Category Archives: yoga

yoga

Vegan Meal Replacement Powder Comparison

To power my day, I start it with a vegan breakfast smoothie. Smoothies are a great way to pack big nutrition into a glass. I’ve tried many vegan meal powders. Some are chalky, some are cloyingly sweet. Others are delicious, but expensive or lack an important ingredient.

I’ll spend more for creamy texture and better taste, but within reason. I just spent a couple of hours researching what is available and came up with some statistics. I’m sharing the results and hope it helps you with your search for a favorite product at a good price.

Click on the chart and spreadsheet below to see larger images.

Vegan Meal Powder Comparison
Vegan Meal Powder Comparison Spreadsheet

Product Review: Best Exercise Foam Roller: PhysioPhit Foam Roller with Trigger Points

I’ve long been intrigued with the therapeutic value of foam rollers.  Yoga does a great job of stretching muscles, but does not necessarily work into deeper layers of musculature.  One study, among many with positive results, from the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John’s, Canada indicates that foam rolling alleviates muscle fatigue and delayed onset soreness. I’d also been told anecdotally, from several fitness instructors and personal trainers, about their personal positive experience of increased range of motion from foam rolling after exercise.

The facts were adding up, so I purchased 2 foam rollers: a basic smooth surface high-density version and a PhysioPhit Foam Roller with trigger points. Perceiving the PhysioPhit as more akin to an ancient torture device, I babied myself by first working with the smooth roller. Hey, don’t judge! It’s like I tell my yoga students: “Find your undeachiever!” Let’s face it, people push too hard and, well, I really should practice what I preach.

Taking it slowly with the smooth roller, I targeted the outer hip and thigh. This felt like a leg muscle lengthener, a gentle kneading. It targets a wide area – the entire width of outer leg. Rolling face up with it under my back also felt fairly gently, more Shiatsu than deep-tissue massage. I did try it in a seated position to roll out my hamstrings and calves, but thought it largely ineffective for those areas. I wasn’t able to get enough downward pressure into the roller.

SibiI was now ready for round two. Enter the PhysioFit. I again started with the outer hip and thigh. If I were writing this on paper, you would see my tear stains. My TFL (tensor fasciae latae) and quadriceps could barely take it. I wanted my mommy. Instead, I got a curious head tilt from my dog. Thanks for the support, Seabiscuit.

Next up, calves and hamstrings. From a seated position, I stretched my legs out over the PhysioPhit. Just by lightly pressing my legs down into the trigger points, I easily generated pressure deep into the muscles. I could have pressed down harder, but didn’t want to worry my pup again.

In a conversation the next day with a personal trainer, I commented about how intense the PhyoPhit was. I couldn’t believe it when she said it’s only that intense when muscles and fascia are tight. What?! Excuse me? Some people can roll on that torture device and enjoy a pleasant massage? Well, that should be me, because I do yoga, a LOT of yoga. This led to a discussion on fascia and now I am committed to foam rolling.

Months later, it has gotten better. Initially, I was using both the smooth roller and PhysioPhit. Now, I exclusively use the PhysioPhit. I see results in less time with less effort. It has become an important recovery tool for after a workout, a yoga class, a run, or whenever my body is feeling a bit tense.

 

 

 

 

Product Review: Using Medi-Dyne Prostretch for a Deep Calf Stretch

calf muscles

Are your heels so far off the floor that your Downward Dog is a Downward Don’t? Do you suffer with tight calves, hamstrings, or plantar fascitis?  If so, the Medi-Dyne Prostretch might be just the tool you need to improve your yoga practice.  As a recreational runner and yoga teacher, I’m personally aware that running can result in uncomfortably calves tight calves. Yet, I’m not willing to give up running for the benefit of my yoga practice.

Let’s take a minute for a brief anatomy review. There are 2 primary muscles in the calf, the gastrocnemius (a.k.a. gastroc) and the soleus. The gastroc, think rock, is the bulbous muscle superficial to the soleus, which lies under it. Both have a role in plantarflexion (pointed toe position) of the foot. Because the gastroc originates at the femur, it is the primary plantarflexor when the leg is straight. On the other hand, the soleus is primary when the leg is bent. This tells us that, in order to stretch both, we need to extend the calf in both bent leg and straight leg positions.

Medi-Dyne ProstretchSo, what’s a yogi to do?  While poses such as Downward Dog and Warrior I are effective for stretching the calf muscles, using the Prostretch is a more focused approach. First, it also allows for the calf to be stretched with a straight or bent leg. Second, with it’s rounded bottom, it allows for a rocker motion that simulates the foot motion which occurs during running. The stretch can be gradually deepened by rocking back so the heel sits lower than the ball of the foot. Finally, combining all that goodness with a v-shaped cradle, you’ll find it can release the fascia (connective-tissue) and achilles.

Every so often a product comes along that I want to tell the world about it. The Prostretch is one of those products. I use it every morning when brushing my teeth. I love the feeling of release and have fun rolling around on it. So, get yourself a Prostretch and the next time a yoga teacher says that Downward Dog is a restorative pose, it may actually feel that way to you.

 

 

Yoga Teacher’s Quick Tip: Who did I adjust?

Parivritta Trikonasana AdjustmentI’ll be the first to admit that, hard as I try, my memory often fails me while teaching classes. There is a lot to think about and my mind tends toward entropy. Here are a few questions that frequently pop into my head while teaching:

  1. What is the next posture in this sequence?
  2. Did I cue the correct side?
  3. Last, but not least…Who did I adjust on the first side of this posture?

This post addresses #3. When I was first teaching, I used to wander around the room, assisting the people I deemed most in need of an adjustment. This resulted in me zig-zagging randomly around the room. When the time came to adjust the posture on the second side, I couldn’t remember who I had adjusted on the first side.

Here is a quick tip for remembering to adjust the same person on both sides. Break the room into sections (front right, back left, etc.) and stay in one section for a particular asana sequence. Within that section, move from person to person. Place yourself in that section for the second side and you’ll be surprised at how being in the right place at the right time will trigger your memory. Hope that helps bring more consistency to your adjusting.

Review: Yogitoes Skidless® and Jade Microfiber Yoga Towels

I’m surely dating myself here, but do you remember the movie Mr. Mom where Michael Keaton’s son gets really attached to his blanket? Here’s a clip in case that doesn’t ring a bell: Mr. Mom. Anyway, yoga towels are my wooby.

If you are not already using a yoga towel, consider these benefits:

  • hygienic layer between you and your mat (especially good when using a studio’s rental mat)
  • sweat absorption layer, keeps you and your mat dry
  • skid/slip protection
  • increased time between mat washings
  • cushioning

As you might recall from a previous post, I’m a big fan of Jade yoga mats (Jade yoga mat review). Let’s face it though, rubber is not the plushest (plush, love that word!) material out there and my pointy tailbone and I need a little more tush cush. My ‘Go To’ towel of choice was the Yogitoes Skidless® towel, but I thought I’d investigate alternatives before the outlay of any more of my precious coin. I narrowed the candidates down to Yogitoes Skidless® and Jade Microfiber towels.

Yogitoes towels are the most popular towels where I teach. Most of the teachers I know use them. I have 2 and have spent hundreds of mat hours with them. They are super durable, though not unexpectedly, have thinned out a bit over time. The dots (we’ll talk more about those in a bit) now protrude more than the towel, lowering the comfort factor. The Jade towel caught my attention because of my previous great experiences with their mats and because they are advertised to have great grip while being highly absorbent. I’ll share my musings on both and then get more tabular.

Fabric: The Yogitoes towel has 2 faces (in a good way, not like with that high school ‘friend’). The top side is a polyester/nylon blend. The underside is the same fabric with silicone dots that grab your yoga mat. Is it just me or do these remind you of the candy buttons I inhaled as a kid?  The Jade towel, on the other hand, is uniform microfiber on both sides. When I first unpacked the Jade, I thought “No way is this thing going to be non-slip.”, but it is a magical fabric that really grips my hands and my rubber mat.  It is super soft, dare I say… fluffy. Love! I yearn for reclined poses so I can lay on this luxurious fabric.

[A brief tangent on yoga towel grip. Never ever (by this I mean NEVER) use fabric softener on these. Not in the washing machine and not in the dryer. Use a mild detergent and air dry or machine dry on low. I’ll assume we are clear on this and carry on.]

Portability: Considering how you will be toting your towel around, weight is a factor. At a featherweight 8 ounces, the Jade is a clear winner here.  The Yogitoes is a hefty 22 ounces in comparison.

Lint: A category for lint you say? A must, I say, since these score on opposite ends of the spectrum. The Yogitoes does not hold on to lint, retaining cleanliness throughout practice. The Jade, perhaps because of it’s fluffiness, seems to hold on to every stray thread, hair, and lint ball that comes around. I try to think of these as extra spots on which to laser focus my gaze, but really they are a bity untidy.

Size: Standard sized yoga mats are 24″ x 68″ same size as the Yogitoes towel. The Jade towel is larger, 24″ x 72″. I’m guessing the Jade is larger to accommodate both their 68″ and 74″ mats. Undeterred, I just tuck the extra inches under the front edge of my mat.

Price: Jade at MSRP $34.95 is noticeably less expensive than the Yogitoes at $64, though the Yogitoes is more highly engineered.

Durability: The Yogitoes has lasted me years, hundreds of practice hours. I’ve put about 50 hours on my Jade and it is holding up well so far.

Conclusion: Given the comfort and price, I recommend the Jade towel. Would love to hear what towels you like. Feel free to chime in with comments.

 

Yoga Towel Comparison – Feb 10, 2012
Product Jade Microfiber Yogitoes Skidless®
Material Polyester microfiber 80% polyester, 20% nylon – silicone nubs
Made in U.S.A. Korea
Colors 5 many
Approximate Weight 8 ounces 22 ounces
Charity One month’s worth of clean drinking water for one person in the developing world for every towel sold Donates 1% of their annual sales of all yogitoes® products
Holding power (to you) Excellent wet or dry Good when wet, poor when dry
Holding power (to mat) Excellent Very good
Comfort factor Mr. Mom Wooby Level Knobbly
Size 24″ x 72″ 24″ x 68″
MSRP $34.95 $64.00

The business side of yoga

Have you ever dreamed of being a yoga teacher, but were concerned it meant you had to commit to being impoverished? Then you might be interested in this NY Magazine article: A Yoga Studio – Joschi Body Bodega

There is an undercurrent among teachers that yoga and money don’t mix. However, we all have bills to pay. Teaching yoga doesn’t necessarily put you on a fast track to wealth, but there are approaches that can result in higher earnings. In the article, a yoga studio owner named Joschi Schwarz gives tips about his approach to profitability. It’s refreshing to see a studio owner talk about the money end of teaching in such a straightforward manner.

The article is part of the NY Magazine’s ‘Profit Calculator’ series which also provides earnings info for a diverse range of businesses; anywhere from a financial firm to a drug dealer. While the yoga studio article was most pertinent, I got a kick out of reading them all.

Mirrors in your yoga room…do you love ’em or hate ’em?

Nataranjasana pose in mirrorEvery yoga practice room has its own personality. Some are Zen-tastic with a soothing color scheme and just a handful of carefully chosen adornments. Others offer a little more to look at, or distract you, depending on your mindset. There may be a Buddha or two; perhaps Ganesh makes an appearance.

Whatever the decor, the best environments are ones that enhance your practice.  This might be through a minimalist approach or, less likely, with a wall of mirrors for you to check your alignment.

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