L.A.-based Donal Skehan is an Irish TV chef and presenter, YouTuber, author of seven cookbooks, and fellow yoga practitioner with an army of passionate followers.
Our Brand Warrior Caleb Packham got some face time with Donal to talk supercharged smoothies, his personal yoga evolution and the exciting prospect of more men embracing the mat.
Prefer to watch the interview video? Just hit play.
What is your yoga story and how did you first get into it?
I always had an interest in it, but I was a bit nervous about it too. When I was about 18 or 19 there was a fantastic guy in Dublin doing classes in St Stephen’s Green, one of the biggest parks in Dublin. He was doing these outdoor yoga classes on Saturday mornings and it was pure peace in the city, which is pretty unusual for Dublin! Just wonderful serenity.
That was the catalyst for me, and I’d say that in the last three years I’ve been realizing the importance of it as part of my balanced lifestyle. One of the big aspects of my life, because it's quite busy, is that I tend to have to carve back a little bit of time in the day, which has been a big lesson to learn. Finding that little space and time for something that is self care, a little bit of self love… yoga is that for me. That’s why I do it.
Donal with his wife Sofie, new baby Noah and dog Max - all regular fixtures of his Instagram account.
Do you see yoga going mainstream with guys, outside of the big cities?
I think its already happening. When I started doing it, at 19, the only people that would come along to a class with me were friends who were girls. Now, it’s the cool thing for guys to do - they're intrigued by it. When I was doing the classes in Ireland, I was one of about 3 guys, but here in Los Angeles there's a much broader split of the sexes. The terrible thing (but I do think it’s changing) is that there's an idea that yoga is more of a female-based exercise. That’s absolutely so far from the truth!
What do you think is the single biggest benefit for men who practice yoga?
Flexibility! I mean, I know that with a lot of the guys that I talk to, flexibility is key. I sit at a desk some days, and I’m on my feet other days, so one of the key things is making sure you don’t get stiff after a day's work. For an instant remedy to that stiffness and the bad posture – yoga hits the nail on the head every time. Moreover, mental wellbeing. Its such a positive experience. For one moment in the day, you’re actually honing in and finding a moment solely focused on one task that makes you feel good. Even if you’re having the worst day, if you stop for an hour, deep breathe and do something that makes you feel good, it really does have a long term benefit.
Donal also dabbles in wild cooking when he gets the chance.
Hot and power yoga can use up a lot of energy; are there any smoothies, or types of food that you would recommend eating pre- and post-yoga?
Absolutely, one of my go-to post-yoga smoothies is frozen bananas – with smoothies it’s best to freeze your bananas because you'll get a much better texture. Throw in wild blueberries, hit it with some spinach. Basically add more spinach than fruit. Then some oats for long-burning energy, some chia seeds, moringa powder, mix it up with a little bit of water and that’s it. I might throw a few dates in there for a bit of sweetness. I try to mix that up with a bit of protein as well - either scrambled eggs or an omelette to go with it, with a load of veggies.
Quite a lot of the yogis we know eat a plant-based diet, what are your thoughts on this?
I think it’s a great thing to do. In the last two or three years I’ve been eating meals that are plant-based, and it tastes fantastic! For a lot of people who worry about that jump from eating meat to being completely vegan and plant-based, I think you can cook plant-based foods in and amongst a meat-eating diet, then slowly but surely make your way towards a plant base. Which is good for everyone - for yourself, for your wellbeing and for the planet.
Watch our full interview with Donal here.