Guatemala: Part 1, Getting to Know The Yoga Forest


I’m baaaaaaack from my spring break trip to Guatemala! I’ve actually been back for a while, but I haven’t had much of a chance to post since the end of senior year of high school is crazy busy.

What’s going on and how’ve you been?! I’ve missed you guys!

Today’s post is the first of three parts of the recap of my trip to The Yoga Forest, a yoga retreat in Guatemala. Let me tell you: it was a grand adventure that I greatly enjoyed! Guatemala is a beautiful place, the people we met were so interesting (in a good way), and the food was quite delicious.

The trip started out on a Wednesday morning at four AM.

Day 1 (of 6 days total)

Beeeeeep beeep beep beep beepbeepbeepbeepbeep. I open my bleary eyes and glance at the clock. Four AM. “Today is the day!” I think. “We’re going to Guatemala!” My excitement gets me out of bed and dressed, and it allows me to hop into the already packed car. My dad drives my mom and I to the airport. We’re quiet in the car, still tired and a bit nervous, but overall pumped for this adventure. We check our bags, go through security, and wait for our 6 AM flight. We board, take off, and land in Atlanta, where we take a connecting flight to Guatemala City. We finally arrive at around 1 PM Guatemala time (two hours behind “my” time). We grab our bags, exchange money, and step outside and into the sweltering heat. A Spanish-speaking shuttle driver awaits to take us from Guatemala City into San Marcos, the town closest to The Yoga Forest. We hop in the van and endure a rough four hour ride through the most pothole-y roads I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. Potholes take up literally half the road.

Below: pictures from our ride from Guatemala City to San Marcos. There were lots of shops, restaurants, and people around. 





Left: “Alto” means “stop” in Spanish. Right: there was a stuffed llama at the gas station we stopped at! At the gas station, workers  pumped your gas for you (just like they used to in the U.S.).100_7374

Below: riding down the pothole-filled mountain road into San Marcos.

When we arrive in San Marcos, the driver points to the nearest mountain pathway and states some of the only english he knows: “Yoga forest.” Okaaaay. Mom and I have no idea where the property actually is in the mountains… so I guess we’ll just walk up the mountain, lugging our bags behind us, until we find it.


We see flowers painted onto rocks, and Mom gets excited because she read online that the painted flowers will lead you to TYF. We huff and we puff through the dense air and up the steep path… and eventually we find it. Huzzah! The gates to The Yoga Forest.


Okay I’m switching tenses here so stick with me.

As soon as we stepped foot onto the property, I felt like I’d opened a book and stepped into a fairytale. Tall trees filled with plump fruits lined a dirt pathway that led us to the steepest rock stairs I’ve ever seen. My mom might have said a bad word or two when she saw how daunting the steps were, especially since we were tired from dragging our bags up a freaking mountain. I felt the warm, tropical-scented air envelop me, and I started to really break out into a sweat as I dragged myself up the last few steps of these stairs which led to the Forest’s rustic buildings.


The buildings were made of natural materials such as wood and bamboo, and some were built into, or at least supported by, the craggy walls of the mountain. Surrounding the buildings were flowers, from tiny pink petals to “angel’s trumpets,” yellow cone-shaped flowers (pictured below). Mom and I were in awe of how eco-friendly but beautiful the main area was. The view was even better than the main area itself- just look at this picture to see for yourself!




The first night we got there, we got settled and enjoyed the first of many delicious dinners prepared by some of the local women. Mom and I were surprised to participate in a Sanskrit meal chant before this meal and every meal after that. We stood in a circle around the food, held hands, and sang the chant. Here’s a picture of the words to the chant (as well as a sneaky pic I took of people getting ready to chant):



Every meal was buffet style, so you could eat as much food as you wanted. I took full advantage of this. I’m not joking when I say I had two servings of every meal. The food was just SO DARN GOOD! The first dinner was veggie “fried” rice, salad with greens from TYF garden, and lemongrass tea with TYF lemongrass. At dinner, we met some of the staff as well as some of the people staying at TYF. We actually sat next to a girl named Ellie at dinner… who happened to be vegan. What a crazy small and unusual world!! The people we met were were friendly and helpful, but also interesting and from all different backgrounds. People staying there came from the U.S.A., Israel, Canada, Malaysia, Australia, Finland, Brazil, Costa Rica… everywhere! Five continents were represented in the short time we were there.

The main dining area.


Above: rinsing dishes. Left: kitty and compost. Right: doggy and avocado. I loved meeting all the animals on the property!

When we finished eating, we others put leftovers in the compost bins and we washed our dishes by first rinsing them in water, then scrubbing them with soap, then soaking them in vinegar, and finally by rinsing them in water and drying them by placing them on a rack. After dinner, we tried out the on-site sauna (pictured below).


Then we unpacked our bags and went to the bathroom that was down a path from our room and up some more steep, rocky stairs. In the bathroom, you did your “business” into a hole with a toilet seat, and then you poured a mixture of sawdust and ash into the hole to help turn the human waste into compost used on the property. Waste not, want not? We went to bed at nine, a.k.a. the designated bedtime when lights go out. I slept better than I had in a long time.

Below is are pictures of the bathroom, which was complete with a sweet quote on the wall, a sink with a view, and the compostable toilet. 


Day 2

I slept through the gong that rings at 6 AM every morning to wake everyone up. I think they would have needed a jackhammer to wake me up this morning because I slept so soundly.


Our room

I slept through meditation, but I wouldn’t dream of missing yoga so I woke up and got ready to go for that. It was a decent vinyasa flow class, but it was very different from what I was used to. The class was an hour and a half but the shavasana within it (the resting pose at the end when people look like they’re sleeping) was twenty minutes long, whereas my normal shavasana is maybe five minutes! Yoga finished and the sound of a gong (the same one that didn’t wake me up) signaled us to the main area for breakfast. Breakfast was…

  • oatmeal with cinnamon, coconut flakes, and the plumpest raisins I’ve ever seen mixed into it
  • fruit (pineapple and papaya plus papaya seeds)
  • toasted bread or homemade tortillas
  • gluten free toasted raisin bread
  • homemade peanut butter


They make the tortillas by boiling the corn and then putting it in a grinder attached to a bicycle, so the pedaler just pedals on the bike to grind up the corn! Then the cornmeal is shaped into tortillas and baked on the stovetop by the local ladies. I got to grind corn to make tortillas one day (pictures below)!

They make peanut butter by salting and roasting peanuts and grinding them up with the same bike grinder machine. The peanut butter is super thick and crumbly because of this, but it still tastes great.

After breakfast, I got stung by a scorpion.

Yup. You read that right. I got stung by a real, living, breathing SCORPION!

I was making the bed in our room, which was on a little raised platform above the floor. I lifted up one of the decorative pillows that goes on the bed from the floor when all of a sudden a big black scorpion leapt off the pillow and stung my thumb! I was so surprised that I shrieked! It felt like a wasp sting, so it didn’t hurt that much, but I was worried that it would be poisonous and that I was going to die!! Spoiler alert: I didn’t die. After all, I’m here publishing this post!


I ran down to the main kitchen area and yelled out, “I just got stung by a scorpion!!!!” Sanni, one of the yoga teacher volunteers at TYF poured vinegar onto the sting and had me soak my thumb in a mug of vinegar while she calmed me down (pictured above). She explained to me that, according to the locals, black scorpion stings are good for you since the venom makes you stronger (cue Kelly Clarkson) by strengthening your immune system.


Plants grown at The Yoga Forest.

After that unexpected incident, Mom and I went on a permaculture tour of TYF property led by one of TYF volunteers! That was much more enjoyable than being stung by a scorpion. We were guided to the goat pen, where we got to hold the baby goats that TYF gets their goat milk from. They were SO SWEET.


We viewed the terraced gardens where the lettuce and herbs for the salads come from.

We interacted with the ducks at the small duck pond, and I got to go into the chicken coop and hang out with the chickens who provide the eggs for breakfast (for the non-vegans)! One pecked my toes because it thought they were food. There were also adorable bunnies.

Finally, we trekked up tall steps to see the “cave” (it was just an open but acoustic space next to the mountain). After our tour, I got to have a deep tissue massage as a spring break treat. It was just what I needed.


At 12:30, the gong for lunch rang so we sang the chant and proceeded to enjoy the best lunch we had at TYF. Homemade falafel with the tortillas I helped make, salad with zucchini, avocado, and greens from the garden, hummus, and homemade dill sauerkraut!

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My mom got a massage after lunch so I decided check out the “contact dance jam” I’d seen posters for around TYF. Never again. It was just too different for me- it made me feel uncomfortable. I walked up to the pavilion where the dance was taking place to find three people- the instructor, our new friend Katie, and an older man- rolling on the floor. The instructor invited me to join them, so I did because I didn’t want to be rude. We rolled on the floor to “warm our bodies up,” then we got up and moved around organically, pretending to first move like we were filled with clay and then pretending to move like we were filled with water. Then we had to interact with other “bodies of water” (others in the group)… and we had to make random noises as we bounced off each other. This was fine, except for when I had to bounce off the older man. He was very physical and very into it. I was not. After this exercise, we partnered up. I immediately ran over to Katie, the most normal person in the group. We both whispered to each other, “What did we get ourselves into” and “Can we leave?”

For this exercise, I had to be a “tree” and Katie had to be an “explorer,” so she had to place different body parts of hers on me and then I had to react (don’t worry, it wasn’t dirty- she just put her elbow on my knee or her hand on my shoulder and I moved towards her touch). Then another woman from San Marcos joined our jam and whipped off her shirt. Basically after that happened I was like “I’m out” and I told the instructor that I had to go to the bathroom… and then I left. It was such a strange experience. Afterwards, I went to my second yoga class of the day- gentle yoga from 4 to 5:30. Yoga > contact dance. Contact dance is a cool idea- good for you if you’ve tried it and like it! It just was NOT my thing. At all.


After yoga, I went to the warm sauna again and showered outside for the first time (pictured above)! It was so cool. Then it was dinnertime: lentil veggie stew, rice, tortillas, hummus, and a giant green salad with tahini dressing. Mom and I loved getting to know the others staying at the yoga forest at dinner. After dinner we got ready for bed and read until “lights out.” I read three books on the trip!


A really awful picture of a really delicious meal.

Join me tomorrow to hear about the second part of my adventure since the trip recap is too long to fit into one post!!

xx Ellie


7 Ways to Incorporate Healthier Habits into Your Day

Seven hours. That’s almost 30% of your twenty-four-hour day. It’s about 50% of the time you spend awake. It’s also the time you spend sitting in a desk at school! Even more time is spent sitting at your desk at home and doing homework (at least in my case). Add that up over a week, a month, and a year… and you realize just how much you end up sitting in your life.

Sorry to be dramatic and throw a bunch of math at you (since you probably already get enough of that at school or work), but it was necessary to show you how much you sit in your life.

I’m here to help you change that (bum bum bum).


Sitting is nice, but too much of it is boring… and not good for you! You need to get your blood flowing by standing up, walking around, and stretching.

Here are seven tips that will help you become healthier at work or at school. Use them to sit less and become healthier and happier! Print out this graphic and use it as a reminder / checklist.

Peanut Butter and Ellie Workplace Hacks.png

1. Take Stretch Breaks

If you’re going to incorporate just one of these tips into your routine, choose this one. It is SO important to stretch, as stretching gets your blood moving and wakes you up. According to chiropractic doctor Simon Floreani, “When muscles stay still the blood pools in the muscles, which makes you feel tired and sluggish.” So that’s why it’s hard to get up after sitting for a while, even if I’ve just been watching Netflix a.k.a. the least strenuous activity ever!

Some stretching is better than no stretching. Even if you have a super busy day, make sure to get in some stretch time, whether it’s by doing tree pose while waiting in line for your lunch, doing walking lunges in the hallway while on a trip to the bathroom, or even by crossing your legs and doing “seated pigeon” while sitting at your desk.


Stretching during beach yoga I did a few summers ago. This stretch feels wonderful.

I often try to incorporate unnoticeable stretches during class so I can get rid of all my excess energy (probably from all the earthy, energy-rich foods I eat!).

My favorite “incognito” stretches: 

  • Seated pigeon– cross your right ankle over and on top of your left knee. Hold it for a minute or so, then switch sides.
  • Spinal twists– sit in your chair and twist to the right, then to the left.
  • Leg lifts– sit in the edge of your chair, engage your abs by tucking in your ribcage, and lift your straight legs up from the floor to chair level and back down again. This exercise is better for the back of the classroom or the office, as it is more noticeable than the others.
  • “Goddess” squat– bring your legs to opposite sides of your chair and squat just above your chair.
  • Chair pose (how fitting)- Place your feet together and hover just above your chair in a chair squat position. It should still look like you’re sitting in your chair- but you’re actually not! Hold this for as long as you can.

2. Get Your Sweat On

Even if you don’t have much time in your day to work out, at least take a walk or a ten minute stretch break (since you now know how good stretching is for you). Work out before or right after school or work. The longer you wait to work out, the harder it will be (motivation-wise).


Getting my “sweat on” during tennis with my BFF Emily

3. Involve Your Peers

  • Get your friends and seat partners to do incognito stretches with you! If nothing else, it will give you something to talk and (maybe) laugh about.
  • Get your peers to eat healthy snacks. You can do this by bringing healthy snacks into them if you have the time and feel like being extra nice.
  • Group fitness, through clubs and classes, is great because it allows you to get your sweat or stretch on and socialize at the same time!
    • For school: Start or join the workout clubs at your school. We have a workout room that you can go to after school, as well as a yoga club, so you can sweat with other gym or yoga junkies. On this same note, don’t slack off in gym class if you have it just because you’re afraid to get sweaty. Gym is a prime way to get your sweat on with classmates!
    • For work: See if your work offers fitness classes to employees. For example, I know a hospital in my town offers yoga classes to its employees during lunch.

4. Stay Hydrated

HAVE A REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES. The previous sentence was in caps because it’s just so important. Having a water bottle helps you make sure that you’re drinking enough water. The goal should be for you to go through at least two water bottles full of water in a school or work day. I go through about four (two during lunch alone). I keep a water bottle in my backpack.

5. Take A Walk

Take a walk whenever you have the chance. Throw in some stretching as you walk for good measure.


Walking around in Hong Kong during my trip to Asia last holiday break. Notice the reusable water bottle in my backpack!

6. Keep Healthy Snacks Handy

You feel better when you eat better, so stock up on healthy snacks and keep them in your backpack, locker, or desk.

My favorite healthy snacks are…

On a similar note, fuel up with a nutritious breakfast such as a green smoothie, protein-packed oatmeal, or a sweet (but healthy-ish) baked good. Good, healthy food will keep you full and ready to focus on work.

7. Take the Stairs


…but maybe not these stairs at Angkor Wat in Cambodia if you don’t want to since they’re a little really steep.

Also ride your bike and walk instead of driving (I wish I did this more).


There you have it! Seven simple ways you can incorporate healthier habits into your day. Thank you so much to for the colorful graphic! Check out their website for healthy snacks and more tips on how to stay healthy at work and at school.

Have a healthy day!
xx Ellie

DIY Gym with Items around the House

I think working out should be FREE. That way, everyone can get into shape regardless of whether or not they have a gym membership! I’m a big fan of workouts that you can do anywhere with anything. I like running, ab workouts, and yoga because they require no equipment and you can do them literally ANYWHERE. I’ve been wanting to expand my blog for a while now to include a fitness section, because fitness plays an important role in my life AND fitness and food go hand-in-hand (work OUT to eat OUT)! So, when Kelsey from Modernize (a home design company) approached me and asked if I’d be interested in sharing a simple workout you can do at home with items you have laying around the house…I said OF COURSE! I filmed myself doing the workout so you can read how to do the exercises (below) and then do them with me! I hope you enjoy this little workout! I like it because you can do it anywhere at any time!

DIY Gym with Items around the House  By Hannah West

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Via Modernize

It seems like there are two options when it comes to getting regular exercise: join a gym or buy equipment for your own home workout room. But you don’t need to drop hundreds to thousands of dollars to get in shape. Lo and behold, there’s a third option! You can pull off a DIY gym with items that are already hanging out in your house. Your workout room may not be full of fancy machines, but it will certainly get the job done. Here are few ideas for an easy and free home gym. Bench or Chair  A sturdy bench or chair is one of the most versatile workout tools out there. Like squats with weights, chair exercises tend to give every muscle group its due attention. Make sure your chair is sturdy and won’t slide across the floor. On hardwood, this may mean installing foam flooring or a mat that grips the slick surface. DIY-ing your gym doesn’t mean skimping when it comes to safety. Once you have your chair securely in place, here are a few exercises you can try:

  • Chair Leg Raises: First, place the chair next to you, facing the same way as you. Place your left hand on the back for support while lifting your right leg as high as you comfortably can. Repeat as many times as you want before switching to the other hand/leg.
  • Leg Lift and Twist: Sit near the edge of your chair (but not too close) and cross your arms over your chest. With your back straight, lift one leg straight up while keeping the other on the floor. Rotate your torso in the direction of the leg that you’re lifting, and switch from right to left after each lift.
  • One Leg Dips: Stand with your back to the chair or bench. Stand about two feet away from it and place one foot on the chair, with the top pressed against its surface. Dip down by bending the standing leg. Do this as many times as necessary before switching to the other side.

Gallon Jugs Clean two empty gallon jugs and fill them with sand to make “poor man’s (or woman’s) dumbbells.” The advantage to working out with milk jugs versus a machine is that machines do a lot of the balancing for you, while working out with milk jugs teaches smaller, tertiary muscles that are needed for balance to work a little harder. If you need to work your way up to a full jug, you can always start with half gallons. Use your jugs for squats, curls, lunges–pretty much anything you can normally do with dumbbells, you can also do with jug weights. Bath Towel  Surprisingly, you can efficiently work out several muscles groups with nothing but a bath towel. A bath towel can work a lot like a resistance band and is great for toning if you perform the exercises right.

  • Single Leg Squat with Towel: stand with your feet together and place one foot on top of the towel. Slide the towel slowly out to the side, and slide it back in, squatting with the other leg while doing so. Do each side for 30 seconds.
  • Shoulder Hold: Grab a large towel and step on one end. With your palm facing down, grasp the towel and hold it at arm’s length. Bend your knees slightly and keep your feet shoulder width apart. Hold the tension at 45 degrees for 30 seconds, then switch sides and repeat. Do this set twice.

Duffel Bag If you want to get old school, grab a sturdy duffel bag that can take some abuse. Fill a trash bag with sand, wrap it with duct tape, and place it inside the bag. You now have a heavy-duty, nothing fancy workout tool. You can squeeze it against your chest and run in place. You can press it overhead. You can use it as a medicine ball by laying on the floor, lifting it from your chest, and doing a situp. These few simple items come with endless ways to get your muscles working hard. Next time you’re rushing to get to your local gym before work or watching an infomercial for an elaborate workout machine, look around your house instead–and head over to for more home gym ideas.

Thanks to Modernize for the workout, and thanks to you for reading! I hope this guideline helped you have a KILLER workout in your DIY home gym!

xx Ellie

How To Get A Spring Break Body

Spring Break. Those two words alone are great. Juxtaposed together, they create something magical.

My spring break, when I get a week off school (!!!), is two weeks from now. But the party began this past Sunday with the start of Spring Break V!

Spring Break V, created by Aileen from Morsels and Moonshine, is a week long “fun, vegan campaign that highlights fresh recipes, spring break fitness, spring break fashion, and travel.” I’m excited to be a part of it! (Side note: click HERE to see what other cool blogs are participating!)

One of the first things I think about when I think of spring break is the beach. I guess it’s just because that’s where most people go for spring break. Anyway, whether or not you’re going to the beach, it’s (finally!) time to start thinking about summer and swimsuits!

I want to feel confident in my swimsuit (you probably do too!). A great way to feel confident is to feel healthy and strong. I feel healthy when I eat well and exercise! Eating whole, plant-based foods + exercising often = the keys to health, happiness, and AWESOMENESS.

So, my advice to you as you prepare for what will be the best spring break EVER:

1. Throw those potato chips in your lap out the window.

Or in the trash. Or flush them down the toilet. It really doesn’t matter HOW you dispose of them as long as you get rid of them!


Literally (or just figuratively) KICK junk / processed food out of your diet. Your body will thank you (after the initial cravings subside)! 

But seriously, cut the processed crap outta your diet. The excess sodium in processed foods, especially chips, causes bloating. And I don’t think you want to look like THIS on Spring Break. Choose yummy and healthy snacks instead of icky junk food that never expires. Great healthy snacks are fruit, veggies and hummus,  homemade trail mix, energy bites, veggie chips, and homemade potato chips like these! Your body will thank you if you swap the junk for whole foods! Cut the crap, and get a six-pack!*

*Well, you need to do ab workouts to get a six-pack, but eating “clean” will definitely help you get a flatter tummy and a six-pack sooner!

Speaking of ab workouts…


Work out to rock out! Exercising releases endorphins, so you always feel better after you exercise. It also leads to a chiseled body.

7ead69f68abc768d94187c5c8ba59aa0 BUT REMEMBER…


Feel motivated? Well, if you’re just not motivated to work out at all, remember…


SO put on some workout clothes and then you might feel ready to work it out!

Below are a few ab workouts that I’ve been doing for a month or two. I typically do two or three of these every other day. I’ve noticed drastic results since I started doing the ab workouts from these videos! Now I can see my abs, which I am super happy about!  If you want defined ab muscles, you’ve clicked on the right link! These videos are short and sweet. They range from five minutes to ten minutes long, so they only take up .0069% of your day! They’re fun to do because the trainer, Rebecca Louise from X HIIT, is fun and encouraging. She makes you want to do the workout. She makes you WORK HARD to GET RESULTS. You feel really proud of yourself when you finish the workout, too! So try one or three and see how it goes! Let me know if you try them and if you like them!

And for some extra fun, here are three awesome booty workouts!

Have a great spring break! I hope these workouts help you feel strong and confident for spring break and beyond! Also, check out the rest of the Spring Break V posts to get more cool spring break ideas!

Happy Friday!

XX Ellie

P.S.- Anyone have any fun weekend plans? Our tennis team has our first invitational on Saturday! We are driving an hour tonight to get to it, staying the night in a hotel, and playing tennis all day Saturday! Yay for tennis and team bonding! Have a great weekend!

P.P.S.- The pictures in this post are from Pinterest.

This post is part of Spring Break V, a collaboration among vegan and veg-friendly bloggers. Follow along on social media at #SpringBreakV. Want to learn more or become a contributor? Find out more here.