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For TV chef Laura Calder, yoga feeds the spirit

TV chef Laura Calder practices yoga with instructor Nancy Sudano in Toronto’s High Park, June 11, 2012.

Moe Doiron/Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

For creating a peaceful life – and toned legs through yoga – Laura Calder, host of Food Network's French Food at Home and cookbook author, seeks a recipe for routine.

The 42-year-old from Saint John, wrapped her second season as judge on Recipe to Riches in February. Between the release of her third book Dinner Chez Moi in September and Christmas, when she starred in a one-hour pilot for a new French food travel show, her yoga practice simmered on the back burner.

"My body loves yoga; it loves falling into a pattern it knows."

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Three years ago, Ms. Calder started Ashtanga, an athletic form of yoga comprising a set of postures, four times a week. But the consequence of travelling for work is that she spends a lot of time wining and dining. Now 10 pounds heavier than her feel-good weight, she wants to feed her spirit.

My goal

To have a routine for life. Yoga is about trying to reduce stressful feelings of having no centre; I'm base-less. If I'm going to be in Vancouver for two months, then France for two months, a month in New Brunswick, and a week in Toronto, I don't need an apartment. So I put my things in storage a year and a half ago.

My workout

I do Ashtanga yoga and go to Octopus Garden Holistic Yoga Centre or Downward Dog while I'm in Toronto.

So far I've done it twice this week. I'm trying to figure out how to do it more.

I can practise myself, but everything I do in my life is by myself; I have to be self-motivated to write a book or come up with a TV project or ideas. I want one thing where someone will tell me what to do. I can't stand practising to a DVD.

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I want to practise three times a week. I want to feel like I'm in a church because I like the feeling of certain studios that as soon as you step in there, you're better. I never go to a gym, which is cold, aggressive with other-planetary-looking machines. But in a yoga studio it's calm and peaceful.

Walking I can do anywhere, and I cover three kilometres daily.

My lifestyle

I get up in the morning and make four cups of two kinds of tea: King Cole from New Brunswick – I never go anywhere without it – and Pukka Detox tea to cleanse and revive!

While I sip tea, I check e-mails, connect with my manager in London, my editor here, my TV people in Montreal or New York, sometimes I do interviews.

Next I eat out, catching up with colleagues. When I eat lunch at home I eat pastas or salads made up of leftovers.

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Then I do a big walk or go to yoga before I return to work.

Dinner I take seriously. I won't touch any meat that is not from a butcher I know because of the hormones, and the treatment of animals from production is something I'm not going to have anything to do with it. I place my vote with my fork.

Usually I make lots of vegetables and fish. Once a week I make red lentil soup. Desserts I don't eat unless people are over for dinner, and then I love poached pear.

My temptation

I don't have a single food that I eat too much.

My original motivation

I've always had energy to burn off. If I don't do something every day, my mind goes crazy, which is why I ran every day in my 20s. I stopped running when I moved to rural France in 2003 and started walking. I thought, 'I can do this forever.'

My anthem


My challenge

Routine. Ironically, yoga is the one thing I could do to give myself routine. I can only blame myself. How can I make yoga part of my life, but not my whole life?

The critique

Develop 'tapas'

Eoin Finn, founder of Blissology in Vancouver, says Ms. Calder must develop "tapas" – the ancient Indian Sanskrit term for determination in relaxed state.

Establish consistent routine

Ms. Calder needs to set a predictable practice time. Sessions locked into a time will bolster her feelings of stability as it reduces her anxiety.

"Ashtanga yoga is the same series easily adapted to a 30-minute routine designed to be practised in a hotel room or grassy city park. I suggest 10 a.m. so Laura can get work done, connect with Londoners, eat breakfast and then take a yoga break before lunch."

Up weekly sessions

Mr. Finn says adding short sessions often will anchor the feeling of centredness.

"Laura should practise at a studio three days a week and practise short sessions at home twice a week. Two of the five sessions should be the standing poses of Ashtanga with the closing series of shoulder stand and breathing exercises, concluding with relaxation."

This interview has been condensed and edited.

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