Some people just make you smile. {An interview with Nicole Montanarelli, Life Thrive Yoga}

I feel lucky to have so many wonderful and beautiful people in my life, if its just for a moment or for a lifetime. When you come across someone who just makes you smile and makes you feel good you should embrace them for everything they have. I have a few of those people in my life, a couple weeks ago I met with Willa to talk about my nutrition, Willa was one of these people. So is Nicole. I have wanted to meet with Nicole to talk nutrition, and maybe play around with Raw “Cooking”, but like everyone else trying to find a time that will work for everyone just doesn’t always work.  So we decided on an interview.

Before I start the interview, here is a little bit about Nicole…Nicole lives with her family in New Park, Pennsylvania where she has a pet pig, chickens and grows the majority of what she and her family eat. She is a yoga instructor at various studios around the county, including the local YMCA, Renaissance Yoga and PA Fitness. She is also a Natural Health Consultant, and practicing (for the most part) vegan/vegetarian.

You can find more information about Nicole and her classes on her website, Life Thrive Yoga.

1. How long have you been practicing yoga? 
What made you start? When did you start teaching? 

I have been practicing Yoga since I was 16 years old.  I started with a VHS tape of an Iyengar teacher, Patricia Walden.  I got into yoga because I was not very active and I wanted to move my body in a way to get exercise.  Also, at that young naïve age, I considered myself a little hippie and I wanted to get into everything hippies were known to be into.  MY practice was doing that DVD everyday for a long while.  Then teenage life started to take it’s toll on yoga and my direction went a little awry.  I started getting serious about yoga again around the age of 22.  I went to my first actual class instead of doing it on my own.  That was a big step for me because I had always been insecure about doing anything physical in front of people.  I went to a small class in a spa actually.  It was great because it was just me, one other person and the teacher.  So I did not feel intimidated.  I started going regularly and looking for more and more classes to take.  Eventually leading me to taking classes with another Iyengar style teacher in this area.  Her name is Tammy and I still study with her whenever I can.  I took every class she offered at the gym that featured her.  EVERY CLASS!!!  By that time it was 3 times a week just with Tammy and then once a week with a masterful physical therapist named Marilyn.  I was so in love with the practice, how it felt, what it looked like, the intimidate knowledge you gain about yourself…everything.  I really studied everything I could get my hands on about yoga.  One day Tammy had to drop one of her classes due to a schooling conflict.  SO she asked if I would like to teach in her place.  I was honored, and terrified.  I did not think I could do it.  But the class was kind to me, they knew the plan ahead of time and helped me to grow in my teaching.  I have some of the same students now that were with me when I started.  I was a mess at the beginning.  It was hard to teach, hard to prepare, hard to stand in front of people telling them what to do but eventually it got easier.  I felt more confident.  It was a couple of years teaching in various places before I got my official training.  By then I had been getting mentored by another teacher, Linda who is a certified Integral yoga teacher. She worked with me not just on posture but on the actual teachings of yoga.  We studied yogic scriptures and mediation and the deeper practices of yoga.  I had homework, reading, discussions.  When I finally did my teacher training through Yama Studio I was teaching almost 10 classes a week already and I was so excited to actually become certified!!!  


2. Are you also a nutritionist? Where did you study?

I have a BS in Natural Health and healing through Clayton College.  Natural health and holistic lifestyle was one of my first passions.  My goals in life, ever since high school, was to be a massage therapist, holistic practitioner and yoga teacher who had a small shop/ office/ studio in the Shrewsbury area.  It still is a dream of mine.  A dream whose time is coming I hope.  


 3. I remember you saying you were gluten-free, what kind of diet do you usually follow?  Is there a reason you omit certain foods?

Diet is a hard thing for me.  I have the same issues everyone else has with staying on the healthy path.  I get triggered by emotions and occasions.  I fall into ruts and can be my own worse critic.  I often label myself a vegan/ vegetarian and gluten free but in a breath of honesty I also screw that up sometimes.  I had been a fish eating vegetarian since 15 years old until around 29/30, then I slowly started to remove fish.  I am amazingly lactose intolerant but I would even go further to say that I have issues with all of the factions of milk, as whey makes me ill as well.  I try not to eat dairy, it is an instant stressor for my body.  I suffer for a long time after I eat it.  This is not to say that I do not eat it at all.  There are times where my better judgment takes a back seat to desire and BOOM, there goes the neighborhood.  This happens less often nowadays but it still has an occasion to arise.  I am not really a fan of milk and the products with milk in them though.  I do not really like the idea of drinking another animals mammary secretions.  I think it is weird.  I have been known to revert back to eating fish here and there.  I think I am hardest on myself when I do that.  I did not stop eating animal flesh because I did not like it.  Quite the opposite, I loved the taste of meat.  I really do it because I know that in any situation I could not harm an animal.  I could not take the life of another being and therefore I do not feel comfortable eating it.  If you cannot do the work then you should not reap the bounty.  also, I really hate the idea of animals being harmed at all.  I try very hard to not touch gluten.  This is a newer development for me.  I do not trust the grains being grown now.  Even our organic grains have been modified so much over countless years of overuse and over growth and the almost impossible to keep from happening Monsanto attacks. Our soils are depleted of energy, of life, of minerals…we use our grains in foods filled with sugars and fats, they are bleached, and destroyed to nothing but a shadow of what they once were. So I try to stay away from baked goods, from gluten as a whole,  from gluten free baked goods etc.   My perfect diet consists of organic fresh fruit, vegetables,  and small amounts of rice and quinoa prepared with vegetable broth.  I also enjoy beans and nuts.  I really try to limit sugar and caffeine.  I have an addictive personality and can easily get stuck on eating bad foods.  I do not like to eat deep fried foods and I usually cook foods at home as I am so picky.  I do eat the occasional honey, we have kept bees in the past and still have honey from them.  I pass on alcohol.  Really, on the rare times you might catch me drink, I just get tired and go to bed.  I started removing things from my diet because I was always sick and I would gain weight so easily.  So for vanity and health reasons to be honest.  I also do not want to support practices that destroy life whether it be that of the earth or of the beings on it.  


 4. Does everyone in your home also eat this way? If not, how do you make it work for you?

HA!  Heck no.  My hubby is a card carrying meat eater (although he will not eat anything that is not organically grown and humanely raised if he can help it) and my 14 year old daughter would rather eat junk food all day!  In our house the food is usually all organic, we are pretty darn picky about our food.  Most of it is grown by us and that which is not grown by us is the minimally processed stuff we have like pasta and peanut butter.  I do prepare meat for my family.  I choose not to eat it but that is my choice and is not to be inflicted on others.  I would love if they were all vegan/ gluten free/ sugar free loons like me but it is not the case and not my place to judge.  I usually make vegetarian sides that go with the meal and they eat them with their meat and I eat the sides as a meal.  SO vegetables and rice or vegetables and quinoa or a vegetable stir-fry of some kind is pretty normal in my home. 


 5. What’s your go to comfort food?

Chai tea with honey or agave and coconut milk or anything with tofu in it, or some kind of homemade chocolate smoothie with peanut butter and maple syrup. 

I personally have struggled with diets, as you are well aware, and dealing with foods that will irritate my gut. Nicole was willing to share her Elimination Diet. This diet is geared to eliminate all processed food and refined sugars. This type of diet isn’t always easy but it will eliminate all the major allergens. I know my biggest struggle is drinking water when I wake up, I am working on that and trying hard to avoid coffee but to be honest, its not working so well.

Nicole’s typical elimination diet:

  • AM: wake up, drink 8-10 ounces of water, follow with a cup of warm water with a half of a lemon squeezed into it (helps to clear out toxins from overnight and stimulate digestion for the day)
  • Breakfast: fruit, or a nice green smoothie (something green like spinach or kale or a greens powder and a banana and ice and orange juice is nice, if you use protein powders this is a good carrier for that), or oatmeal with berries, or a hard boiled egg and some steamed veggies or fresh berries
  • Snack: fruit, veggies, more water, herbal tea or warm water with lemon
  • Lunch: salad, a low salt and low sugar dressing, you could add your meat here so some chicken, or turkey or fish as long as it is not fried and battered but instead broiled or roasted with some herbs
  • Snack: smoothie, fruit, veggies, more water
  • Dinner: steamed veggies, rice, meat here if you chose not to have any for lunch but I would probably focus on the meat during the day, soup, salad, etc more water, fruit
  • PM: lemon water, herbal tea
Photo from Ambitious Kitchen

Try not to eat after 7pm or at least not after dark and get 6-8 hours of sleep a night

Here are a couple of Nicole’s favorite recipes right now (and from one of my favorite blogs!)

Fudgy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Brownies {flourless, gluten free, vegan} from Ambitious Kitchen

Flourless Chocolate Chip Chickpea Blondies with Sea Salt {vegan, gluten-free & healthy} from Ambitious Kitchen

Connect with Nicole: 
Website: Life Thrive Yoga
Facebook Page: Life Thrive Yoga
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