12/08/2011 08:02 am ET

'Why I Love Yoga'

By Deborah Dunham for Blisstree.com

Continuing with their weekly column, "That Girl", Blisstree.com is celebrating the accomplishments of real women who make health and fitness a priority because they know that true athletes come in all shapes, sizes, ages and athletic abilities from around the world. So this week celebrate Kella Vangsness, who says that yoga and a healthy diet to stave off numerous food allergies have gotten her healthy, balanced and focused on doing as much as she can for as long as she can.

Name: Kella Vangsness
Age: 23 years old
Hometown: New York
Occupation: Orthopedic researcher at NYU Hospital of Joint Disease

Fitness/health accomplishment you are most proud of:
My biggest accomplishment has been learning to get a hold of my health through focusing on being in the right mindset. Every day I wake up and tell myself that I can do it, because it's only mental. I have severe food allergies and the last few years have felt like an uphill battle. If I don't stay focused things could be dangerous. It takes a balancing act and that is why I can call it my biggest life accomplishment. My biggest fitness accomplishment was running for the first time after my hip surgery. The thought of running felt so scary, like I would re-tear everything again. Instead it felt freeing. It was that moment that it finally hit me: My injury will not be around forever. I can keep moving.

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What inspires you to get fit every day?
My future and inner calmness is my daily inspiration. I want to "live as much as I can for as long as I can," as my dad says. There's no way any of this could happen if I didn't have that inspiration.

What do you do when you don't feel like working out?
The battle of "I should, but I don't want to" feeling will never disappear, but knowing that I can escape everything that's going on around me, even if it's just for a 30 minutes, is a gift. I carry my workout clothes with me most days and when it comes time to decide, I'll peek into my bag and tell myself "you're really going to carry these around all day and not go? C'mon girl, you know you really want to." And then I'll put on some music and head to the gym.

Favorite energizing meal:
Because of my food allergies (some are wheat, nuts and dairy), a lot of health barriers I've had to conquer involve how to keep from getting hungry or not getting faint during exercise. The one food that keeps everything stable has to be raisins. To me, they're the most perfect food in the world. They're powerful enough to hold me over and easy enough to carry around.

What's your favorite way to chill post-workout?
My after-workout relaxation routine starts with walking home from the gym because I like to feel the benefits of what I just did. I hate the idea of going from an intense blood pumping activity to being cramped in the subway. So I'll walk home, make some peppermint tea and then call a girlfriend. It's the perfect night.

What is your top kick-ass workout?
My top kick-ass workout is definitely a capoeira class. I used to train capoeira four times a week for about two hours a day. There's no other workout I've been able to find like it! It's acrobatic, social, musical, everything you could want in an activity.

Where is your favorite/most unique place you've ever run?
The most unique place I've ever worked out would be taking a run through the woods in the archipelagos and training capoeira on the beach in Rio de Janeiro. My favorite place? My packed and intimate third-floor walk-up 20 x 15 foot yoga studio.

What's the biggest lesson you've learned through sports?
The biggest lesson I've learned is how to be myself, be present and be calm. There's nothing that can replace what sports can give you. It's this journey that is overwhelming, frustrating, emotional, fun, perplexing and so incredibly personal.