The Pastry Chef Who Is Obsessed With Inversions, Arm Balances, and Hot Yoga

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This is the first in a series of “My Practice” articles, in which we share a glimpse of someone’s unique relationship with yoga.

Clarice Lam is no stranger to busy days. A former-model-turned-chef, Lam recently appeared as a judge on Amazon Prime’s “Dr. Seuss Cooking Competition” and is currently writing her forthcoming cookbook, Breaking Bao, which will be published next year. Amidst the long days of baking, cooking, and conducting research, Lam still makes time for a regular yoga practice.

Lam took her first yoga class in London around 2007. That experience, which she explains was taught in a hot yoga studio, was especially challenging for her because of her scoliosis. “There were a lot of forward folds, and I wasn’t able to move or bend in certain ways that others in the class could,” she wrote in a piece for Yoga Journal in 2020. “But by the end of it, my pain had lessened. After a month of practice, I was stronger, calmer, and officially obsessed.”

But Lam didn’t immediately establish a consistent yoga practice. Shortly afterward, she moved to New York to attend the French Culinary Institute (now known as the International Culinary Center) and fell into an on-again, off-again relationship with her practice. Lam would spend a few months at a studio here or there before eventually dropping off. Other obligations always got in the way.

However, in 2017, the stress of starting her own baking delivery business began to take a physical and mental toll on Lam. “I was swamped with work and the New York City-style of living,” she says. “I just became so super stressed that I really needed to return to yoga. I felt like my body needed yoga. I felt like my mind needed yoga.”

That was the year when she committed to a regular practice. She practiced consistently until 2020, when the pandemic hit. Without in-person classes, Lam fell off of her established routine. But at the start of 2023, she recommitted to her yoga practice.

“It’s so helpful for me to be doing yoga all the time,” she says. “It just stretches out everything and helps me stay as balanced as I possibly can.”

What Clarice Lam’s Practice Looks Like

Lam’s yoga routine has looked pretty much the same in recent months. She attends a morning class at SoFlo Hot Yoga, a studio close to her home in Florida. (Lam splits her time between New York and the Sunshine State.)

During the 75-minute class, Lam focuses much of her attention on her favorite part of her asana practice: inversions and arm balances. While she’s playing around, she turns to some of her tried-and-true loves, including Parsva Bakasana (Side Crow Pose), Scorpion Pose, and Eka Pada Koundinyasana (Hurdler’s Pose). “I think the only one I haven’t completely mastered yet is Handstand, but I think I’m getting there,” she says. In addition to her mornings at the studio, Lam also works on poses outside of a class setting, whether it’s on the grass outside her Florida home or while sharing a mat with her cat, Tuts.

In addition to taking an in-person class, Lam ends her day with restorative poses at home. Lam has learned to deal with myriad skeletal and body issues throughout her life—including scoliosis, hernias, and sciatica—and stretching her spine is critical to alleviate the pain she experiences. Each night, she turns to forward folds or rolling out her back with her yoga wheel before heading to bed.

Why Yoga Is Important to Her

Lam’s approach to yoga is challenging—and that’s part of the reason why she loves it. “Doing Scorpion was a big deal for me because it’s extra hard for me to get into that pose because of my spine issues,” she says. “I feel really proud of myself that I was even able to get into it.”

The hot yoga aficionado is currently focusing her attention on her next challenge pose: Handstand.

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