Which of these yoga mats is best for your practice?

yoga mat

Your yoga mat can drastically influence your practice, and depending on your style preferences you may prefer a different kind of mat. There’s no one-size-fits-all yoga mat, just like there’s no one way to practice yoga. Sometimes you need time to experiment and see what feels best for you body.

Feel free to customize your mat as much your you do your practice. You have the ability to choose.

But searching can be overwhelming. I get it, there are lots of numbers, diameters and in such fun colors! If you’d like a little guidance in your search for your new yoga mat home, maybe try one of these variations.

If any one of these options is calling to you, click the picture to link to the brand’s page.

 

For the Budding Yogis: Jade Yoga Harmony Mat

Jade is a great contender for “overall best in show.” Its made of sustainable, all-natural rubber and no synthetics. The Harmony Mat is their most popular choice. It’s pretty moderately priced and comes in lots of awesome colors. If you’re just beginning to deepen your practice this is a great option. However, I’ve heard they don’t last as long if you have a more rigorous, daily practice. You can expect 2 – 3 good years out of this mat if you practice more than 3x a week.

 

For the Die-Hard Yogis: Manduka PROlite

Mandukas are like the Fords of yoga mats: strong, durable, and will probably last you a lifetime. These high-density mats have a lifetime guarantee that they’ll never wear out. They maintain their color really well, and they prevent bacteria growth with a closed-cell surface. They’re more of an investment, and the price reflects that. One complaint about the Mandukas is that they take awhile to break in, and their strong surface can make some of them really heavy. I recommend feeling the weight for yourself before committing to lugging one around everywhere. That being said this is the brand that I use, and I love it!

 

For Extra Cushion: B Yoga Strong yoga mat

If you need some extra padding beneath your joints while you practice, look at getting a thicker mat. The B Yoga Strong version is 6 mm thick, a comfier option than others. The trick with mat thickness is to find a medium that’s comfortable for your joints, but not so plush that it makes it difficult for you to stand up and balance. B Yoga also offers different lengths if you need some extra wiggle room.

 

 

For the Budget: Gaiam Yoga Mat

Maybe you’re not ready to drop that much on a mat. Maybe you only practice once every few weeks and are looking for a low-investment option. That’s totally cool! Gaiam is the budget-yogi’s best friend. They have tons of cool designs listed on Amazon for under 30 bucks. There are no real options for you to customize your size or your thickness here, and I wouldn’t expect a mat to last you more than a year or so. But it’s a great option if you’re just getting in to yoga and want something fun and worry-free.

 

 

For No-Slip Grip: Gurus Natural Cork Mat

Cork mats are the new craze in the yoga biz right now, but they’ve been gaining a lot of traction for their handy, non-slip surface. The cork in Guru’s mat is sustainably sourced and acts as a natural antimicrobial. This means your mat will stay fresh longer, without the need for cleaning products. I have heard that the feel of the cork can take some getting used to, and if you’re a old-school mat lover you may not be crazy about it. Good thing is, Gurus’ mat is reversible! Just flip it over if you’re craving a more traditional mat feel.

 

 

For Lightweight Travel: Jade Voyager yoga mat

It took me so long to figure out that I needed a travel mat. If your practice begins to follow you in your journeys, you may want to consider getting a second,lightweight mat. Firstly, if your daily mat is hefty, you don’t want to carry it all throughout the airport or on to buses with you. Secondly, if you’re stowing your mat while you fly, chances are it’s going to get pretty dirty in the overhead compartment or under the seat. That’s why a thinner, easily stow-able mat is a great option. However, their thinness can be uncomfortable. If you’re at a studio where they have free mat rentals, you can throw this one down on top for some extra cushion.

 

 

For Ultimate Alignment: Liforme Yoga Mat

If you practice Ashtanga, Anusara or any alignment-driven style of yoga, the Liforme mat is an innovative option for you. Their unique alignment marker system adds helpful guides to the surface of your mat in a clean and minimalistic way. I’ve heard rave reviews about their grip and durability. It also has extra space, both in length and width to give yogis more space to play. It’s a higher price tag, but this listing also comes with mat bag for you as well.

 

For the Creative: Yoga Zeal

If the nitty-gritty details don’t really interest you and you’re looking for a more expressive option, Yoga Zeal has so many creative options. Their designs all  have a mystic flair to them, but I’m partial on the moon phase option here, personally. Beyond their looks, they’re also made of natural tree rubber, and have a layer of faux-suede towel sewn in to the top. No need for an additional towel on top of your mat during heated practices.

 

What’s your favorite kind of mat to use? How does it influences your practice?

 

I’d love to see you on your mat! Come practice with me if you’re in New Orleans.

A Beginner’s Dive into Yoga and Meditation

The yoga world can appear really intimidating. Modern media depicts thin, fit practitioners with their ankles behind their ears and balancing on their heads. I get why a lot of people feel like they “can’t” do yoga! But that’s unfortunate, because the physical strength is such a small part of this greater lineage of practices for your body and your mind. I’ve been practicing for over five years and I still struggle with headstands! That doesn’t mean you can’t try yoga.

But I thought I would help and do a little demystify-ing for y’all.

This is a brief overview of different yoga practices (both meditation and physical) and some resources to help you get started. If you have any questions or struggles at all feel free to reach out to me! Or come to some of my all-levels classes if you’re based out of New Orleans. I would love to practice with you. 🙂

Happy diving, young yogis!

Asana

yoga New Orleans

Asana is the name for the physical practice of yoga – moving your body around the mat. It’s what we most commonly associate with the practice of yoga in the West. This is meant to be a form of meditative movement. It gives the body time to slow down ~ depending on the pace of your practice ~ and increases strength and flexibility. Try some different styles of asana and see which one works best for you.

Also keep in mind that different teachers will all have their own unique style. If something doesn’t feel right to you at first, branch out and see if something else works better!

Here are some common styles of yoga asana:

Vinyasa

Vinyasa means “to place in a special way.” Vinyasa classes are usually set to a faster pace and focus on fluid movements with smooth transitions. They’ll include common sequences like sun salutations, and other well-known yoga poses. Vinyasa classes are great if you want to switch up your practice every day and work on gaining strength. You focus on linking your breath to your movement, keeping energetic movement and working through creative sequences. There will also often be time to play with fun and unique postures!

Vinyasa videos for home practice:


Ashtanga

A more rigorous style of asana that was brought to the west by famed teacher Pattabhi Jois in the 1970s. It’s similar to vinyasa in that the movement is linked with the breath, but different because you perform the exact same postures in the exact same sequence every time. It’s called the “eight-limbed” path of yoga and is based of the ancient yogic texts and teachings.

It’s very physically demanding and builds A LOT of strength and dedication. Teachers can help you get acclimated to the sequence and build your practice from there. You may see some Ashtanga classed labeled Mysore Style. This means there is a teacher present to help with alignments, but there are NO verbal cues. You’re on your own with your breath and the sequence, but most studios will have printed “cheat sheets” of the sequence to help beginners. It’s a wonderfully meditative practice and can be very invigorating if practiced regularly. The series starts with five sun salutations. Just start there, move with your breath, and see how your body feels.

Ashtanga videos for home practice:


Yin

Yin yoga is much slower paced style of yoga. It’s a meditative practice that has you sitting in positions for 3 – 5 minutes at a time. In an hour-long yin class, you’ll probably only get to about 7 or 8 poses! It involves stretching the deeper connective tissues (fascia) of the body in supported poses on your back or seated. It’s like restorative (below) in many aspects, but yin requires a bit more muscular energy. While restorative yoga makes you feel like you’re melting in to a padded cloud, it’s not uncommon to come in to a Yin posture and think: “Ow!” Many poses are slightly uncomfortable at first. The practice comes when we can detach ourselves from the mind, focus on our breath, soften the edges of our body and relax into the shape.

Yin videos for home practice:


Restorative

Restorative’s focus is winding down and relaxing. It’s another style that spends more time in fewer poses throughout the class. Lots of props are used to help you sink deeper into each pose and into relaxation. For this reason, it’s difficult to practice at home unless you have an arsenal of awesome yoga props. It’s a great way to soothe the nerves and check back in with the body. Feeling like you need a midday nap? Maybe look for a nearby restorative yoga class instead! It’s just as refreshing, and a lot better for your sanity

Restorative videos for home practice:


Anusara

Anusara is a little newer to the yoga-game than most, so it’s often not as heard of. It was developed in the late 90’s as a way to help students experience their own intrinsic goodness. It’s five core values are called the Universal Principles of Alignment, and include:

• Open to grace (set your foundation)
• Engage muscular energy
• Inner spirals (think rotating your thighs inward in downward facing dog)
• Outer spirals (think rolling shoulders down on to back)
• Organic expansion (YOUR best expression of the pose)

For these reasons, Anusara classes are wonderful for alignment-based instruction, and will often help you explore some of your favorite poses in a new way.

Anusara videos for home practice:


Kundalini

Kundalini gets crazy! It’s a powerful, spiritually driven form of asana. Be prepared for lots of chanting, maybe some singing, and lots of energetic movements. Its focus is to release the “kundalini energy” that is coiled around your lower spine, like a snake. For this reason there’s usually a lot of core work, advanced breathing practices (pranayama), and fast-moving, invigorating postures.

Be prepared to have everything you thought you knew about yoga turned upside down if you take a kundalini class. With all that being said they’re totally rejuvenating! If you’re down for some meditation and mantra repetition, it’s a wonderful way to tap in to some of the deeper-set energies in the body.

Kundalini videos for home practice:


Pranayama

This is the second branch of the eight-fold path of yoga (as lined out by the defining text of yoga: The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali) Pranayama deals mainly with the breath and using that to help strengthen and manipulate the prana or energy of the body.

Pranayama was considered so powerful by the ancient yogis that it often wasn’t taught until a student had fully “mastered” the other steps on the path of yoga. We’re a little more gracious now, and pranayama is often included if you go to an asana class as well. There’s definitely an ocean of pranayama exercises to explore, but here are just a few helpful, common ones for your use, each with a video to help you try it out.

Alternate Nostril Breathing: Nadi Shodhana
Clears energy blocks from the body, calms the mind, balances the yin and yang energies.

Three Part Breathing: Dirga
Increase oxygen supply, lower stress, relieve tension

Breath of Bee: Brahmari
Stimulates parasympathetic nervous system, reduces stress, it’s fun!

Victorious Breath: Ujjayi
Both energizing and relaxing, sends fresh oxygen out to the body and gives a little boost of energy

Meditation

This is the crown jewel of our yoga practice! All our asana practice is meant for our mind and our meditation. It’s totally normal to feel intimidated at first! You may feel like you’re “not doing it right” or that it’s “not working,” but don’t worry! The best way to get started is to use guided meditations and app timers to help you along.

My favorite app is Insight Timer. It has thousands of guided meditations, timers and ambient tracks to meditate to all for free. Other popular choices are Headspace, Calm and Simple Habit. But there are tons! Look around and find what works best for you.

Find yourself in a quiet place where you can be relatively undisturbed. Place a blanket or a pillow beneath your sitting bones to help lift you up out of your hips. Settle your body. Close your eyes. Focus on your breath. Notice the cool inhales on the inside of the nose, and the warm exhales through the back of your throat. Notice the thoughts as they come up, but try to not let yourself run away with them. See if you can release them with the breath, then come back to a soft focus inward. Keep breathing!

I hope you feel confident in taking some of these practices with you and applying them in your daily lives. Even 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference in your emotional and mental health. Just keep trying 😊

 

Book Recommendations

Meditation for the Love of It by Sally Kempton
Yoga Beyond Belief by Ganga White
The Four Chapters on Freedom
The Yamas and Niyamas by Deborah Adele
Living Your Yoga by Judith Lasater
Yoga: the Spirit and Practice of Moving Through Stillness by Eric Schiffman

Which asana class is best for me?

Not sure about the different types of yoga? Here are the styles I’m currently teaching:

 

Vinyasa:
We break down traditional movements like the Sun Salutations and other popular poses to inspire stillness and grace within the body. Expect to build strength and endurance. In Sanskrit, vinyasa means “to place in a special way.” You sync your breath with your movement, as you honor your mind, body and spirit. You’ll leave feeling energized, calm and balanced!

Restorative:
A slow, easy pace makes it easy to unwind and focus on the breath. Relax and renew with this lovely class that uses props to help you hold relaxing poses for longer periods of time. Allow your body to melt a little deeper in to the mellow side of each posture. This class is gentle and for all levels.

image by Vita Social

Basics:
If you’re new to yoga, getting back into your practice, or craving a more detailed exploration of yoga, Balance Basics is the perfect class for you. This class focus on the fundamentals—how to do key postures, correct breathing, and how to use props for a pleasant yoga experience. Balance Basics provide a warm, safe and supportive environment for new and more experienced students to learn together. Building on a foundation of safe alignment, you’ll develop the strength, stamina and flexibility that will guide you along your path.

Yin:
Long holds channel energy into your body’s meridians, or subtle energy channels. Yin yoga helps you to experience the depth of yoga postures when you hold them for longer periods of time. You’ll experience a deep sense of calm and stillness in each posture. Yin aims to open the hips, free the spine and pelvis and quiet your mind. You’ll leave class feeling a new sense of freedom and release.

 

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Yoga in New Orleans

If you’re looking for quality chaturangas and down-dogs while you’re staying in the Big Easy you don’t have to go far. Yoga in New Orleans is blossoming. Traveling community groups and neighborhood studios offer fun and fresh classes every day of the week.

Yoga Events

Nomadic yoga clubs around the city offer classes nearly every day of the week in new and fun locations. NOLA Tribe Yoga is probably the most popular.

Headed by infamous Nola yogis Baye Elizabeth and McKensie Kirchner, the tribe offers various vinyasa classes throughout the city. Sunrise yoga classes take place Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Wednesday evenings there’s a $5 social yoga event hosted at the Tchoup Yard. Their newest event is their poolside series with The Drifter Hotel, $15 gets you an hour class, all-day access to the pool and a complimentary mimosa.

Image from NOLA Tribe Yoga Instagram

Yoga on the Bayou with Brooke Bailey is every Saturday at 8:30 and is free to the public. They meet on Bayou St. John under the oak trees, near the corner of Dumaine and Moss Street.

Brooke’s classes are great for students of any level and feature the beautiful backdrop of the historic Bayou. Brooke also runs an online yoga community platform named Yoga Lagniappe. You can get upcoming yoga event calendars delivered straight to your inbox.

Yoga in New Orleans Studio Guide

Mid City

Balance Yoga + Wellness: 120 S. Cortez Street

Swan River Mid City: 2940 Canal Street

French Quarter

Magnolia: 301 Basin Street #2

CBD

Reyn Studios: 725 Magazine Street

Metarie

Yoga and You Anywhere: 2628 Metairie Lawn Drive #205

Marigny / Seventh Ward

The Church of Yoga: 1480 N. Rocheblave Street

Uptown

Wild Lotus: 4842 Perrier Street

NOLA Yoga Loft: 2042 Magazine Street, Upper Level

Image courtesy of Balance Yoga + Wellness Facebook page

Yoga in New Orleans by the Week

Here’s a suggested weekly schedule for a well-rounded practice throughout the city.

Monday:

Discounted Restorative Yoga: 5:15 p.m. at Swan River Mid City

Tuesday:

Vinyasa and Vino: 6:30 p.m. at NOLA Yoga Loft

Wednesday:

Tribe Yoga at the Tchoup Yard: 6:30 p.m. with NOLA Tribe Yoga

Thursday:

Heated Hour Flow: 12:00 p.m. at Reyn Studios

Friday:

Friday Night Bhakti Flow: 6:00 p.m. at Wild Lotus Yoga

Saturday:

Mysore Style Ashtanga Yoga: 9:00 a.m. at Balance Yoga + Wellness

Sunday:

Guided Meditation: 9:30 a.m. at the Church of Yoga

Let me know where your favorite studios are in the city! Or let’s meet up and practice together.