Amsa Yoga Owner Kimberley Puryear Talks Diet, Health, and Gradual Changes

kimberly puryear amsa yoga photo

The entire purpose of this blog is to show that you can cultivate a Serene life through connecting your yoga practice to your diet. I wanted to fill my site with recipes and ideas that can help you live mindfully and experience the joy that comes with learning to cook in a holistically healthy manner. Kimberley Puryear, one of my first teachers and the owner (along with her husband, John) of Amsa Yoga, is a great example.

Yoga has changed her life in a big way and she embodies how important your diet can be on the yoga journey. Not only did changes in her diet lead to dramatic weight loss, it helped her to find freedom, peace, and balance from within. This is the first in a series of interviews I plan to do with some of my favorite teachers so you can learn firsthand how to make a lasting change through your diet.

Kimberley’s personal practice quickly became a life changing passion. Her love of Zen meditation, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Yin Yoga have inspired her to share the healing powers of yoga with others. She is passionate about helping students find connections between their practice on the mat and in their everyday lives. We spoke last week about her diet and how major changes have helped her maintain balance on the mat and in life.

How has yoga changed your diet?

The practice of yoga has had a huge impact on both my diet and my relationship with food. Once I started taking regular yoga classes I noticed a shift in my energy (I had more of it!). Empty calories just weren’t sustaining me so I started to crave fresh, whole foods. Yoga emphasizes the practice of mindfulness and that has been the greatest diet of all. Eating mindfully allows me to see what I’m eating and why I’m eating. I’m more likely to chew slowly and take my time which helps me to avoid overeating or eating mindlessly.

Was the change gradual?

Yes. I started to slowly change my diet in early 2003. The first major change was the removal of soft drinks from my daily diet. Cutting back on soft drinks automatically reduced my consumption of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and I noticed a HUGE change. It inspired me to give up all foods containing HFCS or partially hydrogenated oils. This eventually led to cutting out highly processed foods; then ultimately I cut out white flour and refined sugar.

What was the hardest change you made and why did you make it?

The most challenging change was (and has been) refined sugar. I originally made the change because of a chronic skin condition that I have and studies show that removing sugar help cut down on symptoms.

You don’t seem to be at all militant about vegetarianism? Why is that?

I was a fairly militant vegetarian for about six years many years ago (before I found yoga). It was for purely ethical reasons. What I noticed was that I was getting sick (colds etc) and didn’t seem to have enough energy despite finding other forms of non-meat protein. Through the study of Ayurveda, I’ve learned that eating meat is actually something that is beneficial for my Ayurvedic type (Vata). I still feel very strongly about the ethical aspects of eating meat so I choose to eat organic, free range, and humanely treated meat products (mostly chicken and on rare occasions, a steak) .

What did you have for breakfast today?

Two organic eggs, two pieces of gluten-free toast, a handful of almonds, walnuts, and local blueberries. Washed it all down with hot nettle tea.

I know that you follow Ayurvedic principles in your diet. Can you be specific?

I’m a true believer in Ayurveda. I see an Ayurvedic doctor who has helped me choose a diet that keeps my dosha balanced. I have also begun to give my body a break a few times a year by doing an Ayurvedic cleanse (I’ve done this under the guidance of my Ayurvedic doctor). The cleanse helps to clean toxins out of the body and gives my digestive system a break. Keeping my dosha balanced has been hugely beneficial to my energy levels and overall health. Prior to Ayurveda, I noticed that all of the foods I was craving were actually throwing my body into a state of imbalance.

Do alcohol and coffee fit in?

When I was preparing for my yoga teacher training course, my teacher Stephanie Keach strongly suggested that each student cut out caffeine and alcohol. I have never really been keen on drinking alcohol, so that wasn’t hard to let go of, but I LOVE my coffee. I took her advice and quit both. I haven’t had a sip of alcohol since simply because I don’t like the way it feels in my body. Once I got past the coffee detox, I found that I felt so much better physically and I never went back. Every now and then I’ll indulge in a decaf latte and when I do it’s such a treat.

What do you eat that might surprise people? Something you indulge in?

I have a new obsession…wheat-free carrot cake from Earth Fare. They sell it by the slice or you can buy the whole cake. Trust me, I’m tempted to buy the whole cake and eat it in one sitting. It’s moist and flavorful with delicious cream cheese icing…yum. Now you know why it’s so hard to quit refined sugar.

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More on a Healthy Diet
The Yoga Food Pyramid Defined
5 Holistically Healthy Foods You Should Add to Your Grocery List
Liver and Intestinal Cleanse: Dried Daikon, Kombu and Shitake

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Sara Kovak
Welcome to Serene Kitchen, your destination for tasty meatless eats and mindful living. My name is Sara Novak and I'm a health and wellness expert for Discovery Health and TreeHugger.