I’ve always been in awe of yogis. I haven’t worked out if it’s because I’m completely amazed by the things they can do with their bodies, or if I’m attracted to the dedication and steel determination that I think you must possess in order to reach both feet beside your head. I think the yogi name for that is Gandha Bherundasana – Formidable Face Pose. Look it up, I dare you!
So, when I discovered Summer Perez on instagram, I was hooked. Apart from her obvious gorgeousness and killer yoga poses, there’s something so positive and calm about her that I couldn’t help but be drawn to it.
I look forward to her pics every day, as well as the beautiful accompanying quotes. They serve as a reminder that you can achieve whatever you put your mind to.
But how does one get that good at yoga? And is it more than just the aesthetics of the physical body? Well, of course it is!
Whilst researching all things yoga, I came across this amazing article, it sums it up pretty well. You can find it here.
And I also got to ask Summer all the usual OHM questions
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I recently made a massive life change when I moved to Las Vegas from Miami. I’m a wife and a stay-stay-at-home mom of two toddlers who is working on launching a health-related business in the community within the coming months. I’m also working towards my own blog and Youtube channel. I love photography, writing, reading, motorcycles, music, leather, chocolate, stand-up comedies, and the occasional raw cheesecake.
What is your eating philosophy?
Most of my week is clean and plant-based unless my husband brings home something else and I’m hungry (so I’m not 100% plant-based just yet..there’s some cheese from time to time). I definitely don’t like preparing raw meat. But that’s not the only reason why I lean towards a plant-based lifestyle. See, my kids are genetically predisposed to developing Multiple Sclerosis (my MIL suffers from it now), and the research I’ve read says that many of the triggers are created through lifestyle choices before the age of about 15. Switching to a plant-based lifestyle with less than 25 g of saturated fat per day, and omitting dairy and eggs, helps decrease the odds significantly. They are also predisposed to developing Alzheimers (my FIL has it), which is basically Type 3 diabetes. Because of that I try to keep their sugar intake low so that they won’t have a huge craving for it later on. Do I freak out about food then? No. When we have something that isn’t in line with our everyday, I want them to know that, “Hey, this isn’t the greatest thing for you, but don’t beat yourself up if you have it every once in a blue moon”. I want them to develop a healthy relationship to food and not develop anxieties at meal time. Food is nourishment, not a cause for a panic attack. I grew up in a family that believed that food is one of the best medicines out there. And I believe that this is why I’m rarely sick and my injuries heal quickly…I want the same for my own children. Give your body the nutrition it needs to perform optimally, and it will take care of you for many years to come.
When and why did you decide to start eating this way?
Aside from what I mentioned already, I knew about healthy eating since I was a child. I stopped having so much dairy when I was 14 when I realized I was lactose intolerant. Then in my late teens I started to recognize how food had the power to clear my skin. But it wasn’t until I was pregnant with my second child that I noticed how much wheat hurt me. I would have pains and even wake up feeling like I was hung over. I cut down the wheat products immediately. A few months later I found out my son was allergic to wheat and eggs, so my journey to truly listen to my own body and understand its reaction to foods began. I stopped the meat when I noticed my body felt much better when I omitted it.
Have you noticed any difference since changing your eating philosophy (if any)?
Yes! I have more energy, my pains have lessened…and I have noticed I’ve gotten stronger and more flexible.
Have you met any barriers to eating this way, if so, how did you overcome them?
For me, no. But for those around me, yes. At first many believed that it was going to be expensive and difficult, and it would ruin family get-togethers, but I’ve found it to be much more cost effective and pretty simple… and now those same people are asking me for tips on how to revamp their meals and health! And no one noticed that I didn’t reach for the turkey or ham at Thanksgiving.
What is your favourite dish to make?
Chickpea curry and rice, or red beans and rice. Simple comfort food.
What ingredients are a must-have for your fridge/pantry?
Oatmeal, quinoa, chickpeas, beans, rice, celery, bananas, coconut oil, nut butter. These are permanently on the shopping list.
Juices or smoothies? What do you prefer and what combination?
Both! But I do lean towards juices more often than not. I experiment a LOT with many different combinations, and I’ll soon be finalizing recipes.
Sweet or savoury?
Too hard to pick
Can you share a fave recipe with us?
My kids LOVE this one!
1 teaspoon olive oil
2/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 small clove garlic, minced
2/3 cup dried lentils, rinsed
1 tablespoon taco seasoning, or to taste (or make your own with cumin, chili powder, paprika)
1 2/3 cups vegetable broth
2/3 cup salsa
12 tortillas or taco shells
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat; cook and stir onion and garlic until tender, about 5 minutes. Mix lentils and taco seasoning into onion mixture; cook and stir for 1 minute. Pour vegetable broth into skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover the skillet, and simmer until lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Uncover the skillet and cook until mixture is slightly thickened, 6 to 8 minutes. Mash lentils slightly; then stir in salsa. Serve about 1/4 cup lentil mixture in each taco shell. Garnish with cilantro (coriander) or any of your favourite taco toppings!
Another simple one is:
BBQ cauliflower “drumsticks”
Preheat the oven to 400.
Line a baking sheet.
Cut the cauliflower into florets.
Brush on BBQ sauce.
Bake for 40 minutes, moving them around every 5-10 minutes to prevent burning.
Brush on more BBQ sauce when it’s done.
That’s it! Serve like you would chicken drumsticks.
Can you describe your day on a plate (from rise to bedtime)?
I keep it clean as much as possible.
Example from what I’m planning on having today:
Breakfast- oatmeal with something sprinkled on top like flaxseed, hemp hearts, chia seeds, raw honey (today was flax and honey)
Lunch- quinoa with black beans, corn and salsa
Snack- peanut butter bananas
Dinner- chickpea curry over rice
Any snacks in between are usually fruit, peanut butter on celery, and/or nuts. Coffee for breakfast but lots of water throughout the day.
How do you stay fit and what is your training schedule like?
I stay active! I make it a “must” in my life instead of a “should.” I join in on my kids’ playtime, which involves involves a lot of running and jumping. I can’t make it to the gym, so every workout is at home. Sometimes I use my kids as added weight when I’m doing squats and lunges or holding a plank. I practice yoga every day, and when it comes to strength training, I like breaking up the days (like Monday and Thursday for lower body, Tuesday and Friday for upper body). Sometimes just 5 to 10 minute workout breaks throughout the day are just the thing I need when life gets busy.
Your yoga poses are so graceful and beautiful, they actually remind me of art! What got you into yoga?
Thank you! It was yoga that really showed me that the body is a vessel for creative expression. I love playing with poses, lighting and photography and seeing what turns out
I started yoga at a time when I was surrounded by negativity and things were just rough in my life. My body felt just as weak as my self-esteem, and I kept going in and out of post – partum depression..or maybe it was just depression from life in general. Who knows. I just know I wasn’t able to shake it off like I usually do until my mat started calling for me on a daily basis. And with every breath, a new life started to unfold…stored energies started to clear…mental blocks started to move…fears became released. I started to feel like myself again..that same way I did so long ago when I remembered to meditate.. remembered to be kind to myself… remembered that my true essence is love. I realized that I had let life get in the way and I didn’t take care of myself the way I should have. But now that my kids are getting older, I’m seeing how vital it is for me to continue my practice and make time for ME. I owe it to myself and to my family to be at my best every day, and I can only do that if I love myself and devote time to my needs. And when I do that, these blissful moments become more frequent as we feed off of each other’s high frequency vibrations. My practice makes me a better mom and wife, and it develops a loving relationship with my true self and with the Universe as a whole.
You are mega flexy! What has your journey been like to get to this point in your practice and what does yoga mean to you?
I was a runner for most of my life, then spent time boxing and lifting weights. So due to the nature of those activities my hips and hamstrings were pretty tight when I first started practicing yoga. I had some flexibility, but it’s been practicing every day and learning to breathe into the stretch that really helped my progress. I can see the difference from one day to the different next if I don’t practice.
But yoga is so much more than poses. It is a way a life…one in which love, truth and acceptance prevails. Yoga is about pulling away all of the layers and discovering the core of who I really am. It redirects energies and facilitates the return to love. The awareness that it brings to every day allows me to live life without letting it pass me by.
Does your whole family do yoga?
Yes! My kids will sometimes follow alongside whatever flow I’m doing, or they’ll practice something off to the side that they’ve seen me or someone else do. My husband does a bit of yoga from time to time with me, too, when he’s home from work. As a family, we practice the principles off the mat, and we do breathing exercises to bring us back to centre whenever things start getting hectic. It brings so much peace and awareness almost instantly.
What would be your top tip for someone beginning on their own yoga journey?
Honour your body. Push up to and slightly past your limit, and keep moving forward steadily… you don’t want to risk injury. Celebrate the small successes along the way. You’ll gain confidence with every step. Show yourself love, compassion and lots of patience. Show up consistently and you’ll see not only your body transform, but your mind and soul, as well, as you begin to take the lessons from the mat into your daily life. And enjoy the journey!
What’s your advice on staying mentally healthy in our fast paced world and with so many different life pressures?
Breathe and be love..and practice forgiveness. Everytime you can catch yourself wrapped up in a situation, take a moment to breathe deeply and choose the path of love, peace, and understanding. You don’t have to show up to every conflict you have been invited to; you can be the light, instead. And forgiveness is so vital for our sanity– it removes the power that person or event holds over us. The more we forgive others and ourselves, the more freedom we feel and the easier it is to live in truth.
Wise words from a wise and amazing soul.
Hope you enjoyed the interview as much as I did. It really just makes me want to pull my finger out and get on that mat!
You can find Summer on instagram @summerperez
Peas, love and mungbeans
All photographs supplied by Summer Perez.