Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist

I just heard about this book by Michael J Fox, who got the Parkinson's disease in 1991 at the age of 30. It's called "Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist".

Just the name of the book gives me a heartache. It's incredible how Fox can continue to be so brave and go on to start a foundation to fight the Parkinson's disease. Here's an interview given by Fox which gives an insight to his thinking.

"Success is determined by how you handle setbacks." - Anon

An Open Letter to Daughter

Last Sunday was Father’s Day. How did you spent yours with your dad?

Most likely it doesn’t have anything to do with yoga, since the gender imbalance in yoga learners is a little pronounced. In fact, according to this 2008 survey by Yoga Journal only 28% of yoga learners in America are men.

What is it with fathers nowadays? First, the belated Randy Pausch had to write an amazing tear-jerking book (The Last Lecture) dedicated to his children before he died of cancer. Now, Jim Rogers, a lead investment guru who co-founded a fund with George Soros also wrote a book for his children. Titled “A Gift to My Children: A Father's Lessons for Life and Investing", this handy little book dispenses wise advice such as:

  • Focus on what you like (hey, good news for us hardcore yoga addicts!)
  • Be persistent (that sounds like the mantra for us too!)
  • See the world: In 1990, Rogers traveled through six continents by motorcycle. (Now, when are we going to make that trip to India?)
  • Nothing is really new: anything deemed “innovative” or “unprecedented” is usually just overhyped, as in the case of the Internet or TV (probably good advice given the plethora of new yoga styles that we see nowadays)
  • And Boys will need you more than you’ll need them (great advice from a father!)

Speaking of parents, the newest yoga fad sweeping across the globe is Yoga for parent and baby or postpartum yoga. The exercises range from simple wriggling of the baby’s hands and toes to doing full yoga poses like the plank with the baby lying on the mat between your hands.

While this yoga is targeted more at new moms (who enjoys the double benefits of getting back into shape while spending precious bonding time with the baby), there is nothing stopping sensitive new age fathers from trying it out with their son / daughter too. If you are interested, you should check out the Baby Om: Yoga for Mothers and Babies, a great book by Laura Staton and Sarah Perron. Here’s a little sneak peek at five Baby Om mini-workout that you can try out.

Have Fun!

YogaPalooza 2009

If you are staying in San Francisco, you are in luck! YogaPalooza 2009 is back again.

This is an annual event organised by Yoga Bear, a non-profit organisation that provide cancer survivors with alternative rehabilitation through yoga practice. They have lined up a group of fantastic yoga teachers for the day. So why not try out a new yoga teacher, and do good deeds at the same time?

A little sidetrack here. I love the word "Palooza"... The word just seems to roll off the tongue and imply something fantastic. Curious, I went to google for this word. Fascinatingly, wiktionary has a definition for it:

  1. An exaggerated event.

Wiktionary even provided some quotations on the word. Reproduced some of them here:

  • 2002, Darin Strauss, The Real McCoy, A Novel, Dutton, ISBN 0525946519, page 97
    It was not a rumor, not merely news item, or talk, or fad. It became a palooza beyond even Johnnie Gold’s desires—a wonderment scattering far and wide out of the spacious mouth of the sky, billowing everywhere and expanding forever.
  • 2005, John Lithgow, “Boredom Blasters”, “Rainy Day Fun Edition”, Running Press, ISBN 0762422122, page 5
    That’s a palooza, in a nutshell: flexing your creative muscles to make your own fun. So have a go at one or all of these, and don’t say I didn’t warn you—once you get a taste of doing a palooza, you’ll go from wondering what you’re going to do all day to wondering where all the time went!
Now, with a name like that, I'm sure the YogaPalooza will be a great success!

Father’s Day Gifts for Yoga Loving Dads

It will be father’s day round the corner soon. If you have a yoga loving dad, you will need to start cracking your brains over what to buy for him.

Some great suggestions to kick start your brainstorming:

1) Wii Fit Yoga Mat
For dads who just cannot get enough of their yoga, maybe they can try a wii fit yoga mat. At the very least, they can get a kick out of creating their own avatar (called a Mii) and seeing the avatar perform yoga poses on screen.

2) Nasal Cleansing Pot (Neti Pot)
Remember this was the craze in the yoga community just a few years back? With increasing pollution in our environment, it is important for us to keep our sinuses free and clean. Daily nasal irrigation will help your dad prevent nasal congestion and respiratory illnesses. It is one of the purification techniques performed prior to practicing yoga as a way of preparing the body for the yoga practice.

3) Manduka BlackMatPRO 71-Inch Yoga and Pilates Mat
Did I mention I love Manduka Black Mat Pro? This Ferrari of yoga mats offers the best comfort and cushion. Just spreading the mat and standing on it gives me a thrill. I’m sure dad will appreciate such practical gifts!

4) Yoga Anatomy
This book is chock-full of facts and knowledge about yoga postures and their relation to the various parts of the body. Great for fathers who love to know the science behind every asana.

5) Amazon Gift Card
Or why not just buy him an amazon gift card? You buy almost anything from Amazon nowadays, anyway, including top yoga products from Manduka, Hugger Mugger and more.

Baby Yoga

This is just so hilarious!

10 Popular Yoga Blogs

I came across this list of 10 Popular Yoga Blogs on

According to this site, 10 popular sites include (in no order):

I had a blast of time surfing all these blogs. They are all so different - ranging from formal corporate blogs to gossipy, chit-chatty ones. Have added some of my favourite ones on the sidebar.

Of course, I haven't wasted the time to submit my own blog to the site as well. Am now fervently praying that a miracle will occur and they will add me to their list...
Hello? Are you sure if you have never heard of Yoga Radio???

Playfulness in Yoga: Have Great Fun!

Having fun is a BIG philosophy of my life. I love going for roller coaster and Viking rides, and I love trying out new things from salsa to cooking.

That’s how I started learning yoga. I got curious about it. I wondered why yoga studios are mushrooming, why my friends are raving about yoga, and what is yoga actually?? Is it just about twisting yourself into a pretzel, and chanting om?

I’ll leave that thought to another blog post (it sounds like a great philosophical piece). But today, I wanted to share all the funny, wacky yoga stuff that I found…

Find No 1. Yoga Cookies!

This just brings a great big smile to my face. It’s so utterly silly and adorable.

Find No. 2. Yoga Comics: Adventures of a Yoga Boy

Don’t you just find some of the poses we do and the things that happen in yoga class absolutely hilarious? So it’s no wonder that there’s yoga comics! Chris Panico draws some great cartoons. Hope he continues to keep up his good work.

Find No 3. YogaDawg
And while I was checking out the comments from Chris’ page, I found another great link! This is an irreverent website for some silly fun if you have time to spare.

Hey, posting this is great fun! Maybe I will try to continue with a second post on fun yoga things soon.

What other fun yoga stuff have you come across? Please share with me if you have some great recommendations!

Blogging for a Cause: Help Yoga Bear to Win $6K Just by Blogging About Them

The other time I blogged about this great non-profit organisation called Yoga Bear that helps cancer patients by providing free yoga lessons to them.

Well, this time, it is Yoga Bear that needs our help!

As part of Zemanta’s Blogging for a Clause campaign, the charitable cause that has the most number of blog entries by different bloggers will get a prize money of $6,000. This amount means a lot to a non-profit organisation like Yoga Bear, which is run entirely by volunteer staff.

You have until the end of the day on the 6th of June (Midnight GMT) to Blog For A Cause though. So, catch the train (and spread the word) fast!

This blog post is part of Zemanta's Blogging For a Cause campaign to raise awareness and funds for worthy causes that bloggers care about.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” – from the Yoga Bear website

Keep Showing Up

Now that I have started blogging, I realize just how hard it is to create and maintain a succesful blog.

Surfing around other fellow bloggers' website, I hit upon this great clip by Elizaberth Gillbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, who is also a fellow yogini. In this clip, she talks about how she deals with creativity, and how one of the key things in life is to keep showing up.

Practice Yoga Outdoors!

In the mountains, at the parks, at the beach, under the moonlight…

There are so many places outdoor for yoga lovers to practice yoga, especially for those yogis in the northern hemisphere who are enjoying their beautiful springtime. For those who are hesitating to take your practice outdoors, here’s a tongue-in-check list of reasons why you should hesitate no more!

Reasons why you should practice yoga outdoors

1. Impress the passerbys with your impossible yoga pose!
2. Spread the love of yoga to complete strangers in the park
3. Show off your yoga clothes (and great figure in the spandex too!)
4. Make your yoga practice more interesting
5. Become truly grounded in your asanas
6. More motivation for you to reach your fullest towards the sky
7. More fresh air for your long, deep breathes
8. More negative ions for your lungs
9. Connect with nature
10. Feel more alive
11. Engage your sense of smell - breathe in the sweet smell of grass
12. Truly perform a sun salutation!
13. Natural music for your ears
14. No cost involved
15. Feel the peace…

Ok, enough nonsense for now. If you haven’t tried practicing yoga outdoors, you should really try it.

Tips for practicing yoga outdoors
  • Join an outdoor yoga club. That’s the easiest way to start your practice. These clubs may be run professionally, but more often than not, they are organized by yoga enthusiasts who just can’t seem to get enough of yoga. Check around your local neighbourhood. There may already be yoga clubs near your parks or beaches.
  • Find a good spot! If you prefer not to join a club, there’s no stopping you from practicing yoga in the comforts of your own backyard or the park near your place. Just find a nice, comfy spot that is fairly level, and shaded from the sun.
  • Early morning is the best. The birds start to sing, the grass is still damp from dew, and there is a sense of peace of just breathing in the scent. Early morning also makes the most practical sense if you are living in a hot climate and the weather is the coolest in the morning.
  • Don’t get distracted. People may walk past your spot, or an ant may crawl on your mat. Just do your own stuff and get deeper into your own practice. If you are the sort that prefer not to be in the limelight, find a quiet spot where you know there is not much traffic.

Should Christians or Muslims do Yoga?

I have friends who are devout Christians or Muslims, and they ask me if they should be doing yoga. “Is yoga religious?” they ask.

My first reaction to that question is: “Of course not!” But when I had the time to think seriously about this topic, I am not that sure of the answer.

Yoga is a unique form of exercise. It does not focus purely on the physical aspects, but also on the spiritual aspect of the mind. In fact, the term “yoga” is derived from the Sanskrit root “yuj”, which means “to join” or “to unite”. This is taken to mean the union of the self with the mind, which makes yoga sound like a spiritual practice.

That said, yoga does not seek to explicitly promote itself as a spiritual practice. The yoga that is being taught in studios nowadays is usually harmless forms of stretching and breathing. There is no ulterior motive behind teaching these postures.

This, to me, is a very crucial point. To use an analogy, if a Buddhist friend invites a Christian or Muslim to share a vegetarian meal with him, he or she is not using the opportunity to convert the Christian / Muslim to a different religion. The Christian or Muslim can safely partake in the meal, even on a regular basis, without any danger of being converted, if he or she is strong in his faith.

Personally, I think it would be good for devout Christians or Muslims to practice yoga, if only to promote an understanding of others’ beliefs. There can be many other external influences, such as movies or songs, that can affect a person’s core beliefs. There is no way a person can be protected from all these influences. On the other hand, we should promote tolerance, understanding and diversity in thinking. Being exposed to a practice that has some roots in Hinduism, albeit 4000 years ago, would help a little towards that goal.

The Last Lecture

I'm reading a wonderful book called "The Last Lecture", by Randy Pausch.

It is a real life story of a Carnegie Mellon professor, who gave his last lecture called “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” while fighting pancreatic cancer.

For those of you who are fighting hard, may you find inspiration and courage from Randy's story.

For the rest of us, read the book too! It's really a classic...

Alternatively, you can watch his last lecture on the youtube. The clip is 1 hour 16 min, but it is even more inspiring than his book. Watch it till the end, you'll be suprised by the ending...

YogaBear: Free Yoga Classes for Cancer Survivors

I have just found a wonderful website. It’s called Yoga Bear, and it helps to provide free yoga classes to cancer survivors.

Yoga is a great therapeutic exercise as it is relatively gentle compared to other cardiovascular exercises like running or kickboxing. More than this, in that one to two hours of yoga lessons, learners experience a soothing sense of peace. This is surely something that the cancer survivors sorely need, as they had just gone through a rather trying and worrisome period of their life.

What is more wonderful about YogaBear is that it also acts as a connecting platform for cancer survivors, yogis and volunteers. It acts as a community of friends, available for people to share their experience or just provide words of encouragement.

The only regretful thing is that currently the yoga lessons offered is limited to classes in the United States. Perhaps if the program is successful enough, the movement will be spread to other countries. Or perhaps, if you are a cancer survivor, you may like to start a movement in your own country!

For those who would just like to support the movement, you can make donations or buy a tee-shirt from them. Or, you can just help to spread the word around by blogging about YogaBear or telling your friends about this inspiring non-profit organisation.

How to buy an eco-friendly yoga mat: Some Buying Tips

Considering that yoga practitioners come into contact with our yoga mats so often, it is quite important for us to choose a yoga mat that is environmentally friendly. But do we go about choosing an eco-friendly yoga mat?

Some handy tips for choosing a good eco-friendly yoga mat:

1) Non-PVC. An environmentally friendly yoga mat does not contain PVC, or polyvinyl choloride. What’s so bad about PVC? Well, PVC is unique in its high chlorine and additives content, which have been linked to cancers, endocrine disruption, endometriosis, neurological damange, birth defects, impaired child development and reproductive and immune system damage. So be afraid, very afraid, of PVC.

2) Smell. Many of the environmentally friendly yoga mats have a strong smell. This may go off after you sun the mat for a few hours, or after your mat is seasoned. However, if you really find the smell offensive, make this a criteria when choosing your mat.

3) Allergy. Eco-friendly yoga mats are usually made of natural rubber, plant fiber ( jute, hemp, and cotton) or alternative plastics (such as polymer environmental resin or “PER”, and thermoplastic elastomers or “TPE). Unfortunately, some people are allergic to natural rubber. So if you are one of the unfortunate souls, natural rubber yoga mats are out for you.

4) Cost. While the cost of eco-friendly yoga mats has decreased recently due to the proliferation of these mats, the price can be slightly higher than a normal yoga mat. So shop around for a good yoga mat online before you make your decision.

What makes a great yoga student

Here's my own personal list ...

1. Be punctual.
2. Respect your teachers.
3. Wear the proper yoga clothing.
4. Stay till the end of the class.
5. Try your best to do those asanas.
6. Ask questions at the end of the class.
7. Practice at home.
8. Come to class regularly.
9. Have an open mind.
10. Be eager to learn.
11. Observe what others are doing (but don’t compare!)
12. Listen to what your body is telling you.
13. Enjoy the music.
14. Enjoy the movements.
15. Maintain grace and flow.
16. Be mindful of your breathe.
17. Stretch yourself (both mentally and physically)
18. Give other fellow students enough space.
19. Make friends.
20. Most of all, have fun. Yoga’s a relaxing activity, not the opposite!

(PS. This is not my photo... in case you were wondering. =P)

How to teach yoga to kids

These days, parents are making their children all sorts of fancy things like ballet, piano and singing. I don’t know about you, but I feel that children should be children. They should be allowed to sing and dance and shout as they please, not follow some professional courses that stress them out.

Having this sort of mentality, I have always scoffed at the idea of yoga for kids. I mean, how do you make the kids hold still long enough for their asanas?

Well, it seems like the approach for teaching yoga to kids should be highly tailored to their needs.

For children below the age of 7, the focus should be more on getting them excited about yoga. That means a lot of movement and imagination in the class. The good thing is that yoga has such great postures with origins from animal poses, such as the Cobra, Downward-facing Dog, Fish and Crow. The best yoga classes for kids create stories around these postures, or encourage children to make animal noises as they explore these poses.

Another great tip is to talk to children at their level. Use simple words that they understand. For example, instead of saying “asanas”, use words like “poses” or “postures”, or simply “please do this” and demonstrate the pose to your kids instead. However, this does not mean talking down to the kids. Children have an innate intelligence, and sometimes ask some great questions in class. Welcome their questions, and answer them patiently, and let them co-create their classes.

Incidentally, yoga is also a great activity for a parent to do with their kids. Children love to see their parents getting down on their fours (literally getting down to the child’s level!) and doing all sorts of funny poses with them. Do the practice with love and do it often, and children will come to associate yoga with a great time with papa or mummy.

The Mental Diet ... clear your mind

Have you heard of the Mental Diet?

It’s this concept first mooted by Emmet Fox, an author who published a book in 1935 called the “The Seven Day Mental Diet”. His idea was incredibly simple. Go on a mental diet for 7 consecutive days where you do not dwell on a single negative thought.

Curious, I looked up the mental diet on the web. I hit upon this blog of a person who decided to go on a 12 month mental diet! The blog chronicled his experience in this period of time. He’s at Day 96 now.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I think the guy should start practising yoga. It complements his “diet” perfectly. Yoga is a practice that quiets the mind. In the one or two hours when I practice, I always feel an absolute sense of peace… (especially at the end of the practice when we are doing our “corpse pose”… =P).

How does yoga do this?

According to this article, the key is in the breathing. Apparently, there are two nervous systems in the human body: sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic, commonly known as the "fight or flight" system, causes “the blood pressure to rise, the breath rate to quicken, and stress hormones to flood into the body”. Yoga, on the other hand, requires us to take long, deep breathes. This encourages the actions of our parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers our blood pressure.

In short, the quality of the breath affects the quality of our mind. The slower our breath, the quieter our mind will be.

In fact, yoga emphasizes the art of breathing so much that there is a special term for this practice, called the pranayama. This is a Sanskrit word meaning “lengthening of the breathe”.

The simple practice of slow breathing allows the yoga practitioner to make the mind still, and eliminate any negative thoughts that constantly dogs our daily life.

That said, I think the idea of a “Seven day mental diet” is great! Besides the one or two hours of yoga practice, perhaps we can also take up this commitment to clear our minds of negative thoughts for seven consecutive days. I am sure it will clear your mind of any mental clutter, and make you a better person.

When the Breath wanders, the mind is unsteady, but when the Breath is still, so is the mind still." - Hatha Yoga Pradipika

How to avoid getting sick while attending yoga classes

My work place is starting to impose anti-swine flu measures. Each employee is given a flu kit, and we are supposed to measure our temperature before we attend any meetings.

This sets me thinking. How can we avoid getting sick while attending yoga classes? Especially for hot yoga where there's so many hot bods in a room?

Here are my top 5 best ways to avoid getting sick while still attending our favourite yoga classes:

1. Firstly, read the World Health Organization website. It helps to know more about the disease, so you can distinguish the facts from rumours. Many of our fears could be unfounded.

2. Wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly and often. This is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of infection.

3. Stay away when are you sick. This is common sense even when there is no swine flu around. If you are not feeling well, don’t turn up for the class! If you just happen to sneeze or cough in the class, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue. Also, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

4. Drink lots of water. Water helps to flush out toxins and water products from the body. So form the good water habit.

5. Lastly, continue practicing yoga! The best prevention is a strong immunity system. And what better way to keep fit than yoga? Better still, practice laughter yoga so you can stay healthy and stress free.

Wishing you good health and happiness.


Great Yoga Music on the Web

For those who are looking to find great yoga music on the web, these are some of the good finds on the net.

Yoga Radio (Free Yoga Music)

Sahaja Yoga Radio: The site offers free sahaja yoga music. Sahaja is a type of yoga meditation technique. This is quite a well run website, complete with a full list of songs, podcasts and a blog too.

YogaMates: One of the best loved yoga communities on the internet offers a good YogaRadio station. Go to their home page and click on the YogaRadio button on the top right hand corner.

Yoga Music Downloads (Usually not free)

The following sources may offer some free music, or free samples / previews. By and large, however, they are pay per downloads websites which offer quality yoga music for as cheap as $0.99 per song.

MyYogaOnline: The yoga downloads corner of this website provides a wide range of yoga music suitable for yoga practice or just plain relaxation. The songs are quite affordable, costing from $0.99 a song to about $4.99.

OmStream: Another great source of yoga music. The great thing about this website is that it offers yoga instructor playlists and music for different types of yoga such as power or flow yoga. This makes it easy for those looking for specific types of music for their yoga practice.

Yoga Music Unlimited: Another pay per download website with great yoga music. Do note, however, that this website is only available to U.S. computers.

Amazon: This online supermall offers a great range of quality yoga music, including yoga classics such as the hugely popular The Essence by Diva Premal. The Essence is one of my personal favourite CD which I listen to over and over again as it is so soothing and calm.

Great Yoga Resources on the Web

I love the world wide web. There’s always lots of great resources on it if you care to take the time to trawl through it.

Here’s a list of some of my favourite online yoga resources:

This is a great yoga community that talks about everything from yoga music to retreats. It even has its own YogaRadio that plays free yoga music. Talk about free online resources!

United Yogis

This is a social network of yoga enthusiasts, yogis, yoga instructors and students. What I like about this website is that it is not focused on just the US or UK audience. There are resources for yogis all over the world. For example, the “Events” page introduces yoga events in Indonesia, Turkey, Morroco and other places.

My Yoga

Another great website that offers good quality yoga resources. This website is great for those stay-at-home yogis. They offer a great selection of high quality yoga videos and classes (including ipod videos!) so you can watch and learn at home to your heart’s contents. Unfortunately, while they do offer you great resources that are free, many of their resources require payment. The good news is that the price if still quite reasonable - $9.95 a month for unlimited access – so you can consider this website if you are serious about your practice and want to observe a certain pose done in a correct manner over and over again.

Which is better - Yoga or Pilates?

That’s a very common question for beginners in yoga, and a valid one too.

I mean, there are a lot of commonalities between the two forms of exercises. Both involve a great deal of stretching. Both involve exercising using a mat (although pilate may involve machines as well). Even some of the postures look very similar. Well, I have tried both forms of exercise, and to me, the real difference in the two is more in the spirit than the form.


Yoga originated in India, and is steeped in ancient Indian culture. More than a physical exercise, the practice focuses on uniting the mind, body and spirit through exercise, breadth and mediation. That is the reason why many yoga classes start with a simple om chant that is meant to clear the mind.

Pilates, on the other hand, was developed by Joseph Pilates during World War I in the 1920s. The exercises were originally designed with the objective of rehabilitating WWI soldiers to recover from diseases and injuries.

Differences in practice

Since the objectives of the two forms of exercise are so different, their practices differ in subtle ways too. Pilate focuses more on improving core strength, i..e muscles in your pelvis, back, abdomen, torso, etc, that help you to stabilize. In many moves, you hold your one part of your body (e.g. your torso) in place while moving your limbs in different directions. This helps to build up the core muscles in your body, which in turn helps to improve your stability and balance.

Yoga, on the other hand, involves bending, stretching, twisting and flexing your body in various postures in coordination with your natural breathing. Building up core strength is but one aspect of the practice. The mental aspect of clearing your mind of clutter is an equally, if not even more, important aspect.

So which is better?

Well, I am a yoga girl at heart, so I will try to be as objective as possible here.

Whether yoga or pilates suits you better depends ultimately on yourself. If you are after more physical conditioning and less of the “new age” ideas like being at peace with yourself, then maybe pilates will suit you better. On the other hand, personally, I find pilates more physically tiring than yoga. It is more common to have painful muscle aches and sores after the class, which may or may not be a good thing.

Yoga, on the other hand, is a more natural and relaxing form of exercise to me. I always think of yoga as giving yourself a good body massage. Instead of a masseur working your tensed muscles, you are the one who will work through each of your body part. At the end of the session, I always leave the session feeling very peaceful and relaxed. And for that night, I will have a very good and sound sleep.

Extra Thick Yoga Mats

So you want to have extra comfort and cushion when you are practicing yoga?

Yoga mats come in three basic thicknesses:
• 1/8 inch: This is the most regular thickness for yoga.
• 1/16 inch: This is considered ultra thin and is more often used as a travel yoga mat.
• 1/4 inch: These are thick yoga mats that provide extra cushion.

Thick yoga mats are fast gaining popularity now, as many yogis get serious about their practice. These provide the comfort when you are holding your postures for an extended period of time, such as a full boat pose.

1/4 inch, or approximately 6.3 mm, yoga mats are the most common thickness for such yoga mats. However, nothing is stopping you from purchasing even thicker mats that come in 5/16 or 3/8 inch. Do note, however, that some companies that sell 1/4'' mats that are actually 4.5 -5.2 mm in thickness. You may like to check on the thickness of the mats in mm before purchasing them.

One thick yoga mat that I like is the EverythingYoga Ultra Thick Yoga Mat.

It’s thick (of course!), well-made, and the colours are amazing. It comes in 12 different colours: Black, Dark Blue, Purple, Dark (Teal) Green, Burgundy, Light Blue, Light (Teal) Green, Light Lavender, Orange, Pink, Yellow and Red. The price is really reasonable too. About $19.95 if you buy it from amazon.

Beautiful works of art

I don’t know why nobody has thought of it before. I mean, yoga mats are meant to be stepped on, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful at the same time.

What extraordinary work of art! And they are actually yoga mats!

YogaMatic offers custom yoga mats that comes in 12 themes now, such as “Fun”, “Graphical”, “Licensed”, “Nature”, etc.

And apparently, they are HOT items in the US now. Hally Berry has been seen with one of the mats, and Kate Bosworth has been quoted as saying that she loves their mat. It’s getting crazy

Save the earth one yoga mat at a time

What happens to the poor old yoga mat after years of use? Up till now, perhaps nothing much except to languish in the store room for years.

Now there’s a great website that allows us to contribute back to the practice of yoga that has given us so much.

The “Recycle your Mat” programme is a programme started yoga practitioner Stephanie Stano in early 2008. The business is centred around two main objectives - recycle and upcycle mats as new products and reuse mats through donation. These objectives are met through yoga mat collection at yoga studios, fitness centers and through individual’s shipments of yoga mats. No matter what your yoga mat is made from (plastic, jute, PVC, natural rubber, latex), they have use of it.

There’s even more great news now. Recycle your mat has teamed up with Manduka, a leading yoga product company. For every yoga mat that’s sent to Recycle your mat, they’ll send a confirmation email with a 20% off coupon for purchase of an eco-friendly Manduka yoga mat or any other Manduka item.

For more information on how you can make a difference one yoga mat at a time, click here.

How to take care of your yoga mat

Our yoga mats become shiny with perspiration (like us!) after a good yoga workout. It is a good practice to clean your mats regularly after each yoga session.

After (and maybe also before) each Yoga Practice

To clean your yoga mat after each yoga session, use a spray bottle or a damp cloth, and just wipe your yoga mat with a clean terry cloth towel.

For those who wish to pamper their mats, you may consider using a yoga cleansing wipe or a yoga cleaning spray. Check out the Jo-sha wipes. These cleansing wipes come in a re-sealable pack of 20 wipes, making it handy to bring them around. I love the fragrance from these wipes. They are infused with essential oils in four different scents – Eucalyptus, Lavendar, Tangering and Peppermint – giving your mat a nice, fresh smell.

Actually, instead of using the jo-sha wipes after your yoga class, some people use these before the class. The wipes leave a faint lingering scent that invigorates the senses and adds to your yoga practice. Definitely a boon when you are doing your downward facing dogs!

For dirtier yoga mats

First thing: check if your yoga mat is machine washable.

If it is not (or you are not sure), it’s best to hand wash it.

To hand wash your yoga mat, use lukewarm water and mild detergent. Go very easy on the detergent – about a gallon of water with a tablespoon of detergent. If your mat is especially stinky, you can throw in a teaspoon of baking soda. Use a clean kitchen sponge to wipe your mat thoroughly. After that, rinse the soap off your mat with clean, lukewarm water.

For machine washable yoga mats, wash your yoga mat in cold water. It is advisable to remove your yoga mat from the washer before the spin cycle starts. Again, use a mild detergent, and wash your mat separately from your clothing.

To dry your yoga mat, squeeze out the water by wrapping it with a dry towel and stepping on it. It is best to air dry your mat. Be sure to leave it unrolled while it dries to avoid moisture becoming trapped between the folds.

Nonslip Yoga Mats with good grip

Some yoga practitioners have the unfortunate problem of having sweaty palms (like yours truly). The problem is quite serious because it affects simple yoga postures, such as the Downward Facing Dogs. And if you are doing Bikram or Hot Yoga, then you will be sweating by the buckets. This makes it important to find yoga mats with good anti-slip properties.

Here’s my take on some of the good yoga mats in the market:

Jade Harmony Mat

The Jade Harmony Mat is a high performance mat that would suit a practitioner in any style of yoga. The good thing that I like about this mat is that it is made of open cell natural rubber, which provides it with a good grip.

What is even more likeable is that the yoga mats are environmentally friendly. Tapped from rubber trees, natural rubber is a renewable resource. The website states that the mats are made in compliance with U.S. environmental laws and contain no PVCs.

There’s an interesting story about how Jade Yoga got into this business. As the story goes, JadeYoga was actually in the business of making natural rubber rug pads. In 2000, they were approached by a “very savvy yogi” who described the fundamental problem with most yoga mats on the market at that time - they were slippery. JadeYoga got into the act and sent out something like 500 samples. They got an incredible response – apparently people were trilled that they finally got a yoga mat that actually gripped and was comfortable to boot. The rest, as they will say, is history.

It should be noted that the Jade Harmony mat is part latex, in case you have an allergy.

Original Tapas Yoga Mat

The Original Tapas Yoga Mat is a very popular yoga mat produced by Hugger Mugger. Its website touts it as the first made-in-the-USA yoga mat that provides a durable, non-slip surface. What I like about this yoga mat is it is quite affordable (around US$27). It is phthalate-free and latex-free, and of course, PVC free.

The yoga mat comes in an assortment of colours with delicious names (autumn, emerald, lapis blue, pink berry, olive). To top it off, the mat also comes in custom lengths (68 inch, 74 inch, 80 inch).

Oeko-Tex Yoga Mat

What I love most about this mat is that it is made with strict environmental regulations and tested against harmful substances for skin contact (Oeko-Tex Standard 100 Level 2). Oeko-Tex Standard 100 or ├ľko-Tex Standard 100 is an international testing and certification system for textiles, limiting the use of certain chemicals.

This is very important for yoga practitioners as our skin makes constant contact with the mat. It is especially important for those with sweaty palms or sweat a lot, as it is inevitable that a bit of the mat materials will rub off due to the heavy sweating.

Wearing in Your Yoga Mat

By the way, no matter how good your yoga mat is, it will be a little slippery when you first buy it. This is due to the manufacturer's surface “finish” on all mats. You just need to “break” your yoga mat by using it a few times. If you really wish to speed up the process, you may want to wash your mat, but do this with care.

How to Select a Good Yoga Mat

A yoga mat is a basic accessory that you will need when you practice yoga. Whether you are a beginner or an expert yoga, a right yoga mat can significantly enhance your experience when you are performing the various yoga postures.

So how do you go about selecting a good yoga mat?

Based on experience, a good yoga mat should have the following characteristics:

• Have sufficient grip to enable you to perform postures such as the downward dog without slipping.

• Be large enough to accommodate your height and width. Taller people may wish to consider a mat with extra length. Larger people should also get a bigger mat.

• Be durable. Yoga practitioners should consider investing in a good quality mat made with superior material. These can withstand wear and tear better, and may be more make sense cost-wise over the long term.

• Choose a mat that’s suitable for your type of yoga. Some types of yoga such as Bikram or Hot Yoga is pretty intensive. You may need to consider a yoga mat with superior traction that is also sweat-absorbent. Others like Ashtanga Yoga may require ultra thick yoga mats as they are perfect for jumping from one position to another.

• Do your bit for Earth! There’s a lot of environmentally-friendly yoga mats out there which are downright stylish to boot!

• Finally, consider your budget. You do not wish to burn a hole in your pocket just buying one yoga mat. (There’s still hundreds of other yoga good stuff to consider!)