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:

Yogamates.com

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 Online.com

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.

Origins

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!)