🥑 Food ❤️‍🩹 Health 🌎 Climate

🥑 Food ❤️‍🩹 Health 🌎 Climate

Since I work in climate tech and work out a lot, people have asked what I eat and how that impacts my energy levels, how much protein I’m getting, and what the effects of my food choices have on the planet. I am mostly plant-based, but I do eat fish, chicken, and on the very rare occasion, red meat. I made these choices because that’s what makes my body feel good. I’m not a dietician so don’t take this as medical advice–consult a registered dietician for your nutritional needs.

This post isn’t about trying to convert anyone to being plant based, but rather, to provide a first-hand, data-driven approach so you can make the right decisions for your body. Everyone’s body is different, how we process food is different, and how you choose to fuel it is up to you. Or, if you prefer to eat just for pleasure most of the time, and you aren’t trying to optimize for health, that’s totally up to you and I’m not here to judge. Also, I’m not paid for anything I link to in this post, so this is truly how I live my life–I’m not influential enough for that. 😂

🥗 Why I’m mostly plant based

For me, eating mostly plant based means better health: Plant-based diets have more fiber, lower inflammation, and tend to also be lower in calories. I love the taste of cheese, butter, and ice cream, and I am not lactose intolerant, but it tends to make me break out in acne, so I dramatically reduce how much of it I eat. Depending on where I am in my monthly cycle, sometimes I crave meat, so I eat chicken or fish, which tastes delicious when I’m eating it, but I dislike how it tends to leaves me with bad breath the next day (and smellier 💩, is this 🚽 TMI?) If you are mostly plant based for a while, various smells will disappear and you will start to notice when you do smell after eating meat, because you are what you eat. Red meat, especially beef in large quantities, gives me a stomach ache, probably due to my lack of stomach enzymes to digest it since I eat it so rarely.

I generally follow Tom Brady’s low inflammation diet and lifestyle (low alcohol consumption, lots of hydration and sleep), which obviously has worked for him because of his longevity and 23 seasons in the NFL, but I’m not as strict as he is (I like my tomatoes and nightshades.)

For those who switch to a plant based diet, you need to go slowly–if you switch everything you eat right away, you are going to get diarrhea, bloating, and stomach aches. Your stomach’s digestive enzymes need time to adapt, and similar to my other post on rapid changes, really quick changes just don’t work for your body or your habits. For example, I don’t eat bread anymore because it has low nutritional value (low in vitamins, fiber, and protein), but I slowly phased it out by eating fewer wheat products and eating bread less frequently before stopping it entirely. Now, after a couple of years of not eating bread, if I do eat wheat bread, I’ll feel really tired, bloated, and in the worst case scenarios if I eat too much, I also get a stomach ache. This is because my body has adjusted to not being able to digest it.

People have asked me “How do you get your abs so defined?” You can have a very strong core, but to have visible abs, it’s 2 things: A lot of crunches and a low-inflammation diet. Many people don’t have visible abs, even though they have strong abs, simply because they are too bloated from the dairy, meat, sugar, fake sugar, and carbs in a typical American diet.

Picture taken at around 6pm after winning the Equinox planking challenge (10 minutes and 7 seconds,) so my core has been engaged (this makes them more visible) but I’m also more hydrated and have eaten (makes them less visible). When you see Instagram influencers with their very visible abs, they are often times taking the picture in the morning (before eating food or drinking water) and using oils or lighting to help make them more visible. Nobody looks like this all the time.

🥜 Protein

Usually, the first thing anyone asks me when they find out I’m mostly plant-based is: “How do you get your protein?” You can calculate how much protein you need. Since we are so bad at estimating how much protein and calories are in the food we eat anyways, a quick way to guesstimate is to take your weight in pounds and divide it by two. If you weigh 120 pounds, divide that by two, you get 60. Aim for 60 grams of protein every day. Meats are considered high-quality, complete proteins, but you can find high-quality proteins in plants as well. My favorite ones are: Peanut butter, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and quinoa (although peanut butter causes inflammation, so I have to control myself because I could literally eat it by the spoonfuls). You do have to eat more plant-based foods (measured in volume and calories) to get the same amount of protein as meat-based foods though. About twice or three meals a week, I eat plain non-fat yogurt, chicken, and fish, and I eat eggs pretty much every day. I did a series of blood tests on May 1, 2023, and my hemoglobin levels came out to be 12.8 g/dL (the standard range from Stanford Health was 11.7 to 15.7; hemoglobin (Hb) is the protein contained in red blood cells that is responsible for delivery of oxygen to the tissues, and if it’s too low, you can feel tired and become anemic.) While my range is normal, and my doctors at both Sutter Health and Stanford Health said I am not anemic (I have done blood tests twice at different times, and at different clinics,) my hemoglobin levels are a bit on the lower end, so eating clean protein is something that I pay attention to.

Watercolor is courtesy of the very talented Nicole Kelner (Instagram: @mindfulnicole)

🥛 Environmental Impact of Dairy vs. Plant-based Milks

There are benefits of cow’s milk that you can’t get from plant-based milks (e.g. protein in cow’s milk tends to be higher) and vice versa; one type of milk might be more appropriate for someone at different points of their lives (e.g. children versus adults.) My favorite brand of plant-based milk is Three Trees Almond milk because it doesn’t contain any binders (like gums), fillers, or sugar, which critics of plant-based milks often say is the reason why its less healthy than cow’s milk. If you live near high-quality farmer’s markets, you can often get freshly pressed almond milk, which is my ultimate favorite, but it’s very expensive. Oat milk has emerged as a top leader in plant-based milks because it foams easily and is sweeter (here is an article that compares nutritional value). For example, Blue Bottle switched to oat milk as their default, instead of requiring patrons to ask for oat milk as a substitute for cow’s milk. However, many oat milks have added sugar, and even when they don’t, small amounts of sugar is a byproduct of oat milk production, such as in the 3-ingredient Califia Farms brand (but I’m not concerned about this byproduct sugar).

From a purely environmental impact standpoint:

“Cow’s milk has significantly higher impacts than the plant-based alternatives across all metrics. It causes around three times as much greenhouse gas emissions; uses around ten times as much land; two to twenty times as much freshwater; and creates much higher levels of eutrophication”

(Hannah Ritchie, Our World in Data, January 19, 2022)

Almond milk is often times criticized as being a poor dairy milk substitute due to its high water use requirements in drought-stricken California, but still consumes less freshwater than cow’s milk.

🥩 Environmental Impact of Meat

It doesn’t matter where it is produced, the range of greenhouse gas emissions related to meat and dairy production (per 100 grams of food) is always higher than that of plant-based food.

“Plant-based protein sources – tofu, beans, peas and nuts – have the lowest carbon footprint. This is certainly true when you compare average emissions. But it’s still true when you compare the extremes: there’s not much overlap in emissions between the worst producers of plant proteins, and the best producers of meat and dairy” (Hannah Ritchie, Our World in Data, February 4, 2020)
You may have heard a lot about methane (a type of greenhouse gas) in beef production, and the reason why it’s talked about so much is because it is 25 times stronger at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. It has a strong impact on warming in the short-term but it also decays fast. This is in contrast to carbon dioxide, which can persist in the atmosphere for many centuries. Methane therefore has a high impact on warming in the short term, but a low impact in the long run. (Hannah Ritchie, Our World in Data, March 10, 2020)

🚛 Eating Local?

Eating local doesn’t have as much of an environmental impact because transportation isn’t as big of a part of the food’s emissions. However, food that hasn’t traveled very far and is picked when it’s as ripe as possible simply tastes better, so you might as well eat local, especially if you live in an area that produces a lot of great food (here is a tool to help you find what’s in season locally). Many brands that tout sustainable packaging or shipping offsets also shouldn’t be trusted (they do it for marketing to get you to feel good about buying more, when the best impact on emissions is to not purchase the item.)

“Transport is a small contributor to emissions. For most food products, it accounts for less than 10%, and it’s much smaller for the largest GHG emitters. In beef from beef herds, it’s 0.5%.” (Hannah Ritchie, Our World in Data, January 24, 2020)

🥣 Getting enough vitamin B12 and iron

This blog post isn’t specifically about how to eat a well-balanced vegan or vegetarian diet, but I did want to mention that those who choose to eat mostly plants should consider checking nutrition labels for foods that are fortified with B12 or take a B12 supplement. B12 is an essential vitamin that can only be found naturally in animal products and without enough of it, you can become anemic. Non-heme iron can be found in vegetables and legumes but heme iron, which is more easily absorbed, can only be found in meat products. It’s for these reasons that I am not a strict vegan or vegetarian: I listen to my body, and I eat more plants than animal products, most of the time, but I get my vitamin B12, iron, and protein from meat and dairy I eat on occasion.

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Visiting Peloton New York and London for In Studio Classes

If you are lucky enough to visit an in-person cycling class at Peloton New York, you are in for a treat! It is truly a magical experience. But it is very hard to get one of those classes, so here are some tips and tricks and a write-up of my experience. [March 2023 update: I was also able to visit Peloton London and the booking tips and tricks are the same so I’m combining it into one below.]

Key things to know to successfully book a ride:

  • Classes become available to book 6 weeks in advance at 9am PT / 12noon ET on Mondays; you are added to a virtual queue (this applies for both New York and London studio bookings–see screenshot below)
  • You must have at least one class pass ($35/class for New York) purchased (or £25.00/class for London) already in your account to complete the booking–I suggest you do this in advance (like the day before) because the classes sell out very fast
  • You must also have at least one class pass purchased already in your account to sign up for the waitlist, which can be risky if you don’t live in the area because the class credit expires in 12 months and you don’t get a refund if you don’t get off the waitlist

If you log in to book right at 9am PT / 12noon ET, you will most likely be able to get a spot on the day you are in town, except if you are trying to book a class with Cody Rigsby. I tried to get a Cody Rigsby 5:30pm Friday evening class when I logged on to the website at 9:20am PT (I had the time wrong, and thought the classes were released at 9:30am PT,) and his class was full immediately and the waitlist was also full immediately. The Peloton website’s frontend couldn’t even update quickly enough to change the “Waitlist” button to a grayed out “Sold Out” button, so every time I tried to waitlist myself, it would show a backend server error. When I called in to customer service, they said “I think half the country is trying to book Cody’s class…” and when you watch his live classes, you do realize that people have flown in from all over the U.S. when he does his live shoutouts of the in-studio participants. People wear “xoxo, Cody” shirts that they purchased for that ride. So you need to be very lucky and fast to get a class with Cody and I’m going to have to try again the next time I’m going to New York. I was able to get into Alex Toussaint’s cycling class though which was full by about 11am PT (2 hours after they became available for purchase.)

🗽 New York Studio Review

The Peloton NYC headquarters at 370 10th Ave, New York, NY 10001 is massive. You’ll want to enter on the 10th Ave side for classes, not the plaza side, which is only for retail shoppers. The Peloton studio is probably the cleanest and most beautiful fitness studio I have ever been to, and might be even nicer than Equinox. When you show up, you are greeted at the check-in desk and then a concierge is assigned to you and walks you around to give you the tour of the studio. Here is a video of that experience.

After Class Meet & Greet and Photo Opportunity

They are really efficient about the photo opportunity and have a designated photographer who takes your pictures and emails it out to you the same day. For yoga, your photos are taken inside the yoga studio and for cycling, it’s taken near the big Peloton “P” logo. The instructors are all extremely friendly and try to get to know you (to the extent they can), by asking you questions in the short duration that you interact with them.

Amenities Review

You have everything you could possibly need provided inside the studio: Lockers, MALIN + GOETZ, shampoo, body wash, lotion, sweat towels for practice and big towels for showering, really nice sweaty clothes bags, cleaned yoga mats, and they even let you borrow the cycling shoes for free. They are clearly not trying to make money off of the in-studio experience, and make their money off of the streaming experience.

Kristin McGee’s 30-minute In Studio Yoga EDM Flow

The playlist is quite fun and high energy in this yoga flow and it has a good combination of stretching and strength. Compared to other “normal” yoga classes I have been to, this definitely felt more “tense” in that it was very clear exactly how much time was left in class and you didn’t want to do something that might make a commotion. If I was a local, I would do the in studio yoga flows to experience it and see what it’s like to be on the other side, because it doesn’t “feel” as much like a yoga class as it feels like a film production where you are an extra. Also, my favorite part about yoga in person are the hands on adjustments, which of course, you will not get in a Peloton in studio class. But I’m really glad I did try it out and it was fun to hear from my friends back home who did the class and saw me in the video, and Kristin was so sweet to give me two shoutouts: “Flew all the way from San Francisco to nail flying pigeon”. If you want a spot in the front where you are more likely to show up on camera, you should get in line about 25 minutes before the class starts, and be the first one to enter the room.

Alex Toussaint’s 45-minute In Studio Club Bangers Ride

The in studio Peloton cycling experience is absolutely incredible. I have been to SoulCycle Classes and even with the best teachers, (like when I went in West Hollywood, the class also sold out in seconds, and celebrities were in class with me,) SoulCycle just does not compare to the level of energy in a Peloton in studio class. 90% of people have flown in from somewhere else to attend this class, and they are all rabid fans of the instructor (see this video). In addition, the handful of Peloton instructors are putting on a show first and foremost, so they are just in another league altogether; there is no comparison to SoulCycle instructors–they are just so much better. And I’m not hating on SoulCycle, I enjoy SoulCycle and biked with SoulCycle for years before I touched a Peloton, but this is my honest opinion. The space itself is gorgeous, they use the basic Peloton bikes with a smaller screen so you can still high five people in the class and those taking the class live (although the in studio stats are 30 seconds ahead of the live stream stats, so you can’t compare your stats to the live stream.) I was curious how they were going to do the music in studio since the sound quality on the live stream is so high. Unlike SoulCycle, where they blast the music and I have to wear earplugs so my ears aren’t ringing after class, they put the volume of the music at an energizing level, but it’s kept low enough that the video production can still mix the sound appropriately for the livestream. If I was local, I would definitely come in person to the in studio cycling classes as much as I can. It’s the same cost as SoulCycle, but shoes are free to use, and the studio space is spacious (unlikely a lot of SoulCycles, which have cramped changing rooms.) If you want to show up on camera, you should line up 45 minutes before class in front of studio 1 so that you can be in the front row or near the mirror in the second row. They assign you a bike number when you book your class, but that bike number is ignored and your bike assignment is based on “first-come, first-served” when you are in line. You do have to check into class 45-minutes before hand, so it’s more of a time commitment than a SoulCycle class, where you can show up a few minutes before the class starts.

Here are the number of spots for each class in the New York studios (courtesy of PeloBuddy):

  • Cycling studio: 38 Bikes
  • Tread studio: 16 Treads
  • Strength studio: 8 mats
  • Yoga studio: 6 mats (not 7 as it says on PeloBuddy, but maybe they are counting the instructor’s mat?)

🇬🇧 London Studio Review

Peloton London is located on the most adorable street in Covent Garden: 11 Floral St, London WC2E 9DH, United Kingdom. This is the cleanest, nicest fitness studio you will visit in London. Similar to Peloton New York, they don’t make money off of their in studio classes, so it’s very reasonably priced at £25.00/class and they take care to make sure you have a fantastic experience, because it’s all about making sure members feel great so they spread the word. If you are a Peloton addict, this studio is also cool because you can see how the production is made (this isn’t visible in the New York studio.)

Amenities Review

Peloton has the nicest and cleanest studios of any fitness studio I have ever been to (it’s even nicer than the Equinox.) At this location, they have gender neutral areas and private showers and changing stalls, instead of a “Mens” and a “Womens” area. They have Malin+Goetz shower products, unlimited towels, and free cycling shoe rentals.

After Class Meet & Greet and Photo Opportunity

I did a cycling class with Mila Lazar who teaches in German and in English (all the German classes are filmed out of the London studios.) Her class wasn’t full, as she isn’t one of the more famous instructors, but she is SO nice because she isn’t constantly mobbed by fans. For example, she offered me a hug, and because I was right in front of her in the studio, she noticed me and complimented me on the amount of energy I had in the class. In Peloton New York, for example, the more famous instructors are accompanied by security and you aren’t supposed to hug them.

I would definitely visit Peloton London again, although it only offers cycling and treadmill classes (there aren’t any live yoga or strength classes filmed at this location.) But if I just wanted a good workout, this is the nicest studio and being live with the high energy crowd pushes me to go harder than I would in a regular cycling class.


For more information, you can read Peloton’s official FAQ’s.

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London Yoga Studios

BLOK Shoreditch
Principal Place, 2 Hearn St, London EC2A 3BL, United Kingdom

[February 2023 review]

BLOK is a chain that has several exercises classes; it has the feel of an Equinox with the “cool” vibe and its own London exposed brick feel. However, it doesn’t have an open gym (it only offers group classes for yoga, barre, pilates, and boxing). There is a place to get healthy snacks and it’s quite spacious for mingling before or after class. They do have showers but they don’t offer free towels for use (you have to bring your own). I went to a class with a substitute for Alan’s Rocket class and felt it was still quite advanced; it was clear that the yogis in the class were also keen on deepening their practices.

1.) Relatively advanced set of instructors and practitioners for those who want to keep growing their yoga practice
2.) This studio has several group fitness classes, which gives you lots of choice if you want to come here regularly
3.) It looks like if you are a regularly member, you probably get access to quality live-streamed classes (based on the setup I saw–see picture below)

1.) The facilities are nice for London but not super nice by American Equinox standards (e.g. No towels, not spotless like an Equinox)

11 Tottenham St, London W1T 2AG, United Kingdom
University of London area

[February 2023 review]

I took the Flowlife45 5:45pm class on a Friday. The class was pretty easy and what you would expect from a standard yoga flow. I found the room to be really cold though, and asked the instructor to turn up the heat, which she did during the flow. I didn’t get sweaty at all though.

1.) This studio has 3 rooms (for barre, pilates on the reformer, and yoga); this gives you lots of choice and options (although I think they may be priced differently–at least they are priced different on Classpass, with yoga requiring the fewest number of credits
2.) There are ample changing and shower rooms (but I don’t recall that they offered free towels)
3.) They have Manduka PROLite mats available for use, although they are a bit beat up

1.) This doesn’t feel like a “deepen you practice” kind of yoga studio; it’s convenient and accessible to all
2.) The facilities are nice for London but not super nice by American Equinox standards (e.g. towels, cleanliness)

Practice room studio at FLOW LDN with Manduka PROLite yoga mats laid out

13 Mercer Street, London WC2H 9QJ
Covent Garden

[2017 Review]

Upon the recommendation of a local yogi friend I met at a Wanderlust yoga festival, I took Dharma Yoga (Asana 2+) (L2) with Emi Tull at Yotopia. This class is full of yogi regulars. All of them are serious about growing their yoga practice and some are professional dancers. That meant Emi could teach the class at a very advanced level and this was one of the most phsyically challenging yoga classes I had ever been to. We aren’t supposed to compare ourselves to those around us in yoga class but I was definitely one of the lousy students in the class and I have been practicing for 8 years. Handstands are common between transitions and you are expected to know scorpion pose or can modify with forearm balance easily. Emi, who has a “just do it, don’t complain, fall and get up immediately” attitude, flawlessly demonstrated some of the more advanced yoga poses and transitions like Peacock Pose (Mayurasana.) She also offered many hands on adjustments throughout the practice to help move you into more advanced sequences and challenged you to stretch further and hold your pose longer.

1.) The classes billed as “advanced” or “L2” are actually advanced (at least Emi Tull’s class is)
2.) The teacher (Emi Tull) offers many hands on adjustments to help you into or out of poses that you can’t practice by yourself
3.) Studio practice space is conveniently located near food, Lululemon, shopping, and a train station; it is clean and has showers but you must rent towels

1.) Emi’s class is packed so you must sign up online and you are side-by-side next to your fellow yogis (the studio space itself is not that big so there were about 26 students in the class and the teacher still has time to help everyone out)
2.) The practice is a bit fast so unless you are extremely advanced, there may not be enough time to get into poses or gracefully transition (I fell once when transitioning from wheel back to downward dog)
3.) There is a lot of chanting (this class was 2 hours long and about 25 minutes of it is singing and chanting) so if you aren’t into singing songs in a different language than your native tongue, it can be a surprise

Fierce Grace
200 Regent’s Park Rd, London NW1 8BE
Primrose Hill / Chalk Farm

[2017 Review]

Fierce Grace is a hot yoga studio chain in London. I visited Emma Croft’s class at the Chalk Farm location on a Saturday, since she was listed as a senior teacher and I had high hopes of what I could learn. Fierce Grace is not for the lighthearted yogi–it’s heated to 38 degrees Celsius / 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the room and you will sweat just sitting there, motionless. This type of hot yoga is not for me (especially because I went during a week when it was 85+ degrees every day in London) but also because I find it difficult to work on the physical aspects of your practice when the room temperature is higher than 85 degrees–you are far too sweaty and slippery to do anything other than sun salutations. To add salt to the wound, I was next to a gal who reeked when she sweat and that was quite unpleasant. A quick heads up for Americans: You will get very sweaty and want to shower immediately after. There are 4 showers in the ladies locker room but the caveat is that you must not be shy; the showers don’t have dividers and it’s just a trough with 4 shower heads so you shower butt naked right next to the other ladies. I have never seen this type of shower set up at an American yoga studio. The studio provides some general purpose body wash but you have to rent towels for about a pound. Note that you may also want to bring a lock since the lockers don’t have locks on them and it’s a bit precarious to bring your cell phone into the 100 degree practice room (I did, but only after turning my phone off since I feared that it would overheat.)

1.) Convenient locations with many classes available each day
2.) The heating mechanisms in the yoga rooms are quite nice (there are no exposed metal grates that turn red, as I have seen at some other hot yoga studios)

1.) The practice isn’t advanced and contains a basic sequence of poses
2.) The room can feel suffocating or too hot, if you are not used to or do not like hot yoga or it may be a bit smelly
3.) The teacher (Emma) doesn’t offer any hands on adjustments

Paris / France Yoga Studios

EPISOD, Hub Bourse
115 Rue Réaumur, 75002 Paris, France
2nd arrondissement Neighborhood

(Reviewed in February 2023)
I stopped by this set of studios (yoga, boxing, and Barry’s Bootcamp like HIIT) after finding it on ClassPass, and tried out their vinyasa yoga class. It was completely in French and the instructor did not use any sanskrit terms. Because I don’t speak French, I was looking around a lot and can’t really review the instructor’s directions. The class itself felt a bit like a series of poses, not necessarily one that was flowly or strung together with an advanced instructor, but it was nice to get to experience as a part of exploring Paris.

1.) This is one of the nicer fitness studios in Paris, although pictures make it look like as nice as an Equinox or Barry’s (it’s not quite that nice, but certainly comes close and has showers, lotions, shower products, feminine products, and free towels to use)
2.) They provide all the props you need, including assigned yoga mat spaces (although they aren’t the nicest yoga mats)

1.) The instructor didn’t seem very advanced in the instruction or the flow, but I think it was fine for a class geared towards beginner students and for those who don’t speak French (like me–I would have had a hard time following along a more advanced sequence)

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Rasa Yoga Rive Gauche
21 Rue Saint-Jacques, 75005 Paris, France
Monnaie Neighborhood

(Reviewed in July 2017)
I took a morning Ashtanga 1/2 class and there were 2 other Americans amongst a group of 10 or so French yoginis. As with traditional Ashtanga practices, the practice begins with a set of Ashtanga sequences and then diverges based on what the teacher wants to work on that day. The teacher (I believe her name is Anais) offered many hands on adjustments and demonstrations throughout the class. At the request of one of the Americans, she also included some English into the practice. The skill-level of this class is accurately advertised as a 1/2 class but the skill-level of the participating yoginis was generally a 1 so the teacher didn’t lead that many advanced poses–just a few, geared towards about 2 of the yoginis. The studio itself is quite nice: It is clean and they offer mats for you to use for free and mat cleaner (although the cost of a yoga class is about $25 / 22 euros–interestingly, I found the yoga classes in Europe to be more expensive than the yoga classes in the Bay Area.) Like many apartments in Paris, the studio is located inside one of the building complexes that has a code to unlock the door (the studio doesn’t face the street.) I didn’t know the passcode to enter (I think it may be buried somewhere on their website but I didn’t find it.) Luckily, another yogini was exiting right when I needed to enter so I didn’t need to enter in the code. The studio isn’t that well-marked (see picture below to help you identify its location,) but Google Maps does take you to the right location if you follow it precisely.

1.) Clean studio, large retail interior for hanging out, changing rooms (bring your own locks)
2.) The one class I took seems to indicate they have high quality teachers–she was good at mixing the right amount of demonstration with hands-on adjustments

1.) The building’s courtyard is currently undergoing renovations (as of June 2017); that means there is loud sawing and hammering noise that permeates into the yoga studio during your practice
2.) It’s pricey for yoga–for the same price, about $25, I was able to go to Barry’s Bootcamp in London. For those who haven’t been to Barry’s, the workout space offers many amenities including spacious and clean showers, shampoo, body wash, toiletries, and towels. For $25, you get much better amenities at Barry’s Bootcamp (which is usually $32/class in the San Francisco Bay Area and in similar metropolitan cities in the US.)

Riviera Yoga
8bis Rue Martin Seytour, 06300 Nice, France

(Reviewed in July 2019)
I was the only student who showed up for the class on a Wednesday morning in July so I was fortunate to get a one on one session with the instructor for only 19 Euros. The instructor taught to my level, challenging me with harder and harder poses until I could no longer do them. The class was taught by the owner, Anais, and she spoke a bit of English but it was actually quite wonderful to challenge myself doing yoga while listening to her lead the class in French.

1.) Pleasant and relaxing space to practice yoga in and located close to downtown areas in Nice
2.) Instructor gave me quite a bit of hands on adjustments (I was the only person in class) but she seemed to be the type that would give adjustments even if there were a few more others in class

1.) If you have your own yoga mat, bring it because the mats they have for visiting students are the cheap / thin mats that fall apart.
2.) This is a cash-only studio (from what I could see) so you should bring Euros to the class (I didn’t see that she had a card reader machine)

First time getting into this pose (lotus with balancing shoulder stand)

Sunny and airy practice studio space at Riviera Yoga

San Francisco Yoga Studios Reviews

San Francisco Yoga Studios Reviews

Yoga Garden SF/MOXIE: Noe Valley
4159 24th St Unit B, San Francisco, CA 94114
Noe Valley

I went to this Yoga Garden location for the first time when they were testing out a new live streamed program with Roy Gan teaching from the Yoga Garden on Divisadero location live, so this experience is a bit unique, compared to a “regular” yoga class. I liked that it was live and that they still had someone there giving hands on adjustments. I think for highly sought-after teachers who are known in the community, like Roy Gan, this format works well because you aren’t as packed in as you are in the in-person studio, and the experience was comparable to being in a live class with the instructor. This space is much smaller than the Yoga Garden on Divisadero location but parking is easy and it’s still a nice studio space. It just has one room with a bathroom in the back and a small check-in area, but the floors and bathroom were clean.

1.) Easy parking, near a lot of stuff right in the heart of Noe Valley
2.) Minimalistic and clean studio, affiliated with Yoga Garden which is great because I like their set of instructors; I can’t really comment on the instructors at this location since I haven’t taken class with any of them

1.) Doesn’t have much for changing area and only has one bathroom, but if this studio doesn’t normally get too packed, then that’s not an issue (it was fine for the live streamed pilot test that I attended which had maybe 25 people); it doesn’t do heated yoga, so I presume most people don’t get too sweaty
2.) This studio isn’t as cute or charming as the one on Divisadero and isn’t their “flagship” space (see my post below on it)

2973 16th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103 (5th floor)

I took a class with Reza Ebrahimi after doing some light research on his Instagram. He is an advanced teacher but taught an all levels Vinyasa flow and he is a very disciplined and alignment driven teacher. In particular, I received a lot of hands on adjustments (which is rare during this time, given covid-19 and that’s really the reason why I go to practice in person–you just can’t adjust yourself all the time to make sure your alignment is correct.)

1.) Beautiful studio with changing rooms and bathrooms (no showers, but I don’t think they do very hot yoga classes)
2.) The one instructor I went to was high quality, which is likely indicative of the rest of their teaching staff

1.) You have to be buzzed in through a non-descriptive door and walk up 5 flights of stairs to get to the studio (this is only really a problem the first time you go because it’s a little bit hard to find the studio, although their email covers how to get there in detail); I understand why they do this–it’s for security reasons, given the studio is in an unfortunate part of the Mission (conveniently located next to the 16th St. and Mission St. BART station.)
2.) The incense is pretty intense at the beginning of practice but once it burns down, it’s not as strong smelling



Yoga Flow SF – Ocean
385 Ashton Ave, San Francisco, CA 94127
Westwood Park

I haven’t taken a regular class here before–just Rusty Wells’s special Bhakti Flow class so this is more of a Rusty Wells’s yoga class review than it is a Yoga Flow SF review. The studio is conveniently located off the K/T MUNI; located on the second floor, the space is large and has a unique “old San Franciscan building” feel to it. This studio is heated (I would estimate to ~88 degrees F,) but the heaters don’t feel like they are “cooking you” so it’s a comfortable temperature for getting your sweat on.

Everyone at this class was there specifically for Rusty Wells–they were all enamored by him. I had heard about Rusty from a yoga teacher friend who lives in Seattle and wanted to see what all the hype was about. Rusty didn’t do any demonstrations at this class (although I’ve heard that he makes the most advanced poses look gracefully easy,) but the sequence of poses were challenging and novel. This is definitely a class for advanced students (level 2+) because Rusty moves fast so your body needs to move instinctively and flow quickly. For those who like music, Rusty opens and closes his class with chanting and he plays a wide variety of music throughout class, including modern pop hits and chakra-like chants. Rusty also had 6 people assisting in the class so everyone got some hands on adjustments.

Overall, Rusty’s special classes are definitely worth it–for $20, you get to practice alongside a bunch of people who are really into yoga and you get to be led by an always-smiling teacher who challenges you but also makes you feel loved with his warm smile; the yogis and yoginis in attendance, along with Rusty, were all incredibly friendly and nice. I didn’t know a single person in the room but I felt welcomed. For those who have been to yoga festivals, this class had a yoga festival/Wanderlust feel to it.

1.) Features big-name teachers with advanced practices such as Rusty Wells
2.) There is a large studio space, which can accommodate many students (although because of the popularity of Rusty Wells’s class, you are still packed in tightly, mat to mat, which makes practicing some more advanced arm balances difficult for fear of toppling over and causing a domino effect)
3.) There seems to be a real community amongst the folks who go there; they all knew each other and the room was filled with laughter, people catching up and hugging each other before class

1.) No changing room space; there is a small women’s and men’s restroom with two toilet stalls and a couple of sinks; no showers. Because you sweat so much after heated yoga class, this means you have to go home to change before you continue on with your day
2.) The space looks like it used to be a function hall that was retrofitted for yoga so the ventilation isn’t as good as it is at some other heated yoga studios I have been to (compared to the heated yoga studios in Seattle)



Yoga Flow SF – Union
1892 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123

(Original post, circa 2016) I took a class with Lauren Pisano and it was the most challenging yoga class I have taken in San Francisco. Lauren really embraces transitions–every part of the flow is equally important and the yoga pose is the combination of all poses, not each individual pose. I found myself transitioning from one-legged fallen triangle with a foot and leg bind to side plank (on the other side) without dropping the lifted leg (this transition is really hard to do gracefully and requires a huge amount of core work.) I also went to Brad Brockbank’s class and he is also a student of Rusty Wells. Brad’s class is fast-paced (as the style of Bhakti Flow often is,) and if you don’t know the poses well, it can feel like you are getting lost, especially if you can’t hear him clearly since it is an enormous practice studio. I liked that Brad gave hands-on adjustments, even though it was a very large class.  Because the studio is heated, each pose also feels slightly harder and you will do many Chaturangas. I returned in December 2022 and took a class with Tanya Clark and Anna Hughes–the studio seemed to be less heated than what I remembered it used to be pre-pandemic (maybe I went in the summer and now it’s cold outside since it’s the winter so it feels less hot inside), and the yoga flow wasn’t as strenuous, but still interesting and layered. There was no chanting in Tanya’s class but she has a “yoga zen” vibe to her, whereas there was chanting in Anna’s class, but she didn’t have a “zen” vibe to how she conducted class and was pretty pithy.

The studio is one of the prettiest I have seen in San Francisco too, not because there is anything shiny about the space, but rather because there are windows on two of the walls and a skylight on the left side of the studio. It reminds me of practicing outdoors since you are surrounded by the tops of trees. Other yogis have described this space as a “treehouse.”

If I lived closer to this studio, I think this is the one I would frequent most often. You really do feel like you got a tough workout and that’s what I seek in my daily yoga practice. Lauren and Brad both opened the class with some chanting but it wasn’t overdone and lasted only a couple minutes; during yoga class, both would throw in inspirational quotes about heartbreak and letting it all go, but she wouldn’t interrupt the flow to indoctrinate such “learnings,” which I liked.

1.) Teachers offer a very physical and challenging Vinyasa practice that takes elements of Baptiste and weaves it into a more creative style with demanding transitions and adjustments
2.) Free oranges at the studio! (December 2022 update: I think this was removed after covid)
3.) Great location and studio practice space in the Marina near lots of food, clothing boutiques and shops

1.) Lack of efficiency at check in: Sign in line is very long and creates a bottleneck getting into the studio
2.) There are only two bathrooms (and the showers are located inside the single-toilet bathrooms, which makes showering unrealistic since you will be hogging the bathroom; you get relatively sweaty in this heated room and I don’t think I have ever seen anyone shower)
3.) Only two changing stalls and very crowded hallway space during the transition time between classes


Love Story Yoga
473 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Love Story Yoga is one of the newer, amenity-filled studios in San Francisco (this post was originally written in 2017 or so). It has a spacious front desk, showers, lockers, and the practice space is enormous. Students face a platform stage where the yoga teacher demonstrates some poses. The practice studio has a whispering quality–I don’t know if was the dim lighting and the traditional Indian music or the heat but when you walk in, but you feel like using hushed tones. The yoga teacher, Neil Wadhawan, called us “friends” throughout the practice and asked us to meet someone new before we left; people lingered around and chatted with each other and Neil–it felt like a studio that has knit a community. He also lists Rusty Wells as one of his teachers so if are a Rusty fan, you will enjoy Neil’s fast-paced Bhakti flow practice. I went again in 2022 to Kino MacGregor’s workshop here, and several other classes. Jason Bowman’s class, which felt really different than Neil’s class: Jason’s class is more of just a standard beginners yoga flow. The students seemed to really love his class and it was packed mat-to-mat, so much so that the guy next to me hit me a couple of times and his sweat poured onto my mat. Stephanie Snyder’s classes are also packed (she is the founder, and you better like chanting.) Paxtyn Montes is newer to teaching but because she doesn’t have a following, her classes aren’t as crazily packed and actually more enjoyable. I’m signed up for Kino MacGregor’s handstand workshop in February 2023.

1.) Convenient location and spacious practice area full of amenities
2.) I only went to one class but I looked at the teachers on their website–the majority are quite experienced and have over a decade of practice (Update on July 2022–I have since been to several classes and workshops since I first posted wrote this review years ago, and I continue to enjoy returning)
3.) Heated yoga space is beautiful (no exposed metal grates / rattling heating sounds)

1.) If you don’t like chanting Sanskrit mantras or live drumming, this may not be the practice for you
2.) I took an advanced class level 2/3 class but it didn’t feel like it was an advanced class (although the breath work, if one was doing it correctly, one breath per pose, was quite demanding); I find that teachers “teach to the level” of the students in the room and the yoga clients here practiced at a more basic level
3.) The one teacher I practiced with didn’t give hands on adjustments (one of my favorite parts of yoga class); it may have been just that teacher or perhaps the classes here are too big for hands on adjustments to be a regular part of the practice


417 14th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

The teachers here are quite advanced and practicing with them will challenge you and inspire your own practice. At my Saturday 10am class with Tara, we did a lot of core work at the beginning and the teacher guided us through a sequence with arm balances that linked each pose. We did quite a bit of prep work for handstands as well and I definitely felt that I could hang on a little bit longer in handstand by the end of the class. I didn’t see the teacher give any hands on adjustments in class though, and this is something that I look forward to when I go to yoga class. The studio has a nice lounge area where you check in and a few changing rooms and cubbies to store your things. Because it is located in the Mission, they close or lock the iron gates during class to make sure there are no disturbances. The studio is warmed to about 75 degrees, just enough for you break a sweat and activate your flexibility, but not so warm that you are slipping and sliding in crow pose.

1.) Advanced teachers and advanced clientele which means you can grow your own practice further, if that’s what you are looking to do
2.) Studio space itself is quite convenient; it’s located near a lot of food options and has a spacious area to hang out before and after class.

1.) No showers and only one bathroom; there is often a line to use the bathroom
2.) The practice studio’s floor is carpeted which I suppose is better for your joints or minor falls (but a Manduka Pro mat would be sufficient); I went to a Saturday 10am class and everything smelled fresh, but it was the first class of the day. I would imagine that it would be a bit more gross if you had to practice right after a sweaty class.



Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center
1185 Vicente Street San Francisco, CA 94116

Sivananda is an authentic yoga studio, run entirely by volunteers. It’s a very traditional and spiritual yoga center where the teachers were orange, chanting opens every class, and they ask you to wear modest clothing. You won’t break a sweat in this class but they do focus on technical alignment, advanced breathing, and your mental awareness. My friend almost did a headstand in this class (her first time ever.) The crowd skews older than other studios in SF. The teachers have been teaching yoga before it became mainstream (the yoga teacher I visited had taught since 1997) and she gave lots of hands on adjustments, especially to those who were newer to yoga. The first class is free so it’s a great way to check out the studio with low commitment.

1.) It’s very much a community where people support each other
2.) Very traditional; if you want to get a taste of how yoga is practiced outside of the Western world, this is a good place to experience that

1.) If you want to leave sweating and on a workout / yoga high, you won’t get this here. (They will argue that leaving feeling like you just had a “workout” isn’t yoga)
2.) I dropped in on an All-Levels class so I am not sure if their Intermediate Courses are more advanced but I felt that the All-Levels class was pretty introductory


Laughing Lotus Yoga Center
3271 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

This studio is a brightly painted space; it’s impossible to miss because of its bright orange paint on the outside of the building. The studio itself has some retail, 4 changing stalls, 2 bathrooms (no showers,) and a nice tea and cookies area. I found that after class, the students didn’t depart immediately but really wanted to hang out to talk to each other and the teacher. Although I had only been there once, it felt like this studio does foster quite a bit of community. I took the Lotus Flow 2/3 class with Robin Wilner. She had some very unique and dance-like transitions which I enjoyed learning. Robin is a former Broadway performer so her Bhakti flow is inspired by dance-like movements and her singing voice is beautiful and strong. Her class was large but the space was also large so it didn’t feel packed. I think I could learn some interesting new transitions from Robin if it was a smaller class or a workshop. The flow was very fast so there isn’t much time devoted to alignment and the technique in some of the poses is more advanced but it’s not a hard class in terms of cardio or muscle work as the poses weren’t held for a long time and the class was not heated.

1.) I enjoyed Robin’s challenging transitions and beautiful playlist
2.) The studio is unique and welcoming (the cookies and tea is a nice touch)
3.) The practice space faces two open doors that look out at some plants and there is a skylight in the ceiling, taking you into a different world when you step into the yoga center (you feel relaxed compared to when you are walking the busy and chaotic streets of the Mission)

1.) Robin’s was the most advanced class; if you are looking to further grow your pactice, you may be limited at this studio
2.) There are no showers at the studio which is usually okay because you don’t sweat that much if it’s not a heated yoga class but it is nice to have that amenity because if you are going to spend the rest of the day out and about with your friends, it is nice to freshen up
3.) Classes are big (studio space is larger) so you may not feel like you get as much individualized attention; but I will say that Robin did not spend her time at the front with a mat demonstrating the poses–she walked around and offered adjustments to some students which I liked better than a yoga teacher who stays at the front of the room and demonstrates every pose

Laughing Lotus Yoga Center
Complimentary tea and ginger snaps at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center


Baptiste Yoga San Francisco
38 Mesa Street San Francisco, CA 94129

This Baptiste Yoga studio is a hidden gem in the city. It’s located in the basement of one of The Presidio’s quiet, historic, white buildings. The studio is fairly new and difficult to find on Yelp or via Google search since it has only received a small handful of reviews in November and December of 2015. Baptiste Yoga is a “get down to business” heated power yoga style with a strong focus on Vinyasa flow. Expect to do many Chaturanga Dandasanas and don’t expect much talk about the stars and the spirits. My preference for yoga leans towards an intense core and cardio workout, not an intense spiritual experience, so I am personally biased towards Baptiste Yoga. The fact that this studio is in the Presidio is both a pro and a con–I love that it is surrounded by beauty and it’s a peaceful place to walk around before or after class. However, it’s also far away from where most people live, making it unrealistic to go to this yoga studio on a regular basis if you live across the city. If you are able to make the trip to the Presidio, pack some snacks and a change of clothes (since you will get very sweaty); I strongly encourage you to check out this gorgeous new studio!

1.) The studio is new and has many amenities including lockers, bathrooms, and showers
2.) The practice area is spotless
3.) The classes are not crowded (for now) which means you have a ton of personal space and the instructor gives you many hands on adjustments. There were 5 other people at my 9:30am yoga class with Jen
4.) If you are driving, there is plenty of parking in the area

1.) There aren’t many classes each day (5-6 classes on weekdays and 2-3 classes on weekends)
2.) It’s far from everything and difficult to walk to
3.) Due to the old building the studio is in, there is never actual silence–the walls make an odd gurgling or rumbling sound every now and then
4.) The Baptiste Yoga style can be repetitive after a while (just like Ashtanga Yoga or any other style with a determined set of poses,) so if you are an extremely frequent practitioner, you might want to seek out some variety


Yoga Garden SF
286 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117
Hayes Valley

Enter this space through picturesque wooden gates; continue over an artistically paved stone sidewalk surrounded by a dense wall of plants. You can’t find a cuter yoga studio. Yoga Garden SF is an unheated yoga studio situated in the Hayes Valley neighborhood (although it can still get steamy in the room from the “regular” heat in the winter and the energy from the yogis.) The yoga rooms are nestled in a three-story house. There is a yoga room on each floor: Earth, Water, and Air (make sure you ask the front desk which floor your yoga class is on so you go to the right room.) These three rooms allow Yoga Garden SF to offer a high number of classes each day to fit your busy schedules (~10 classes/day on weekends and ~15 classes/day on weekdays.) The teachers lead a wide variety of levels and my favorite teachers there are Roy Gan and Christie Rafanan. Roy plays an energetic and revitalizing playlist while teaching a sassy Vinyasa class and Christie introduces fun new moves and transitions that I hadn’t tried before

1.) Experienced teachers (who have continuity–they don’t leave often and keep their schedules, especially Roy)
2.) Cute practice space

1.) Bathrooms: It only has two toilets; due to the high volume of classes and yogis, there is always a line for the bathroom so arrive early if you need to change into your yoga clothes; there also aren’t showers
2.) Classes are back-to-back: They pack the end time of one class right next to the start time so class transitions can feel crowded, especially since the house has narrow halls/stairs

Overall, this is a wonderful studio that I highly recommend to yogis of all levels.


The Pad Studios
1690 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123

From the outside, this studio looks like it could be a bright and girlie candy shop. Its white interior and angelic decorations caught my eye–I was actually driving by when I saw this studio and made a note to check it out. This is one of the cleanest unheated yoga studios I have been to in San Francisco. The walls are bright white and the studio feels airy due to the many windows that allow sunshine to stream through. They have a friendly and spacious front desk area to check guests in and a nice retail selection of high-end yoga gear. You can keep your stuff in cubbies in the yoga studio while you practice to make sure they don’t walk off during class. They also offer pilates reformer at this location (I haven’t tried it myself.) Most of the teachers at this location don’t play music and incorporate more spiritual aspects of the practice (there was quite a bit of talk about stars aligning during one class.)

The one drawback of this studio is also its bathroom situation: There is one bathroom in the yoga studio and one outside the studio in the pilates reformer room. However, there are plenty of changing stalls so changing is not a problem.

I recommend this studio for yogis who want to practice alongside other beginner to intermediate students. For perspective on the yogis who go to this studio, the folks I practiced with were all affluent, white-collar workers.


Body Temp Yoga
2425 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123

This yoga studio is situated on the second floor, over a laundromat. Its staff is friendly and the teachers lead quite advanced classes. It has one heated yoga studio and offers both Vinyasa flow and sculpt classes (yoga with weights) which is a great way to intensify your practice. Back in Seattle, I always practiced hot yoga. A heated room makes every yoga pose at least 5X harder. However, in my opinion, the heat in this studio is far too high for a fluid Vinyasa yoga practice.

1.) Many changing stalls
2.) One of the few hot yoga studios in San Francisco

1.) Only two bathrooms with toilets; no showers
2.) No water fountain or free water; I find this extremely problematic for a heated yoga studio. At $20/drop-in class, the studio really should invest in a free water system (whether it is a water fountain or a Poland Spring water delivery service.) You can only purchase bottled water here (or fill up your water bottle in the bathroom sink, but that water isn’t filtered)
3.) Heating is too high and heater grates turn orange/red, making you feel like you are being fried in an oven. This yoga studio doesn’t disguise its heater grates so you can see the metal heaters in the front of the room. That combined with the darkness of the room really makes it feel like you are being cooked

I would recommend this yoga studio for advanced yogis who want a heart-racing workout and an extreme sweat session. If you are new to yoga, I would recommend that you try one of the other unheated yoga studios in San Francisco.


Yoga Tree Hayes Valley
519 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102
Hayes Valley

Let me preface this review with a disclaimer: I only like spiritual talks about the stars and your inner goddess during yoga retreats like Wanderlust. During my regular daily practice, I want to get a good workout and I don’t want to be lectured about why we need to yoke our bodies and our minds.

Yoga Tree has many locations in San Francisco. I visited the Hayes Valley location and took a class with Cecily Guest. The studio is conveniently located on the charming Hayes Street, surrounded by delectable macaroon shops and trendy clothing boutiques. The studio practice space is fairly large and has brightly painted yoga-inspired walls. The room is heated just a bit for practice. This space doesn’t offer showers but does have two changing rooms in the front lobby area.

This is actually the most convenient studio for me to go to because it’s so close to where I live; yet I find myself venturing several more miles away to check out other yoga studios. There aren’t many Vinyasa classes offered each day at this studio. They do seem to offer more Hatha, Jivamukti, and Yin Yoga classes. As a young person who is blessed with quite flexible joints, I don’t find I get as much out of such classes. I am also not there to find myself spiritually–I feel better after a physically tiresome yoga practice than I do after a mentally challenging one, so I lean towards power yoga and Vinyasa yoga classes. However, I found that the all levels Vinyasa class with Cecily was too focused on the spiritual aspects of the practice. She would interrupt the flow to ask us questions and expect us to respond. It feel more like a classroom than a yoga studio. I may return to a different Vinyasa class to reevaluate but my sense is that this studio focuses on discovering yourself spiritually through yoga.

1.) Excellent location; cute studio
2.) Focus on “slower” yoga styles if that is what you are looking for (learning breathing techniques, etc)

1.) No showers and limited changing space
2.) Not enough variety of classes offered each day at the Hayes Valley location (especially on the weekends)


CorePower Yoga – Fremont Street
215 Fremont St, San Francisco, CA 94105
Financial District

This studio feels new and the space inside feels well-kept, with good air filtration. I am personally not a huge fan of CorePower classes but since they offer 1 week free and this studio is right by work, I decided to stop by. I took a Yoga Sculpt class with Michelle Mi, which felt more like an exercise class than a yoga class (for example, there were jumping jacks involved.) You use light weights (3-5 pounds) for some of the poses, and there is a strong emphasis on core. In a heated room, this is a pretty hard class. Make sure you take electrolytes before and after class and have a lot of water. And if you don’t like super hot yoga studios, it’s coolest by the door on the right.


1.) Good air circulation for a hot yoga studio; wooden floors were very clean and not smelly at all
2.) New studio so it was spacious and felt premium; they had several studios within this one space


1.) The class itself felt like it had unnecessary transitions and was too “exercise” focused for me
2.) The water in the ladies room was not available when I went in early January 2023 so I had to use the public restrooms in a connecting building, which was a bit of a hassle, especially because you get really sweaty and want to towel or rinse off after class

Large retail space with lockers at CorePower Fremont Street (bring your own mini-lock, or borrow one of theirs from the front desk for free)

Large retail space with lockers at CorePower Fremont Street (bring your own mini-lock, or borrow one of theirs from the front desk for free)


Yoga Mayu Mission
2051 Harrison Street San Francisco, CA 94110

I have only been to one class at Yoga Mayu in the Mission and I chose to stop by Gizella’s class. She and her husband own Yoga Mayu. She led a fluid Vinyasa flow class. I thought it was a solid unheated yoga class with a focus on stretching. The studio is neatly organized and relatively clean but for me, there wasn’t an extra spark that made me feel like I was at home. Because of its location, it has fewer attendees per class, so the classes feel much less packed.

1.) Classes aren’t packed
2.) Gizella’s class offers lots of stretching opportunities so you feel realigned and refreshed

1.) The location of the studio is a bit unpleasant (especially if you are walking there and coming from the north)
2.) The studio windows open up to a busy street and in the summers, it’s hot and stuffy so the instructors open up the window to air out the studio–the sounds of street traffic and honking spill into your practice

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𝝮 Lululemon🪞Mirror Review

I have been working out with the Lululemon Mirror (a.k.a. Lululemon Studio after their rebrand) for the last few weeks after getting it for free (you still have to pay the $39/month subscription, but you can use the code PERKSATWORKZERO to get the hardware completely free, including free delivery and no taxes.) As of January 1, 2023, this promo code no longer works and you can’t get The Mirror for free.

The Mirror itself is a quality piece of hardware (with the exception of the on and off button, which sometimes doesn’t work.) They deliver it with a delivery service (it’s not a UPS-like delivery, it’s more like furniture delivery) and you schedule a delivery window with the company. They bring it to to your door but they don’t do any installation unless you pay an extra $250, which I didn’t do. Installation for the Mirror leaning against the wall option was easy (just use a screwdriver to attach the bottom rectangular metal stand and lean it against the wall after drilling a hole into the wall to anchor the Mirror in case it slips.) However, I think it was 70 pounds or something and it’s very long so moving it around by myself was a workout itself; I kind of just shimmied it around to the right spot.

The user experience is nice but not game changing

It’s nice to be able to see yourself in the reflection but I found myself not paying attention to it that much, unless I was queued by the instructor to “make sure my hips were even” or something like that. I mostly used it as a giant television screen. You control the content through the Mirror app on your phone. You can see videos of what the Mirror classes experience is like on my Instagram post.

Compared to Peloton, I would say the Lululemon Studio / Mirror subscription has fewer classes. I quickly burned through the small handful of 5-minute core classes, and most of the shorter core classes as well. It’s hard to say whether the instructors are better or worse on Peloton versus Mirror because it all comes down to personal taste but the video production quality and the streaming is higher quality on Peloton (multiple camera angles, etc.) Peloton also has several times more classes.

Some people like that you can control the music independently of the instruction, which you can do on the Mirror (they recommend a station, but you can change it.) However, I like that on the Peloton, the music is just as important as the moves themselves and the music is chosen specifically for the story the instructor wants to tell that day.

The calories you burned count seems to be wildly inflated on The Mirror, with a 30-minute non-sweaty yoga session logging some 100 calories, whereas on Peloton, that requires at least a 20-minute cycling class where your heart rate is above baseline and you sweat at least a little bit. I don’t pay attention to this number much on either platform.

Unlike several other sites that do a “Mirror vs. Peloton” comparison, I’m completely independent. I am not compensated by either Lululemon or Peloton and I maintain this blog to help out my friends and because it’s fun for me to do. So my recommendations aren’t swayed by compensation by any company. A lot of the things I see online are clearly paid for by Lululemon, like this set of reviews from Top Dust that compares the Mirror to Peloton and Tonal.

I’ll compare the Mirror to the Peloton in the table below but I’ve also tried Future Fit ($149 per month) and Apple Fitness+ ($9.99/month or $79.99 annually) and I would say that both Mirror and Peloton are better than Future and Apple Fitness+ so I’m not even going to bother making a table to compare them. I haven’t tried Tonal beyond a few brief minutes when I’ve seen it at the gym.

Lululemon Mirror vs. Peloton

FeatureLululemon Studio a.k.a. MirrorPeloton
Subscription cost$39/month for subscription (but you get 10% off everything at Lululemon)$12.99/month + tax for streaming only

$44.99/month + tax if you are using it with the bike, tread, or other hardware
Hardware cost$795 for the basic Mirror (but I always see promotions on various credit cards or referral sites so I think you should be able to get it for less); you can use my referral code lingyPnU (it can be stacked with existing promotions, discount amount varies)$1,245 (for the basic bike, and I don’t think you need the bike+. The Bike Starter also comes with the accessories you’ll need, such as cycling shoes)
PlatformsiOS / Android and Mirror hardware (no browser-based streaming)iOS / Android / Peloton hardware / web browser
Number of ClassesHundredsThousands
Quality of InstructorsExcellent (they are really good at mirroring you so you can follow along from what you see in the Mirror)Excellent, a bit more entertaining, and have a large “cult following”
Front-facing camera“Community Camera” front-facing camera can be turned on so the instructor can see you and give real-time feedback in live classes; you can also do 1:1 virtual classes (like Zoom) with an instructorCan be used to be in a class together with a Peloton friend (doesn’t have to be a live class); instructors can’t see you, even in live classes
SensorsCan connect to Apple Watch; apparently there are sensors to measure your body movements in the hardware but they don’t actually do anything right nowCan connect to Apple Watch and they recently launched “Peloton Guide” which uses AI to track your body movements, compare your form, and log your activity (I don’t have the Guide myself, so this is based on what I read online)
If I had to choose just one, I would choose the Peloton because you have more classes and can de-couple the hardware from the software easily

In case you are curious, the summary on Future and Apple Fitness+ are that:

  • Future is too expensive and the workouts are so boring; it’s not that useful to me to have someone make a workout schedule for me that’s just some random configurations of what they typically create for anyone, when you can’t bear to do it because you are bored out of your mind.
  • Apple Fitness+’s content is mediocre but if you have all of the hardware (Apple Watch, Apple TV) and can project it onto a big screen, it may be a good economical option, although the content is worse than Peloton’s content in my opinion, and the streaming app version of Peloton (without Peloton hardware) is only a few dollars more at $12.99/month.

Live Classes on the Mirror are pretty cool

They give new users who haven’t tried the live class a free pass ($40 off) so I signed up for a barre class with Mila Toribio (her Instagram). I wanted to make sure I am doing the barre moves correctly so I can get more out of each movement and it was a cool experience to have someone appear out of the “metaverse” into your home, but I don’t think I would pay for it regularly unless I really liked barre. It’s a little bit more expensive than a barre drop-in class, and you don’t get the hands on adjustments, although the instructor can see you and correct your form, but sometimes you just need someone to poke you into the right position. Similar to many new technologies, the streaming quality was lower than that of a normal Zoom call (I have gigabit internet at home that usually on Wi-Fi, gets parallel upload and download speeds of 100 Mbps+; I wasn’t plugged in to the ethernet so that may have been why the picture was a bit fuzzy and felt like the video lagged a bit compared to the non-live classes.)

The final verdict: Peloton wins

At the end of the day, I have tried enough digital fitness classes to know that it’s not about the hardware or the exact price of the subscription: It’s about the content and the instructors. The reason Peloton has been so successful compared to knockoffs like Echelon or even SoulCycle, is that their content is really unique and a lot of people relate to the instructors. People use the Peloton as therapy, not just for exercise. The instructors have wide artistic liberty for how they want to run their classes, and when you are playing in the digital fitness space, that’s the true differentiator. I hope that doesn’t change with the change in senior leadership at the company.

The one niche area where I think the Mirror is superior are the abs classes with XTina (and I am an expert at abs–not really an expert at anything else, so perhaps I don’t understand the nuances of other exercises as well.) XTina’s classes are the most targeted towards building visible abs and follow the basic rule of time under tension (which Jermaine Johnson from Peloton is also quite good at) but most of the other Peloton instructors tend to do numerous fast transitions, so it’s a bit scattered and all over the place and you don’t have time under tension.

SoulCycle is really successful in person because of the ambience and energy you get from that physical space, which is awesome–I have been several times myself. But if the instructor is just a good cyclist who is energetic and motivates you by saying standard gym teacher motivation things, it’s not enough for succeeding in the digital fitness space. You have to basically be Netflix on a bike to succeed, and that’s why Cody Rigsby has 1.3M Instagram followers and millions of fans globally.

If you want a 60-day free trial to Peloton’s app subscription, you can use my referral link here (I’m not sure if I get something, I might get a discount on accessories.)

(Covid Update) Palo Alto & South Bay Yoga Studios

(Covid Update) Palo Alto & South Bay Yoga Studios

I previously wrote a series of reviews on Palo Alto and South Bay yoga studios, but so much about the teaching staff and the studios have changed since covid hit in March 2020 (some have gone out of business, many have changed ownership and teachers,) that I thought I should start completely new with fresh perspectives now that things are opening up again.

YogaSource of Los Gatos
16185 Los Gatos Blvd, Los Gatos, CA 95032

I had heard of this studio from other yogis, who talked about how beautiful the physical practice space is. I finally made my way there and found an oasis of yoga and spin amenities. They have two yoga rooms, one for heated practice and one for unheated vinyasa and a spin room with Schwinn bikes. It’s worth noting that they do keep the door propped open for a period of time for fresh airflow, so if it’s cold outside, you might be cold in the unheated room. I would imagine that it feels amazing in the summer, but I was a bit chilly when I went to Linda Schlamadinger’s 75-minute vinyasa class. The class started off with some really great guided myofascial release with a tune-up ball and the sequence of the flow was well thought-out and interesting, although I would say it’s pretty accessible and easy. While this studio is in Santa Clara county, they allow you to take your masks off when you are on the yoga mat practicing. In fact, most of the students, and the teacher did not have their masks on when they were on their yoga mat (they only put them on when they moved around the studio.) I personally do not like wearing my mask at all when I’m working out so it was a relief to me that the studio operated this way, because as of February 2022, Santa Clara still had an indoor mask mandate. At the same time, the studio is spaced out enough that I didn’t feel like I was pushed up against anyone–I thought they did a great job keeping the studio available to yogis while maintaining the right level of covid safety precautions. If I didn’t live so far away, I would definitely give their 3-weeks new-student special for $59 a try.


1.) Showers, spacious, bright, airy, and welcoming feel

2.) Lots of free parking in their garage

3.) Felt like a community, people said hi to me and made eye contact, and I could see that the regulars were chatting and connecting before and after class


1.) For me personally, I didn’t find that the classes were challenging or advanced enough to warrant me going regularly, but I have been practicing regularly for nearly 15 years

Yoga Six Mountain View
555 San Antonio Rd Suite 37, Mountain View, CA 94040

The studio space at Yoga Six is really nice–it’s heated yoga, so you will get sweaty, but the heat isn’t oppressive. They have a really nice filtration system so it feels like a dry heat, and it definitely leaves you feeling refreshed and physically and mentally free after a sweaty practice. I would recommend you bring a full-length Manduka mat towel and a hand towel, since you will be very wet. They also offer a free first class if you sign up here. The studio has two unisex bathrooms / changing rooms and a few cubbies for you to store your things in the retail area, but the lounge area isn’t very big. Inside the studio, they use different colored lights and music to set the mood and after class, they hand out cold towels. I thought the small touches they added to the studio were really nice, and the class was packed (probably 40 people inside, mat-to-mat)–granted, it was the first weekend after Santa Clara lifted their indoor mask mandates. I think I saw about 2 people who continued to wear their masks to practice.


1.) Very friendly staff, great facilities, FloWater machine (my favorite!) really nice finishing touches to the experience (e.g. bathrooms have extra hair elastics, tampons, etc.)

2.) Actual studio space is nice and the ambience is great

3.) Easy parking at the San Antonio Shopping Center


1.) The studio and the practice itself is great, but for me, I am looking for a more technical / advanced kind of practice (which usually is in a studio that isn’t as hot, not that heat is a bad thing; it’s just that when it gets that hot and sweaty, you can’t really practice any arm balances because you’re slipping everywhere–I, and the most advanced yogi teachers I have practiced with, like to wear shorts so you don’t use the friction from your pants to compensate for core strength as much.) I did get a great workout, but their style is more pilates and yoga fusion, as opposed to vinyasa flow–so this “con” is more of a personal preference for me. I would absolutely go back, but I just have a preference towards classes that end up teaching you a new skill.

Hot 8 Yoga Santana Row
355 Santana Row Suite 1050, San Jose, CA 95128

This is a hot yoga / barre / fitness fusion studio near the shopping area Santana Row. I went to a barre class and a power yoga class there and they definitely heat the studio up pretty high–it’s one of those studios where you start sweating even if you are not moving (I think they keep their humidity pretty high so it seemed to feel a bit hotter because of that too.) It was one of the few times that I sweat so much, I had to replenish with electrolytes and actually felt dehydrated and light-headed after (and I am one of those people who does cardio and yoga every single day). Therefore, I would recommend that you do prepare with electrolytes before and after class, especially if you are taking their barre or sculpt classes. I saw many people have to leave in the middle of class to take a break from the heat. The facilities are nice, there are showers and free towels (which you will want to use), although the locker and shower area is a bit crowded in between classes. You will definitely want to bring your own yoga mat towel (they have them there as well, and they might be free to use or for a small fee.) There is also free parking right across the street from the studio.


1.) Very involved and friendly staff (they sent an email and text reminder before hand on what to expect and how to prepare for a heated class); two instructors I took classes with were engaging and good at what they did (they didn’t get left and right mixed up, etc.)

2.) The facilities are very nice (cold towels, free shower towels, etc.) The only thing I would change is make the locker room and changing area bigger. In between classes, it feels too packed. In addition, I had originally thought the floor of the room would be gross because it looked like it was a gray carpet, but it’s actually a rubbery porous surface. I wonder if they clean it periodically but it didn’t have a bad smell or anything from all the sweat.

3.) There are a wide range of classes to suit the intensity you want.


1.) For me personally, both the barre and yoga classes were too hot. I like moderate heat because it does loosen your joints but this studio has a “slip and slide” hot, where you really have to adjust to the heat and I felt that I couldn’t do as many of the strength poses as I would have liked to, because it was so hot. You have to want a very hot class to enjoy this studio. For some people, they love this level of heat, but it was a bit too high for what I want to achieve with my practice.

The following yoga studios were my personal favorites before the pandemic, but have unfortunately permanently closed. I blogged about them pre-covid here.

YogaWorks Palo Alto
(Formerly on 440 Kipling St, Palo Alto, CA 94301)

The entire YogaWorks chain filed for bankruptcy at the beginning of the pandemic and moved towards an online streaming only service. I really liked going to Nathalie Bakker’s classes because I was always pushed to learn something new. However, she seems to have moved away from the Bay Area and I don’t know if she is still teaching anymore.

Avalon Yoga Palo Alto
(Formerly on 370 California Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94306)

This studio abruptly closed one day. I was just there in late December 2021 and the owner was telling me to renew and get more passes, and then abruptly in mid-February, everything shut down, the website was taken down, and the students were not notified. I am not sure what happened, but I used to like practicing with Elena Milyukova on Sunday mornings.

Daily Harvest Meal Delivery Review

Daily Harvest Meal Delivery Review

I’m a huge fan of TrueFood Kitchen and healthy eating, but it’s usually expensive and difficult to cook this way and still make the food taste good, so I decided to give Daily Harvest a try and got 6 flatbreads, 7 bowls, and a smoothie cup from their 14 item bundle. When I stacked a new user promotion along with an American Express promotion, it came out to be about $60 for all 14 items, after taxes and fees, which was not a bad deal at ~$4.30/item.

Compared to the other meal delivery plans I have tried, Daily Harvest is definitely my favorite because you don’t have to do much preparation other than heating things up. The ingredients are clean and impressed me and I wish I had added the ice cream to my first order to try since I found out later that they are vegan, made of coconut cream and they use maple syrup as a sweetener, and they don’t use any binders like guar gum, but I was trying to be super healthy when I was placing the order.

While the bowls are very convenient (you just pop them into the microwave or on a stove top), I didn’t think they tasted that much better than a frozen Amy’s meal from Whole Foods, so in my next order, I plan to decrease the number of bowls and substitute for flatbread and ice cream.

Ingredients are all quite clean and healthy but the sweet potato + wild rice hash was too salty and I didn’t like the flavor that much; we had to add brown rice to it to dilute the saltiness. This was the case with a few of the bowls.
The beet + wild rice was much tastier and I liked this bowl a lot without modifications

I thought the gluten-free flatbreads were delicious, but the centers were soggy the first time I made it, so I decided to solve that problem by breaking them apart into halves or thirds and putting them on a small baking rack like this one when I put it into the oven, which fixed the soggy center problem (make sure you check the size of the baking rack so you know if it’s the right size for your oven or toaster.) Breaking it apart when it’s frozen and then baking them can get a little bit messy but it created more “edges” than when it was one piece. Even if you don’t break them apart, the baking rack helps a lot towards bringing more crispiness to the crust. Previously, I was putting them on a pizza pan, which didn’t have airflow on the bottom of the flatbread, resulting in the soggy center. They satisfied my “bread” desire quite well and I liked most of the flavors.

Flatbread ingredients are also quite healthy and each flatbread is only ~330 to 370 calories
I put the baking rack on top of a baking pan so removal of it from the oven was easy

I only got one smoothie cup because it’s just frozen fruit that you blend it up–it’s easy enough to make from frozen fruit you get at the supermarket or even fresh fruit, but I wanted to give it a try to see what it was like.

Again, very clean ingredients; the fruit sticks to each other right out of the freezer so you may want to defrost it a tiny bit to make blending easier as I had to open my NutriBullet blender at least five times to move the fruit pieces that were stuck so the blades could break them down.
I didn’t think the fruits tasted sweet enough so I ended up adding 2 dates to it (don’t forget to remove pits) and that tasted really good. I was also running out of almond milk so I only used a little bit of it and the end result was I had more of a slushy than a smoothie, but it was still delicious.

Overall, I think Daily Harvest is definitely worth giving a try if you are health-conscious and don’t like to cook or don’t have time to (I am not a brand affiliate or anything,) but if you order through my link, we do both get $35 off the shipment. My next shipment will comprise of only flatbreads and the ice cream (I don’t drink caffeine so I’m not trying their lattes.) However, my main issue with it is that I wish the flatbreads weren’t wrapped in so much plastic which feels wasteful (maybe there is a more biodegradable option?) and I think I would get tired of eating the same thing week after week if this was the primary meal I ate, so it may work better for people as a once a month delivery, if you like a lot of variety in your food.

Free Online Yoga Classes

Having taken several virtual yoga classes for the past 8 months, I’m recommending the best online yoga classes I’ve found while you are keeping yourself and everyone else safe by staying at home.

  1. Leigha Butler teaches some of the most interesting vinyasa flows and her videos date back several years. The audio and picture quality isn’t as high as that of some other creators, but I find myself going to her channel for more advanced flows that leave you feeling like you just went to a yoga studio. Her classes are similar to Nicole Wild’s in terms of flow thoughtfulness, but Leigha’s flows are more “flowy”. In addition, Leigha has uploaded more videos.
  2. Boho Beautiful is a lifestyle and fitness channel that has 1.7M subscriptions. This channel is selling more of their lifestyle and isn’t purely yoga videos. The production quality is extremely good though (she dubs her voice over the videos after she makes them and weaves in yoga background music so you don’t even need to think about that, the setting is always in a beautiful location so you can virtually transport there yourself, and she has an extremely calming voice.) The channel does feature a super skinny and fit woman (which you may or may not like–some may say she is pushing an unattainably body image, some may find her body shape inspirational). While the yoga practice sequences she leads are strong, I don’t think the transitions are the most interesting and innovative, but I do still watch a lot of her free YouTube classes. Her classes are a good fit for you if you are looking for a 20-30 minute sequence.
  3. Nicole Wild’s yoga flow sequences are some of the best full-length online yoga classes. They are good quality, free (she doesn’t put ads in the YouTube videos and if any show up, it’s because YouTube’s algorithms put them in,) and they are challenging for advanced yogis, interesting, and accessible for an at home practice (doesn’t require many props.) The people who leave YouTube video comments are constantly saying that this was the closest experience to an in studio practice. Her classes focus on interesting transitions and are not “flowy” so you will be disappointed if you are looking for a power flow class. I have subscribed to her YouTube channel to get alerts of when she puts out new videos (which is a one to two times a month.) January 29, 2021 update: Nicole is now only uploading 30-minute classes to YouTube and for longer classes and more offerings, she is launching a paid membership on her website.
  4. Breathe and Flow is an active YouTube channel maintained by a couple, Bre and Flo, who used to teach at YogaWorks in Palo Alto, CA. However, right now they have taken a break from teaching in Palo Alto and are traveling the world. They have started a paid platform on Patreon to support their work but they continue to regularly put out 30-60 minute yoga flows and tutorials on YouTube. One interesting thing about their channel is that they try to bust the stereotypes around yoga, and Flo actively tries to introduce yoga to more men, with “Yoga for Men” videos. They also publish the best modern yoga playlist I have found across all streaming platforms–you can get theirs on Spotify and they update it monthly.
  5. If you want to work on your back bending or flexibility practice, Yograja tapes his classes and has a few flows where he is teaching directly to the camera audience. His studio is in Vietnam but he teaches in English (with some Vietnamese sprinkled into the classes.) The production quality of this channel is not as good but I have learned a lot of new stretching and back bending training exercises. His classes don’t have a feel of “relaxation”; they are more “training” classes. Also, his classes that are marked as “beginner/intermediate” would be considered “advanced” at many other Western studios and his “advanced” classes are actually very “advanced” and require many years (if not decades) of flexibility and strength training to follow along successfully. His classes are purely skill training (there is nothing about your mental health here.)
  6. I got a free subscription to MyYogaWorks from my company so I tried it out. Although I tried practicing alongside ~10 instructors in various videos, I didn’t feel like any of them were that advanced in teaching and the flow felt choppy and disjointed. I wouldn’t pay for a MyYogaWorks subscription but if you get one for free, I would check out some of their level 3 classes (which are still quite introductory when compared to the free YouTube videos shown above.) As a separate subscription from MyYogaWorks, YogaWorks offers live classes via Zoom which cost the same as in-person classes. I believe the Zoom classes are the replacement for in person classes going forward since in October, YogaWorks filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in order to relieve the company of its studio and brick and mortar liabilities. I personally found the Zoom yoga classes to be really basic and pretty bland–I think folks still went to them to support the teachers that they practiced with in person, who may have offered more challenging flows when they were in the studio compared to when everyone is on Zoom at home.
  7. I have also tried the Peloton app and the Equinox Variis app: The Peloton app is by far more popular and has new classes uploaded daily. However, their style took some adjusting to: They play pop music, rap music, everything that isn’t traditional yoga music, and they do “shout-outs” during class, which was birthed from the Peloton bike experience, which I found to be very annoying. Despite all this, I think Anna Greenberg‘s classes are challenging and interesting enough to spend time on and she teaches advanced skills. On the other hand, I gave Ross Rayburn‘s classes a couple tries and just couldn’t get through them–he sounds like “that very LA Yoga teacher” who abbreviates chopasana as just “chop” when he is instructing. Besides for Anna Greenberg, I didn’t enjoy any of the other instructors on Peloton with the exception of Aditi Shah for meditation (but not her yoga classes.) Equinox is a different story: Unlike Peloton, they upload new videos infrequently but their yoga classes are much better. Equinox owns Pure Yoga, a luxury yoga studio based out of Manhattan, and their instructors seem to focus on yoga only. Their music is less “pop” and more “meditation”, allowing you to focus on your transitions and your body. Personally, I would prefer this kind of vibe for my yoga classes (as opposed to trying to fit a spinning bike class’s style into a yoga class.) However, it’s unclear to me whether Pure Yoga will make it through the pandemic or whether Equinox will just get rid of those studios, as sadly, many other yoga studios have already closed their physical spaces permanently.
  8. If you only want to learn interesting yoga transitions and skills, Nathalie Bakker offers very unique and interesting yoga challenges on her Instagram page for free, but they aren’t full yoga practices. For another high-technique teacher, Carmen Aguilar’s website offers paid yoga class streams. I haven’t taken them myself but I did go to her in-person workshops (pre-covid) and you do learn a lot of very challenging skills (just check out this YouTube video of her practice and her Instagram page.) For both instructors, I have found that a video stream cannot ever come close to an in-person practice with these ladies because they typically offer hands on adjustments to move you into the right position so you can build that muscle memory. I remember Natalie giving me a small assist so I could do lotus pose in headstand and after that one time, I was able to repeat it every single time by myself after I got the feeling of doing this novel pose on my head. At Carmen’s workshops, her husband assists too so they both make help you move into some of the more challenging poses that would be difficult to achieve alone (especially if you don’t have mirrors at home.)
  9. Alessandro Sigismondi is a YouTube video photographer who makes beautiful yoga videos and occasionally, he’ll upload a video that you can follow along as a full class (but it usually doesn’t have narration like a traditional live stream); the video and picture quality will be amazing and inspirational though.

Rapid Changes Don’t Work

Right around the time I got my new indoor spinning bike, my toes started to get red, swollen, and itchy. My reaction was to put ice on them because they were getting too hot and needed to be cooled down. Little did I know that I was self-inducing 50 days of pain to myself physically and mentally. This is the story of how I figured out what was wrong and what I learned from the negative experience.

When my toes first started to get swollen and itchy, I thought it was an allergy, or my toes rubbing against the shoes of the new bike shoes. When the toes continued to be inflamed even after icing them and buying bigger and different bike shoes, I thought perhaps I had “covid toes” so I got a covid test. It came back negative, but that wasn’t conclusive for me either, since some “covid toes” symptoms were known to occur after someone has the virus and was no longer carrying covid.

I did a virtual care appointment with my primary care provider, who is based in California (at the moment, I have relocated to Washington State.) He thought that I was exhibiting symptoms of cholinergic urticaria, also known colloquially as “heat bumps”, caused by sweat and heat. This was entirely plausible to me since I did get really hot and sweaty after biking. He didn’t think it was chilblains because it doesn’t snow where I live now and I’m not spending time outside hiking in the cold, wet rain. In addition, I grew up in Boston and lived there for 20 years. Compared to freezing Boston, the mild winters of Seattle are not cold, which is why I also wrote off “being cold” as a cause. Therefore, I proceeded to try to do everything to keep my feet and toes cold because cold was the opposite of inflamed and hot, from icing them, to not wearing socks and going barefoot while I was indoors, to keeping my feet outside of the bed covers while sleeping so they would remain cold, to getting onto the spinning bike when my feet were really cold so that they “wouldn’t get too hot”. However, the swelling continued, the toes got itchier and the angry redness kept moving down my toes, towards my feet. I was taking twice the dosage of over the counter antihistamines (at the guidance of my doctor) and nothing was improving. I was afraid I would lose my toes and woke up in the middle of the night and grabbed my flashlight to examine my toes and make sure they were okay. I would also wake up in the middle of the night to put on more steroid cream because they were so itchy. It was difficult for me to think about work or anything else other than “What is wrong with my toes?” At some point, I thought I had arthritis, diabetes, covid toes, eczema, fungal infections, inflammation reaction to food, or heat-induced inflammation. I was starting to get desperate for a solution.

About a month into the swollen toes, I started noticing that my right pinky finger was also getting swollen and itchy. “On no! It’s spreading,” I thought. I didn’t know what “it” was, and was trying everything from steroid creams to reduce the swelling from the outside, turmeric pills and antihistamines to reduce the inflammation from the inside, and avoided all meats and dairy to try to reduce inflammation. I even stopped cycling and stopped running or walking outside for fear of irritating the skin on my toes, since the few times I did do that, I ended up itchier and in more pain. I was dumbfounded as to what was happening when my fingers started to exhibit the same painful characteristics as my toes. So I went in for a dermatology appointment with Ame Phitwong at Puget Sound Dermatology. I was willing to see anyone who had an open slot, even though I went in with low hopes given their 2.5 stars review and because I wasn’t able to see an MD on such short notice, and had to see a DNP/ARNP instead. A few important things I learned from that visit:

  1. Just because someone doesn’t have the fancy academic credentials (e.g. an MD), doesn’t mean they aren’t good at their jobs. Ame was incredibly attentive and noticed immediately that my fingers and toes were really cold. She followed up with a phone call after checking the photos with others in the department and told me she thinks that I have chilblains, but wanted to wait until the lab results came back before prescribing me anything.
  2. The one key thing I had not described to any of my doctors or doctor friends in the past month of my misery was that my fingers and toes were cold to the touch. I didn’t know to tell them that. I just knew that my fingers and toes were inflamed and felt itchy, as if they were on fire. Sometimes, you literally need a “human touch” or an in-person interaction for someone to properly understand where you are coming from. You can’t get that from a video call.

Sure enough, after Ame said I had chilblains, I started to treat my symptoms as if they were chilblains, and not an internal allergic inflammation or topic dermatitis. Instead of freezing my fingers and toes to alleviate the itchiness, I kept them consistently warm (in socks and in gloves.) This was difficult at first because putting ice on them made them feel better in the short term (but they would always go back to throbbing and itchy after the ice came off.) However, within 24 hours, I started to notice that if I kept my fingers consistently warm and then did a pilates workout that would get my blood moving, my fingers and toes wouldn’t get crazily itchy like they did when I was cold and then did a light workout. This was the most progress I had made in over a month, so I kept at it. Within 5 days of the diagnosis and the change in behavior to keep my fingers and toes consistently warm before working out, the wrinkles on my toes and fingers had returned and the swelling and itchiness had subsided.

So what illness did I have?

Well it turns out that chilblains occur when your blood vessels rapidly expand, or rather, when you warm up too quickly. The convenience of having an exercise bike at home exacerbated this issue by causing the blood vessels in my toes to rapidly expand when I hopped onto the bike. Compared to when I would go to the gym to workout after work, I had a 3-foot commute to my exercise bike (it’s literally right next to my desk). At least when you are going to the gym, you are walking or moving to the gym, getting your blood moving and “warming up.” Of course a proper warm-up is still necessary, but of all the times that I didn’t properly warm up and just started to run or cycle at a gym, I had never had this issue. The difference now was that I was consistently going from being sedentary at my desk directly to the bike, because it was too convenient to do so. As for my fingers, well my left hand never exhibited any inflammation or swelling. I’m a righty, so I was using my right hand to place the ice on my toes. My right hand was getting frozen and then warming up too quickly as well! The blood vessels in my right fingers were also rapidly expanding and leaking fluid out of them, causing the inflammation.

The heat was not the problem,
nor was the cold.

The rapid change
from cold to hot was the culprit.

As with our physical bodies, I’ve learned that our minds can accept very different ideas, but the only way to be successful at convincing yourself or someone else of that drastically different idea, is to do so gradually. We mentally cannot process a rapid change, just like our blood vessels physically cannot process such a rapid change in temperature without rupturing. When I was younger and more naive, I wanted change in the workplace and change from others rapidly. I wanted others to adopt different ideas, my ideas, immediately. Not only did I get a biology lesson from this experience, but I also drew inspiration from this for my workplace and for how I plan to interact with my friends and family in this new year.