idea of going into a fast casual restaurant and ordering something healthy, they don’t even know what that means.

And so for me, sometimes I just don’t know what the solution is. For sure there’s a huge portion of the population, people like you and me, we know that sugar is bad, we know that eating tons of processed food is bad, but there’s a lot of people who can’t really discern good and bad. They know that kale is good, but is whole wheat bread good? Is it bad? Is it going to mess up their diabetes? Is it going to affect their blood sugar or not?

It’s really a tough situation, and I have to think that in the next 10 years there’s going to have to be some big, top down leadership shifts, in terms of what’s being taught. The food pyramid is clearly a failure. The public policy in terms of food has always been in the interest of big food manufacturers, and I just — it’s really reached a tipping point in terms of the healthcare system worldwide is just really feeling the strain of obesity and all the degenerative illnesses that spawn from that.

(23:14) And so I’m interested and I’m hopeful to see what will happen, but I think for every guy like you and me who knows heads from tails, I think there’s four or five people who really would love to know but they just haven’t got a clue.


(23:28) Yeah, I agree. Think about all the people who still think wheat bread is whole wheat bread, and it’s really just white bread with some coloring in it most of the time, right?




(23:38) There really isn’t any whole grain. So there are definitely holes to fill, and I would say I would totally give a shout out to Michelle Obama. She has put an enormous amount of effort into changing the way things operate. Even here, Lucas, in Boulder, every school, every public school in Boulder County has a salad bar in it because we brought someone in and we made it a priority. So every child in the Boulder County school district, there’s someone standing there and they’re encouraging/telling them they have to try two things on the salad bar every day. It’s made a big difference.

(24:09) We get a fair amount of food going in the trash and off to the pigs or whatever it does, composting, but it’s a long journey back to teaching kids to make healthy choices, and if we don’t start somewhere, if you don’t keep doing what you’re doing, if we don’t keep making films like Super Shrink Me, then it’s never going to happen. But it’s not an overnight success. We didn’t get here overnight; we’re not going to get out of it overnight.


So that kind of leads me into wrap up questions. Morgan Spurlock does this film and his whole goal is to get people to shun the fast food industry forever. I’m curious, what’s your thesis? (24:41) What’s your hope that when people see this film, which is about to come out, what’s your hope that they’ll walk away from, in terms of action, in terms of takeaway, in terms of learning?


Yeah, my hope is that they’ll — and it already happened because we’ve done a big screening and I’ll get emails from my friends that will be like, oh my God I went to McDonalds today and I was thinking of you and I really wanted to get this and I ended up getting the chicken wrap and a side salad and blah, blah, blah. And they’ll be like, and I know it’s healthier and you’ve definitely influenced me, so that’s phase one for me. People aren’t going to give up fast food.

(25:14) My hope is that those people that eat it will go there and they’ll make a shift. Maybe they still get the burger, but instead of getting the fries they get a side salad. Maybe they’ll still get a burger, but instead they’ll ask for an apple instead of the potato chips or another chunk of bread on top of your bread sandwich. It’s just small transitions, because when people learn that they can make small transitions and nothing is taken away from them, then my hope is they’ll say, well he was also putting kale in his smoothies or he was doing smoothies for breakfast, so maybe there’s something to this. And they can start with a plant-based milk, banana, coco powder, stevia-sweetened shake in the morning and they can say to themselves, wow this isn’t bad, and eventually like I did, then the kale starts coming in, then the chia seeds and the flax and everything and I’m doing all that now, too, Lucas.

(26:07) My hope is that we can inspire people without insulting them, without making them feel bad about themselves, without blaming anyone else. The buck stops here. We can inspire people to make one small change today and one small change tomorrow and one small change the next day, and even if it takes them months and months eventually they’re going to say, wow look at this. Somehow I ended up having a raspberry kale smoothie for breakfast, and that’s much better than the frozen food, deep fried thing that shall remain nameless. So my hope is gradual change. That’s my hope, gradual change, awareness.


That’s great. I’m always an advocate of the best thing to do at McDonalds is use the bathroom and leave. That’s kind of my policy, but the one thing that I do have to say that I do admire about what you’re doing is at least you’re meeting people where they’re at. And one fault that I have is I’ll teach people things about nutrition, and I’m not meeting them where they’re at. I spend more on food than most people spend on their mortgage, and that’s not really meeting people where they’re at. I eat freaky green drinks that smell like swamp, and that’s not where they’re at.

Where people are at is they’re choosing between Subway or Panera or Taco Bell for lunch, and meeting people where they’re at I think there’s a huge, huge value to that, and those baby steps, building confidence and leading people in a positive direction, I think that could really have some legs to it.


(27:35) Absolutely, and if we don’t meet them where they’re at they’re just going to go behind your back and they’re not going to tell you. I’ve made so many spiritual films with wonderful, powerful, philosophical people that we all know, and you know what? Many of us have gone to a quick-service restaurant for lunch or dinner. I’ve sat down with very spiritual people at places like McDonalds and other places like that. So they’re going there. Many of them are still going there, and if you meet them where you’re at then you can influence them while you’re sitting there to say, hey would you consider an apple over French fries today.


Sure, sure. That’s great. So I know you’ve got a lot of big projects, other projects. (28:10) So tell us about the things you’re working on now. For people who want to get in touch with you, how can they find you through your website or your websites? What’s the best way for people to connect with you, and tell us what things you’ve got in the works.


(28:22) Always the best way is Avaiya.com, tough to spell but a great place to visit. Our next film coming out here is Super Shrink Me, and it’s just SuperShrink.me is the extension instead of .com, SuperShrink.me. We are getting really radical, we’re stretching our wings out further, we’ve got a film coming out that centers around new thought, unity, religious science, science of mind, things like that. We take a look at new thought churches. In two weeks, we’ll be in New York City filming a drag queen innerfaith minister for an upcoming film called Reverend Yolanda’s Old Time Gospel Hour. We’ve got a couple more food films coming out over the next 12 to 18 months. We just keep ping-ponging between doing sort of oneness-oriented things and sort of stretching the sexuality envelope a little bit with people, and we’ve got a small series coming out that looks like that. We’re all over the place, Lucas. Our basic motto is if it’s fun we do it.


Well, I love it. It’s a lot more than fun, too. These are really intriguing topics you have. I haven’t heard or seen one of your films that doesn’t look genuinely interesting on multiple, multiple levels, so it sounds like you’re doing some cool stuff.

So thanks so much, Ike, really appreciate it. For everyone listening, do check out the film, check out his website and we’ll talk to you all very soon.

You’ve got questions? We’ve got answers. Welcome to the FAQ round. If you’ve got something that you want to ask, send your questions to [email protected]. And now, let’s hear what’s going on with our listeners.

Raymond asks:

(30:10) If someone was looking to start boxing, would this be a perfect way to become flexible?

Great question, Raymond. In terms of boxing, we do have a lot of mixed martial arts, Brazilian jujitsu people using more flexibility routine. It is really helpful. A lot of the mixed martial arts training that goes on these days is very much yang in nature. There isn’t a lot of yin, there isn’t a lot of flexibility. It’s very much the boxing. So the art part of the martial arts is missing. It’s in no way critical. I think what’s happening in terms of mixed martial arts and Brazilian jujitsu is amazing, but a lot of these guys are doing really serious weight training, resistance training, and they’re not balancing that out with flexibility. So for sure, gravity yoga and deep stretches can be a very, very effective way to help.

Aubrie asks:

(31:00) When you’re doing down dog pose, are you supposed to make your legs completely straight? Because when I do that it kind of hurts. I don’t know if it’s just because my back leg muscles are really tense or if I’m just doing it wrong. Any suggestions to release that tension?

Downward-facing dog, your body’s in a V-shape. Your hands and your feet are about a meter and-a-half apart, feet about as wide as your hips, fingertips spread, fingertips pointing towards the front of your mat. Aubrie, you’re perfectly fine bending your knees, and it’s a great way to start practicing. You don’t want to tweak your hamstrings, especially if you have tight hamstrings. Even a downward dog can actually be kind of a deep forward bend that can be a little bit too intense on your hamstrings. By bending your knees and sticking your bum in the air, you get the same benefits but you can ease into it. I would encourage you to practice straightening your legs slowly over time, but don’t be in a rush. Your instinct to bend your knees was just fine. Just take your time with it.

The other thing is, down dog for me was a horrible pose for many years, and then I started holding it for a very long time, like five minutes, and I would use a stop watch and I would hold it for five minutes-plus. I started to find a lot more space in my shoulders and my hamstrings. I’d encourage you to give that a try, longer holds. Keep your knees bent just like you’ve been doing and really work at finding space in the pose. It’s a very, very powerful pose.

Sumin asks:

(32:18) I have a question. Is there any particular time we should do yoga in the day, in the morning or at night?

Here’s the deal. In the morning, your mind is clearer, it’s much easier to focus, it’s easier to get it done because you just get it out of the way. At night, you’ll feel naturally more flexible. Your body is the same, it just feels stiffer in the morning, feels loser at night. It’s really the same. You’re not going to make more progress by practicing at night or the morning. Your body just feels different.

The challenge at night is it’s so distracting. You have food in your belly, you have a day’s worth of activities bouncing around in your head, but I love both. If I had to pick one, if I had to recommend one, I’d say do it in the morning. You can do it when no one’s looking, you can get it done, get it out of the way and it’s easier to commit, in my opinion.

Tulpen asks:

How many calories does yoga burn?

My first answer is who cares. My second answer is anywhere from 200 calories to 1,000 calories. It depends on the person; it depends on the class. The reason I say who cares is because calorie burned is irrelevant, and it’s not why yoga is effective. I’ll give you an example. I have weighed in my life 138 pounds; I’m also weighed 182 pounds. A huge change in weight. when I weighed my least amount of weight I was eating the most calories. I was eating about 3,500 calories per day. It was enough calories that technically I should be obese. When I weighed over 180 pounds I was actually eating less calories than I was when I was very, very thin, abnormally thin and maybe unpleasantly thin. So calories are irrelevant.

Your caloric needs change day to day, moment to moment and is not something that anyone can predict with any kind of accuracy. So the general pop health dietary advice with calories is under eat all the time. Well that seems a little bit ridiculous. Who wants to walk around hungry all the time? Much better advice is to optimize for your hormones. What I mean by that is when you balance your fat storage hormones, insulin and leptin, when your body starts communicating effectively how much fat you’ve got on your body, the calories sort themselves out. You stop eating when you’re full. Your body just tells you, hey I’ve had enough. That was good, but we’ve had enough.

For everybody, what that really means is counting carbs, not counting calories, and this is depressing because carbs are delicious and we want them. But it’s the breads, the pastas, it’s the cookies, it’s the crackers, it’s the sugar, it’s in some cases the fruit treats. But for the most part, really what you want to count, if you want to count anything, is count your carbs, 150 grams or less per day if you want to lose weight, under 200 grams per day if you want to maintain weight. Those are really rough estimates. It depends person to person, but that will give you an idea. Forget about counting calories. You can probably eat 30% more calories than you’re eating right now and you can probably lose a significant amount of weight, if you optimize for hormones, not for calories.

Mimi asks:

(35:19) Before I try Hatha yoga, can you tell me how hard this is and how fit you need to be to do it?

Compared to what, Mimi? Compared to doing nothing it’s really hard. Compared to running a marathon it’s very easy. So the key thing is get started. Anybody can do yoga. Anybody can come in at any level. It’s not competitive. It’s an individual sport that you can do in a sport. I really like it. I think it’s fantastic, and I like that I can practice next to a 20 year old kid and I can practice next to my mother, who’s a grandmother, and she’s a very fit grandmother but in any case, anybody can do this. You don’t have to be fit to come. Any size, any shape, any age, come to yoga.


(36:04) I can’t keep my heels on the floor when I do down dog, because the backs of my calves hurt too much. What should I do? Is this normal for a 16 year old?

First of all, at 16 years old, I’ll tell you you’ve lost some range of motion. That’s a shame. But most people do. So my kid is two. He can do down dog, he likes to do down dog in the morning. His heels go flat to the floor. If he stops stretching, if he starts doing repetitive motion activities, if he stops squatting down like a normal, active homosapien human kind of person, he will lose his flexibility as well, just like you have. The good news is, you can get it back. You’re very young. It will come back in a snap.

What should you do? Long hold poses. Do down dog every night before bed, hold it for five minutes, use your stop watch. You’re young. You’ll get it really, really quickly.

Lockani asks:

(36:56) I’ve always heard we should not stretch cold muscles, but yoga usually seems very self-contained. Should I be warming up before this?

So here’s the deal. If your muscles are warm, your stretches will be more effective. If your muscles are not warm, your stretches will be less effective. It’s sort of like let’s say you were going to take a test. If you review before the test, you’ll do better. If you don’t review, it will take you longer to get it. It’s the same sort of thing. There is no reason not to stretch just because you’re not warmed up.

That said, if you have the opportunity to warm up it’s great. So what I mean by that is, if you’re going to do deep stretches, do a real simple warm-up stretch before running, exercising, going for a walk, and do your deep stretches after. You’ll find that it’s easier to get in. There is no rule. Don’t let the fact that your body is cold stop you. I’ve practiced yoga in the dead of winter, trembling with cold. I’ve practiced in studios that were so cold I had to rub my hands together to teach. You can stretch, you can make progress, it’s just going to take a little bit more work.

Love your questions. Thanks for sending them. If you’ve got a question, send it to [email protected].

It’s now time for the bendy body nutritional tip of the day. Raw food, edible insects, tropical oils, why not? It’s all fair game. Here we go. Let’s talk nutrition.

(38:27) Today’s nutritional tip is about reverse vegetarianism. Reverse vegetarianism is a term I coined back in 2007, to talk about people who are moving towards a plant-based diet, they’re focusing most of their energy needs from the plant kingdom and they’re doing it in reverse vegetarianism way. What that means is rather than giving up meat and eating lots of inflammatory, hormonally polluted, gross dairy, they’re focusing on eating ethically raised and slaughtered animal products. This is really, really controversial. People get very angry at me, but you need to take a look at the facts.

(39:05) The moral and ethical implications of eating dairy products, for me, are a lot more disturbing than eating ethically raised and slaughtered meat. A dairy cow spends its entire life in misery, doped up on antibiotics and hormones, sitting in a small cage. At least a beef cow lives a short and more pleasant life. You need to take a look at this. The reverse vegetarianism movement is very, very important. It’s a very significant step towards better agriculture. Reverse vegetarians, people call them Paleos, they call them Primals. They’re some of the more conscious consumers. They’re helping to change the animal husbandry rules and regulations and the way animals are being raised. It’s very, very significant.

(39:48) As anybody who has moral and ethical concerns about animals, you have to appreciate what’s going on here. Dairy is not the answer. Dairy farms are not the answer. Eating milk and cheese and yogurts and stuff, aside from being a health disaster or an environmental disaster, it’s unsustainable. We always will need some kind of animals that are grass fed roaming the hills that we’re not able to cultivate for plant-based nutrition, so animals will always be part of a food ecosystem, but dairy-based animals will not.

(40:20) So reverse vegetarianism, if you’re looking to move towards a plant-based diet, give up dairy first. Give up dairy first. It’s a radical idea. Call yourself a vegetarian. I’ll support you. I’m here for you. Love to hear your thoughts and your comments and your questions. That’s today’s nutritional tip.

You’ve been listening to the Yoga Talk Show with Lucas Rockwood. You might not know this, but I live and die for your iTunes reviews and ratings, so help me out. Head over to the iTunes store and give me some love. And when you’re done with that, you can grab the complete show notes, links to everything mentioned in this show, plus all kinds of other yoga shenanigans at YOGABODYnaturals.com.