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Eco-Friendly Yoga Gear

Although yoga is chock full of strength building and flexibility, the practice is just as much about tapping into your inner good guy and finding more harmony, too. Let that impulse extend beyond your yoga studio or home workout space by choosing some eco-friendly yoga gear that’s as good for the planet as it is for your practice.

ECO-FRIENDLY YOGA MATS

There are plenty of mats out there, but going with a non-toxic choice is a good idea. Shift away from chemical additives by considering these three choices:

JADEYOGA

Using natural rubber and featuring a non-slip surface, Jade mats are some of the toughest you’ll find. Started by a former lawyer for the Environmental Protection Agency, the company plants a tree for every mat sold. So far, more than a million trees have been planted — not only good for the planet, but a good indication of the popularity of the mats.

BAREFOOT ORIGINAL ECO YOGA MAT

Barefoot mixes all-natural rubber with jute fiber, so it has all the non-slip properties you want, while being easy on your hands.

PRANA E.C.O. YOGA MAT

The letters stand for “Earth Conscious Offering,” and the mat boasts a toxin-free manufacturing process that churns out mats without PVC, chloride or latex. Lightweight, non-slip and cushioned, the mat has closed-cell construction, which means it can resist germs and moisture.

ECO-FRIENDLY ACCESSORIES

You’ve got your sustainable mat, but your commitment to being earth-friendly doesn’t need to end there. Check out these accessories to round out your gear bag:

MAT TOWEL

An absorbent towel with a non-slip backing prevents sweat from soaking your mat and stays in place much better than an ordinary towel. Check out the Hugger Mugger towel, which is made from bamboo charcoal and is latex-free.


READ MORE > GETTING TO KNOW THE LINGO: YOGA


PROPS

These can come in handy when you need just a bit of help getting into a pose, or as a way to deepen a particular stretch. For example, you might use a block for triangle pose as a way to keep your chest open and your arm supported, rather than collapsing in the pose if you try to reach the floor.

The companies that make eco mats — JadeYoga, Barefoot, Hugger Mugger, Prana and Manduka — also make a number of environmentally friendly yoga props like blocks, bolsters and practice straps (Think: blocks made out of bamboo or cork and bolsters/straps made from organic cotton.)

NON-TOXIC CLEANING SPRAY

Like any workout equipment, a yoga mat can get funky if it’s not cleaned regularly. There are several non-toxic sprays on the market, including a very pleasant one called Mind Over Lather, made with eucalyptus and tea tree essential oils, which have antibacterial properties. You can also DIY a spray using vinegar and essential oils.


GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT YOGA SESSION

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> Women’s Yoga Pants
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> All Women’s Yoga & Studio Gear


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Stretches for Cyclists | 5-Pose Yoga Fix

Cycling is a great sport that offers many benefits — from cross-training to calorie-burning to getting you places — but holding that position for long stretches can strain the neck, shorten the spine and tighten the back and hips. On top of that, the upper body tends to be underdeveloped in cyclists, which causes the stronger parts of the body to pick up the slack. This often leads to muscular imbalances and overuse injuries.

Yoga helps elongate the spine and strengthen the underused areas as well as stabilize muscles in the hips, groin and ankles. It also loosens tight hips and hamstrings, giving you a more powerful pedal stroke. A longer practice on your off days, plus doing these five poses after a ride, will make your time in the saddle stronger and easier. Hold each of these poses for 5–10 breaths to elongate and loosen the muscles you just worked.

1. CAT AND COW

Cat and cow pose go together like peanut butter and jelly. Cat stretches the back and strengthens the abdominals, while cow opens the chest and strengthens the back. Together, they bring mobility and flexibility to the spine and relieve back and neck tension.

The move: Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees so that your palms press into the ground and your knees rest under your hips. Make sure your wrists, elbows and shoulders form one straight line and your knees and hips form another.

As you exhale, press into the ground with your hands and round your back like an angry cat. Gently bring your chin toward your chest to activate your abdominals, pulling your navel toward your spine.

On your inhale, come into cow by arching your back in the opposite direction. Broaden your chest and lift your tailbone to the sky so your belly sinks toward the floor.

Hold each pose for several breaths or find a gentle flow between the two so that with each exhale you round into cat and with each inhale you open into cow.

2. DOWN DOG

This lengthens the back muscles and hamstrings. Widen your stance and keep a soft bend in your knees to make the pose more accessible.

The move: Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Slide your palms forward so they rest in front of your shoulders, and tuck your toes under. As you exhale, press your palms into the ground and lift your knees off the ground, straightening your arms and legs. Your body will form a wide, upside-down V shape.

Push your thighs back, pressing your heels toward the floor, but don’t worry if they don’t touch. Broaden your shoulders by rotating your arms slightly so your elbow creases face the sky. Relax your neck, and take 5–10 breaths here.

3. PLANK

This total-body strengthener is great for the upper body, back and core, which are often underdeveloped in bikers.

The move: Begin on your hands knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders. Engage your abdominals, tuck your toes and step your feet back. Keep contracting the abdominals so you create one long line from your head to your heels and avoid sticking your butt in the air or dropping your belly down. Look slightly ahead of your fingers to keep your neck long. Hold for 5–10 breaths.

4. STANDING STRADDLE WITH SHOULDER OPENER

This stretches the hamstrings, releases the low back and opens the chest and shoulders. Use a strap or towel to make the shoulder opener more accessible.

The move: Face the long edge of your mat with your feet 3–4 feet apart. Turn your toes in slightly and engage the thighs. Bring your hands to your hips and, as you exhale, lean your torso forward until it is parallel to the floor. Lengthen through the entire torso and on your next exhale fold completely. Focus on hinging from the hips so you stretch the hamstrings without compromising the back. Take the arms behind your back, interlace the fingers and let your arms fall toward the floor. Let your head be relaxed and heavy. Relax your eyes and hold here for 5–10 breaths.


READ MORE > 5-POSE YOGA FIX FOR DESK DWELLERS


5. HALF LORD OF THE FISHES

This deep twist is a great release for the spine, opens the shoulders and stretches the hips.

The move: Sit on the floor or the edge of a blanket with your legs extended. Cross your right leg over your left so your right knee points to the ceiling and your right foot sits outside your left knee. You can keep your left leg straight with your foot flexed or bend your left leg so that your left foot rests near your right hip. Try to keep both sits bones on the ground.

Inhale, elongate your spine and stretch your left arm overhead. Exhale and twist to the left, releasing your left hand to the floor behind you. Inhale and stretch your right arm overhead. Exhale and twist, bringing your right elbow to rest against the outside of your right knee. Continue to find length through the torso with each inhale, being conscious not to collapse through the chest. Hold for 5–10 breaths and repeat on the other side.

The post Stretches for Cyclists | 5-Pose Yoga Fix appeared first on Under Armour.

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10 Things Your Yoga Teacher Secretly Wishes You’d Do

As a yoga teacher in Los Angeles, I’ve seen and heard it all. While I pride myself on being laid back and creating a casual, welcoming atmosphere, there are some common rules of etiquette that go a long way. Abide by the 10 rules below to make your yoga experience a lot more pleasant for you, your teacher and everyone else in the room.

1. SHOW UP EARLY

The opening moments of class are reserved for creating quiet space on your mat and to ground and center yourself while tuning into your breath. It’s incredibly distracting to have someone loudly enter the room and have to shift everyone over to make space for their mat.

2. PRACTICE PROPER HYGIENE

In other words, make sure you don’t smell. Nothing ruins a yoga class faster than offensive odors. On the flip side, avoid strong perfumes and cologne, which can make it equally hard for your fellow yogis to breathe deeply. The yogic word for “cleanliness” or “purity” is saucha. Practice saucha every time you step onto your mat. This includes wiping down your mat, using a fresh towel each time you practice and washing your clothes. Those dirty gym shorts that have been baking in the back seat of your car? If they’re stiff enough to stand on their own, toss them.

3. LEAVE YOUR SHOES OUTSIDE

Don’t track mud, dirt and street grime into the studio. Yoga is practiced barefoot and in many poses, your face is only inches away from the floor. Enough said.

4. STICK TO THE SEQUENCE

In my classes, I offer a lot of room for creativity and flexibility. I encourage students to add poses and take poses out depending on what their body needs on any given day. I also encourage students to rest any time they need to, no matter what the rest of the class is doing. It would be appropriate for someone who is adept at handstands to hop into one while everyone else is doing a standing split, or to take an upward dog instead of cobra. But doing something drastically different from what is being taught at any given moment is highly distracting and can be hazardous for yourself and your neighbors if your body isn’t properly warmed up.

5. TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONE

Yoga is a place to completely unwind and unplug. Your emails and social media feeds can wait an hour. Turning off your phone will also eliminate the risk of it ringing during savasana.

6. WEAR APPROPRIATE YOGA ATTIRE

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with showing skin. I love when people feel comfortable and confident enough in their bodies to practice without layers. But please make sure that you aren’t exposing any of your private parts publicly. It sounds like common knowledge, but I have been flashed on more than one occasion, and there’s only one way to describe the experience: awkward.

7. ALERT YOUR TEACHER OF ANY INJURIES OR HEALTH ISSUES

While most teachers ask if there are any injuries, health issues or pregnancies in the room, it’s always a good idea to alert your teacher before class of anything they should be aware of to help keep you safe.


READ MORE > 3 WAYS TO PREVENT INJURIES IN YOGA


8. DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS

Yoga is for every body, and every body is different. Don’t judge your weaknesses against someone else’s strengths. Let go of labels. Keep your focus on your own mat and your own experience, and practice patience and compassion along the way.

9. SHARE YOUR SPACE

The beautiful thing about yoga is you don’t need much space to do it — just the width and length of a standard yoga mat. Yet it never ceases to amaze me how unwilling people can be to share space or how attached people get to a certain spot in the room. I’ve seen fights almost break out over someone taking someone else’s “spot.” There are no reserved seats in yoga. Make room for others and they will gladly make room for you.

10. RESIST THE URGE TO TEACH TO OTHERS IN THE ROOM

This is one of my personal pet peeves. I’ve had girlfriends start coaching their boyfriends and husbands start correcting their wives during class. I’ve also had other teachers start assisting and teaching to other students when it’s not their own class. Be respectful. If it’s not your class, don’t start teaching or offering unsolicited advice, unless you’re specifically asked.


GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT YOGA CLASS

> Women’s Yoga Tops
> Women’s Yoga Pants
> Women’s Yoga Bras
> All Women’s Yoga & Studio Gear


The post 10 Things Your Yoga Teacher Secretly Wishes You’d Do appeared first on Under Armour.

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3 Physical Benefits of Yoga

The mental and psychological benefits of yoga have been expounded at length — the American Psychological Association is even compiling research and noting how many practitioners are blending it into their treatment practices. But, physically, yoga can increase strength and flexibility over a short period of time, and “may be as effective or better than exercise at improving a variety of health-related outcomes,” according to a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

1. BUILDS STRENGTH

Yoga instructor Laurel Van Matre, who has been teaching yoga for more than 18 years is acutely aware of how yoga manifests changes and improvements in our physical bodies and stresses that yoga is more than just stretching. “It’s possible to be strong, but not flexible at all,” Van Matre explains. “Stretching isn’t just passive. You can actually get injured in yoga if you’re just making shapes and hanging out there. It’s about learning to both stretch and engage muscles at the same time — that’s how strength and flexibility work together to improve and reinforce each other.”

Van Matre points to one of her regular students who is a marathon runner who reports that yoga has helped him with his breathing and has elongated his stride over time, which has resulted in him becoming a faster runner.

2. TRIGGERS THE PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM

The human nervous system can be divided into the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. The former is the system we operate in when we’re relaxed and the cortisol drops; the latter is where our fight-or-flight response is housed. “We spend most of our lives in our sympathetic nervous system — when we’re constantly dealing with stress from work or family, we get suck in the reactive sympathetic nervous system and are constantly releasing cortisol into our systems,” Van Matre says. “But there’s another way of being in the world, and that’s through the parasympathetic nervous system. It’s through a focus on breath that the parasympathetic system can be activated, and we can get into a more relaxed state.” The breathwork that happens in yoga helps to trigger this state.


READ MORE > 5-POSE YOGA FIX FOR DESK DWELLERS


3. RELAXES THE PSOAS MUSCLE

The psoas muscle, which runs from “the top of the femur to the little knob at the upper inner thigh — is the only muscle that connects your legs to your spine,” Van Matre says. It’s a muscle that can cause a series of problems that yoga can address, including a stimulation of cortisol production through its constant contraction. Through activities — or lack thereof — “this muscle stays contracted all the time and creates tightness in the hips and lower back” which research has shown can lead to chronic back pain. Further, Van Matre explains, “this compression can even lead to sciatica, a painful condition that results from a pinched nerve. But through proper alignment through yoga, you can get [the psoas muscle] to relax.” Yoga provides a way to relax the psoas muscle, and the ailments that its contractions produce.


GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT YOGA SESSION

> Women’s Yoga Tops
> Women’s Yoga Pants
> Women’s Yoga Bras
> All Women’s Yoga & Studio Gear


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