Annie Clarke created Mind Body Bowl as a space to share her teaching, recipes and inspiration to help connect people to their own sense of balance. About stepping away from prescriptive ideas and opening the door to a more wholistic approach to health and wellbeing, Annie and her blog gained popularity as she documented her journey from illness and depleted energy to revamping her lifestyle. Today she is a practicing yoga instructor and wellness warrior. We were thrilled to catch up with her on her book Mind Body Bowl and get the answers to our burning questions on workout routines, how to make real, lasting changes in your life and where Annie draws her motivation from.
Mind Body Bowl advocates finding an exercise style that works for you. In your early days of making exercise a regular part of your lifestyle, what was a key motivator that kept you going? Has this changed?
I wanted to feel good both physically and mentally. I wasn’t aspiring to a particular aesthetic goal but seeing my body change had a positive impact on my motivation. Body shape aside, when tied in with a more mindful and balanced diet, moving made me feel good by dramatically increasing my energy levels.
Those are the reasons I still come back to it – moving in whatever way suits me at that time has such a positive impact both physically and mentally. I love to feel strong in both of those ways and moving is a big factor in that.
As an instructor, do you consider yoga to be exercise or a form of meditation?
I came to yoga from a very physical approach. I wanted to stretch my tight hamstrings, get in shape and find a new way to workout. I couldn’t lie still in savasana and had no interest in meditation. Now, even when I practice classes that are more physically demanding, I see my yoga practice as a way to connect to myself. It helps me to come into the present, and just to experience myself fully without judgment or expectation. It’s so wonderful for helping me to understand more about myself and disconnect from all of the distractions around me. Of course there is often a physical side to a yoga practice, but for me it’s the head space that gets me on the mat.
How would you advise someone to choose the most suitable type of yoga for themselves? Are there styles that you think suit a situation (level of stress, fitness, etc.) or personality type better than others?
Often we (Londoners) are drawn to very physical, fast paced yoga which is why I started with Bikram! It’s usually because it is more familiar to us, due to the ‘yang’ lifestyles that we lead. On one hand, I think that is great because it’s a pathway into yoga (where stillness is too unfamiliar), but on the other hand it is often the more still or ‘yin’ styles of yoga that would benefit us the most. I think it’s really important to shop around and find something that you enjoy, but also to go back to the classes that you didn’t like because often those are the ones that we need the most. I always recommend that people work with a teacher or do beginners classes if they can to help cement the basics in order to develop a safe practice, but that’s not always possible for everyone. The most important thing is to really listen to your own body and work with what feels good for you.
For those who can’t make it to one of your classes in London and want to try an at home practice, could you recommend a couple of your favourite online instructors?
Definitely, there are so many wonderful online resources! Lots of teachers (including myself!) have YouTube channels where you can watch and practice at home and there are tons of subscription websites too such as YogaGlo. When you’re starting yoga, it’s really important to stay connected to your own body and make sure you’re learning from a qualified teacher. If anything doesn’t feel good, it’s best to wait and talk to a local teacher if you can.
What is your go-to post-workout recipe from your book?
The hemp-protein bars are really good post-workout as you can keep them in your bag and have them on the go. They also make a good snack in general. They’re one of the only recipes that include any sort of ‘fancy’ ingredient but hemp powder lasts for ages and is a really great way to boost your protein intake in smoothies, energy balls or these protein bars.
How do unwind after a long day of teaching others how to unwind?
I’ve never been a big TV watcher but recently I’ve been getting in and turning on the telly, which is definitely not what I would recommend other people to do! I love doing yoga in the evening, especially something like yin, but some days when I’ve been teaching all day I prefer to do something else. I also like to read before bed – and something non-yoga related if I can! I read The Girls recently and really enjoyed picking it up and unwinding. Most importantly I try to stay off social media and emails otherwise I get sucked into work mode right up until bed time. Sometimes I take my own advice and sometimes I don’t manage so well – but it is all a practice. Perfection just doesn’t exist!