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Month: October 2018

Upper Hamstring Tendinopathy Treatment

 for Yoga Medicine® discusses what upper hamstring tendinopathy is, what causes it, and how to treat it with a few simple stretches.

A Short Guide For Yoga Teachers

Upper hamstring tendinopathy is among the most common injuries in the yoga community. Whether it’s a yogi who overshot hanumanasana in a public group class or an athletic private client who sprained their hamstring tendon during a sprints workout, it’s fairly safe to bet that as a yoga teacher, a student will approach you with this issue at some point. They’re often in pain and frustrated: the deep, achy sensation under the glute comes and goes with varying intensity. This type of injury is notoriously slow and difficult to heal.  And, when severe enough, it can impact even daily activities like walking, standing, and sitting.

While it isn’t within our scope as yoga teacher to diagnose a proximal hamstring tendon sprain or tear, there’s a lot that we can do to help our students with this common issue in a safe manner. Understanding the basic physiology of the healing process will not only enable you to guide your student effectively but also educate your student about the process so that they can participate in it actively and intelligently.

The proximal tendon of the hamstrings. The attachment at the sitting bone, circled here in red, is a common site of injury and irritation.

Proximal Hamstring Tendon Injuries: The Basics

Tendons are made of connective tissue that is composed of two types of fibers: collagen and elastin. Collagen is very tough, while elastin is more elastic. We have many different types of tissue in our bodies, each with a composition designed to fit their particular function. Tendons are not designed to stretch very much, for example. They are therefore mostly composed of collagen with very little elastin.

If the tissue is forced beyond its rather limited capacity to stretch and into a range of motion that it can’t spring back from, it will tear or sprain. As was the case of our Hanuman yogi and sprinter athlete. Damaging the tissue in this manner can be very painful and also reduces the overall tensile strength of the tendon.

The collagen fibers in tendons (and in other tissues) are arranged in a direction that matches the directional load that the tendon is designed to absorb. In a healthy tissue, the fibers are aligned in an orderly manner. This allows them to easily glide past each other. When the tissue is damaged, the body initiates the inflammatory response and a healing process. This process begins to lay down new collagen fibers at the injury site.

Injuries & Scar Tissue

This is where things can start to get messy. From the body’s perspective, an injury is effectively an emergency scenario. The main focus is on crisis control and patching things up quickly. During this period, the orderliness of the fibers is not a priority. The result is collagen fibers that are a cross-linked, multi-directional, bungled mess. That’s what scar tissue is: disorganized, misaligned connective tissue.

The disorganization of the tissue can be problematic for a variety of reasons, but mainly because the cross-linking of the fibers causes scar tissue to adhere to itself and the surrounding tissues. This impedes the repaired tissue’s ability to interface smoothly with the tissues around it, or maybe even to lengthen and stretch in its own limited capacity.

All of this, in turn, limits range of motion, which ironically makes you more likely to reinjure the same area down the line. Without the appropriate intervention, it’s possible to get stuck in a self-fulfilling, chronic cycle of a limited range of motion, tension, injury, inflammation, and fibrosis. With this information in mind, it is clear why it’s crucial to treat a hamstring tendon injury correctly right out of the gate. If we can control and direct the course of the healing process, we can also minimize scar tissue. This will hopefully avoid a lot of hassle, physical pain, and wasted time dealing with reinjury down the line.

The Fine Line Between Healthy Stress and Reinjury

The main goal of any rehab process is to bring the injured tissues’ capacity to handle load back up to a functional level. We want to strengthen them to the point where they can once again withstand the demands of daily activities, yoga practice, and athletic training. We do this by applying stress to the tissue, thereby encouraging it to strengthen in response to that demand.

The word stress tends to have a negative connotation. However, as it pertains to the tissues in our bodies, stress is actually highly productive when applied mindfully and in healthy, manageable doses. The stress of lifting weights is what stimulates muscles to grow stronger to meet similar future demands. The stress of your feet hitting the ground as you run tells your bones and joints to strengthen in response. Our bodies absolutely need stress in order to stay healthy and functional; athletic training of any kind is by definition controlled, systematic application of stress stimulus. In a rehab scenario, we’re using stress in a very moderate, controlled manner to harness and control the strengthening effect it has on our tissues.

With that in mind, how exactly can we nudge the healing process in the right direction and encourage the new collagen fibers to be laid down in an organized, aligned formation? Aside from stimulating the healing process, we also need to stress the tissue in a way that gives it feedback on the direction of the force it needs to handle. This will help determine how the collagen fibers are laid down; ideally, in a neat, tidy orientation rather than the disorganized bungle of scar tissue.

Strengthening: Next Steps

Conventional wisdom states that the initial injury needs complete rest for at least 72 hours.  It may need more depending on the severity). This is to ensure it’s no longer actively painful or inflamed. After that, it’s OK to begin some very cautious strengthening exercises. Slow and gentle is the name of the game. We want to apply the tiniest bit of stress to the tissue. This will encourage the fibers to align themselves in an orderly fashion. We want to avoid applying enough stress to reinjure the area.

That pulling sensation under the glute now becomes a helpful tool that lets you know when you’re pushing too hard. Keep in mind that an injured tissue’s ability to handle stress is very much reduced. So triggering the familiar ache is a sure sign that you should take it down a notch. Overshooting the mark actually just creates fresh irritation and keeps the tissue in a chronic state of low-level inflammation.

Beyond the importance of working at a conservative level of intensity that is productive for the student and their injury, also consider the specific loads that we eventually want the upper hamstring tendon to withstand. Since the hamstrings contract concentrically to bend the knee and extend the hip, and also work eccentrically to flex the hip as the knee straightens, it is important to train the muscles’ abilities to engage in these positions. In practice, this means applying stress to the tendon at an intensity that does not trigger fresh irritation or pain.

Tips

Start with very small movements in a narrow range of motion. Encourage your student to tune in to the sensations. This will help them avoid pushing into or past the familiar achy sensation. Isometric holds are incredibly useful in this situation. These holds can be fine-tuned to an appropriate level that will yield long-term results. They also have the lowest inflammatory response. In some cases, they can even have an analgesic effect that provides instant (albeit temporary) relief. Most experts recommend aiming for 5 sets of up to 45 seconds of muscle contraction1.

This could be too difficult (and therefore not constructive) of a starting point for many students, in which case, even contractions of 5 to 6 seconds can have a beneficial effect2. As always, your job as the teacher is to be an observer, problem-solver, and guide. Always encourage your student to pay attention to the sensations while you interpret their reaction to your cues. Make appropriate modifications to help them work productively in a manner fitting their context, needs, and limitations. Work in a variety of positions and scenarios, increasing the load and range of motion slowly. Progressing cautiously will not only encourage sustainable progress, but the resulting growth in body awareness will serve your students well to protect them from future injury, too.

To Find Out More

To find out more about the physiology of the healing process, specific poses and techniques to safely strengthen an injured tendon, and ways to maintain range of motion during rehab, consider downloading the Stronger With Yoga: Hamstring Injury Rehab e-book. An additional video bundle of short practices suitable for all phases of the rehab process, from post-injury to long-term maintenance and reinjury prevention, is also available via the Stronger With Yoga website.

***

Footnotes and References

  1. The effects of isometric exercise types on pain and muscle activity in patients with low back pain, Hyun-Seung Rhyu, Hun-Kyung Park, Jung-Sub Park, and Hye-Sang Park
  2. Therapeutic exercises for the shoulder region, Johnson McEvoy, Kieran O’Sullivan, Carel Bron

Benefits of Yoga

Diane Malaspina for Organic Facts discusses the many benefits of yoga. Learn how yoga can change your life for the better – mind, body, and spirit.

The practice of yoga is over 5,000 years old, yet research is revealing modern benefits for both body and mind. Delving deeper into what the ancient practice entails provides some clues as to why yoga is transformative for the estimated 300 million people who practice worldwide.

Yoga Connects Mind, Body, & Spirit

Bringing yoga into your life can be quite transformational. It has a variety of healing effects on the body.  It also changes the structure of the brain in a way that improves how we mentally process our experience in the world. Let us look at the different ways this ancient practice has a transformational effect on us.

Yoga Benefits The Body

Firstly, the physical practice of yoga has a myriad of benefits for the body including increased flexibility, muscle tone, and strength, improved cardiovascular health, respiration, and vitality, and preventing cartilage and joint breakdown.

Mental Health Improves

Mentally, yoga practitioners report decreased depression, anxiety, stress, and fatigue (Michalsen, et al., 2005). [1] With this practice, we get double the bang for the buck: enhanced health paired with mental and emotional balance. Consequently, this leads to more self-confidence and the feeling of living well in our bodies.

Mindfulness Increases

Over time, the lessons learned on the mat – healthy movement, breath awareness, and stress reduction – start to influence how we live off the mat through lifestyle choices such as healthier eating, management of stress, and the importance of taking time for self-care.

Ability to Handle Stress Improves

Beyond the physical practice of yoga, the original yogis described a system that also included controlled breathing, concentration, and meditation techniques. These techniques have a significant influence on the nervous system. Considering that most adults’ nervous systems are sympathetic-dominant (i.e., overwhelmed and over-stressed), yoga postures, breathing, and focusing the mind are natural remedies that balance the nervous system by activating the relaxation response.

During rest, the nervous system takes on cleanse and repair functions, which are key to recovering from the stresses and strains in life. Breath awareness and meditation are transformative tools that can empower you to change your state from stress to calm in a matter of minutes.

Healthy Social Connection Increases

With increased availability and accessibility, yoga has become more mainstream, creating a sense of mutual transcendence where practicing in a group allows us to feel a part of something larger. Living in the digital world, we have less person-to-person interaction. One of the most powerful and healthy ways to meet people and make lasting authentic connections is by practicing together! There is a sense of ‘we are all doing this together,’ which serves to facilitate exchange between others.

Final Thoughts

Finally, yoga is transformative because put simply, it works. You feel better after class than you did before. Stress hormone levels decrease, the mind is calmer, and because of this, we tend to be more self-aware. Self-awareness leads to mindfulness, which is the ability to be present in the moment. Much of our internal struggles are related to our thoughts about life, and not actually what is going on. Mindfulness and the other powerful lessons learned in a yoga class, such as letting go of judgment, are related to measurable structural changes in the brain regions associated with memory, learning, and emotional control (Holzel, et al., 2011). [2]

Certainly, practicing yoga is a great way to build social connections and become part of a health-oriented community. Modern science continues to reveal the positive effects yoga has on the body and mind and the ancient practice gives us the tools to take charge of our well-being.

***

References

What Traditional Chinese Medicine says About Fall

 for Yoga Medicine® discusses what Traditional Chinese Medicine can tell us about fall, and how we should be treating our bodies this season.

Traditional Chinese Medicine: Fall

For many in the Northern Hemisphere, we have stepped into the threshold of the autumn season. We notice the days getting shorter and feel the nip the air. In time, the trees will dazzle us with their brilliant show of colors before turning in for the sleep of winter. We transition from the easygoing vibe of summer to a more introspective energy of fall.

Organs

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), every organ in the body is paired with another, and the two complement each other as either yin or yang. Each organ pairing is typically linked to the seasons of the year1, and fall is associated with the Lung (yin) and Large Intestine (yang) meridians in the body. The Lung controls our respiration which also helps regulate the flow of water in our body. The Large Intestine takes care of releasing waste in our bodies.

These organs process what our body no longer needs so that we can only keep what is nourishing and essential. Energetically, the two organs work together so that we can let go and make space for the new. As fall marks the beginning of the yin cycle of the year, we look inward to sift through what we might still be hanging on to in our lives that may have already outlived its purpose. To see if we can soften our grip around these and open ourselves to receive something else.

Elements

Just as the Yin-Yang model symbolizes the creation process through the interaction of bipolar forces, TCM likewise follows the notion of the Five Element Theory.2,3 This theory provides the basis for describing how forms, systems, and events are developed. It postulates that the elements (wood, fire, metal, earth, and water) are the basic elements of the material world. The Five Element Theory is used to interpret the relationship between the physiology and pathology of the human body and the natural environment.4

This season is governed by the Metal element with its qualities of precision, organization, setting limits, and protecting boundaries. From the more carefree days of summer, our days in autumn become more structured as we form routines that take us through our day. Priorities and goals are often reoriented as we prepare for the colder months ahead.

While the best way to stimulate specific Lung and Large Intestine meridian points is through acupuncture, yoga poses can be an efficient way to self-stimulate the meridians.

Fall Meridians: Lung and Large Intestine

The Lung meridian starts in the pectorals and crosses the front surface of the shoulder. From here, it runs along the radial or thumb side of the anterior arm from shoulder to wrist.  It crosses the wrist and ends at the corner of the thumbnail.

The Large Intestine meridian begins on the index finger and runs through the webbing between the thumb and index finger.  The meridian continues up the thumb side of the posterior arm from wrist to shoulder like a mirror image of the lung meridian on the front of the arm.  It then zigzags over the outside top of the shoulder and along the back of the shoulder blades then up through the neck, cheek, lower gums, and teeth.

TCM and Yin Yoga

Practicing yin yoga is an effective way to stimulate the meridians since we hold the poses a little longer than those we do in a vinyasa or flow practice. Props like blocks, blankets, and bolsters are often used as support to allow the student to release and work a little deeper. While you are in a yin pose, expect to let go of muscular effort in order to target this more energetic layer.  This translates to working within 50 to 70 percent of your full capacity for stretch.

Below are a few poses that I practice to help my mind and body transition into autumn:

TWISTING CHILD’S POSE

  • As you sit in child’s pose, slide your left arm under your chest and towards the right side of your body.
  • Let the back of the your left shoulder and side of your face to rest comfortably on the mat. A folded blanket or block can also help support the your shoulder and head here.
  • Your right arm can gently stretch overhead towards the top of your mat. Alternatively, it can also just easily rest by your side.
  • Hold this pose between 3-5 minutes.
  • You may do some languid rounds cat and cow poses before switching sides.
  • After both sides are done, rest in child’s pose for one minute.

PUPPY POSE (ANAHATASANA)

  • Starting from hands and knees, slowly walk arms towards the front of the mat.
  • Gently lower chest towards the ground. A block, stack of blankets, or a bolster for your chest to rest on will provide more support for the upper body. In this sequence, the focus is more on engaging your arms rather than the chest opening that this pose offers.
  • As your chest softens towards the floor, press your palms firmly on the mat so that you feel your arms activate. Alternatively, you can press your palms together and bend your elbow to lift hand towards the ceiling, and perhaps, all the way to your upper back.
  • Hold for 3 – 5 minutes. Hold the pose for less time if you’re able to bring chest (and chin) on floor watching for sensations on your neck.
  • Carefully ease out of the pose by sliding palms to under your shoulders and pressing back up to hands and knees.
  • Hold Child’s Pose for a minute as a counter pose.

PRONE SHOULDERS

  • Lying prone on the mat, cross your arms in front of your chest. Your arms should be in line with your shoulders. Palms are turned up.
  • You may support yourself by having a rolled blanket under your ribs and a block or another rolled blanket for your forehead to rest on.
  • Stay for 1-3 minutes and then switch sides.

PEC STRETCH WHILE PRONE ON THE FLOOR

  • Lying prone on the mat, spread arms by your side out to a “T” with elbows lining up with shoulders. Palms are turned down.
  • Place left cheek on the ground and slide right hand under your shoulder.
  • Keeping your left arm and left side chest heavy, use your right hand to help open your chest to the right side of the mat.
  • Head can drop down towards the floor or rest on a block or rolled blanket.
  • Hips can stack and face towards side right side of the mat.
  • Feel the stretch along your left side chest, especially beneath your collar bones.

SPHINX POSE or SEAL POSE

  • Start by lying down on your belly.
  • With your elbows on the floor and under your shoulders, lift your chest off the floor. Palms are flat on the floor and line up with elbows. They can angle slightly away from each other.
  • You can rest your front ribs on a rolled blanket or bolster to help prop your upper body off the ground.
  • As you press your palms on the floor, explore putting light pressure on the thumb mound of your palms and through the inside (radial) edge of your arms.
  • Without moving your arms, feel like drawing your elbows to your ribs and let your collar bones broaden.
  • Keep hips and legs heavy on the mat.
  • Hold for 3-5 minutes.
  • Child’s pose can be used as counter pose, or simply lie on your belly (removing any added padding) with your cheek on the floor.

If working on Seal Pose:

  • Set up similar to Sphinx.
  • Walk your palms out to the front of your mat and straighten your arms. Arms can go slightly wider than your shoulders.
  • Once again, explore bringing light pressure the the thumb mounds on your palms.
  • Keep chest broad and lifted.
  • Hold for 1-3 minutes.
  • Child’s pose can be used as counter pose, or simply lie on your belly (removing any added padding) with cheek on the floor.

SUPTA BADDHA KONASANA (with Cactus Arms)

  • Lie on your back.
  • With feet close together, let your bent knees gently splay away from the center of your body. You can slide a block or blanket under each leg for support.
  • Bend your elbows by your shoulders and allow arms to rest on the ground. If chest is tight and arms aren’t resting comfortably on the ground, you can prop your arms with blankets under each arm.
  • Hold for 3-5 minutes.

SAVASANA

  • Lie on your back. You may place a thinly rolled blanket under your knees if your low back feels uncomfortable.
  • Let your legs straighten comfortably, close to the sides of your body.
  • Let your entire body soften and release.
  • Hold for 7-10 minutes.

Footnotes and References:

  1. Summer, however, is further subclassified as “summer” and “late summer.” Moreover, summer has two sets of paired organs associated with this season: Heart (yin), Small Intestine (yang), Pericardium (yin) and Triple Burner (yang). Late Summer is associated with the Spleen (yin) and Stomach (yang).
  2. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, this is also referred to as the Five Phase Theory.
  3. Beinfield, L.Ac., Harriet and Korngold, L.Ac., O.M.D., Efrem. Between Heaven and Earth, A Guide to Chinese Medicine. New York City: Ballantine Books, 1991.
  4. Cheng, PhD DPA FRSA FRSPH, Raymond. “The Five Elements Theory.” Traditional Chinese Medicine Basics TCM Basics. www.tcmbasics.com. 03 October 2018.

What These 6 Top Yoga Teachers Look For In A Good Yoga Mat

By Jessica Berlin for Infinity YogaMats.

You love yoga! Maybe you’ve just recently discovered yoga and how amazing it makes you feel. Or, maybe you’ve been practicing for years, and you tell everyone you know about your favorite yoga classes nearby.

Wherever you are on the yoga spectrum, you need a yoga mat.

There used to only really be one kind of yoga mat — a rectangular rubber mat, actually made of PVC.

You’ve probably owned one of these mats at some point in your life if you’ve practiced any kind of yoga or Pilates.

But now there are many different kinds of mats, with a lot of different features and benefits. How do you choose which mat is for you?

We asked six top yoga instructors what qualities or features they look for in a good yoga mat.

Here’s what they had to say:

Kia Miller, Radiant Body Yoga

Kia Miller: www.kiamiller.com

Kia Miller was named one of the 10 inspiring yoga teachers you should know on DoYouYoga.

She taught at Yogaworks in LA for 15 years but now offers immersive training and retreats through her business Radiant Body Yoga.

You can also take Kia’s classes online through YogaGlo.

When asked what she looks for in a good yoga mat, Kia listed a few qualities:

  • Not made of rubber, as the smell lingers and gets onto my body and clothes.
  • Not slippery.
  • Lightweight enough to travel with.
  • Durable, so it lasts a lifetime.

Noah Mazé, YOGAMAZÉ

Noah Mazé: www.yogamaze.net

Noah Mazé was also listed on the DoYouYoga list of 10 inspiring yoga teachers.

That article says that he is “considered one of the USA’s most knowledgeable yoga teachers.”

Noah and his wife founded their YOGAMAZÉ yoga teacher training school in 2012. He also teaches workshops and classes around the world.

According to Noah, the “yoga teacher’s teacher” there are four things that are most important when he’s looking for a yoga mat:

  • Portability – While I have a few thicker mats at home, I never travel with or transport those mats off-site. They are what I call my “base camp” mats. Most of the time I use a travel mat for taking or teaching classes in my local area, to which I usually ride my bike, and also to bring with me on trips. It folds or rolls up and fits easily in my bag along with my other yoga stuff. Further, I prefer the direct feedback that a thin mat gives, and it’s easy enough to fold my mat towel to pad my knee for certain poses. Lastly, thinner mats are easier to wash and quicker to dry.
  • Sticky mat – I want the mat to hold me firmly, even when I sweat. Different people prefer different brands and types of mats for this purpose. There is no “one mat that sticks for all.” Through trial and error, I have discovered which mats give me better traction. Some mats need a break-in time, and you might be able to speed this up by bringing the mat into the shower with you and scrubbing it down a bit.
  • No Stretch – I don’t want my mat to stretch when I’m in a pose. Too often, particularly with thinner mats and eco materials, my downward-facing dog pose gets a few inches longer when I test the mat. Additionally, I want it to lay flat on the floor and not easily bunch up.
  • Eco-Conscious – I am happy to see more and more eco-conscious and biodegradable mats on the market. It is important that we, as yogis, lead by example and make sustainable and ethical choices. Also, I prefer to touch natural and organic materials and definitely feel the difference. Sometimes natural rubber has a strong smell in the beginning, so you may need to leave your mat unrolled for a few days in a ventilated area.

Noah also gave this advice when you’re choosing your next yoga mat:

“When possible, test the products that you are considering. See how the mat feels and suits your needs. Perhaps, like me, you will have a home practice mat as well as a portable mat to best serve your practice.”

Heidi Kristoffer, CrossFlowX

Heidi Kristoffer: www.facebook.com/heidikristoffer/

One of the 10 inspiring yoga teachers you should know, DoYouYoga says Heidi Kristoffer is “known as the ‘upside-down girl’ due to her penchant for inversions.”

Heidi teaches in New York City and created CrossFlowX: “a fast-paced blending of strength, core, inversion and arm-balance-focused flows, high-intensity cardio intervals, traditional yoga kriyas, and a little bit Xtra, this class is one big sweaty yoga party!”

When asked what qualities she looks for in a yoga mat, she said:

  • Non-toxic, sustainable ingredients.
  • Stays put on the ground (doesn’t move or come up in regular yoga moves like vinyasas).
  • Non-slippery surface.
  • Easy to roll up.
  • Not too heavy to carry.
  • Will last and not fall apart for a long time.

Cristina M. Kuhn, Yoga Medicine®

Cristina Kuhn: yogamedicine.com

Cristina M. Kuhn, E-RYT 500, KYT 500, IPT, Yoga Medicine® instructor, currently teaches at The Yogi Underground in Falls Church, Virginia.

When we asked her what she likes to see in a yoga mat, she said:

I am often asked, what do you look for in a yoga mat? As a yoga practitioner, teacher, and studio owner, I have tried many different mats, but the ones I love the most possess the following qualities:

  • Cushion and support. My bones need some give in a yoga mat, but not so much that it affects my ability to balance.
  • Ease of care. Some yoga mats are hard to clean thoroughly and therefore retain odor; I cannot bear a smelly mat, so it needs to actually be clean when I clean it.
  • Kindness for the Earth. Any mat I use needs to be eco-friendly with no off-gassing (again, no smelly mats).
  • Stability and comfort. I like a mat that allows me to move with ease, but also supports stability when I am in stillness.
  • Relatively lightweight. I do not want the act of carrying my mat across town to deplete me. My energy is valuable and I practice yoga to fill my vessel, not empty it.

Seema Sondhi, The Yoga Studio

Seema Sondhi: www.theyogastudio.info

Seema Sondhi’s The Yoga Studio in New Delhi, India, was named one of the top 25 yoga studios around the world by Travel + Leisure.

She opened the studio in 2001, and she seeks to “help individuals on a healthier and more peaceful path by teaching them a system of exercise that fully integrates the body, mind and soul.”

When asked what she looks for in a yoga mat, Seema said:

  • It should be affordable.
  • In natural fibre, as we need to save the planet.
  • The mat should be lightweight so that we can carry it everywhere we go, hence there is no excuse for us to practice.
  • The mat should be non-slippery for all our advanced poses.
  • It should be sweat-absorbent.

Shayna Hiller, The Yoga Collective

Shayna Hiller: www.shaynahiller.com

Shayna Hiller is a yoga teacher and certified health coach based in Venice Beach, California.

She’s been teaching yoga for 15 years and is currently teaching at The Yoga Collective in person and through online classes. She also teaches retreats and workshops around the world.

Shayna said she looks for a few qualities in a good yoga mat:

  • First of all, it has to have a wonderful grip. I do not like using the mat towel on top of my mat, so I want to make sure that I don’t need anything extra and that the mat itself is non-slip and durable.
  • I also make sure that mats are non-toxic and do not have an artificial odor.
  • It is also important for mats to have the proper thickness. Many companies offer various thicknesses and that is important to protect joints.

Key Yoga Mat Features

So, what are the key features and qualities that experienced yoga teachers are looking for in a yoga mat?

Here are the eight features these six experts said they look for in a good yoga mat.

1: MADE OF ECO-FRIENDLY, NON-TOXIC MATERIALS

You’re putting your body on this mat and breathing it in. You don’t want to worry about if your yoga mat is leaching chemicals into your body while you’re trying to exercise, meditate, and be healthy.

Many mats are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), widely considered one of the most toxic plastics and a known carcinogen, so you want to watch out for that.

Natural rubber, which may have a slight smell when it’s new, is much more eco-friendly and non-toxic.

2: GOOD GRIP, NOT SLIPPERY

Superior grip

Staying in place in your pose, and not slipping, even when you’re sweaty, is a big deal.

Losing your grip means losing your focus.

You want to be able to stay still and keep your hands and feet in place on your mat, no matter what kind of yoga you’re doing.

Keeping that grip when your mat, hands, and feet are wet and sweaty can be hard with many mats, especially if you don’t also have a mat towel on top.

But, as Shayna Hiller said, those mat towels can get in the way and make your mat not as grippy too.

3: LIGHTWEIGHT/PORTABLE

Infinity Yoga Mats are larger than traditional mats

Having a mat that you can carry around town, or travel with may be important to you too, depending on how far you go to practice yoga.

If your primary practice is at home, or you drive to the studio, the weight of your mat may be less imporant.

You also have to consider how the weight of the mat impacts the other features you’re looking for, like durability, the quality of the materials, thickness, and size.

4: DURABLE

Having a mat that doesn’t fall apart, and lasts a long time is important, especially if you’re investing some money into that mat.

You don’t want to have to replace your mat all the time, but rather have a mat that you know you can use regularly and is going to last.

5: NO STRETCH/STAYS IN PLACE

A mat that not only grips your hands and feet (on top of the mat), but also grips to the floor is a nice feature to have.

The floor you’re practicing on may be slippery, so your mat needs to have some grip on the bottom to make sure it’s not slipping all over the floor or stretching out while you’re doing your downward-facing dog.

6: CUSHION/JOINT PROTECTION

Yoga mats come in all different thicknesses. The amount of cushion and joint protection your body needs will determine how thick your mat should be.

Typical yoga mats are about ¼ inch, or 3 mm, thick but there are both thinner and thicker mats.

The thickness will impact the weight of the mat you choose. You will have to weigh these factors to decide on the appropriate thickness for your practice.

In addition, thicker mats may also be less stable, especially for standing poses when you want a strong connection to the floor.

7: EASY TO CLEAN

Machine washable

Being able to clean your yoga mat is important, especially after one of those especially hot and sweaty classes!

8: AFFORDABLE

Yoga mats come at many different price points, and of course, you get what you pay for most of the time.

You should consider the price among all the other features that are most important to you when looking at yoga mats.

Ready to Let Go? A Yin Yoga Sequence for Fall

 for Yoga Journal shares a yin yoga sequence to do this fall. Incorporating slow, restful poses and myofascial release can help let go of the feelings of loss and sadness at this time of year.

The Yoga Project UK – Sky News – Alice Blunden

Alice Blunden, Yoga Medicine® instructor, was featured on Sky News talking about her involvement in the Yoga Project UK (TYPUK) which connects inspiring yoga teachers with schools across the UK. The Yoga Project is a program in UK schools to introduce yoga to the curriculum. Learn about the benefit of yoga for children below.

 

20 Best Health & Fitness Influencers Of 2018

Tiffany Cruikshank

By Namita Nayyar for Women Fitness.

Social media has blasted all over our screens in the past few years, and now more than ever people are coming out, sharing their journeys and inspiring others.  With so many health & fitness influencers working day and night to bring to you the best of workouts, diet and nutrition, Women Fitness thought of bringing a close to the year with the Best Health & Fitness Influencers of 2018 – and our very own Tiffany Cruikshank was ranked as #14 on the list! Check out some of her favourite things related to health and fitness along with her goals for next year!

Tiffany Cruikshank – Lac, MAOM, E-RYT and Founder of Yoga Medicine®.

1. Favourite Exercise

Yoga

2. Favourite Health Foods 

Watercress, avocado, collagen powder, but for me whole foods and variety are the most important. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and miss out on important nutrients even with really health foods.

3. Favourite 2018 Social Media Memory 

Our wedding video! I love the quote at the beginning by our officiant, it was so perfectly stated and such a great timely reminder – “despite our differences, love is what we all share. Its the great unifier, our one universal truth. No matter who we are, we all know this one thing – love is what we’re doing right!”

4. One 2019 Fitness Goal 

I’m obsessed with fascial fitness so I’ve been playing with new ways to train my fascia using yoga, myofascial release and other exercise tools.  With so much fascia research finally coming to light and a new anatomical understanding of the body reminding us that most strenuous (athletic) injuries are fascial issues, I’m confident fascial fitness will be the cutting edge of sports medicine over the next 5-10 years.  It’s the missing link to so many injuries and the key to injury prevention!

5. 3 Apps That You Use The Most

  • YogaGlo (one stop for great yoga and meditation classes with so many well respected teachers)
  • Enso (my favorite meditation app for those who have a regular meditation practice, for those new to meditation go to YogaGlo for guided meditations)
  • Sunbasket (my favorite healthy food delivery service, you can pick your meals each week on their app and they are absolutely delicious!!  Perfect for the busy, health conscious consumer.)

You can view the rest of the top 20 Best Health & Fitness Influencers of 2018 on Women Fitness’s website – click here.

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