Interviews

How to Be Vegan at Family Thanksgiving, According to some of our Favorite Vegans

 Source: @thecuriouschickpea

Source: @thecuriouschickpea

I don’t know of a single vegan who, when heading home to family Thanksgiving dinner, finds a fully plant-based tablescape. Well, outside of the Seventh Day Adventist community (hi, Adventist friends, here to help you with that empty seat at your next holiday gathering). We suck it up in the name of being a good sport for the sake of enjoying time with family, and maybe a yummy side or two.

But when it comes to brass tacks - what is the actual best way to handle dinner? Do you bring something vegan or give your host a head’s up? Do you try to duck out early to hit the vegan spot in town offering Thanksgiving-themed dinner or just load up on sides? There is of course no easy or right answer to the question, but here is how a few of our favorite vegans tackle the question.

 Source: @nativefoodscafe

Source: @nativefoodscafe

Jolinda Hacket from TheSpruceEats.com recommends to “prepare in advance” and to communicate dietary restrictions to your host in addition to bringing something to feed yourself and enough for others. “If you're preparing food for yourself, be sure to bring along a bit extra, as everyone else is certain to be curious and want to taste. Most hosts would be more than happy to have you help share in the work of preparing the meal. And, if you prepare a dish or two on your own, it will also fill your plate up and divert attention from what you're eating and not eating. Any vegan who has spent an entire meal defending their dietary choices and dodging hunting jokes knows that sometimes, you just want to eat in peace, rather than hop up on the vegan soapbox.”

Or, if you’re time pinched and would rather grab and go, Jolinda reminds us that, “Whole Foods offers a pre-cooked vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner, as do many larger health food stores and plenty of vegetarian restaurants such as Native Foods. You can also order vegetarian and vegan Thanksgiving side dishes a la carte from Whole Foods as well.”

 Source: @Lane_Gold

Source: @Lane_Gold

Lane Gold, author of the new Vegan Junk Food, Expanded Edition: 200+ Vegan Recipes for the Foods You Crave -- Minus the Ingredients You Don’t, has a different approach. She shares with us that, “To my mind, the holidays are about enjoying people and traditions and one of those traditions is definitely food but it doesn’t have to be a point of contention. I tend not to overwhelm a host by announcing that I’m vegan before I arrive because I don’t want anyone to do extra work to accommodate me. If it’s a potluck I’ll definitely bring something vegan so that I know I’ll have something other than carrot sticks to eat. Most vegans going to events knowing there might be limited options will eat a PB&J before they arrive, or at least I do. In general, I go to have fun and enjoy the company of friends and family, I don’t arrive with any kind of food agenda or expectation; increasingly I’m happily surprised that vegan options are already there.”

Or try a sneak attack. Vegan handbag designer and Filbert Founder Bridget Brown likes to, “Take Thanksgiving as an opportunity to push some subtle vegan propaganda in the form of a delicious vegan baked good. The keyword is DELICIOUS. Now’s not the time to peddle some dry and boring holiday desserts, so peruse some vegan baking cookbooks and go ham (see what I did there) on a beautiful berry cobbler, chocolate molten cake, or apple pie with coconut ice cream. I highly recommend The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau or Vegan Holiday Cooking by Joy Pierson. 

Everyone will be so shocked when you tell them it was made without eggs or dairy, and hopefully will make them consider how easy it is to move to a plant based diet!”  

And, above all else, Matt Frazier of No Meat Athlete reminds us to, “Remember that the food isn’t the real point. One of the great things about vegan Thanksgiving is that it’s not quite as easy to eat so much that you’re disgustingly, uncomfortably stuffed and needing to immediately unbuckle your jeans and collapse into a food coma the instant the meal is over. Use the energy and attention you would have spent destroying your plate to instead be mindful and grateful that you have food on it, and that you have friends and family to share it with.” So true.




Our Favorite LA Salon Is Coming To A City Near You

Spoke&Weal

Spoke & Weal salon's cult following and swift expansion across the country testify to the effectiveness of of co-founder Jon Reyman's dry-cutting technique. So is his ability to somehow style my unruly mass of mane into something manageable. The man works miracles. Working to evolve the salon industry's traditional methodology of cutting hair while wet, Reyman and team are going against the grain and cutting hair while dry, as it falls. Which he feels is just a more logical, evolved way of cutting. Spoke & Weal cuts often take less than 45 minutes and Reyman is upfront about how he trains his team not to act as a client's therapist, but to give them 'the best haircut of their life.' Which, as I sort of mentioned above, is the truth. I had a chance to connect with him, while he chopped into my previously untamable locks, about his approach, the current expansion into new markets and how they've grown such a dedicated clientele. Read on for our discussion, below.

You started Spoke & Weal in San Francisco. Who is your clientele there, and why that city to start?

San Francisco was a good jumping-off point. We opened fresh without any roots or name in a city that none of us lived in. Christy Dylo, our master stylist and trainer, moved from Minneapolis on faith that we could do what I said we could. This happened pretty quickly. We did not, and have not, done "studies" or SWAT analysis. Its been more a Field of Dreams situation: if we build it, they will come.

I first heard about Spoke + Weal through a few influencer friends in the wellness space. What is it about the brand that is attracting so many beauty and wellness influencers, especially in Los Angeles? How does this ‘insider favorite’ status take form in other markets?

We don't “go after people” we let our work speak for itself. We want guests who genuinely want to see us and appreciate our work. I think our relaxed relationships (meaning no formal trade or sponsorships), but definitely appreciating the support influencers and social media provides for spreading our work and the word, helps create more intimate relationships with all our guests and especially those who have established themselves as influencers. We work hard to make it easy for people.

We are also not celebrity-driven. We just want to do excellent work for people who want it. We always want to understand our success and exposure comes from our talent and drive and not from a once-removed resource. Our attitude is try us, if you love us great, if you love another place better, great, we want you to be happy.

We are the go-to for people who are looking for alternatives in every market we are in.

Tell us about your dry cutting technique? Why haven’t other salons been doing this? Is this part of why you think you’ve been able to so successfully enter other markets

We believe wet haircutting is antiquated and inferior. I can spend fifteen minutes cutting hair dry and it will be better than a four hour wet haircut. Better meaning, the length and density of hair is managed more carefully, clearly and refined. Hair will be softer and more modern looking.

Wet cutting is the least important part of the haircut. It’s the gross-moves part. The initial chopping of the block. The actual refinement and definition takes place in the dry cutting.

Other salons have been trained under older methods. They are stuck in the past cutting small sections and blunt lines. They cut length to manage density (enter heavy layers). Cutting dry we can cut blunt lines, layers, manage length and density more perfectly.

Yes, we are successful because we give better haircuts in less time. Our haircuts “grow in” not out, they last longer. We have created a language that is simple, that helps us deliver what our guests are asking for. We are driven by giving guests the best haircuts in the world.

You started Spoke + Weal after working for years as a master trainer at Aveda. How have you woven clean beauty into your own brand and how are you still working with Aveda products?

We use Aveda in our salons. We want natural eco-concious products that still deliver the results we are looking for. We want performance, results, and environmental awareness to be embedded in our services.

As the ‘talent’ how have you so successfully been able to map out this beautiful growth strategy? Did you find and MBA to help you on a consulting basis, or take on a co-founder who has grown brands in the past?

I do not want to be the most important person in the room. The business is not built on my success but built on the success of the team and our ability to collaborate. We have created clear cutting, color, styling, and culture systems. We stay flexible and strong. I surround myself with people who are capable. My business partners compliment me, and one another, perfectly. Our master team members and educators, Dell Miller, Lindsay Victoria, Jay Braff to name a few have contributed in ways we would have a hard time quantifying. Building Spoke & Weal has always and will continue to depend on the entire teams commitment and sacrifice.

Does technique remain the same, regardless of place, or are your stylists taking different approaches in places like Los Angeles and Nashville, or New York and Chicago?

Everyone is trained on and required to master our techniques. How they use these is up to their individual creative process and consultation. Our pro’s have brands within our brand. We believe the diversity of what we offer, and our collaborative culture, makes us collectively the technically-strongest salon in the world. We are enormously committed to culture. We fail forward. We are constantly striving to challenge ourselves and each other. We communicate clearly and invest heavily in protecting and cultivating our culture. This is what our company retreats and monthly meetings are about. In our organization, culture is everything. Hence our mission.

For those without a Spoke + weal in their city yet, how do you advise customers ensure their stylists are taking the best care of their hair and giving them the best cut possible?

I would ask if the hairdresser is able to cut dry. Find a hairdresser that has committed to continued education. Communicate clearly and bring in pictures. We hope to be in your city soon!


Wanderlust's New Passport Program and the Rise of Mindful Fitness with CEO Sean Hoess

Wanderlust 108

The Wanderlust brand of four-day retreats and one-day festival turns ten next year, its evolution paralleling greater trends in the mindful fitness space. Sixty-five full-time employees and thousands of local and temporary employees now execute 60 events annually, including the new Wellspring conference in Palm Springs. Below, CEO and Co-founder Sean Hoess describes how the festival has evolved in their 10 year history, what’s next and why the work they are doing matters not just to personal wellness but cultural wellness, too.

How broad has the scope of Wanderlust events become?

"We’re at over 60 events annually. We did 25 one-day events in the US and six festivals this past year, the rest were international. We originally started with Wanderlust Festival, our four-day retreats that combine large-scale yoga retreat with a music and arts festival. Around 2013, we thought it would be fantastic to be able to reach people where they live and not require them to travel 500 miles to the mountains. So we dreamed up a simpler version called Wanderlust 108, which sometimes I think of as Wanderlust 101. It’s an accessible, linear event in contrast to our larger festivals, where you have over 200 events to choose from. The 108 events are beginner-friendly mindful triathlons, created to get people together and being active in their local park. We now have four-day festivals in Australia and New Zealand, most of our growth has been with the one-day Wanderlust 108 events, which are now happening everywhere from Russia and Japan to Western Europe and Chile.

With our new Wellspring event taking place this October in Palm Springs, we wanted to work to redefine wellness, in a broader sense than personal wellness. It’s a cross between an ideas conference and wellness festival. The new event lets us focus on on environmental wellness and societal wellness, too, which we’re really excited for."

How has the ethos and offering of the festival evolved?

"Yoga has and will continue to sit at the center of our vision of a mindful life. Your personal practice might be yoga or meditation or another form, but we do think that ‘practice’ more generally is part of the process of finding one’s true north. We were very deep into yoga in the beginning, but even in 2009 and 2010 we were offering a wide-range of other outdoor activity like meditation and hikes and stand-up paddleboard. For our audience, while yoga might have been the be-all-end-all for them in our earlier days, now it is still an important part of their wellness regime but a lot of them have started cycling and exploring more outdoor activities.

As far as the other part of the festivals, our music, art, food and wine have and continue to be a big interest of our community. We work to make that piece of the offering feel fresh and exciting each year."

How has having Adidas as a title sponsor changed the evolution of the festival?

"When I think of mindful fitness, there is fitness-fitness like HIIT or Crossfit, but mindful fitness would encompass yoga, Pilates, SoulCycle. It’s fitness that has a component of personal empowerment. Yoga is a forced digital detox, and a lot of other modalities have picked this up, which has fragmented the market a bit. ClassPass has helped with this. Our goal is get everyone into developing a meditation practice in one form, wherever it sits on this spectrum.

As far as Adidas goes, they have a strong interest in reaching women. They work with athletes, and started out with core sport and competitive sport. We’ve seen athletes adopt yoga as part of their physical and mental health programs, and Adidas wanted to understand it better and get more involved in it. They saw an opportunity with us to access our expertise. We are Wanderlust - we are this global container for a community that is out there already. It’s hard as a small company to do this expansion ourselves. Our partnership with Adidas has made it a lot easier for us to grow internationally."

I hear there are more changes to come! What is next for Wanderlust?

"We are always focused on our events and what they represent. I would like to see Wanderlust be more of a global lifestyle community, rather than a series of people who attend an event or buy a piece of apparel. I’ve always seen it as representative of a lifestyle, but it is a sort of container that brings people together. Everyone has the ability to bond through social networks and shared interest. We are in a position to offer this globally. This is the mission statement, expressing this. And to that end, we are launching a Wanderlust Passport. We will sell a pass that lets you go to any Wanderlust event in the world for an entire year. You could stay within your country or travel internationally. This would extend to our studios, too, and services and products that support the lifestyle of the wandering, conscious yogi and joining a global community. We really want to bring the community together in-person.

In addition to that, we are going to bring the Wanderlust festival experience to new cities for the first time. It’s also our 10th anniversary next year. Instead of four-day festivals on mountain resorts, we will bring a two-day version of this to cities and public parks. It will be done in lieu of the 108 version in that city - and really create a festival in a park, very much aligned with what we do on the mountainside. We want to a. raise the visibility and accessibility of the deeper experience of what Wanderlust offers and b. increase the awareness among people who can’t really travel to the destinations. Stay tuned."


The Future of Food is Vegan: How One Superfood Company is Getting Us Hooked on Plants

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Health Warrior is a seven-year-old, high-growth and plant-based superfood company based in Richmond, Virginia that might be best known for popularizing chia seeds in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) space. But they are best known in my kitchen as the makers of my new favorite travel meal: vegan mug muffins. The co-founders behind Health Warrior have done some major heavy lifting when it comes to popularizing sustainable, healthful superfood ingredients and getting them into snack foods. They see the future as plant-based and to see this mission-driven company grow as quickly as they have is so inspiring.

Cofounded by college roommates Shane Emmett and Dan Gluck, along with friend Nick Morris, after reading the Omnivore’s Dilemma and Born to Run and realizing how much the food industry was hurting consumers, they aimed to start a food company based on real nutrition. Shane and Dan's words, “When we started the company we realized that Americans were overfed and undernourished.” Just 12 months after launching nationally in Whole Foods Market, the brand’s signature chia-based became the top-selling bar across Whole Foods’ stores. Currently, Shane is CEO of Health Warrior, and Dan is Health Warrior's board director and managing partner at Power Plant Ventures. Here, these two co-founders discuss the plant-based and vegan movement today and where healthy foods are headed next.

Why did you go the plant-based direction and why do you think it’s important to the market today?

Shane: What we are doing is really celebrating the biodiversity of heroic superfoods and making them more convenient. In modern grocery stores, most of the food you are surrounded with is not good for you. Even food that is considered ‘better for you’ isn’t ‘good for you’. We wanted to make food that is 'good’ for you. Superfoods are just foods that are nutrient dense, and we felt we could use them in an accessible way to make people healthy.

Dan: Something that helps us and guides the thesis at Power Plant Ventures is that the food system is broken and that it is unhealthy and unsustainable and inhumane. We believe that plant-based foods are one of the best ways to solve this.

How is Health Warrior different from other vegan snack brands?

Shane: I didn’t know much about CPG going in, and I realized that most packaged food is unhealthy not to make it taste good but instead to make it cheap. We use an exceptionally low amount of sugar and always use superfoods as our first ingredient. It’s worth noting that some bars will promote chia as an ingredient, writing it really large on their packaging, but chia will be the last ingredient on the list meaning it’s the smallest amount of any ingredient in that product.

There are around 300,000 edible plant species - and just three of them make up almost 60% of our American calories: corn, rice and wheat. There are so many other nutrient-dense superfoods out there that don’t get used. We started with chia, but we’ve always intended to explore different hero ingredients from the plant world. We also look to aid in sustainability and thoughtful land use with our supply chain.

Dan: You also see companies who advertise ‘no sugar’ but use sugar alcohols or other synthetics to sweeten their products. There are a bunch of white papers coming out now that talk about how your body can’t digest these. Some of these sugar substitutes are like the new Olestra.

Superfoods and vegan foods are becoming household names with mainstream shoppers. Is this a trend and what is the next vanguard in this space?

Shane: Eighteen months after we launched nationally with Whole Foods, we launched in Target. We thought we would have to educate everyone on what chia seeds were. But now I look at our Amazon orders and you will see them all over the country, not just metropolitan areas. We think that fixing food will fix the problems in our healthcare system with people suffering from diabetes and obesity. If we can fix food, we can fix healthcare. It’s amazing to see the awareness of plant ingredients that we use like chia seed and pumpkin seeds. Our pumpkin seed bars went straight to Costco. The awareness happened really quickly - and not just in New York and Los Angeles.

Dan: Something that we talk a lot about at Health Warrior and Power Plant Ventures is that we are in the early innings of the food revolution. We are seeing buy-in from consumers and we’ve read statistics about how there is a 600% increase in consumers who identify as plant-based. Facebook just opened up an office in San Francisco whose office is totally plant-based. Corporates are also buying in. There was $42b in M&A deals in 2017: large strategic food acquisitions are focused on plant-based foods. Tyson just bought a big stake in Beyond Meat. And beyond the US, China last year sent new dietary guidelines to help cut meat consumption by 50%. Buy-in as far as plant-based and better-for-you is really happening and is so important in being able to effect change.

You are evolving the Health Warrior brand beyond bars - what is next and why are you moving in that direction?

Shane: We are in every Whole Foods in the country and are one of the top ranking bars on Amazon. The rise in direct-to-consumer sales in food has been really exciting. It’s given us the opportunity to innovate more quickly. We can try new things and see what our consumers love before taking something into retail. We have two new product lines: a superfood protein powder that is unique in that it is vegan and paleo, it’s sourced from pumpkin and chia and flax, with no added sugars or sweeteners. We heard a tremendous amount of noise about ‘couldn’t these protein powders have less ingredients and be less refined and have less artificial flavors’ and so we are doing it. The second one is a protein mug muffin launching at Wegman’s. It's a warm, spoonable muffin with two times the amount of protein as sugar. Mug muffins and mug cakes have become so popular on social media, so we thought we could make this and have it be a great source of fiber, have really little sugar, have so much protein with few ingredients. As far as what’s next, I read a book called The Third Plate and the author talks about how fine dining restaurants created the quinoa trend years ago. Fine dining is still doing a lot to show us new foods and food forms, and now, if you look there and listen carefully and see what people are doing in digital media, we can pay attention to what is happening now and next.

Due to this listening and watching, we lowered the sugar content of our chia food bars by 40% this year and I think this will be demanded by other brands, too. The microwavable mug came from this. The mug muffins we hope will tap a major trend in the industry right now: lots of products are being built for small meals. Not a full 500-600 calorie burrito type of item but a smaller meal that is more than a snack. It’s a major social media trend, and a great format for delivering real food and real nutrition and a way that Americans are starting to eat. For this and all of our new products, it must fit our guard rails: superfood as first ingredient, low sugar and no fake ingredients that you wouldn’t have in your pantry.

Who are the brands that you both are paying attention to now, who are creating exciting vegan products or have made a traditional vegan product more appealing to a broad audience?

Shane: There is a brand new one that just launched called A Dozen Cousinsthat is a gourmet, ready-to-eat bean company. This company has a really great story about making beans delicious and gourmet again. One we have been eating a lot is Beanfield’s chip company. Beans as a platform will be a really big one.

Dan: We are investors in Beyond Meat and they have created a healthier product that mimics the consistency and flavor of meat. What is really unique about Beyond Meat from a marketing perspective is that they asked retailers put their products in cold case next to meat. We didn’t want to be next to vegan brands. If you need any validation more than Beyond Burger now being on every TGI Fridays menu, I don’t know what you need.  

What is next for the industry at large?

Dan: If you look at healthy food trade show Expo West as an example, 10 years ago it was made up of hardcore products. Now, the quality of the new brands that are joining is just transformative. Particularly as it applies to vegan eating. We’ve really seen the industry grow in terms of sophistication. In last Y Combinator class seven companies are in the innovative food sector. It’s encouraging to see some of the brightest minds out of Stanford and MIT go into this space instead of finance and traditional tech sectors.

Dan: Many larger brands don’t have resources to innovate or can’t do it with the speed that is necessary in the fast-paced market today. In the past couple of years, the strategics when looking to acquire - especially when a company is doing $50m or more - are now looking more downstream at companies who are doing $25m in sales. Earlier stage investors now have a much higher probability of exit earlier on. These large corporations are catching on to how quickly this industry is moving and how consumers are looking for mission-driven brands. Today, everyone wants to go to the ‘about’ section because people want to see the founder story and it has to be authentic. Large companies have a hard time making new products authentic. It’s really encouraging to see some of these large strategics embrace some of these brands - you see Chobani launching incubators and Nestle and Pepsi embracing working with smaller brands in concert.

In terms of sustainability, it’s becoming more known that eight times more land to produce one pound of protein for meat as plants, and four times as much water for the same. You also look at the majority of land in the US and global basis and the consumer is beginning to wake up to realize that to have a more sustainable food system there has to be more emphasis on plant-based diet.

Shane: this is intertwined with healthcare. The money is starting to follow the value of the food system changing. This industrialized, monoculture food system has only been around about 50 years. Like smoking, when something gets dangerous we begin to course-correct. We might see meat and sugar treated similarly to smoking in the near future. We see celebrities talking about the benefits of plant-based for the land and performance. James Cameron is now co-producing a movie called Game Changes about athletes and veganism, Serena Williams is talking about it for her performance. Maintaining the genuine whole food nutrition is really the key as we inevitably move to a plant-powered future.

What is next for you, at Health Warrior and at Power Plant Ventures?

Shane: In the bar category, there are no other bars with nationwide distribution who have a superfood as first ingredient. We eventually want to be able to transcend the retail shelf as Nike and Patagonia do. Movement is something of lifestyle, so we are working with emerging fitness and wellness brands as well as SoulCycle and Barry’s so we can really connect with our customer outside of traditional brick and mortar locations.

I wanted to stay that we would be running a plant-powered ad at the NFL. But in 10 years the women’s national team will be bigger and that is where we will be running ads. When you are starting a company and read about starting one, you have to work like a crazy lunatic for five to eight years and you can’t do anything else. At some point, I look forward to writing a book about the food industry.

Dan: We are investors in Thrive Market and they’ve let us know that plant-based is one of their highest searched terms. Power Plant will invest a billion dollars in plant-based food companies. I’m looking forward to an upcoming Spartan race with my three year old son.

Our London VitalGuide is HERE!!

Our London VitalGuide is HERE!!

Our first London VitalGuide is here, and ready to revolutionize the way you see hip, healthy London. Check out our chat with City Curator Emily Warburton-Adams on how she curated the best vegan-friendly restaurants, coolest fitness studios, wellness-focused escapes and more.

This LA Esthetician Turned her Home Spa Business into Downtown's Biggest Spa

I met up with DESUAR Spa owner Deisy Suarez to learn how this former home-spa esthetician transformed a grassroots operation into downtown Los Angeles' largest day spa. On the day we met, downtown LA's busy farmers' market had DESUAR's block sectioned off to cars, so I hopped out of my Lyft, grabbed a green juice and organic berries along the way, and followed signs for the spa into a commercial building. I wandered down a flight of stairs and after turning a corner discovered what felt like a massive spa-speakeasy.

High, exposed and metallic ceilings, gently lit candles and Moroccan Thuya wood appeared throughout. I met up with Deisy in the relaxation room, where they serve tea and sparkling wine, where she handed me off to one of her colleagues for a massage on Deisy's favorite amenity - DESUAR's Himalayan Salt Bed. It was a dreamy treatment, in a gorgeous space that felt both totally urban and a million miles away. 

Here is how Deisy built her dream spa:

Tell us about DESUAR Spa and how you came to the spa world?

"DESUAR Spa is a 4,400 square foot day spa located in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles. We have eight treatment rooms, one of which includes a Himalayan salt bed, in which we offer massages, facials, scrubs, wraps, slimming treatments, waxing, spray tanning and soaks. Our style is speakeasy-meets-industrial with a Moroccan twist. Our goal is to provide the best relaxation and also cater to the diverse community of Downtown Los Angeles.

I completed my massage program certificate at the National Holistic Institute in 2010, then attended Marinello School of Beauty acquiring my esthetician license in 2011. I opened a “home spa” offering facials, skin treatments and other beauty services out of a room in my home. In 2015, the home version of DESUAR Spa grew too big to operate out of a small space, and I started looking for commercial space."  

How did you know you were ready to make the jump into opening your own space?

"It was tough to find the right space and a landlord that was willing to take the risk and lease to me. My home business was flourishing and that’s when I began scouting for a bigger location, but I couldn’t find a landlord in Downtown LA who was willing to lease a space to a single, female Latina who had this dream of opening a spa. All they hear when I said 'spa' was 'massage parlor' and they just did not have interest in knowing more about it. It was around this time that I got married, and though he doesn’t have knowledge of the spa industry, with him in the picture, landlords were more receptive of renting to me. To some degree, at least with regard to obtaining a lease, my husband legitimized my business."

 

Did you raise money, or take it on solo?

"This has been a solo venture. I wanted to build my first spa without outside investors. My husband helped me build the spa, carrying wood and drywall up 12 flights of stairs, adding air conditioners, and finding water supplies. He secured business loans that he personally guaranteed, along with his pension and car to help get us the amount of capital we needed.  We worked seven days a week, 12 or more hours a day to secure our new location and cover the crazy buildout costs. We were denied by the city three times for permits thus making the process more grueling and more expensive, but we did it."  

How did you develop your clientele?

"From opening my home spa until now, I’ve always used the best products, found the best training, and have a true passion for what I do. I also posted ads in every local newspaper, dropped my menu to every Downtown LA building, attended and participated in every local networking event. We got our vehicle wrapped to advertise the spa, and I then spent many evenings driving around the local area, parking in strategic locations as a way to advertise. I encouraged my clients to leave reviews for me on every site; took advantage of any technology. Creating strategic partnerships with local businesses has also really served me well to this day. Relationships are very important. It is a challenge to get clients in the door but once I do, it is my goal to make sure they leave with the most positive impression."

How did you come up with the treatments?

"Coming up with spa treatments was the fun part! I traveled South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa to soak in all that I could. I looked into everything, including a 700-year-old Turkish Spa in Downtown Istanbul with the 5" water bugs,  to learn about spa culture across every culture. My dream was to offer the most effective healing treatments, no matter how far I had to go to find them."

What is your next goal for the spa?

"We have been blessed with an incredible therapist team, who we recruited using online posts and social media, who meet strictest standards of spa education and service. Now, with the team in place, I’m excited to soon introduce our own product line and open more locations nationwide and worldwide."

What advice would you have to any current therapists or spa managers looking to open their own facility?

"My number one piece of advice is to dedicate yourself to your craft by constantly studying and improving yourself. You must be dedicated and always learning. Our business evolves and grows so much every day and the only way to stay ahead is to be ahead. Surround yourself with good people who will encourage you and help you grow."

Making Your Home Bedroom Five-Star Hotel Worthy, with Susana Saeliu of Pluto

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It's my dream to one day be able to transform my home bedroom into a restful sanctuary made up of my five-star hotel bedroom favorites: gorgeous, perfectly pressed linens, chic and soothing shades and textures all around, none of my usual bedside table clutter, not too modern but not too old world, and filled with decadently comfortable pillows.

In my lifelong quest to five-star upgrade my bedroom into a non-weird cross between my favorite hotels, Plaza Athenee and Park Hyatt Seoul, I discovered Pluto pillows. They are totally customizable, made with super sophisticated technology that makes them a solid contender for those five star pillows of my dreams. 

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I had a chance to chat with Pluto's founder Susana Saeliu about how those among us who do not live in a five star hotel can journey onward in our quest to convert a home bedroom into the ultimate personal retreat. Here are Susana's words of wisdom about how to decipher the difference between all of the bedding options out there, where she thinks the industry is headed next and some of her favorite bedroom upgrades. 

Susana Saeliu launched Pluto, the first direct-to-consumer (DTC), personalized pillow company in March, 2018. She was previously the founder of Kora Brand, a bamboo bath tissue company, and the COO of Tradex Marketplace, a reverse logistics company that processes customer returns and overstock merchandise from national department stores. She worked alongside the largest bedding manufacturers with years of material research. The woman knows the sleep industry better than most.

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Before we get to pillows, let’s talk mattresses. They are another key to this whole five-star sleep set-up. What is your take on the current set of mattress offerings available?

The number of DTC bed-in-a-box companies that have launched these past few years have really changed the way we buy a bed. Gone are the days of visiting your local brick-and-mortar stores, trying dozens of confusing options, and paying traditional, large markup for these mattresses. Instead, we have intense competition between many DTC mattress companies that compete on price, quality, customer service, trial periods, ease of returns, warranties, etc. We also see some of the old guards coming out with DTC mattress brands themselves due to the impact these new companies have had on the industry. Each of these DTC mattress offerings are also known for a different “feel” from one to another (if you dig a little deeper), but it is still definitely hard to know which one is ultimately best for you – hence the intense marketing of easy returns and lengthy trial periods.

Quality-wise, they’re all pretty similar and it’s frankly too early to say – none of the DTC mattress companies have been around long enough to tell who is truly ‘best in class’.

How are consumers supposed to tell them apart?

It’s definitely hard to tell them apart, and I’ve had conversations with friends who confuse one from another when describing which one they were most interested in for a new home, for instance. That’s why I feel each of these DTC mattress companies spend so much time, effort, and money to carefully craft distinct brand images for themselves: from goofy, memorable commercials, to being the brand that gives back to their community the most, etc.

Do you think the competition in this space is helping people find better solutions and get a better night’s sleep at a better price point?

I believe so! When there’s this much competition in a given industry, there are many more choices available for consumers to compare and contrast, which is ultimately a great thing.

What about the smart sleep systems, like these new, connected sleep pads? Are these helping- have you seen any evidence that tech products like these really aid sleep?

I think it’s worth mentioning that a lot of these smart sleep systems aren’t as precise as they claim. The technology isn’t there yet to measure your brainwaves at home (the best way to measure sleep). We toss and turn during restorative sleep stages, so just recording movements can be misleading. However, I feel that if someone can benefit from the placebo effect of these smart systems, and are overall more aware of how much sleep they’re getting, there’s value in that as well.

Your new company Pluto is a non-smart, customizable pillow system. Why didn’t you go the smart route and do you think veering away from ‘smart’ products in the bedroom is a trend?

In terms of pillows, there’s a lot of research pointing out that smart pillows are the least valid and accurate in terms of actual research. Most importantly, we believe that in a fast-paced world filled with great technologies, electronics shouldn’t have a place near our heads when we sleep. Instead, we wanted to focus our efforts on creating quality, innovative, open-cell materials that are temperature-regulating and better yet, personalized to an individual’s preferences and body stats for optimized support and comfort.

We’re not sure if there’s a trend of veering away from ‘smart’ products in the bedroom, but what we do see are new smart sleep products coming to market quite frequently. So there’s definitely people who want data on the way they sleep, but along with that, there are also many others who don’t want electronics in their bedroom or near their heads.

What do you think traditional pillow retailers weren’t doing right, and why don’t you think the now relatively mature DTC mattress brands haven’t gotten pillow systems totally right?

All the DTC mattress brands have changed the way we buy beds. However, we felt that the way we purchase pillows largely remained the same. We go to a store, and we test out aisles of options with our hands, squeezing pillows that say “soft, medium, or firm” and realizing that what’s “firm” from one brand, can mean “soft” from another and a “side-sleeper” pillow from one brand can mean much thinner, etc. We also tend to buy what appears to be a great first impression, taking that back home to sleep on, and realizing that it actually results in terrible sleep.

I was surprised that among all these great DTC brands, no one has really modernized the way we buy pillows and the materials used. Instead, with the surge of bed-in-a-box companies, pillows became even more of an afterthought – something sold along with the mattress, and with one-size-fits-all designs. We truly believe that getting a great night’s sleep is more than having a great mattress -- where our heads rest matters just as much.

So our proprietary model and pillow designs take a more scientific approach in which we create and personalize pillows to you based on your body stats, how you sleep, and your preferences.

Our pillows are also a hybrid-design, with a supportive, high-grade CertiPUR-US inner core, encased within an outer plush pillow, both unique to your individual sleep profile. These materials now combine for over 30 variations.

What can people who are currently overwhelmed by all of the DTC sleep choices do to feel more in control or avoid just shopping on price?

It’s very important to not just shop on price. All of the DTC sleep choices have a ton of five-star reviews. However, you really have to dig a little deeper and find legit customer reviews on three important points:

  • Product feel and durability
  • Ease of returns
  • Customer experience

Ease of returns and customer experience matter most because at the end of the day, you’re buying something you haven’t truly felt in the comfort of your home. Going with companies that have truly great customer experiences can save you a lot of headache – especially in cases where there is some trial-and-error involved before arriving at that perfect sleep product.

How do you ensure you’re getting the best night’s sleep? What is your nightly routine?

To be honest, it’s very hard to shut-off when you’re running a start-up that you’re incredibly passionate about. I’m a complete night owl, but I’ve never regretted going to bed a little earlier than I actually want to – and I try to remind myself of that every night. Before bed, I list out all the things that are top of mind, whether it’s something I have to do tomorrow or even a plan I’d like to execute in the following month – just get it all out. I also tend to keep my workspace very separate from where I relax and sleep. Lastly, going to bed the same time every night (as best you can!) has also been incredibly helpful.

If you're considering a bedroom upgrade, here are Susana's favorites:

  • Google Home or Alexa: I have one and it's the perfect alarm clock, great way to check weather, snippets of daily news, and a great way to play your favorite music.
  • Candles: Love anything from Diptyque, Jo Malone, or even the Blueberry Blitz from Tyler Candle Store
  • Premium nice sheets that are also breathable - I really like the Twill collection from Brooklinen and also the Threshold Organic Sheets from Target that fit very, very well (they don't move around and surprisingly soft for the value)
  • Quiet air filter - I use the Coway AP-1512HH 
  • Ambient lighting, dimmable and not harsh is key

SF Babe Katey Yurko on Her Healthy Faves for 2018

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One of the things on our cleanse list this month is releasing things that don’t make us feel awesome and challenged and appreciated and like we’re living that high vibe life. The benefit of any purge? Creating room for more of the good stuff: practices and relationships that enrich and inspire. Which brings me to our guest contributor and founder of awesome, positive, real talkin’ women and wellness-focused site The Violet Fog, Katey Yurko. One of my favorite new friends and inspiring member of the W+A tribe.

Katey, take it away!

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I am STOKED to be a guest on Well + Away! Margaux has enlightened me about many new things in the wellness space so I am so happy to share MY personal favorites for the new year! Feel free to connect with me over my site or on Instagram- find me at @TheVioletFog. I LIVE to connect with other like minded women! Men, too, but we are a site full of girl talk. ;)

My Wellness Faves Taking Me into 2018

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1. GUA SHA TOOLS

Holy moly-- this practice is not only effective but it feels SO GOOD. With rose quartz tools (pictured above) you basically make upward motions on an oiled up face to increase circulation and ward off premature aging. In Ancient Chinese medicine, they believe that aging and bad skin comes from a lack of circulation. When circulation isn't in top form, collagen production can break down. Sagging happens. Breakouts happen. Gua Sha facials take TWO minutes and make such a difference. And not only is it good for skin health, it legit gives you a temporary FACELIFT in seconds. You'll love it. You can read my full article here or just skip to the video.

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2. VEGAN DELIVERY SERVICES

I will be honest. I'm a health nut who does NOT want to put in a lot of effort cooking. I'm just not super confident in the kitchen and although I know the basics- it's not enough to eat as healthy as I would like to. Using a vegan meal delivery service has saved me: 1, time. 2, money. and 3, a lot of health issues. Eating clean makes ALL the difference in how I feel and when I have healthy food already prepared for me, I am more likely to make healthy decisions. There are plenty of food options out there but my favorite is Thistle- an organization I’ve worked with throughout 2017. You can see my first article here on why I love them. If you are a health nut like me- food delivery services are an awesome resource. I promise.

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3. APRICOT OIL

I have always been a HUGE believer in oils. I truly think they are the fountain of youth and the best way to get nourishing ingredients into your skin. My favorite thing to do is a layer of oil and then a thin layer of moisturizer on top to really trap it in. Apricot oil is one of my favorites- it is SO HIGH in vitamin A (which our body needs but doesn't product naturally!) and is so gentle it works on every skin tone. It's anti-inflammatory and when you wake up in the morning after using it you just feel so soft and glow-y. It's incredible. I have gotten many friends hooked on it! You can see my full article here.

4. WELLNESS ESCAPE

I don't have set plans on where I am going to travel. I do have themes around the kind of travel I want to do though and those are: nature, wellness based, and unique culture. I am a very "play it by ear" kind of gal. This year, I would love to do a wellness retreat somewhere in Oregon. I am in love with that state. The people, the greenery. I could live there! I find that a lot of their beauty companies are more on the natural, earthy side- as opposed to more labby and high tech (which I also enjoy.) One shop I’m crazy about is Fettle Botanics in Portland. They have all these elixirs, oils, herbs, and spices. I have an immunity tincture from them that I use all the time. They’re huge on Eastern Medicine healing and in just one trip there you can learn a lot.

I also love Oregon-based Seagape Soaps. It's basically a trip to the Pacific Northwest coast in the shower. They make minimal makeup, balms, and of course- soaps. They are incredibly clean. My favorite product is their healing balm, which another Violet Fog writer recommended to me. It’s incredible! 

Come say hi anytime on www.VioletFog.com or at @thevioletfog on Instagram.

 

 

Have a Healthy Hanukah with Barry's Bootcamp Trainer Nichole Peterson

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There is perhaps no carb-ier holiday than the eight potato-, noodle- and chocolate-dreidel-soaked nights of Hanukkah.

But before we strap on our yoga pants for family festivities, we asked trainer Nichole Peterson of Barry's Bootcamp SF, how she manages to stay fit while feasting through the holiday.

How can we put some healthy spins on Hanukkah's signature dishes?

"I have been a vegetarian for over 10 years and so many of the dishes are veggie-friendly at Hanukkah. Unfortunately, they are also starch-friendly, dairy-friendly, and saturated fat-friendly. I try to bring a seasonal salad (strawberries, goat cheese, walnuts, spinach) to the party to mix in with all the yellow foods we devour. If not a salad, I'll bring cooked Brussels sprouts or a cauliflower dish. I find people are actually relieved to see veggie options on the table. If I'm cooking and can get away with it, I like cooking with coconut oil rather than butter, and I use Greek yogurt rather than sour cream or cream cheese.

The thing is, Hanukkah festivities only happen once a year and there is no way I'm going without some kugel—everything obviously in moderation! I eat a small snack before I go to the festivities, so I don't load up at dinner and am able to enjoy the meal along with everyone."

Where do you source dishes in SF that you'd rather not made at home?

"If I'm looking for some amazing starters for my guests—bagels and lox!—I go to Wise Sons Deli. My go-to for cooking any healthy meals is the farmers market. It's such an easy way to get fresh delicious ingredients while shopping local and supporting your community."

How do you keep from sitting on your butt all week?

"I always prioritize workouts. My favorite thing to do Hanukkah morning is to lead the siblings in a beach boot camp workout, and it's fun to add a little friendly family competition to the mix. We pick a spot on the beach that we have to run at least a mile to and then everyone participating gets to pick a movement they want to add to the mix. Think 10 push-ups, 15 burpees, 25 v-ups, 50 air squats, and 100 mountain climbers."

Any tips for getting an extra burn to make up for all of that kugel?

"My boyfriend's family plays a wicked game of Cutthroat—it's the most intense round of white elephant you could ever participate in, with lots of sweating, laughs and some tears. That always gets my heart rate up. But if you're looking for something a little more cardio-centric, I try to walk between the lull of dinner and the family hang out, it gives me a moment to chill out and almost always gives me an excuse to walk the dog!"

Happy Hanukkah!

True Food Kitchen and the Benefits of Anti-inflammatory Dining

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After first trying True Food Kitchen in its hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona, I've become hooked to the chainlet's sit-down take on anti-inflammatory, casual dining. Serving up flavor-forward, East-meets-West cuisine that caters to vegans, vegetarians and those with gluten sensitivity, menu items are based on the dietary philosophy of wellness superstar and father of integrative medicine Dr. Andrew Weil. Located in native Arizona, and now Southern California, Northern California and 10 other states (PA, TN, CO, FL, MD, GA, CO, IL, TX and VA). 

We chatted with Dr. Weil while he was in town to get the 411 on the anti-inflammatory diet, why the Bay Area is perfect for True Food Kitchen, and his favorite dishes on the fall menu.

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7x7: For those not yet familiar with the True Food Kitchen ethos, could you give us an introduction?
Dr. Weil: The mainstream American diet is pro-inflammatory, meaning it gives us the wrong kinds of fats and carbs, and not enough of the fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices that protect us. Our menu is based on my extensive research into chronic diseases and findings that many are rooted in chronic inflammation. An anti-inflammatory diet provides steady energy from ample vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, dietary fiber and and protective phytonutrients. Optimizing for health and longevity means reducing inflammation through foods with these specific protective elements. Foods such as mushrooms and turmeric.

How did True Foods Kitchen come into fruition?
I'm a very good home cook and, despite friends telling me over the years to open a restaurant, I was never tempted to because I knew nothing about the restaurant business. But then nine years ago I was introduced to Sam Fox of the Fox Restaurant Group and ended up proposing what became the True Food Kitchen concept: A restaurant that would serve really good food that was also nutritionally correct. At first, he thought that I was talking about bland tofu and sprouts, but Sam became convinced after I cooked him and his wife dinner at my home. They actually liked it! A space opened up in Phoenix and he skeptically agreed to give the concept a trial run. From the moment the doors opened it was a remarkable success. It's very gratifying to me that the food that I've cooked and enjoyed over the years is appealing to many people now.

So excited for the Palo Alto opening! Do you think that those working in tech are particularly prone to inflammation?
We knew we wanted to be in Northern California, and I think Palo Alto will be great for us. As for the area with relation to health, I do think techies are particularly prone to the stress of information and media overload that comes with the industry. I hope the culture of True Food will be a little bit of an antidote to that. For techies, learning some principles of the anti-inflammatory lifestyle is particularly important.

Until then, what is your favorite San Francisco meal?
I've always liked the Slanted Door and Greens. They are two of my favorites. I mostly cook at home when I'm in Tucson, so in San Francisco it's great for me to go out and try things I can't get at home.

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What are some stand-out seasonal menu items?
We have an autumn salad that I think is terrific. For starters, we have charred cauliflower, roasted Brussels sprouts, and chiogga beet bruschetta with almond ricotta. Our ancient grains bowl is wonderful with its a mixture of grains, hemp seeds and miso-glazed sweet potato. (Editorial note: order it with the tofu, the best). 

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Can dessert be anti-inflammatory?
My favorite is our squash pie, a personal recipe of mine. It's vegan and full of antioxidants. The delicious whipped topping is made from coconut—it's a wonderful dessert.

How does wine fit into a balanced, Weil-approved diet?
I based the anti-inflammatory diet on the Mediterranean diet for which we have a great deal of scientific evidence as to its benefits. I tweaked it by adding Asian influences such as mushrooms, soy, ginger and turmeric. In the Mediterranean diet, wine is included, especially red wine which has proven benefits. The key is moderation. I do drink red wine and sake, but not every night. On our menu, we've tried to include organic, biodynamic and sustainable wines as much as possible.

What are some important ways people can manage inflammation on a day-to-day basis?
My greatest challenge is to convince people that there is no difference between good food and food that's good for you. Diet is a huge factor in the body's inflammation. Another way to cut down on inflammation is to avoid environmental toxins such as secondary smoke, which is a strong inflammatory agent.

Practicing how to limit stress through breathing techniques and meditation is hugely helpful. In addition, I think there are certain herbs and spices that have anti-inflammatory properties, particularly ginger and turmeric. There are some supplements you can take that have anti-inflammatory activity, but I think exercise and control over diet is the most important.

True Food Kitchen, for more information on the anti-inflammatory diet, as well as breathing and meditation techniques, visit drweil.com.

Mindful Consumption to Feel Glamorous this NYE

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Our Instagram feed has been full of things we 'need' to look/feel/be glamorous on the last night of 2016. And sometimes it works - finding myself in a late night Amazon spree happens more often than I would like. Which is why I turned to Well + Away friend and talented mindfulness instructor/content create/soon-to-be maker of beautiful meditation pillows Nkechi Njaka. She has a beautiful perspective on the real way to own your glamour this NYE. I'll let her tell you in her own words:

Have you thought about what you're doing to feel extra glamorous tonight? 

So many of my maker and blogger friends are sharing and stressing over the perfect favorite party number to inspire a perfect NYE look, which is honestly one of my favorite parts of my end of year rituals. While I know that my evening will require sparkles, bubbles, and dancing, I also always keep in mind a bit of mindfulness around consumption (shopping, boozing, eating, etc) to ensure I'm feeling as great as I know I'll look.

Eating the right foods are going to be the difference between ringing in 2017 with brightness and glow, or ducking deep beneath the duvet to recover on New Years Day.

Hangover symptoms are not glamorous. They happen when the body is suffering from dehydration, mineral loss and low blood sugar, as well as the presence of toxic metabolites of alcohol. I prefer to avoid this by being aware of what I'm consuming.

For dinner on NYE, I go straight for protein rich foods like quinoa, nuts, seeds and tofu to line the stomach and digest slowly. These as well as healthy fats slow down alcohol absorption, keeping you light and bright all night long. I also make sure to include foods that support liver function (leafy greens, cruciferous) as they protect against free radicals and replenish the nutrients lost somewhere between that second and third glass of bubbles.

And on the topic of boozy fun, moderation is golden. My stomach also prefers it when I don't mix tons of different types of alcohol. So I pick my poison and stick to it all night - and then alternate that with water throughout the night. To me, being responsible is more far more glamorous than being sick or blacked out.

Mo Clancy on SF's Best Chocolate Chip Cookie and Living Her Cleanest Life

Seed + Salt is San Francisco's first healthy, plant-based dining destination. The restaurant has become a vibrant, healthy living staple in the city, both for the lucky local Marina neighbors and those who happily schlep across town in weekday morning traffic for an other-worldly frittata. Its eco-sexy interiors and selection of 'classic-with-a-twist' dishes from scones to cookies to cobb salads are the vision of clean-living advocate Mo Clancy. Mo's shared her top picks for where to get well in San Francisco's Marina neighborhood, her go-to weeknight meal and her favorite NorCal roadtrip destination. 

Seed + Salt was such a dining game changer when it opened, what inspired the concept?

Well, opening Seed + Salt was never really my plan. I discovered there was a need for it while I was spending a lot of time in LA and NY and experiencing all of these healthy food options that we didn’t have at home in San Francisco. I was standing at the salad bar at Whole Foods one day thinking ‘is this all I can get?’ I really just started traveling and researching with the idea in mind, finding a lot of innovating things but nothing was what i wanted.

There were three things that were really important to me that I couldn’t find: convenience so I could grab clean and plant-based food without having to sit down and order, dishes that tasted like real food and not overly healthy, and third I wanted familiar menu items that people could recognize. Like our amazing chocolate chip cookie that is so simple, delicious and clean. I put the intention out there and things picked up speed quickly. I met chefs who helped me develop a menu, found some great vendors, on from there and the next thing i knew I had a restaurant!

What’s next for you guys?

We’re expanding our baked good program, which is not only vegan but gluten free and refined sugar free as well. We just introduced a super chocolate-y cupcake with chocolate frosting that is truly amazing and sells out most days. On the savory side, we will have new bowls and savory oatmeals. We’re also going to be introducing packaged goods that people can grab and go with like our gluten-free chia bread and baked yam chips.

What are some of your favorite wellness destinations in the Marina neighborhood?

I love our that our restaurant is in the Marina. In terms of my favorite food and juice in the area outside of the restaurant, Happy Moose Juice is a must. It is some of the best juice out there and we sell a ton of it at Seed + Salt. The other go-to I have for dining when I’m away from work is delivery from Thistle. They deliver clean, organic and mostly vegan food all over SF.

As for spa, I love SenSpa in the Presidio, they have some of the best masseuses in the city. I recently started floating at Reboot, the float spa. In terms of beauty, I’ve been spending a lot of time at Credo which has been a great addition to the neighborhood! I’m really sensitive to toxic ingredients, but since I’ve started buying at Credo I’ve been able to buy all sorts of eyeliners and other makeup that isn’t too harsh on my skin. My friend Tata Harper, whose cheek tints I’m addicted, now sells her products there and has a spa within the shop.

Another maybe less expected wellness destination for me is the Green Cleaners on Fillmore. Dry cleaning can be so toxic and I look at using a green dry cleaner as another part of living a clean life.

What’s your favorite item on the menu right now? Who are some of your favorite vendors/producers you’re working with?

Picking a favorite menu item is like picking  a favorite child! Right now I could say some of my favorites are the new Greek Falafel Salad with lemon tahini dressing, baked quinoa falafel and so many veggies. The coconut ceviche is another great one made with tons of coconut meat, lime juice, big chunks of avocado and a side of our baked yam chips. We’ve just redone our breakfast sandwich and it’s now made with a wonderful walnut chorizo, thick slices of our chickpea frittata, sprouts and aioli. Our chocolate chip cookie will always be my favorite, and the neighborhood agrees as it’s consistently our top seller.

As far as some of our cool vendors, we work with coffee producer Proyecto Diaz who grow their coffee beans on their grandfather’s farm in Mexico and give back to the community. I love Ryan, who founded Happy Moose Juice and think their quality is so good. Rhizocali’s organic tempeh in Oakland makes our fabulous organic black bean tempeh and black eyed pea tempeh.

What’s your favorite meal to prepare at home, for yourself and your family?

I have a couple of standards that I make as part of a really clean, mostly plant-based diet. I typically prepare things earlier in the week that can be easily mixed together for a hearty bowl for the rest of the week. With a seven year old son and a business I just have to be able to throw dinner together but not eat the same thing each night. I also try to stay pretty seasonal and have a seasonal calendar in my kitchen that I try to stick to it.

On Sunday or Monday, I roast veggies like squash and broccoli, and and prepare a batch of brown rice. Then I’ll make some sauce options for the week like a chimichurri sauce similar to what we do at the restaurant. It’s a spanish pesto with red wine vinegar and spinach, with a little zing to it. I’ll also do a pimento aioli or a vinaigrette with olive oil, whole grain mustard, red wine vinegar and a touch of stevia or agave. I’ll throw any of these sauces onto vegetables with some salt and pepper, and cranberries for the vinaigrette for a hit of sweetness.

How does the Seed + Salt ethos extend into other areas - do you have favorite natural beauty destinations, or favorite vegan beauty products?

Really, I feel like our ethos is about living a clean lifestyle. Right now it’s a squishy term, but for me it means that food is sourced ethically and transparently. I search for things that are organic, non-toxic, non-GMO. I seek out the same things in life outside the restaurant that I do in our food products. When I’m looking at a beauty product, for instance, I check to see if it has parabens, where are ingredients sourced from, if it has synthetic fragrances, if it’s been tested on animals. It can apply to cleaning products, to paint on house, to fabrics that you wear.

Awareness is key. As an example, when you look at almond milk in the food industry, people don’t think twice about its contents and healthiness. Most almond milk producers though aren’t transparent about what's in their product. Only 2% of most of them is made of actual almonds, everything else is fillers. At Seed + Salt, we use only whole, pure almond milk. I would never feed our customers that kind of thing. We are very transparent and honest about what we use. That’s why people trust us.

Do you have a favorite detox program in SF or do you ever juice?

No matter how clean of a lifestyle you live, you’re still living in the real world and absorbing things that aren’t clean. Yes, I do detoxes, but I don’t really believe in juice cleanses and think they can be hard on the body. If I do a cleanse, I’ll drink juice and eat raw vegetables and fruits for a couple of days until I feel better. Or I’ll just do a full day of vegetable broth if I’m feeling sluggish. I’m a big believer in cleansing from the outside and do infrared saunas, epsom salt baths and clay baths regularly. As a personal philosophy, I feel that when you cleanse, you need to make sure you’re replenishing your body with minerals or whatever else it needs so you’re not subtracting from your body, you’re adding.

Where do you go when you can escape the city to recharge?

I love going to Point Reyes or Bolinas nearby. A little bit further out I love visiting Big Sur and staying at Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn. I’ll stay for a couple of days and go to Esalen. I used to go to Wilbur Hot Springs, it’s a natural hot springs and lodge that the miners used to go to from the 1800’s. I think they are currently repairing the property from a fire, so for now Deetjens Big Sur and Esalen have been my go-to special places.

What are some healthy restaurants that inspire you, outside of San Francisco?

There are so many. When I first started thinking of Seed + Salt I was looking at what Pure Food and Wine and Dirt Candy were doing in New York. More recently, I’ve been visiting LA and enjoying Matthew Kenney’s Plant Food and Wine, Crossroads for a regular dinner experience that just happens to be vegan food and I just visited Little Pine which was great.

How do you eat healthfully on the road? 

It gets hard but fortunately there are more and more options. I always take a bag of our granola. I’m not that much of a granola fan but our granola is a really good mix of savory and sweet. I’ll take that and our protein-rich oat tahini cookies because they are super satisfying. It’s like eating a delicious bowl of oatmeal in a cookie! And I also carry just a simple banana or an apple in place of a bar because I think those can be high in sugar or highly processed. That said, we are thinking of developing a low-sugar bar but we haven’t figure out what that is yet.

 

Dara Kennedy's Healthy SF Haunts and Travel Beauty Musts

Ayla is SF's personalized luxury beauty haven. Sourcing equally local products and those she has clocked serious mileage around the globe to find, Dara Kennedy is an industry vet who lives on the cutting edge of natural beauty. Meet Dara:

How did you come to open your luxe natural beauty shop Ayla?

I grew up in Hannover, New Hampshire, which is on the border of Vermont. It’s a beautiful, idyllic college town where I was surrounded by nature. The Appalachian Trail literally ran behind my house. When I was in college, I visited my brother who was in the Bay Area for grad school and I fell in love with the area.  I love that the city is surrounded by nature preserves, beaches, forests and mountains nearby.

I lived here first from 1999-2003 working as a buyer for Macy’s which was really how I discovered beauty retail. That said, I also learned that being a buyer wasn’t what I wanted to do yet. So I went to work for a dot com when they were first becoming a thing at the end of ‘99. It was really interesting to be a part of that world when people first started buying online. The company I was working for was a personalized gifting site, which gave me some inspiration for what would become Ayla. I then worked in advertising and ended up being hired by a beauty client and moving to NY to manage their global skincare business before going to business school. I was back east for seven years, but always knew that I would come back. My husband and I decided it was the right time to return to San Francisco when we were about to have a kid and couldn’t picture having one in New York. Everything really just came together at that time with his work and my work and the pregnancy.

Is there anything special or unique about how SF locals approach skincare/beauty?

It’s different in SF. What I love about the mindset here is that it’s very balanced. People take a broad range of approaches to beauty. Growing up in Hanover, if you were to go out in town wearing lipstick people would be like ‘what are you doing’? I've found that here it's so accepting and diverse when it comes to beauty. 

It's less trendy here than in New York, which suits me more. I also see in New York that there is a great movement toward using more natural products across the board, which is fantastic, but people can be a bit extreme about it. Here, women are interested in using more natural products but they are not driving themselves crazy with that effort. 

Who are the skincare experts in town you swear by?

I’ve been a client of Lori Anderson's since I first moved to San Francisco. I totally trust her with my skin and I’m really picky about facials. Kristina Holey is another expert I swear by and she opened less than a year ago. She has a really holistic, unique approach. Most facialists talk about what you’re putting on your skin and life stresses, but Kristina takes it to another level, inspiring people to really take better care of themselves. And she does these wonderful facial massages that are part of her philosophy.

What are your favorite local-made beauty lines/products?

Vintner’s Daughter is one of my all-time favorite products. April Gargiulo their founder lives between San Francisco and Napa. She only has one product, an all-in-one anti-aging serum called Active Botanical Serum. This type of product is great because it packs a lot of great ingredients into one step, and you can use it regardless of skin type.

The only really tough thing about moving back here was what the moisture and fog do to my hair. So I’ve discovered local hair care lines like EVOLVh. I specifically love their Ultra Shine shampoo and conditioner.  It performs and feels like a conventional shampoo and conditioner. Reverie is another local one that I like. It’s made in Sausalito, although the company is LA-based. I especially love their MILK, a leave-in conditioner. It’s been formulated by a skincare specialist, so it isn’t sticky, and you can apply to wet or dry hair. It’s so versatile.

Are you into detoxing at all via treatments, juices, etc? Who/which brands do you rely on for this?

Lately I’ve been into detoxing my brain. I’m running a business and have two small kids, so things are crazy. The way we live our lives now, with email and texts coming at us from the moment we wake up, puts a lot of pressure on our brain. I love how our Ayla neighbor Juniper Meditation Center teaches meditation. I’ve had a keen interest in it since discovering meditation in a yoga teacher training I took in New York. But for a long time, I thought that I wasn’t doing it right or well. At Juniper, there is something so approachable and accepting about the way they teach. Sometimes I only do it for 5-10 minutes a day, but it’s made such a difference in my stress levels and my responses to people in tough situations. When I don’t do it, my mind feels much more crowded.

I haven’t done a full-fledged detox in the classic sense in a long time. It’s tough to do with small kids, at least if you want to eat the same things they do. But once a year I’ll use the Organic Pharmacy Detox Kit. First I’ll clean up my diet a little bit, then I'll start the system which includes detox capsules that help get digestion running smoothly, drops that support the kidneys and liver and this wonderful detox cellulite body oil that I think is really helpful in detoxing from the outside in. It’s a relatively easy system and pretty much anyone can fit it into their life.

Do you have a favorite local workout?

I love Sarah Pascual’s one-hour vinyasa class at YogaWorks. It’s hard to fit anything longer than that into my day at the moment! She heats the room so it’s easy to get warmed up. She uses these peppermint essential oils, which is such a simple thing but make such a difference. And the way she sequences the class is really good. I also do a lot of walking in the Presidio, because I find that walking in nature really helps ground me. I read an article in WSJ a few years ago about how walking aids problem solving. I think it’s called involuntary attention. I love doing it and that it's a double benefit of body and mind fitness.

Where do you go to recharge?

My favorite place to recharge is the Presidio. The woods there remind me of home in New Hampshire, and I love that it’s so accessible.

Outside of the city, I love Paris. On my last trip, I found these really cute little places to eat that were fantastic. I was traveling solo and they were so easy to visit alone: Cafe Pinson and, on a recommendation from Kristina Holey, Au Passage, where I sat at the bar and had a glass of cold red wine and a bowl of sweet potato with feta, salsa verde, and these delicious crispy black rice things on top. The food was amazing and especially at Cafe Pinson it was so healthy. I would go there every day if it were in SF.

Closer to home, I love Big Sur. You can’t go wrong with any of the places there. Post Ranch Inn is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

What does an ideal weekend look like?

Since my husband and I have a two year old and a four year old, weekends are centered around them, and one of our favorite places has become the Bay Area Discovery Museum right across the bridge. It’s on the water and is a good combination of indoor and outdoor activities. They also have a great little healthy cafe.

I love going to the beach because my kids love it and there is something really calming about the water. That’s another thing about SF, there are so many great beaches and easy access to the water. The beach at Crissy Field is such an easy one to get to. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is also great and has some really interesting wildlife. As a family, we also love going on little hikes in the Presidio together, too. It’s amazing that it’s right here in the middle of the city.

For food, whenever I can get away with taking everyone there together, I love the food at Seed + Salt. Their flatbreads are amazing and I’m kind of addicted to them. An ideal weekend would also include a yoga class - this hasn’t happened in a long time, but it would be ideal!

The kitchen is my happy place in our house, and I love the fact that my kids are getting into cooking as well. On the weekends, I love to cook with them. They stand together on a "learning tower" that we pull up to the kitchen island, and I can offload annoying kitchen tasks like pulling the leaves off parsley stems that, to them, seem fun and exciting. Sometimes we'll bake brownies or oatmeal shortbread, but usually it's just daily dinner prep.

When you're traveling, which products do you take in your carry-on?

I find that what my skin needs changes a lot. I don’t have a go-to set of skincare products that I have ready in a travel kit because what I need changes so much. On my most recent trip I had Vintner’s Daughter which works for a wide range of climates and always makes your skin look glowy and bright. We carry a great English all-purpose balm called Pommade Divine that I usually make myself a little pot of and bring. I nearly always have Luzern Lab’s Firming Collagen Booster. It layers really nicely, and it helps give your skin this plump and rested look. I always have my EVOLVh shampoo and conditioner and my MILK for my hair. Oh and another thing I always bring is my Ellis Brooklyn Fable scent. Those Ellis Brooklyn scents are great because they're phthalate-free and smell like fine fragrances, not like your typical essential oil blend. When I went to Italy for work the other week I packed a huge pack of detox bath called Voya Lazy Days. Everyone in my family had been fighting a cold, so on my first night in Florence I took a bath with this seaweed detox soak. Voya is headquartered on the north west coast of Ireland which is really pure and unpolluted. They have about 150 miles of coastline where they hand-harvest and process the seaweed really fast, within two hours, to preserve the minerals and activity within. The soak itself is just a bag of this seaweed with some salt. It makes me sweat more than I do at the gym. If you know you need to detox on the road, it’s not the most outlandish thing to bring.

Do you have an in-flight beauty routine when traveling longer distances?

I keep it pretty simple; I don’t wear any makeup. I try to use a good barrier-protecting cream, like M Picaut’s Calming Cocoon Cream, on top of a hyaluronic acid serum, like BioRecept’s Total Lift Eclat. That keeps my face really plump and hydrated. Ursa Major makes these wipes that we’re going to carry at Ayla soon; you can just run it across your face to refresh and I used it at the end of a flight to Frankfurt recently. It’s really refreshing and just takes that gross airplane film off of your skin.

What are your favorite wellness rituals while traveling?

I take these crazy three-day trips to Europe to scope out products, so I swear by a Bach Flower remedy I found in Paris for jet lag. I love it so much that we’re starting to carry it this summer. It’s called Voyages Elixir by Les Fleurs de Bach, and I will not do one of those crazy trips without it anymore. I didn’t take it on my most recent one, and I was a jet-lagged disaster! They also make one for stress and one for sleep. And they make one that is their version of Rescue Remedy, but it’s actually better. They're such a crazily passionate little company that makes Bach Flower, according to the original recipes using only organic extracts. A lot of other companies have started cutting corners, but this one really go to great lengths. 

Aside from products, I also try to walk as much as possible, and I meditate every night for 5 minutes. While traveling, actually, I can also meditate in the morning, which is a treat. At home, I’m usually woken up by a toddler and morning meditation just isn’t an option. But I can't wait to travel with them when they are a little older!

 

MNTSTUDIO Founder Elaine Hayes On Her Bay Area Favorites

 

A classically trained instructor with an eye for form and a knack for taking students to the edge of their edge, Elaine Hayes' light, bright SoMa studio is not the place you'd expect your core to be on fire so much you sweat through your Lulu. After a challenging Saturday morning reformer session that somehow flew by, Elaine shared the history of Mint, her SF wellness secrets and the only workout tool you need to bring on vaca.

The Mint Studios Pilates method is equal parts technique and athlete, how did you put it together?

It was my ballet teacher in high school who first introduced me to Pilates after I’d been dancing for 13 years to keep myself injury free and reinforce alignment. I was taking a mat class once a week, but even that helped my dancing form. Once I left for college at UC Berkeley I stopped dancing but I stayed with Pilates, taking classes at studios all over town, and discovering the reformer.

Even after I finished school, while working in finance and through law school I was still taking Pilates and ended up getting certified to teach. My cert is in a classical format, which I loved because I learned about biomechanics, anatomy and rehabilitation, but the stronger I got the more I wanted a more intense workout from my traditional classes. What I had been doing started feeling a bit slow so I started taking athletically geared classes, but I was getting injuries and my form was compromised.

This is where the seed for Mint was planted. I started incorporating athletic elements into my reformer classes to see how I could challenge my clients further. My classes became known for being extremely effective by focusing on proper form, fluid movement, and including athletically-geared moves to offer a full body, killer workout. These classes gained a popular following at my home studio, and I was having to turn away new clients for lack of space in my schedule. When that happened, I realized I needed to open a commercial space, which lead to Mint Studios opening in August of 2013.

What’s your history with the Bay Area?

I was born in the Bay Area but I grew up all over. Part of my childhood was spent on a tiny island in Brazil, then we moved to London and eventually my family came back to the Bay to Grass Valley which is about two hours outside of San Francisco. I went to college in Berkeley, came to SF after I graduated, and just last year my husband and I moved to Menlo Park for his work. I’m still in the city nearly every day to teach and meet with colleagues and friends.

You live in Menlo Park - where do you eat and work out in that part of town?

I’ve discovered Sprout Cafe on University Ave. They have these huge salads that you can throw protein on for the most reasonable price. I do that a lot. Lyfe Kitchen in Palo Alto is also great. I love going for lunch and ordering their Quinoa Crunch Bowl. Sometimes for a coffee I’ll go to Caffe Borrone in downtown Menlo Park. SoulCycle in Palo Alto is my favorite cardio class when I can get to it. I love the Pressed Juicery freezes that they serve at Pressed Juicery Palo Alto, they really taste just like ice cream!

Do you have any favorite wellness spots around the studio?

My favorite esthetician in SF is a woman named Marion Pernoux, who owns the nearby Ensoma spa. She gives the most incredible facials. She calls them cosmeceutical facials and you feel so well-rested afterward. She’s my go-to gal. For nails, I always go to Zaza because it’s near the studio and they’re so nice and friendly. For hair, and this is the thing people ask me about most, I go to Richard at Population for cut and color. He’s so talented and sweet, and a genius at what he does, and anyone I send there falls in love. I don’t think I should even share his name because I don’t want to risk not being able to get in for an appointment!

Where do you work out when you’re not in the studio?

Whenever I’m in Brazil, my aunt and I take Pilates together with her trainer. It’s all in Portuguese and aside from the language so different from how I teach my classes. When I’m home and not in the studio, I’ll do my own yoga/Pilates practice at home in my office slash yoga studio where I’ll also meditate. In the city, one of my favorite yoga teachers is Mark Morford who teaches at Yoga Tree and has been so inspiring with his contemporary approach to meditation. It’s not strict and regimented. He encourages you to let it be your own, even if it’s just for 2-3 minutes at your desk.

When I can get away for a weekend, I love going down to Esalen in Big Sur. It’s an amazing, magical place to reset and be in nature. Further south, I did my yoga teacher training at White Lotus in Santa Barbara with Ganga White and Tracey Rich. I like to revisit every couple of years. Before my teacher training I never thought I could meditate, but they encourage creativity and teach that it doesn’t have to be so traditional, like sitting in a totally blank room for two hours. It’s a beautiful place and the energy is so calming. The nature is stunning.

We hear you’re a runner. What running routes do you take around SF?

Sometimes in between classes I’ll run down Brannan to Embarcadero toward the Ferry building. I love running along the water and think it’s a great way to clear your head during the day. In Menlo Park I run outside. In class I’m always talking and instructing so it’s really nice for me to plug in my headphones and zone out for a little while. Sometimes I take my puggle Zoey with me when I run, too, which she loves.

What other Pilates studios anywhere inspire you?

There’s a studio in New York called New York Pilates that is so different from us in terms of esthetic, but they have a very cool New York vibe. Even outside of the studio I love what they do on social media! A former Mint instructor moved to New York and I encouraged her to check them out and now she teaches there! In LA, there’s a studio called The Studio (MDR). They have megaformer classes and a great community. It’s actually where one of my sisters-in-law goes and she raves about it.

What is your workout when you travel?

When we travel, I usually bring a resistance band in my bag. I always call in advance to see if the hotel we’re staying at has yoga mats. Some great hotel groups like Auberge Resorts provide them in-room. My usual philosophy is that if I can devote 30 minutes a day to just maintenance then I will feel good and won’t worry about it. I’ll usually get in 15 minutes of Pilates, 10 minutes of yoga and 10 minutes of stretching. Then I’ll get cardio in by running or swimming. I don’t really worry about it but I also don’t feel my best if I don’t get it in. My husband is the same way so we’ll normally workout together on vacation which we don’t normally get to do when we’re home. And I love kicking his butt with a tough Pilates workout!

 

 

 

Meet the Ladies Behind San Francisco's First (Best) Dance Cardio Studio

As part of SF VitalGuide launch season, we’ve been talking to San Francisco’s coolest wellness experts to learn where they eat, sweat, shop and escape. This week Lindsay Meyer and Kara Goldenberg of the COMPANY, SF’s newest workout and the city’s very first dance cardio studio. The ladies behind the COMPANY share where to get the ultimate post-workout shake, which athleisure items are worthy of stockpiling and where to get away.

What inspired the COMPANY?

L: I danced competitively growing up and through college, and even as a grownup in SF I was dancing in various forms. Before I found cardio dance I was more into formal dance and then I started teaching barre in Cow Hollow. A mutual friend in the NY dance cardio world introduced Kara and me, and Kara can tell you about her background, but it was such a complementary fit!

K: I moved here 9 months ago from New York and realized there was no dance cardio. I had been doing tons of it at Bari in Tribeca and I got here and there were no options like what I had experienced in New York where I swore by this kind of workout. The owner of my favorite barre studio in New York ended up introducing Lindsay and me and that’s how we started the class!

How did you find your gorgeous space in the presidio?

K: Through a lot of online hunting. We were looking for a studio that would rent us space by the hour and we found this beautiful studio in the Presidio that has these high ceilings with a lot of light. The location is easy to find and there is actually parking, such a rarity in this town.

L: We also felt like there was a dearth of dance studios in this part of town. In the Mission you have the great ODC and Lines. There are others in SoMa. In the Marina we just didn’t have fun dance options for adults!

The choreography seems very ballet inspired, is your workout wardrobe ballet-inspired?

K: We wear sneakers in class, and I take mine very seriously. Dance cardio can be hard on your feet! I like Brooks PureFlow and the Newton brand. They provide the right amount of support which is so important when you’re jumping and dancing. As I mentioned, I like sneakers but when it comes to leggings, I have a sickness. I love them all. I don’t stick to a specific brand but I love Bandier and Carbon 38. I find a lot of new brands on those sites or if I see someone in a class with leggings that I like I ask them where they got them and get a pair for myself.

L: I seriously don’t know anyone with more leggings than this girl! As for me, I prefer to stick with solid colors, so I own a ton of black leggings that I love and wear everywhere. I don’t have one favorite brand although I do have a lot of admiration for a brand called ADAY out of London and I have like four pieces from them. It was started by a friend of a friend and focuses on styles that you can wear to class and then  transition it to other parts of your day. They do a lot of with black and navy, which I gravitate to. I also like things that have just a little bit of sparkle.

What's your favorite pre and post-class bite in SF?

K: I think it’s important to have protein after a workout, and so I try to get in at least 20 grams after a session. The smoothies at Barry’s Bootcamp are great. I always get the Skinny Chocolate with PB. So good.

L: After a workout I like to make my own smoothie with greek yogurt, chia seeds, almond milk, almond butter and frozen strawberries.

What other workouts here in SF and elsewhere do you love?

K: I love Barry’s Bootcamp. I also recently started going to Core 40 which is such a serious core and ab workout. When I’m workout out on my own, I like to bounce on my trampoline at home.

L: I like to do a lot of Pilates, and would probably say my favorite Pilates in SF is Mighty Pilates in Presidio Heights. I used to teach barre and I still do a fair amount of barre when I can at studios like Pop Physique. As far as unique classes, I’ve been seeing rowing classes blow up in New York and there is a new rowing cardio class in San Francisco at a studio called Apex Wellness in FiDi. As far as cardio, I love Flywheel. My boyfriend and I have a lot of friends in the Mountain View area so we’ll stop in Sunnyvale for a class on the way down.

You’re teaching and workout out so much, who are your go-to wellness practitioners in SF when you need to recharge?

L: My boyfriend is a former professional triathlete. He used to get a ton of sports and recovery massages for so many years. So now I just make him give me massages! As far as other pampering, I love to get facials and can’t wait to try the spa at Credo Beauty on Fillmore. The one thing I never do is get manicures, it’s seriously been years. I have a strong belief about the toxicity of nail polish, so in that case I take care of myself by not having a nail routine.

K: I don’t do as much as I should. I’ve done one massage since I’ve moved here in the last 9 months! But I will when I can.

Where do you go to escape the city craziness?

L: When I really need to get away I go as far as I can. I love great hotels - Park Hyatt Dubai, One and Only Bahamas, I can go on. Closer to home, I love Kabuki Springs here in Japantown. For a weekend escape, I like Healdsburg, and we’re wine club members at Portalupi which I love visiting.

K: I’ve recently been making trips out to Marin. All of the Bay Area is so new to me, and we’re actually thinking of moving out there. Otherwise, I fly out to NY for more craziness!

The Bay Area has some great outdoor destinations - do you have any favorite outdoor activities, hikes, paddle board locations, etc?

K: I recently went out to Land’s End and hiked back into the Presidio, that was pretty awesome. I also frequent a lot of playgrounds with my son!

L: I go OnBoard SUP. It’s in Sausalito, off of Marinship way. They have paddleboard Pilates and paddleboard yoga. I enjoy going out to the 7am standup class before going to work. I feel like that is such a special Californian thing to do that you can’t have anywhere else.

How do you get your dance cardio fix when you're on the road?

K: If I have an open space, I will dance. That’s just me. If I’m traveling to NY I can take class there, easy.

L: I use ClassPass so I try to pop into more local and homegrown studios when I’m traveling outside of dance cardio hotspots like LA and New York. I’m from Minneapolis and when I go home I’ll go to a great HIIT studio called Alchemy. It’s not dance cardio, but it’s a great workout. In New York I really love Chaise fitness. It’s a combination of cardio barre and Pilates. You use bungees, a Pilates chair, it’s great and not as well known as it should be!

What are you looking forward to this season at the studio, in addition to the Very Vital Sunday event we’re doing together?

We are planning on adding a weekend class for Saturday early morning by summer. We’ve had so many requests for it. And of course the Very Vital Sunday class with Well + Away on April 24 is going to be a fabulous afternoon.

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For more information and to book the Very Vital Sunday Class on Sunday, April 24 from 1-3pm please visit the COMPANY.