Sunday, May 16, 2010

Gearing Up for Iyengar Yoga: Props Make the Difference

Thinking about Iyengar yoga but not sure you’re ready for those more advanced poses yet? No need to fear. While it demands proper form and attention to detail, Iyengar also relies heavily on the use of yoga props to help even beginners find the right alignment and hold poses as long as necessary.

Your choice of props will depend on your specific needs, body type, and level of mobility. Yoga blocks, for example, can be placed in a variety of different positions and provide just enough extra height for the most challenging poses. Blocks can also be positioned behind your hands, heels, or hips to stay in proper form.

Are you a little less flexible? A yoga strap is an inexpensive and useful prop to extend your reach---and ensure the right alignment---in a variety of poses. Straps can be especially helpful in one-legged standing poses and seated stretches.

And if you’re new to Iyengar and need a little more support in certain postures, you may want to try a yoga bolster. Bolsters are available in a handful of shapes and sizes, any of which can make your poses easier and more comfortable.

If you ultimately want to increase your flexibility or ease that recurring back pain, Iyengar yoga may be an option. But don’t be intimidated by the focus on perfection and detail. With guidance from a certified Iyengar instructor, you’ll be able to find the right props to make your practice manageable and reap the benefits.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Gearing Up for Iyengar Yoga: The Right Yoga Mat

Your yoga mat is the single most important accessory in your yoga practice. A good mat provides the cushion you need to comfortably hold a pose and the traction to keep you from slipping. But as Iyengar yoga is so strongly grounded in proper technique and correct body alignment, choosing the right yoga mat is even more critical.

Traditional, or sticky, yoga mats are available in a variety of styles and sizes. When practicing Iyengar yoga, a standard 1/8” inch thick mat will likely offer enough padding to maintain even the more advanced poses. If you’re a little newer to Iyengar, though, consider a 1/4” thick yoga mat for added comfort. Granted, you may feel a little less connection to the floor, but the extra cushion can make many poses a bit easier to hold.

Also make sure to choose the right material to suit your needs. The most common yoga mats are made of PVC, or vinyl. Standard PVC mats deliver a solid mix of traction and durability, but are also easy to clean and maintain. Or you can choose from the growing selection of eco-friendly yoga mats. Mats made from environmentally-safe materials, including jute or natural rubber, have become very popular in recent years and are a great alternative to PVC.

So if your yoga practice is limited to a few classes a week at the local yoga studio or park district, a basic yoga mat will probably be fine. But if you’ve stepped up to Iyengar and are trying to ease the symptoms of chronic pain or increase your flexibility, then do your homework, shop around, and invest a little more in a better quality yoga mat.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Gearing Up for Iyengar Yoga

Why do you practice yoga? For many, yoga offers a deep sense of relaxation and is a great way to ease the stress of everyday life. But a new wave of Americans has discovered the more practical health benefits of yoga. Whether you’re suffering from arthritis, chronic back pain or that nagging sports injury, yoga can potentially increase your flexibility, improve mobility, and relieve many common muscle and joint problems.

And a great place to start is Iyengar yoga.

Iyengar is among the newer styles of yoga and has become very popular in recent years. With meticulous attention to detail and a focus on form, Iyengar systematically works every part of your body to ensure proper alignment. While it can seem a little intimidating to beginners, Iyengar utilizes a variety of props---including blocks, straps, yoga blankets and bolsters---making it accessible to just about anybody.

In the next few posts, we’ll take a closer look at Iyengar yoga and how the right yoga gear can make all the difference in your practice.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Choosing the Best Yoga Mat Bag: Price and Budget

What are you looking for in a yoga mat bag or carrier?

If you simply want to roll your mat and toss it over your shoulder on the way to class, a yoga harness or sling is likely the most inexpensive option. Prices range from $8-15. Traditional, drawstring yoga mat bags offer the same convenience with a little extra protection and durability. You can find basic nylon mat bags online for as little as $10 and washable cotton yoga totes, with extra room and a few more features, in the $40-60 range. And if you need a more versatile option, with room for your props or a change of clothes, consider a yoga duffel bag. Designed with either extra space or a compartment to hold your mat, yoga duffels will typically cost between $45 and $100.

If you practice regularly and have spent the money on a quality mat, make sure to choose the yoga mat bag that best suits your needs and protects your investment.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Choosing the Best Yoga Mat Bag: Materials & Eco Friendly Yoga

Given the popularity of the yoga movement, it’s not surprising that the selection of yoga products has grown significantly over the past few years. Look at yoga mat bags, as an example. Not too long ago, mat bags were a standard, no-frills accessory. Simply a means of carrying your yoga mat to the studio and back home. Today, though, yoga mat bags are available in a wide array of shapes, sizes, styles, and colors.

If it’s time to replace your tired, worn-out mat bag, consider your options. And the material that best suits your individual needs. Bags are made from a variety of different materials, including:

Nylon or Canvas. Many standard, entry-level mat bags are made of either nylon or canvas. Easy-to-clean and affordable, nylon and canvas are also among the most durable and can last for years.

Cotton. Cotton yoga mat bags are the most common on the market and for good reason. Cotton is durable, holds up to daily wear-and-tear, and is extremely lightweight. Cotton bags are also fairly waterproof, which makes a difference after a few sweaty sessions in the studio, and many are machine-washable.

Natural Fibers or Recycled Products. Eco-friendly yoga mat bags have become a popular choice in recent years. Hemp and jute mat bags, for example, are made from natural fibers, but are still relatively durable and inexpensive. And you might also consider a recycled paper mat bag. Lightweight and very environmentally-friendly, many bags made from recycled materials may not hold up quite as well over the long run.

So take your time and shop around. With such a wide selection and easy access, you’ll likely be able to find a yoga mat bag with just the right combination of durability, washability, and convenience.