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Archive for May, 2008

I happened to catch part of an Oprah’s “Favorite Things” show the other day. It was all stuff for summer and all of it cost more than I (and clearly most of the audience) would spend on any given item. That got me to thinking about yoga stuff because if you pick up any yoga magazine today, it’s chock full of ads for yoga things you “need.”

It’s no secret that I started doing yoga because I’m lazy. I mean, it doesn’t look that hard – right? Well the other not-so-secret is that I’m cheap. I’m all about spending money for quality, but I’m also not about spending money on a lot of things that I don’t actually NEED. And that’s just one of the reasons that yoga is perfect for me.

Yoga really only requires your hands and feet (or close approximations). Things like mats, blocks, and straps can be helpful but aren’t necessary. When I bought my first yoga mat, the average cost was about $10. I think nowadays the average cost is about $20. I don’t think the mats have changed significantly but it’s the price that the market will bear. I used telephone books instead of blocks, and a bathrobe belt instead of a ‘yoga strap.’

The longer I practiced, the more it made sense to invest in the equipment I was using and when I began teaching it was a necessity. I’ve got some links over to the right for products that I use, so I thought I’d explain why.

I practiced for about a year on that $10 mat. It came with a cute bag and I’ve still got it. There is nothing wrong with your average yoga mat (which, incidentally, you will always find less expensive on the internet). I began using the Jade Harmony mat because I did a hot yoga class. In hot yoga, the room is heated to upwards of 85 degrees Fahrenheit. I sweat. I sweat a lot. And when I work out, EVERYTHING sweats. Hands, feet, legs, arms – and sweaty hands and feet make balance tough. Harmony was advertised as a natural rubber which would help absorb the sweat for better grip. That is completely and utterly true.

The mat is a bit heavier than a ‘typical’ yoga mat. Initially, it also has a slight odor (mine went away fairly quickly) but the extra grip in the mat was worth it. It literally grabs at your skin. I’ve never had a problem with slippage in any practice or class, no matter how hard I’m working and sweating. It’s got the added bonus of being better for the environment than a mat with PVC in it and it is a quality product. It’s expensive but, for me, it was one of the best investments I’ve made for my yoga practice. If you practice regularly or (like me) sweat a lot, I highly recommend it.

Because of the sweating, I don’t spend a lot of money on cute matching yoga outfits. That’s not to say I don’t like them or that you shouldn’t wear them, but I’m not wearing my yoga clothes ANYWHERE outside of class. And chances are, thanks to the sweating, I’m going straight home or to the showers. For a very long time I practiced in sweatpants and t-shirts. Probably if I hadn’t started teaching, I still would.

I’m in yoga clothes 6 days a week, which means I need something that will withstand a beating and still look semi-professional. That’s what lead me to Marika. They offer a wide variety of pants (I tend to buy what’s on sale) but the fit well without being too binding. They hold up well to many wash and dry cycles – especially important since all my yoga pants are black. The full length pants aren’t too long – they don’t get trapped under my toes or heels in Down Dog. They have wicking fabrics which dry quickly and are comfortable. Again, if you’re practicing regularly I highly recommend them.

When it comes to other ‘yoga stuff’ I’m less particular. I think that yoga blocks are yoga blocks, as are straps. I prefer larger blocks and straps that have D-rings, but your mileage may vary. And I shopped around until I found the best deal rather than getting wrapped up in a particular vendor or brand. I wear cheap t-shirts to practice in for the same reason.

The bottom line is that the ‘stuff’ that goes along with yoga is only there to facilitate your practice. Your practice is what comes first. I’m a fan of anything that helps with practice but, if it’s not helping, don’t worry about spending money on it – especially when you don’t need ‘special’ stuff to get the job done.

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Link to imeem.com

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I can go in and use the workout room whenever there isn’t a class in session (which is pretty often). A lot of people don’t like practicing in a ‘gym’ setting because there can be a lot of noise and fluorescent lights. Once I start my practice, I don’t even notice those things (though I’m more likely to notice them when teaching).

I also listen to my ipod when I practice, so I’ve got everything from Buckcherry to Bob Marley in my ear. Again, once I start practice, I don’t really hear it. There are a couple of Anusara practice sessions on it so that when I feel like I need a class, I can get one.

I worked through sun salutations, fast and then slow. Cat and cow, cat and cow with the knees off the ground, variations on down dog, crescent lunges. My upper body work was plank – chataranga -plank sets mixed with dolphin – dolphinplank – dolphin sets. Then I moved to pigeon + twists, firelogs and supine twists. All in all about 75 minutes.

By the time I was done I had worked up a good sweat, gotten a great stretch, and felt much much calmer.

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From the Positivity Blog

Gandhi’s Top 10 Fundamentals for Changing the World.

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Today’s class

We started with slow sun salutations in order to warm everyone up, then a couple of ‘faster’ rounds. Cat and cow, then dolphin variations. Down dog variations and then lunges. High lunge, low lunge, hip-opening lunge on both sides. Warrior II and Triangle, then pigeon. More down dog and then seated spinal twists before savasana. I miss the luxury of 90 minute classes but it was a solid hip opening class and I didn’t skimp on the upper body work.

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Bittersweet

One of my students attended her last class today. She’s moving to another (larger) city. She is one of the first students who has been solely ‘mine.’ Over the last three months I’ve seen her body and confidence change pretty dramatically.

I’ve been teaching at a gym and, as such, have had an influx of students who have never taken yoga before. This is the first time one of those students is leaving and I’ve had mixed reactions. I’m really excited that she’s moving to a larger city and will have a greater opportunity to explore different teachers/styles of yoga. I’m so proud of the transformation she’s made in my class. And I’m sad that she’s leaving because I have really enjoyed having her in classes.

I gave her my copy of Hatha Yoga Illustrated to use as a bridge until she finds a studio she likes. She was concerned about not maintaining her practice so I encouraged her to spend at least 15 minutes a day practicing. Even if you don’t go to a full class, it keeps you in the mindset. The book is great and gives fantastic anatomical direction as well as contraindications and modifications. It’s a really good resource for beginners and advanced practitioners alike.

I think she’s leaving my instruction with a solid foundation in breath and asana but, more importantly, a willingness to be open to new classes and teachers. It’s pretty fantastic to be able to see the positive change you’re putting into the world.

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Introductions

I’m a yoga teacher and student in Michigan. This space will be for talking about yoga and all things yoga-related.

I don’t believe in any one true way and I like people who discuss things before they make up their minds. I like people who are open to different ideas – even if they don’t embrace them. While I think that yoga is about more than just stretching and breathing, everyone comes to a yoga class for different reasons. Some people only want stretching and breathing. That’s okay.

I don’t discuss a lot of yoga philosophy in my classes but I may do so here.

Yoga has been an incredible benefit to me over the years and I hope that this is a helpful resources for people who are interested.

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