Animal Rights Activism – Jasmin Singer – MSM

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Jasmin Singer is the co-founder and director of, Our Hen House, a non-profit animal rights activist organization as well as an extremely popular podcast by the same name. Jasmin also has a really amazing personal story of health transformation.

In this Show, You’ll learn:

  • How Jasmin lost nearly 100 pounds
  • About veganism, activism and health
  • Tips for at-home yoga practice
  • Curing hamstring injuries
  • If you should take MSM

Links & References from the Show

Got questions?


Yoga students, if you love to learn about yoga, health and wellness, plant-based nutrition, flexibility and mind/body biohacking, you have come to the right place, my friend. Welcome to the Yoga Talk Show with Lucas Rockwood, where my goal is to make your yoga practice just that much easier. Find us online at YogaBodyNaturals.com. We’re also on Facebook and YouTube. Check us out. Now let’s get on with the show.

So hello and welcome, everyone. Lucas Rockwood here. This is the Yoga Talk Show. Thanks for tuning in. We’ve got a great show for you today. We have a special guest named Jasmin Singer. She is the co-founder and director of Our Hen House, which is a non-profit animal rights activist organization. She’s also the co-creator of a really popular podcast by the same name, Our Hen House.

Jasmin is a really amazing person, with an interesting story of health transformation. That’s how I learned about her. I was really excited to have her on the show, so thanks so much for joining us, Jasmin.


I’m really excited to be here, Lucas. Thank you.


So I’ve given people kind of a third-person explanation of who you are, but before we jump into this maybe you can give people just a little bit of background about who Jasmin is and kind of how you spend your time.


Oh sure. (01:15) Well, as you mentioned, I run Our Hen House. I am based in New York City, and my partner, Maryann and I, run Our Hen House together. It’s at OurHenHouse.org, and it is a non-profit but we’re basically a multimedia hub for anybody who wants to change the world for animals. And we cast a wide net over what that means.

So anyone who loves their dog who kind of is aware that there’s injustices to animals might be interested in checking out some of our articles from our online magazine, or someone who’s a vegetarian or vegan and wants to get further involved with farm animal issues. We really want to see a new world that’s free of animal suffering, and we think that the only way to reach that new world is for everyone to get involved in their own life. It doesn’t necessarily mean standing outside protesting. It can mean that and we’re big fans of that, but it could also mean just seeping into your community with messages of compassion.

(02:14) So we have an online magazine, a weekly podcast as you mentioned and we have an eBook publishing arm, and we’re about to start a TV show as well. So we have a lot going on here, and we have a great time while we’re doing it.


Cool, sounds great. Yeah, recently we’ve been having a lot of cross-fit Paleo, meat-eating bacon people on the show, so I’m excited to bring some plant-based people. Back in the old days, we used to always just talk to only plant-based people and I realized hey, if I’m going to live in a box nobody’s going to listen to me. And so I’ve kind of opened up the discussion just to lots of different communities, and in my heart of hearts I’m a plant-based guy, but at the end of the day I realize that for certain people at certain times there’s complications.

In any case, maybe we can start off with your recently published article about how you lost a whole bunch of weight. And the reason I want to bring this up is because I’m a guy who’s been in the vegetarian, vegan and raw food community for a really long time, and I kind of notice this pattern, where people kind of have this honeymoon period where they do really well with their health, and it’s usually somewhere between 12 and 18 months, some people get away with it for about 36 months, like 3 years, and then a lot of people gain weight.

And I didn’t know what was going on for a long time. I just kind of believed some of the critics and the hype that they’re running out of iron or their B12 is low or they don’t get enough protein. And as I’ve learned a whole lot more about nutrition, I’ve sort of understood the biggest challenge of plant-based diet is not the nutrition side of things; it’s the hormonal impacts of certain foods that vegetarians and vegans and plant-based people tend to gravitate towards on accident.

So I’ve been a big, big proponent of mindful, healthy vegetarianism, which is a big issue because you go to these vegetarian conferences and let’s face it, there’s a lot of people walking around who are super compassionate, super dedicated but they’re not looking great. Their health is really suffering.

(04:15) So I’m curious what kind of path you’ve been on. Tell us what you’ve learned. Your before and after pictures are really, really stunning in terms of the difference. So tell us about that journey.


Wow, you just said so many things that I want to respond to. I appreciate what you just said about my article, which is on MindBodyGreen, and I was very blown away, very blown away by the attention that that article got. Clearly, something about it resonated with people.

So I just want to address one thing that you just said, and then I’ll answer your question. I’ve also been in this world for a very long time, I think about the same as you I think we discovered, and I’ve had a different appearance, Lucas. I’ve been traveling around the United States, and beyond giving talks at hundreds of conferences and I haven’t noticed that. I mean, I think that you and I would probably agree that vegans and vegetarians are certainly coming from a whole bunch of different standpoints, and some are health motivated and some are motivated by ethics and some are motivated by all of the above.

(05:28) But I haven’t been aware, in my experience, of the people who I’ve reached out to and the many people who I’ve interviewed through my podcast that there is a propensity toward lack of health. I certainly haven’t noticed that. I think a well-planned vegan diet is the healthiest possible diet that there can be, and it has the added benefit of allowing people who care about animals, to live in harmony with their ethical beliefs. I would be curious to hear more of what your experiences has been.

(06:00) But to answer your question, the article that you’re referring to was how I lost nearly 100 pounds. I do want to say that I was already vegan when I was 100 pounds more than I weight now. I was someone who had been fat my whole life, and I finally really transitioned into more of a whole foods-based vegan diet, as opposed to a vegan diet that really took advantage of the plethora of baked goods here in New York City, that happen to be vegan, that it was very oil based, very flower based. It was not your optimal healthy diet, but I would argue that it was still a whole lot healthier than a non-vegan, having a meat-eating diet. I was still consuming a lot of grains, it’s just I’m a person who gains weight very easily.

So the article that you’re talking about, which I hope your listeners check out at MindBodyGreen, is really about how I noticed the world treating me differently, hugely differently, when I lost the weight and it was kind of a shift for me. It was sad. It was sad to realize everything from men holding doors for me now to the ways that I was not only ignored but really taunted when I was 100 pounds heavier, and it talked about I’m not sure it’s necessarily — I don’t think it’s conscious. I think that we are — it’s so in us as a society to just treat thin people better, and it made me really sad. I don’t think that that’s been everyone’s experience, I’m talking from my own experience, and it really affected me, especially as someone who has devoted my life to standing up for fairness and equality.


I mean, did that make you resent being thin? (08:06) Was it a buzz kill, I guess is the big question?


(08:09) Well, I think that it was complicated. I think that’s a complicated answer. I think that there is a part of me that’s extremely jaded and I’m not sure — it doesn’t mean I live my life with a chip on my shoulder, I think I actually exude a lot of joy and I really have a significant amount of happiness and fulfillment in my life, and I think I did before, too. It’s not like I got thin and got happy, but now I think I have been exposed to true colors, in a way I’m not sure I had been before. I think I maybe took it for granted, and maybe I had a little bit of a suspicion that it was because of what I looked like or what people perceived me to be.

(08:54) And the other thing is I was outspoken, as I still am, and I think that for society, when they see a person who’s 221 pounds who’s outspoken, it doesn’t quite go a lot of the time. Especially when I was a kid and I was fat and I was on the stage, I was in theater, it didn’t really go with what people thought I should be doing, which is just being quiet and sitting in the corner and being introverted and minding my own business. Again, this is my experiences. So yeah, I guess I also like it, I like being thin, to be honest with you. I mean, I think that I would be masochistic if I didn’t say the advantages that I have now are enjoyable for me, but it’s a difficult thing.


As an activist, when you look at things like body image and food systems, as an activist today, what are the things that you get excited about? I mean, clearly animal rights, clearly women’s’ rights, but what are the things at this juncture in time that you’re really excited about?


(10:00) I am thrilled at how mainstream veganism is becoming, and I’m not necessarily just talking about the rise in veganism itself, which of course thrills me and it’s a huge rise, but just the amount of animal products that people are stopping consuming, like even non-vegans are saying, I’m going to adopt more plant-based foods into my life. And I think that that makes a huge difference at the end of the day, for the amount of animals who are killed, and that’s a huge shift to me.

Of course, my end all and be all, I would love for everyone to be vegan, and I don’t think that that’s going to happen immediately, but in the meantime as we increase the amount of people who are becoming vegan, other people are awakening to the horror that’s going behind closed doors for animals. And these people are also awakening to the deliciousness, accessibility, healthfulness and fulfillment they could find from plant-based foods.

(11:01) So I see animal rights issues more and more in the media, I see vegan food everywhere I go and I’m not just talking here in New York City but I’m talking in the absolute middle of nowhere where I have been visiting, many, many times on my travels. There are vegans everywhere, there are people who are vegan friendly everywhere and there is vegan food everywhere. That thrills me.


I find that most people are not okay with the food system now. They don’t know what to do it, maybe they don’t think about it as much as people like you and I, but they’re not okay with it. Nobody wants to. (11:34) So for conscious people who care about the environment, they want to care about animals, they want to care about their health, where do you recommend that people kind of get started, in terms of thinking about these issues?


That’s a really great question. So you’re asking me where people who have sort of an innate desire to learn more about animal issues or maybe they care about an animal in their life but they haven’t ever delved into it, where they should begin?


Yeah, somebody’s listening to you now and they’re saying, hey this makes a lot of sense. Maybe her lifestyle is too extreme for me, but where can I take some baby steps to jump into this?


Yeah, definitely. Well, the great thing about the plethora of resources out there is that there’s really something that would speak to anyone and anyone’s interest level. (12:20) So maybe they would be interested in coming at it from a health perspective, and I would recommend that they watch Forks Over Knives, for example, if it’s the health aspect of things that are calling to them. If you’re interested in learning about kind of all of the issues, there’s a great documentary called Vegucated by Marisa Miller Wolfson, that I would strongly recommend that you watch. If you’re interested in it from an environmental perspective, I’m a really big fan of the writer James McWilliams, and I would recommend reading some of his books and some of his online articles.

(12:54) So I would just Google vegan and then whatever interests you. Vegan environmentalism, vegan animal rights and see what comes up. But there is a book or a film or a blog certainly, that will speak to this for all of you. And if you’re listening to this and you don’t know where to begin, you could always go to OurHenHouse.org. We have a lot of resources there, and you could even email me at [email protected], and I could point you in the right direction.


I’m curious how you deal with kind of environmental implications, because for example, I’m a guy I eat all plants, I try to eat organic, I try to eat local, but I fly around the world like five times a year and so environmental I’m basically like a terrorist. I mean, it’s terrible. (13:44) So how do you think about not just the animals but the environment and all of us living together? How do you kind of reconcile all this in your mind?


(13:52) I feel like you actually just hit on something really important, which is that once we become conscious about one type of social justice issue a lot of times we find that we are challenging ourselves to become more and more conscious in a whole variety of ways in our life. So the fact that you’re even questioning that is great, because a lot of people don’t question that at all. I wrote an article for VegNews Magazine a few years ago on ecotourism, and I uncovered the fact that it was just really ridiculous —


The premises flawed.


Yeah, really flawed.


Stay home. The garden in your backyard. That’s ecotourism.


Yeah, exactly. Staycation, all I ever wanted. Anyway, so I did discover that a lot of times there was this ecotourism kind of approval system, and it was frequently not third-party verified so you could actually kind of label yourself ecotourist certified or whatever the name of the certification program was, but when I looked into different types of vegetarian and vegan destinations, a lot of them were not only lowering their carbon footprint by not offering animal products, but a lot of them were taking other steps as well, such as having solar panels and growing all their own food on the premises and supporting local plant-based diet, local culture as much as they could, and having other environmentally friendly behaviors.

So I guess the reason I brought that up is not only to say that if you’re going to be traveling for a destination look for the food amount of vegetarian inns that are popping up all over the world and just see what their eco practices are. But I would also say that it’s always an evolutionary process for all of us, and we need to ask ourselves in what ways are we still blind and what can I do realistically, given my life.

(15:56) Maybe you’re traveling for work, Lucas, and maybe this is not something you have so much control over, so I guess it’s important to look at the whole picture and see where you can bend and bend there.


I do a lot of work in Thailand, and the big new thing is eco hotels, and they have these green-friendly hotels, and basically they have a couple solar panels and they recycle. That’s the eco hotel. It’s just a shame. Even 10, 12 years ago when I first got into this, I first got into the raw food scene and the raw food scene was a bunch of us weirdoes sitting around eating pineapple. And then a few years later, it’s all about these weird, crazy products and it becomes this commercialized thing. I mean, I’m a capitalist. I love business and I love employing people, I’m proud of the fact that I have over 30 staff and I love to provide a great place for people to work.

At the same time, when these sort of conscious labels become involved in commerce, it really gets muddy really, really quickly, and yeah, it just gets so, so complex. What is an eco hotel? What is organic? I’m in Singapore eating organic apples that are from New Zealand and Australia. It’s like there’s nothing organic about that and it really gets complex. And then I’m like, well they don’t grow apples in Singapore so they’ve got to come from somewhere. So the world is becoming very, very complex, and I like to think a lot about the future of food and this whole vertical gardening and the realistic implications of that and looking into growing microalgaes and mushrooms and things like this, really nutrient, potent foods at home. Anyway, interesting stuff.

So as somebody who’s out there in terms of talking and speaking and writing, I’m curious. People say that we live in the digital age, but I don’t really buy it. I’m not good at tech stuff, yet I spend all my time doing tech stuff. My entire staff, we basically run internet companies, none of them are really that great on the internet. I think it’s kind of like the communication age, basically. The only thing that I see a lot of people getting really, really good at is communicating efficiently, effectively, regularly, creating tribes, creating audiences, creating platforms.

So I’m curious. (18:22) If this is perhaps more of a communication age than it is a technical age, for someone like you, what does that mean? What gets you excited about that? What have you seen in terms of implications? You mentioned your MindBodyGreen article. What kind of things do you see happening right now that might not have been possible 10, 15 years ago?


That’s a great question. I love the way you framed that, Lucas, when you said that it is the communication age as opposed to the technical age, because I too am not fantastic with tech stuff. I don’t consider myself a techie, but I’m definitely a communicator, and a lot of what I do is online. I mean, I also have a lot of person-to-person contact from the talks I give and things like that.

(19:03) But I guess people are communicating in a much different way than they were 5, 10 years ago, even probably 2 years ago, and that’s largely due to the media and the way that the media has been unfolding and evolving in the past few years. I mean, media has not only become so largely based online and it’s become so instant, but of course social media has just blown up, and that’s like a tremendously good thing.

I think that person-to-person contact is still the most important thing that we can do, because humans are an intensely social species and social change still happens person-to-person and by example, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to be someone right in front of you. That is something that has evolved as well. So people are noticing when you do things, when you go to the grocery store and you ask where the tempe is, the person who you ask is like, “Oh, tempe.” When you post a status update saying what you had for dinner and posting a photo of it, people are noticing. I’m not saying that that in and of itself is going to change the world, but I think that that really does get people further on in the potential for veganism and vegetarianism to reach a tipping point. And once we reach at tipping point at, let’s say, 10% of society, then I think mainstreaming will become even bigger and better and veganism will become a much more widely accepted practice.

I’m also a lesbian, and I think it’s funny to look at the comparisons between how people used to react to the gay person in their family and how people react now to the vegan person in their family. Everyone had a gay cousin, and everyone seems to have a vegan cousin now, too. So at least here in the United States and in New York City, it’s much more widely accepted than it used to be to be gay, and I think that veganism will be a close second and will follow in the footsteps, in a certain way. We’re really everywhere.


I have a question about the “ism” question. This always comes up, and I think it’s a really challenging question. Is it important that people become a vegan and take on that label? Somebody is maybe raised Jewish or somebody is raised Catholic and maybe they don’t want to be part of these groups anymore. (21:32) How do you feel about that, as somebody who’s deep in the vegan world? Does that V word serve you? Is that really helping or is it hurting, in terms of building the community?


I have at least two answers to your question. One is for me personally and for the people who tend to gravitate toward Our Hen House, and one is toward the rest of the people and society at large. (21:57) For me personally, I think we definitely need to be getting the word vegan into conversations and dialogues and media much more often than we are now, and I think that that will be the thing that normalizes it and I think it does serve me. People know what vegan means. The people who don’t still call it “vaygan” anyway. If there’s anything your listeners take away from this discussion, don’t say “vaygan,” it’s vegan.

(22:23) And so yeah, I’m a big fan of it, I’m a big fan of the word, I’m a big fan of what it means, that’s how I feel about me and, like I said, our listeners and our readers. But in general for people, I don’t care what they call themselves. I think that at the end of the day what I hope for and what I think is absolutely necessary for the longevity of our planet and for the compassion to our fellow earthlings who don’t happen to be human, is to just stop consuming them. And whatever that means for you personally, I think that whatever — I have a friend, I take tap dancing, and I have a friend in my tap class who has gone vegan ultimately but she doesn’t want to call herself that. Who am I to judge her for that? She’s living her life as truthfully as she can, and she has stopped the consumption of animal products.

It’s not necessarily going to be an overnight stop. One example is frequently people have leather shoes for years and years after going vegan, and that’s one example. Another example might be that there is some frozen meat in your freezer and you’ve gone vegan but this is still in your freezer. What are you going to do with it? There are questions. There are grey areas. But one area that is not grey is what I see as the moral imperative of adopting a vegan diet. Whether that means you’re calling yourself vegan or not is another story. And once you actually learn about the horror that happens to animals behind closed doors, I think that it actually becomes a decision that people make on their own. They don’t feel like it’s radical anymore; they see what’s radical as what’s going on to animals. And maybe they’re not going to wind up like me, but I think even my meat-eating brother, who happens to be the only meat eater left in my family, even he is really taking steps toward making his house a lot more vegan-friendly and having at least three vegan days a week. That’s a big step for him, and I think that’s a great place to begin.


Yeah, for sure. It’s interesting. As a yoga teacher, the energetic impact of the food you eat is so much more apparent, I think, for yoga teachers and for dancers, maybe tap dancers as well, but for people doing body awareness stuff, especially any kind of subtle work like breath work or meditation or Pranayama, all of your food becomes much, much more apparent, and that’s not just animal foods but things like garlic and onion and these kinds of things. And all of this, what might sound like pie in the sky language about energetics and food becomes very, very apparent when you spend any kind of time in any kind of seated meditation practice, if you ever spend time in an Ashram or even in just a committed yoga practice, people start to really feel the energetics of food, and that’s one reason that for yoga students I always recommend going plant-based, at least experimenting with plant-based, just because on an energetic level it’s not something that I’ve, at least to date, been able to quantify, if things go well I will figure out a way to quantify it, but it’s not something I can quantify but it’s something that you feel and it’s different.

For a certain period of my time, I’ve eaten heavy, heavy amounts of animal product, so I know what that feels like and I’ve actually recorded that in a very sort of geek-out, very left brain kind of way, and I’ve done the opposite now for over a decade, and it’s very different in terms of the way the energy moves in your body, the way your thoughts are formed in your brain, and again, it sounds very, very pie in the sky talk, but anybody who’s been there certainly experiences that.

I think for everybody listening, I guess my message and my message always is experiment, and I just find that most people do exactly what they did when they were five and six years old. They eat the same breakfast cereal with the same skim milk, and they eat the same pasta for dinner with the spaghetti Bolognese sauce or whatever it is. And experimenting with food and experimenting with probably, if we’re being perfectly honest which sounds like pretty alternative, whacky lifestyles to people, if you just experimented with it you would find very quickly that it’s not that weird, it’s not that hard and you can start to feel some benefits.

Whether you become 100 percent plant-based or whether you’re doing 3 days a week just eating plants, it’s a pretty interesting road, once you get open to the fact that perhaps there are more options than the ones that are apparent in front of us.

(26:51) So for people listening here, how can they learn more about your work, how can they learn more about your podcast, how can they get in touch with you?


(26:59) People could visit me at OurHenHouse.org, that’s our online magazine, our podcast, the home of our soon-to-been eBook publishing arm and our soon-to-be show, and you’ll be able to see it there as well. We are on iTunes and *** (27:12) as well. Just look for Our Hen House and people can get in touch with me either through the contact form at OurHenHouse.org or they could email me, [email protected], and I’m also on Twitter at Our Hen House and Facebook, of course, Facebook.com/OurHenHouse. And I really enjoyed hearing everything you had to say. I totally agree that once you’re in your body more, because I’m a runner and I think it’s very similar to what you were just talking about with yoga, once you’re actually in your body and you start to pay attention to your body’s queues, you might find that what your body is seeking is more plant-based foods and to make that a conscious thing that you’re doing, because a lot of us already are eating these plant-based foods but we might not necessarily be thinking, “Oh look, there’s no meat in my lunch today.” Just sort of become more conscious about it.


Yeah. It’s funny you mentioned the running thing, because for whatever reason, the runners seem to do really well, the yoga students seem to do really well, the dancers can go one way or the other but a lot of them do well. I don’t know why, but some of the more heavy-weight-based stuff, there are people doing well with it, but for whatever reason, I don’t if it’s because it’s less subtle, because it’s less energetic and more muscular, I’m not really sure but I’m always fascinated by the way that gymnasts, dancers, runners, yoga students, martial artists, Eastern practices, they tend to be plant-leaning, and the opposite is true for more yang activities, which is interesting.


I think that’s changing, too. We actually just interviewed a body building champion who is vegan, and we have an interview scheduled with a boxer who’s also a champion boxer and is vegan. So I agree with you, it’s not coming as quickly as you said.


It doesn’t come as naturally, which is really interesting. The energy thing is interesting, because these certain groups, they click with it.


Well, there’s a lot of stigma still attached to it within the weight lifting community, but that’s changing and I’m hopeful about that.


That’s a good point. The socialization could be as much a part of it as anything. Well cool. One last question before we go. (29:18) 2014, what’s the biggest project that you’re most excited about?


(29:23) There’s two that I’m not even really allowed to talk about, but I just kind of spilled the beans a little bit that my partner and I are about to start a TV show, and it’s going to be on all these subjects. So I guess that, right now, is what I’m most excited about, but I haven’t even really announced it to my own community, so yours is knowing first and it’s just such a wonderful opportunity. And it will be on the web as well, so people will be able to find it at OurHenHouse.org after it airs on TV here.

Lucas: Well, perfect. Jasmin, thanks so much for sharing your information with us. Everybody listening, please check out OurHenHouse.org, podcast by the same name on iTunes, and I appreciate your time, Jasmin, and we’ll talk to you very soon.

You’ve got questions? We’ve got answers. Welcome to the FAQ round. If you’ve got something you’d like to ask, please send it into [email protected]. Now let’s hear what’s going on with our listeners.

Erin asks:

(30:18) I get so confused about what I should be doing at home with my yoga practice. So much so confused that I don’t have enough time for everything. Could I please ask you to give me a few poses to do daily that will introduce me to yoga and make it a daily habit? Please include a time on any little things I need to know.

Erin, first thing’s first. If you’re short on time, not sure what to do, just do Sun Salutations. Go to YouTube, you can search our channel, it’s YouTube.com/LRockwood. Search Sun Salutations, we’ve got a bunch of videos there. Nothing is better than Sun Salutations. It is the best sequence of poses in yoga. If you’re short on time, focus on Sun Salute A, do five of them, Sun Salute B, do five of them. It will take you 10 or 15 minutes, and it’s perfect.

There’s lots of other things you could do. If you’re short on time, I don’t want to tell you anything else because you couldn’t do better than that. If you’re looking at the 80/20 law of efficiency, Sun Salutes are the best. It’s kind of like the minimum viable product. Worst case scenario, if I’m traveling and I can’t do anything and I’m in airplanes and trains and automobiles, I’ll take 15 minutes and do Sun Salute A, Sun Salute B. So I would focus on that. Are there a lot of other things you could do? Yeah. Are there other great poses? For sure. Start there and build from there. Do that every day.

Tina asks:

(31:39) I’m 53. When I was 15 I had a horse accident that produced a left arm that does not fully extend, (I think that would be like a frozen shoulder) and my hand doesn’t completely rotate out. This is not terrible, but causes a little problem with certain poses. Any ideas for Downward Dog? It kills my upper back the next day after I’ve done this.

Tina, you might want to think about doing a non-Vinyasa-style practice. I know this might not be the most fun thing to hear, but if you have a structural limitation where Down Dog is creating muscular imbalances and pain, you might want to think about a practice that is less upper body-intensive. The classic example are all of your hot yoga sequences. So like absolute hot yoga, like we teach, a classic Bikrim series, a Moksha series, Jimmy Barkan-style yoga, most of those styles of yoga put little to no pressure on your arms, and they’re still very vigorous and challenging practices and yet you don’t spend 80% of the class in Down Dog. I know that might not be the answer you want to hear, but I worry about you spending a ton of time doing Down Dog and Vinyasa, if you have that structural problem. Just something to think about.

Nicole asks:

(32:51) One of my students is overweight, and she wants to lose body fat. She says she has a written diet, what exactly to eat, and she wants to stick to it but is unable to cut out foods or eat less. Can you recommend a food or daily diet she can follow? She’s very depressed about her excess body fat.

Nicole, first thing’s first, if we’re looking at diet and exercise, diet is at least 80 percent, in some cases 95 percent. The thing that yoga does really great is makes you feel good about yourself. It helps you balance your hormones, helps you release stress, all of which are really, really great. This diet that she has, there’s a very good chance that it’s a crappy diet because most diets are really crappy. Trying to eat less is a terrible idea. It will never work. That’s like telling you to breathe less. It’s like telling you to spend less money on your rent. There are certain necessities when your body is in a hormonal fat storage mode. It’s going to want you to eat more. I could go on and on about this.

We do a lot of work in our sister company, The Gabriel Method. The key thing to remember is that the reason yoga works for weight loss is not because of calories, it’s not because it’s some kind of powerful core thing that burns belly fat. The reason yoga is so effective is because it turns off your sympathetic nervous system and stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system. It calms your body down. It relieves and lowers cortisol levels, your stress levels. It increases your sensitivity to insulin and leptin, the fat hormones. So your body needs less of those hormones to have the same reaction.

So for this woman, the first thing you want to recommend is that she get rid of certain foods. I’m going to give you a couple of them that are very, very simple. The first one is wheat. Get rid of wheat. If you want to lose weight, eating wheat is your worst enemy. The second one, which is just as important but usually most people already know this, is sugar in all forms. Wheat is obviously a form of sugar as well. Get rid of sugar, get rid of wheat, don’t drink anything that has calories. Drink herbal teas, drink water with a little bit of lemon but don’t drink anything with calories. Don’t eat any bread, don’t eat any sugar and focus on eating real foods.

If she’s eating meats, that’s just fine. Try to eat natural, try to eat grass-fed meats. Try to avoid dairy. But again, making these big, big changes is too much too soon. If she’s coming to class regularly, try to get her to get rid of the sugar and get rid of the wheat. If you start there, that’s a really strong base. Just that alone can have dramatic impacts. And keep in mind that this is not a calorie game. If she has some kind of diet plan that she’s supposed to eat 1,200 calories a day, I promise you that will be short term only. You’ve really got to think holistically with this.

We’ve got a whole bunch of great classes. Go back to the Yoga Talk Show episode, can’t remember which one it is, about 10 episodes ago with Katrina Love Senn. Go back to the Calorie Myth show with Jonathan Bailor. We’ve got some really interesting stuff recently about weight loss and the myth of diets and depravation. I’d go back and review those shows, and maybe even share those shows with her. There’s some really great information. These are people who are really leaders, in terms of holistic health and weight loss.

Rachel asks:

(36:20) I have pulled a hamstring on my left leg, up near my sit bones. This happened a couple months ago. I’ve done all kinds of research on what to do here. Everyone said stop stretching, except Lucas. (That’s me.) I’ve continued to do yoga, but whenever going to Forward Bend, Downward Dog or anything else, I always keep my knees bent. I thought I was doing really well, but now I’m getting sciatic pain down my right side. I’m pretty sure this is from my hamstring injury. (I would agree. That’s probably true, not necessarily but probably.) I started doing gravity stretches yesterday. Should I stick with them for now and not do full-on yoga?

There’s more to the question, but here’s the deal with hamstring injuries. They take too long to heal. You cannot stop. If you stop, you’re going to be old before you do yoga again. Also, if you stop you will heal with shortened tissues. You need to heal long and lengthen and flexible so you have all the mobility back that you need. A hamstring pull, a true pull, is a complex injury that takes a long time to heal.

Rachel, I would not recommend doing gravity yoga poses. Gravity yoga poses are some of the most deep, passive stretches you could possibly do. What I would recommend doing is a dynamic practice, like an Ashtanga Vinyasa, a power yoga, a flow yoga, whatever they call it in your town, with a good teacher. And when you’re in the poses, particularly during your firs 6 to 12 weeks of healing, you need to back way off, way off. So if you can normally touch the floor with your fingertips, touch your shins. If you can normally put your head on your knees, be 12 inches off your knees. 80 percent of your maximum flexibility, at the most.

When you’re in forward bends, bending the knees is the right thing to do there. But also, I want you to engage your quadriceps as hard as you can, in all of your forward bends, literally so you’re trembling. This is how you’re going to support and heal that hamstring strong. The alternative and what people suggest is to do nothing until it heals. So you do nothing, in eight weeks, maybe even less, maybe even in four weeks, you’ll feel perfectly fine, perfectly strong. I promise you, you’ll go back to class and you’ll pull that thing right away, right away. The healing was not complete, and you also healed tight. And so you need to be careful with that. You need to work through it really, really carefully. Not moving is not an option.

Now all of that said, during your initial healing phase you need to be really careful. So the first 10 days you need to be really careful. So the first 10 days, when you have inflammation, you might have swelling. I’ve pulled hamstrings and actually had internal bleeding, which is disgusting. You need to be really, really careful. But after that phase, when you’re in the healing phase, you need to do gentle movements. We’ve talked about this in previous shows as well, but avoid running. Running is really hard on your hamstrings. Cycling is fantastic, especially if you can do careful, gentle, controlled cycling, really, really great for healing your hamstrings. Swimming is also fantastic. You need to really baby it, because this could turn into a crazy, crazy long injury.

I’m also not a fan of electro stimulation. I’m not a fan of deep tissue massage on hamstrings. I’ve done all of that stuff, both alternative and mainstream medical, and it was a disaster. It just inflamed the hamstring. I pulled both my right and the left hamstring. The left one is the one that was really, really bad. So what I would encourage you to do is get over that initial inflammation. Make sure you’re eating tons of anti-inflammatory foods. That means omega-3 fats every day, things like turmeric every day, getting rid of the inflammatory foods like grain and dairy and really, really focus on healing that hamstring really gently. Don’t take pain killers, don’t take anything, just be really, really mindful in your body and you can get through it.

Now while I say if it’s really pulled it might take as long as 18 months to heal, you can be fully functional and feel strong after a much, much shorter period, maybe after 8 or 12 weeks, but you will have this new body awareness, where you know you’ve got to be careful with that hamstring until it’s all the way healed. And I’ve never seen anyone with as messed up hamstring as I did on my left leg, and it’s just fine now. It’s just fine. It doesn’t ever feel weak. It’s just as flexible as the other side. I have bad scarring, but I was able to heal a very, very severe injury and practice yoga and regain the mobility that nobody said I could. So I think you can, too. Just be very careful. You’ve got to be gentle, and I wouldn’t suggest doing deep, deep, deep flexibility poses, because right now you’re not trying to increase your flexibility; you’re trying to heal it back to the same level of elasticity that you had before the injury.

Hope that’s helpful. Thanks for your great questions. If you, too, have questions, send them to [email protected].

The food you eat affects your body and mind every day. Welcome to the nutritional tip of the week, where we explore plant-based diets, super food nutrition, edible insects and new tropics. The goal here is mind/body biohacking for a better you and a better planet. So hey, let’s talk nutrition.

(41:41) For today’s nutritional tip, I wanted to talk about MSM, the chemical name is methylsulfonylmethane, the common name is MSM because it’s a simpler name to say. MSM is one of these very, very common supplements that very few people know about and very few people take. It’s one of the key ingredients in our YOGABODY Stretch formula, and it’s as exciting of a general antioxidant and nutritional support product as Vitamin C.

(42:12) Why it’s less known, there’s a couple of reasons. The first reason is that it tastes horrible, absolutely terrible. If you try to eat it, most people can’t even get it down. So if it’s not in a capsule, like a gel capsule or like we use veggie capsules, it’s almost impossible to guzzle down, it’s so astringent. The other reason is you need quite a bit of it. The same is true for Vitamin C, but not as much. And so a big dose of Vitamin C could be anywhere from 500 mgs, up to a couple of grams. Some people will even take more. But generally 500 mgs to 1 gram per day is a big dose of Vitamin C. A big dose of methylsulfonylmethane could be two to five grams, which is significantly more. And so what that means is you need to take capsules and you need to take quite a few capsules.

(42:59) So what is methylsulfonylmethane? Why is it exciting? What’s so great about sulfur? So in all of our diets, we tend to be deficient in minerals, in particular. Vitamins are an issue, too, but less so. There’s more vitamins than there are minerals, and that has a lot to do with our soils. Our soils are depleted of minerals from over-cultivation, and there’s only three minerals that are put back into the soil. And so there’s dozens of trace minerals that are normally found in soils, and we’re only replenishing three of them and we’re not doing a great job of replenishing those, either.

(43:33) So we end up with these foods that are nutritionally kind of blah, like when you get these really beautiful-looking vegetables and then they’re kind of flavorless. If you’ve ever compared farm-fresh vegetables to something that was commercially grown, especially at the big, big commercial grocery stores where you get these very, very flavorless vegetables, they’re often mineral deficient. Minerals have a pretty strong flavor. Sulfur is one of the more abundant minerals in our bodies. It’s really, really important, for a number of different things, specifically for your connective tissues, for collergen. It works with Vitamin C to help re-grow and to nourish your connective tissues, and it’s also anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, and this is why it’s so effective.

(44:18) Most of the clinical trials in and around MSM, methylsulfonylmethane, most of them had to do with arthritis, chronic arthritis, and people get tremendous, tremendous results. Most of the peer-reviewed studies are in and around arthritis. So why would yoga students be interested in something with proven efficacy for arthritis? Well, a lot of yoga students get arthritic-like symptoms from deep stretching. It doesn’t mean that what they’re doing is necessarily bad, there’s plenty of people doing bad stuff, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that, but it means when you are working to open up and transform 20 years of stiff hips or locked up shoulders or whatever it is, a lot of times we will get sore in the same places that someone with arthritis will get sore. This is not a panacea, it’s not a cure-all, but it’s very, very effective for helping to heal and nourish and reduce inflammation for your joints and your connective tissues.

(45:16) And so for yoga students, it’s one of the most powerful things to use. There’s a number of different forms of MSM. It comes from pine trees, is where it comes from. It originates in the sea, it ends up in pine trees. There’s a few different ways they process it. Basically, it comes from paper processing, which doesn’t sound that great but there are really, really safe and pure forms of it. The kind of MSM that we use is called OptiMSM. It’s made in the USA. It’s the highest quality MSM available. So that’s the one that I always recommend. Taking it in YOGABODY Stretch is a very simple way to take it. If you’re hardcore, some of our students do just take it straight, meaning they’ll take one to two grams, up to three to four grams a day, mix it with water. Again, it’s so astringent that a lot of people just choke up on it, and that’s why it’s really great to take in capsule form.

(46:06) So what are the side effects? Well, when you first start taking it, some people feel a reduction of appetite, which is often quite welcome. Some people also experience loose stools. The simplest way to alleviate that is just to start off taking less, just like Vitamin C. Most people if they take a gram of Vitamin C they’ll also experience loose stools or a couple of days, and then it goes away. The same is true of MSM. If you take two to three grams initially, you might experience loose stools. Reducing to one gram per day when you’re first starting, if you’re taking YOGABODY capsules that would be taking anywhere from two to three capsules per day, instead of the recommended four to five. That would usually alleviate the problem, and your body becomes accustomed to it very, very quickly. It’s just in the same way that if people start eating a lot of plants and they haven’t been eating plants, they’ll also experience loose stools.

(46:56) The other things that some people might feel is if you’re allergic to sulfur and you’re allergic to sulfites, you might have a reaction. It’s in the family. It’s not necessarily that you’ll have a reaction. Or if you have kidney problems, it’s something for sure you want to get checked out with your doctor. It’s extremely well tolerated, almost as well tolerated as Vitamin C, so again, it’s one of these universal antioxidants that is just not that well known. But for anybody using their body heavily, like yoga students do, it’s fantastic. It’s relatively inexpensive, and for the potency of what it delivers I think it’s a fantastic value.

(47:34) So yoga students, for sure, check out MSM. If you’re saying hey I’m not a supplement person, there are absolutely food sources for it. All your cruciferous vegetables are fantastic. That would be your broccoli, your cauliflower, all those dark green, bitter, astringent-tasting greens are very, very rich in sulfur as well. They’re something you should be including in your diet every day anyway, but a lot of people benefit from supplementation. But again, if you don’t want to go that route, totally understand, load up on cruciferous vegetables. So that’s the nutritional tip of the day. Hope that’s helpful. We’ll talk to you soon.

You’ve been listening to the Yoga Talk Show with Lucas Rockwood. If you like this show, I always appreciate reviews and ratings on the iTunes Store. It helps other listeners find out about what we’re doing, and it keeps me motivated to dig around and find new and diverse topics to share with you. For complete show notes, links to everything discussed in the show, along with a ton of other free yoga videos and online resources, please head over to YogaBodyNaturals.com. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll talk to you very soon.