How to Roll A Yoga Mat…and Survive!

I stared at this picture for a while before I realized I’ve been rolling up my yoga mat wrong all these years…glad I survived! I mean this is just one more shred of evidence proving how harmful yoga really can be.

Fabulous artwork courtesy of Alison Hinks, creative yogi extraordinaire!

How to Use, Cleanse, and Store Mala Beads

A few pointers from Diana at Tiny Devotions on how to use, cleanse, and store mala beads:

On the Spirit Voyage blog, which has a trove of meditation mantras, I discovered some interesting information about accupressure points on the fingers that can be targeted with a mala.  Might give it a try.

There are accupressure points on each of the fingers that work on different parts of the psyche and the brain.  When the beads press the meridian points in the finger, you can work on a specific result. The meridian point you are trying to activate is located on the side of each finger, in the center point between the tip of the finger and the upper knuckle.
The properties of the meridian points for each finger are as follows:
  • Index Finger (Jupiter Finger): Wisdom. Knowledge. Prosperity
  • Middle Finger (Saturn Finger): Patience.
  • Ring Finger (Sun Finger): Health. Vitality. Strengthen the Nervous System.
  • Little Finger (Mercury Finger): Communication. Intelligence.

43 Creative Ways to Reuse or Recycle Your Old Yoga Mat

Let’s face it, even if your favorite yoga mat is bulletproof and will never ever wear out, there’s still a decent chance that you have a collection of yoga mats laying around the house, most likely never to be used for their intended purpose ever again.  Eventually, one day you may decide to tidy up the place and gaze in astonishment at all your mats. First, you’ll wonder where the heck they all came from.  And second, you’ll wonder what the heck to do with them since you really don’t need old, worn-out mats filling up the corners of every room in your house, do you?

Well, it certainly looks yogic to have a mat in every corner, but then you think to yourself there must be something practical I could do with all these extra pieces of large, spongy, colorful, plastic rectangles.   The simple answer:

REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE

After a little personal introspection and Internet research, I compiled this list of 43 creative ways to reuse, recycle, and extend your old yoga mats’ non-yoga related usefulness.  Sound fun?  Get your scissors ready.  Off you go:

My Personal Top 10 Reuse/Recycle Options:

  1. Turn your mat into a bleacher cushion.  Great for those hard bleachers when watching sporting events.  Here’s how:  Step 1) Cut the mat into equal pieces to make one top and bottom (the size of a newspaper laid flat); Step 2) Punch holes about every 2 inches with a paper hole punch all the way around (both top and bottom); Step 3) Take a couple of days worth of newspapers and lay them between the top and bottom (or if you have another old mat to sacrifice, chop it up and use it as the cushioning); Step 4) Use yarn, ribbon, rawhide, etc. to lace the holes and tie off.  Oh yeah, pretty sweet, huh?  To re-stuff, untie and add new newspaper.  Easy to store, lightweight, washable, reusable, and comfortable
  2. Leave the beach towel home and bring your old yoga mat to the beach instead (caution! may induce spontaneous yoga poses on the beach 🙂
  3. Save your floors and roll out the old mats for the kids to do messy craft projects on
  4. Along the same lines as number 1, fold mat in four, place in a pillow cover, and you have a cheap and comfy meditation cushion
  5. Donate your old mat to a mat recycling program such as Recycle Your Mat, an eco-conscious organization whose goal is to re-purpose or recycle the world’s unwanted yoga mats.  Apparently Manduka offers 20% discount on your next mat purchase if you go this route!  Jade Yoga also offers a 3R Program where yoga students can drop off their used up and unwanted mats to participating studios who, with Jade’s help will find local resources to reuse or donate the mats.  I’m sure there’s more recycling programs like these, so feel free to comment if you know of other programs that deserve a mention
  6. Enjoy yoga in the wild! Use old mats as a “Guerrilla Yoga” mat alternative (okay, I just mean plain old outside yoga, but Guerrilla Yoga sounds so much more primitive).  Most, if not all, “eco” mats are susceptible to damage by the elements and using them for outside practice is not the best idea.   Now you don’t have to jack up your good mat doing it
  7. How could the computer geek inside me resist a nice, thick, cushiony yoga mouse pad for surfing the Internet
  8. I really hate rattling stereo speakers.  Place cut out yoga mat squares under those noisy stereo speakers to reduce vibration rattle
  9. Do you absolutely love the feel of yoga mat on your feet?  Why not cut out yoga mat insoles for all your shoes.  Now you’re a true yogi!  Oh, wait, no your not unless you’ve tried number 10…
  10. True yogis don’t wear shoes, right?  Why not make a pair of flip-flops out of your yoga mat?!?  Click the link and/or watch the video below for everything you need to know.  You’re going to need these for going to the beach (see #2 above)

Click through the jump to see the rest of the list… [Read more…]

The Yoga Habit ~ 30 Day Yoga Challenge

“This practice becomes firmly rooted when it is cultivated skillfully and continuously for a long time.” – The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali 1:14

If you’re anything like me, then you may have noticed that the intensity of your yoga practice surges at times and then peters out at times.  You practice regularly for a week or two, and then nothing.   You move on to something else for a while and then realize one day that you haven’t seen your yoga mat for a month.  It’s a strong likelihood that this pattern of inconsistency affects not only your yoga practice, but other aspects in your life.  It’s human nature.  While this pattern is certainly natural, for many people it becomes a habit that hinders them from taking their performance and skill in any activity to the next level.  For most people, myself included, it’s not that they one day decide they don’t enjoy yoga practice, it’s just that they have not taken the necessary steps to develop the yoga habit.

Habits

“It seems, in fact, as though the second half of a man’s life is made up of nothing but the habits he has accumulated during the first half.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Habits are powerful, unconscious patterns of behavior that once formed, play a large role in influencing the direction of one’s life.  To a certain degree, our lives go where our habits take us.  Our bodies, the vehicle; our habits, the chauffeur.

How to Form a Habit. Habits can be both good and bad, and interestingly enough, creating a good habit pretty much involves the same process as making a bad habit.  Without delving into neurological explanations for habit formation (check out Scott Young’s great explanation here), the bottom line is that habits form through REPETITION. The philosopher Aristotle nailed it on the head: “We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

To form a habit, all you need to do is repeat the activity over a period of time.  Opinions vary on the length of time it takes to form a habit, but most agree that it takes anywhere from three to six weeks of conscious, consistent, repetitive, and focused behavior to develop a new good habit.  It’s not always easy, but the end results are almost always worth it.

The Yoga Habit ~ 30 Day Yoga Challenge

If you want to consistently enjoy the benefits of yoga, then you need to take the steps necessary to make it a habit.  One of the best ways to develop the yoga habit is to commit to a 30 day yoga challenge.  

30 Day Yoga Challenge.   The heart of the 30 day challenge is commitment.  It means making a promise to yourself and following through on it.   It means banishing from your life all your old wimpy excuses for failure.  It means promising to practice for a certain amount of time each day and just doing it.  If you commit to 15 minutes a day, then you practice for 15 minutes every day.  If you commit to an hour each day, then you practice for an hour.  Don’t set unrealistic expectations, but commit to a goal that pushes you.  Whatever you commit to, do it for 30 days and you will drastically improve your chances of turning your yoga practice into a habit.

Here are a few suggestions for succeeding in creating a yoga habit.

1.  Make yourself accountable. Another aspect of commitment is accountability.  Write down your goal and/or tell someone about your plans.    Memorializing the commitment on paper or telling a friend helps set it deep into your mind that you will practice yoga for 30 days in a row.  Make yourself accountable to prove that you can do anything you set your mind to.

2.  Prioritize your life. If a 30 day yoga challenge is something you want to commit to, then make it a priority.   Use these 30 days to simplify and streamline your life.  Examine your current daily routine and activities and determine what really needs to stay and what needs to get the axe.   Maybe that means watching less TV or cutting back on social web surfing so you have time to dedicate to your practice.  Most people have plenty of time, they just don’t use it well.  Depending on how high the yoga challenge ranks in your priorities, you may also decide to temporarily give up otherwise worthwhile activities to create the necessary time.  Chances are if you cut something out of your life, you won’t even notice it’s gone in a month.

3.  Set a time and have a practice plan. A lot of our daily routine, i.e. when, where, and how we do things, is determined by our habits.  Since you’re trying to make yoga a habit, figure out the best time in the day and place for you to get on your yoga mat.  Morning or night doesn’t matter so much as picking a time and then sticking to it as best as possible.   Maybe there are certain yoga classes you want to attend.  Plan for it.  Remember, you’re trying to form a habit, and consistency will help with that.  Not many people can make it to the yoga studio for 30 days in a row, so you will also have a chance to work on your home practice.  For many people,  myself included, home practice is the only option available.  My advice is to go to bed a little earlier so you can practice in the quiet of the morning before the world wakes up.  However, when setting your schedule, also allow for some flexibility.  Life would be boring if there weren’t any surprises.  If you know your regular practice time won’t work one day,  or something unexpected pops up, have a backup plan in place already so you’re not tempted to skip a day.

4.  Educate yourself. This is also a very important step in maintaining your motivation throughout the 30 day yoga challenge.  Spend some time at the bookstore or library and browse through the yoga section.   If you see a book that interests you, buy it; you’ll probably never be more deserving of a purchase for yourself.   Throughout the month, turn to your yoga library and other yoga-related magazines, DVDs, and websites to increase your understanding of whatever aspect of yoga interests you, be it asana sequences, philosophy, history, whatever.

Here are a few good places to start:

5.  Write about it. Keep track of your 30 day yoga challenge by writing about it in your journal or blog.  You may even consider following this 30 day yoga journey designed by Florian Yoga Companion.  If nothing else, at least have a calendar to mark off each day that you practice.  Nobody wants to have an empty square on their 30 day yoga challenge calendar:) If you do  decide to write about your 30 day yoga challenge, let us know so we can cheer you on!

Just Do It!

Completing your own 30 day yoga challenge will require discipline, commitment, focus, and sacrifice.  It won’t guarantee that you have a yoga habit for life – you can fall out of good habits just as easily as you fall into bad ones – but it will be a step in the right direction.   So take the leap, start a 30 day yoga challenge, and enjoy the journey of a daily yoga habit.

How to Clean a Yoga Mat


Child’s pose is one of those poses that every time it’s entered into acts as a reminder that it’s okay to rest and accept the peace that comes from resting. At the same time, there’s also a decent likelihood that the close proximty of nose to mat in child’s pose acts as a reminder that it’s NOT okay to have a stinky yoga mat. There’s a big difference between a “sticky” mat and a “stinky” mat. The former is to be sought after, the latter is to be shunned. So, the big question is when was the last time you gave your “stinky” mat a bath. If you’re like me, it should have been done a long time ago. Perhaps you have a preferred method for cleaning your mat. I don’t. In fact, in the six years I’ve practiced yoga, I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never cleaned it once. That’s just gross!

Well, after a few times in child’s pose last night, I decided I’d better get serious about cleaning my mat; otherwise, I might end up with a nasty foot fungus on my forehead. With that thought in mind, I went searching for a cure. Here’s what a little research turned up on different ways to keep a mat in tip-top shape.

Yoga Journal had the following to say on the subject:

If your mat is lightly soiled, use a spray bottle, damp sponge, or terry cloth rag to apply a solution of two cups of water and four drops of dish soap. Rub the soiled areas. Wipe the mat with clean water; then rub with a dry terry cloth towel. Hang to air dry.

If your mat is heavily soiled, submerge it in a solution of warm water and mild detergent; use very little soap as any residue may cause the mat to become slippery during future use. Thoroughly hand wash the mat and rinse in clean water. After squeezing out the excess water, lay the mat on a dry towel and roll the mat and towel together. Stepping on the rolled up mat will squeeze more moisture out of the mat and into the towel. Then unroll and hang to air dry.

A Bikram site recommended a different approach:

Just put it by itself into the washing machine, add a very small amount of a light detergent such as Woolite and run it through a gentle cycle. Then just hang it to dry it usually dries overnight but in the humid summer weather it might take a little longer. I recommend washing your mat once every couple of months, depending on how often you attend class. It’s also a good idea to hang your mat in between classes rather than leave it rolled up.

Here’s a few more words of wisdom from Yogamatters:

All of our sticky, standard, lightweight, travel and ecoYoga mats are machine washable: Use a little mild detergent and a cool wash cycle (no more than than 40 degrees). Don’t use the spin cycle. Allow lots of time to air dry (do not use a tumble drier or radiator) and avoid folding or using your mat until it is completely dry, as this may shorten its life. You can roll your mat up with a towel and squeeze excess water out to speed up the drying process. You can also use a damp cloth to wipe your mat clean. Do not wash your mat unnecessarily.

Cotton mats can also be machine washed – full details supplied with each mat.

Here’s one last link if you are still looking for ideas. I think I’m going to opt for the sponge-down solution rather than complete submersion. Hopefully my next child’s pose is a little less distracting than the last one.

Leave a comment if you have any other good ideas for mat cleanliness!

Manduka Yoga Gear