Lifestyle Asia, Hong Kong 2016

“Fitspiration” - Pure Yoga Teacher, Ayana “YaYa” Joseph

How did you become a trainer? 

In the beginning, I just quit my job as an administrative specialist for the federal government of the United States.

For three years, I worked and lived a 9-to-5/40hr per week lifestyle, which included an exciting new career as a professional cheerleader and dancer for the Philadelphia Soul (Arena Football League). 

Although it was fun and challenging for a time, I was still unhappy - and I grew dissatisfied. 

I walked away from both the job and the stage completely - and walked right into a local yoga studio. I had never done yoga before that time and was a complete novice to the physical and mental demands it had on my body despite having been a dancer for over 15 years. I fell in love with the sheer challenge, sweat and physicality of the practice and how it deepened my spiritual connection to myself and others – and from that day forward, YaYa Power Yoga was born!

What’s your fitness philosophy? 

“ Come as you are, not as you think you should be.” – Baron Baptiste

This is more of a life philosophy that I’ve personally adopted from my mentor/teacher Baron Baptiste to mean - “ Drop the Excuses and Show Up.” Most times people in general will believe theyhave to prepare for or already be in some form of perfect shape  (physically, mentally or emotionally) or have some form of knowledge before even trying to workout or commit to a practice.

Creating this high expectation of having to “be a certain way” or have the right time, or the right anything, just to get fit and healthy. 

I say, drop the excuses and show up. If your late, show up. If your clothes don’t match, show up. If can’t do the AM but know you can skip the drinks tonight and make the PM, “Drop the excuses and SHOW UP!

What's the key to staying motivated? 

Partnership and community. In my experience, when faced with the challenge of staying motivated to my practice or other commitments, it has always been most helpful to have a partner, mentor or join a community that supported or had the same goals; provided quality feedback and held me accountable (for any relapse or excuses) I made along the way. Unless your priority and commitment to your goals (losing weight, health concerns, healing from injury…ect) is non-negotiable and realistic, I believe having  partnership and or community to hold you accountable is key to staying motivated.

What's your favourite pre-workout snack?

Apples, protein bars and coconut water. I find all three combined are powerful enough to sustain a great workout or practice.  Apples are a great wayto kick start my metabolism with a burst of energy; protein bar give my muscles something to work with and coconut water is a better source of hydration during and after I work out rather than flavored or regular water. They’re also very light  which is a great snack to have before any fitnessor yoga session as they wont weigh you down or give you a feeling of nausea or dizziness that sometimes happens during your workout.

What's your favourite post-workout snack?

I favor protein shakes and dark chocolate. I usually need an immediate source of energy right after I workout ( I can be a monster when I’m hungry) and will either bring my own a pre-made shake or have one ready made on the way in to the gym. Right now I’m addicted to the MINT CHOCOLATE shake at Pure Fitness Nood Food. It has the best flavor (with or without the mint) and just the right amount of “chocolaty” calories that I find satisfying enough to hold me until dinner or lunch.

What’s your go-to power food?

KALE, KALE and more Kale! I buy it organic and I use it in everything from juices, smoothies, omeletts, one pot meals, soup, salads and whatever else I find to cook or use it with - which is pretty much everything! Kale is the best “go-to” power food because it has everything “all-in-one” to sustain your body, mind and balance your hormones naturally. 

Do you stick to any particular diet?

Honestly, I believe in eating what serves my body the best – for that reason, I added lamb, beef and turkey to my diet. Up until I moved to Hong Kong, I never ate meat (only chicken and fish). However now I live in a different country, the climate and seasons are very different from what I’m use to and so are the needs of my body, having to teach up to 18 sometimes 20 classes per week, I learned quickly what served my body best. High-protein, gluten-free, dairy-free, a few whole grains and lots of organic veggies and fruits. Also, adding protein supplements and vitamin/mineral supplements  daily have been key to maintaining physical stamina and energy throughout my day.

What is the most effective type of exercise for weight loss?

I’m biased however I would say Hot Yoga, specifically traditional Bikram or Baptiste Power Vinyasa style. Both consist of standing poses, long holds  and focused breathing that increase your heart rate, burn calories, detoxifies your skin, and tones your abs, legs and arms. And I’ve witnessed many students and clients come in with that same goal of “losing weight” and achieve it – as well optimal health and mental clarity. With consistentpractice of 5-6 times per week and a balanced diet necessary to sustain your practice - Hot Yoga can be the most effective in achieving weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.

What gear do you like to wear?

My favorite everyday gear for teaching and practice are bra-tops, fitted crop pants, and long-sleeved hooded pull overs - always colorful, breathable and easy to wear.

How many times a week do you exercise and for how long?

Outside of a daily yoga practice, I exercise  three to four times per week, two group classes for 45 to 60 minutes each and a 60 minute workout with cardio intervals, resistance training. I also love nature walking and will power walk (brisk walking) usually for 30 minutes on the weekends.

What is your favourite exercise?

Having been a dancer all my life, dance is my favorite go-to choice for exercise - African, modern, jazz, salsa, hip-hop and even pole-dance. It calms me, it drives me, it gives me LIFE and I LOVE IT! 

Name a few of your favourite workout tracks:

I love music and a really good soundtrack - anything that flows from one vibe to another - top 40, Afrobeat, 90’s hip-hop and jazz to name a few. Currently, Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience,  musician and Afro-beat pioneer Fela Kuti and an awesome club remix of Sade’s Love Deluxe album are on heavy rotation. 

Can you recommend an easy but effective 5 minute workout to burn off all those winter calories?

Again yoga, yoga, yoga! Six sets of sun salutes with 5 deep breaths in downward dog or plankpose. Start at the top of you mat, with arms by your side. Inhale and raise your arms above your head and look up; then  exhale and bow forward bending to touch your knees or the floor. Inhale step back to plank (if your intermediate) or downward dog (for beginners). Hold either pose for 5 breaths each and when you exhale step or jump forward to your hands. Inhale rise up with your arms open and lifting above your head like the wings of a bird, touch your hands together above your head then down at your sides, ending in the standing position.

I practice this early in the am or just before classwhen I need a burst of energy and focus. Sun salutes are a form of cardio and increase the heart rate, naturally burning a few calories in each set. While alternating holding downward dog or plank pose for five breaths one creates muscular energy defining and toning the abs, legs and back.

When is the best time of day to exercise?

It depends on the person’s routine and habits. Typically between 6am and 8am. It’s the best time to wake up and jump start your day and for me I love the struggle of rolling out your mat, getting in downward dog and watching myself come alive as I start to move, breathe and wake up my body. It can be a battle (to get up and commit) however by the end of my practice I feel great and SO GRATEFUL I got it done.

If a morning routine is just not possible I would suggest 6pm-8pm giving your body plenty of time afterwards to reset, eat and sleep before the start of a new day.