How a nutritious breakfast and morning focus help yoga teacher Zoe make the most of every day
It’s not so long since Zoe Sharp’s yoga practice was mostly about understanding the human body for her career in theatre. And while she could fit in teaching classes around her work, it never felt quite enough. Then an injury in 2016 made her re-evaluate what was important in her life, and what she really wanted to do with her time. Teaching yoga full time became her thing, and within a few years her yoga studio FOLD was born.
And so happily ever after, right? Well… even when you’re in the business of helping people feel calm, centred and strong, there are plenty of challenges in striking out on your own, from marketing and cashflow to keeping your property shipshape. But Zoe needs to leave them all outside the studio door when she and her yogis take that first breath of the session. Which is why starting the day well, with a nutritious breakfast like granola and a focused, relaxed mind, is a habit she’s happily perfecting. It wasn’t always that way.
“Before Covid hit, I was teaching at 7 or 8am every weekday,” Zoe says. “That meant years of 5am alarms and hurried mornings, rolling out of bed into leggings and out of the door with coffee in a KeepCup before my eyes had opened!”
Like many of us, though, Zoe has found her mornings transformed out of necessity over the past couple of years. “One of the few silver linings of lockdown has been having the time to wake up slowly. Early on, I used to start working within half an hour of opening my eyes but finally I’ve settled into a routine that leaves a little more space in my day.”
Rise and shine (and rise again)
Yoga is fundamentally about balance in mind and body, so how does Zoe make sure she’s set up for the day, mentally and physically? “I’m usually awake by about 6:15am,” she says. “First, and most importantly, I say Hi to my cat, who’s always under the duvet – she takes her role as little spoon very seriously. Then it’s water; there’s always a bottle on my bedside table. Finally, I peel myself out of bed, open the curtains and head straight for the coffee machine.
“While that’s doing its thing I brush my teeth, open up The New York Times mini crossword – which I’m more competitive about than I’d like to admit – and take my coffee… back to bed. I check the news and then flip between scrolling through Instagram (bad) or reading a book (good) for 20 minutes. I read a lot. After my dad came over to find me trying to put together a fourth bookshelf using a high-heeled boot as a hammer, he ordered me a Kindle. But I still need to be physically removed from second-hand bookshops.
“Once I’ve finished my coffee, it’s time to get out of bed (again), feed that cat and open my laptop. I deal with urgent emails and try to do one work-related task I’ve been putting off, or at least not looking forward to. Getting it out of the way makes the rest of the day feel so much easier. Once I feel happy I haven’t missed anything workwise, I put some music on and hit my yoga mat. It may be for ten minutes, it may be for an hour. I don’t pressure myself.”
Yoga enthusiasts, from high-level teachers to once-weekly stretchers, understand the importance of nutrition in how their bodies function – something modern sports science is now rediscovering. In fact, ancient yoga philosophy includes three energies linked to different types of food, with the perfect exercise energy identified with “sattva”, or lightness, and typified by a diet rich in fruit, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Sound familiar? These are, of course, the key ingredients that make Lizi’s granolas not only delicious but also a great foundation for a balanced start each day.
For Zoe, eating breakfast is the bridge between morning me-time and what lies ahead. “I always practice yoga in the morning on an empty stomach, which means I’m always starving afterwards!” she says. “My go to breakfast to refuel fast is a big handful of Lizi’s Low Sugar Maple and Pecan Granola, with full fat greek yoghurt and a grated apple. It’s quick, healthy and it tastes amazing!
“After yoga and a bowl of Lizi’s, the day starts speeding up: shower, clothes, another coffee before I settle down at my desk. Anything could happen for the rest of the day – as a small business owner I wear a lot of hats! But after a slow, considered start and a breakfast that works with my body’s natural flow, at least I’m always ready for it.”