Starting yoga: buy a good mat

When I started yoga (now called my yoga journey since I am 7 months in and feel comfortable with the yoga type language) I did a few classes in my local gym. Cue the rag tag bunch of various types of mat. I tried them all. Some were far too thin, far too thick, too sticky, and worse – not sticky enough. This was frustrating because your mat does matter (see what I did there).

Joining a studio changed my view. It is one of the good ones where you can always get a mat and don’t have to pay extra for the privilege. The mats were good too! All the same, all Manduka pro. Just the right thickness and hold. This was especially important for me given my ever elusive core muscles were not holding my ‘form’ in the right place (update – it still isn’t; but it is getting better).

Choices – confusion – choices

The temptation as a new Yogi is to go for comfort. Don’t fall into the trap as you will end up with a gigantic and very thick mat which will look ugly and make you look rather ungraceful when you keep falling due to the lack of root to the floor (aka feet feeling like they are stable).

Don’t go for too thin either (I would suggest leaving out anything classed as a travel mat; unless you are only using it when travelling). Especially if you are into you forties and your knees protest at even the though of a hard floor.

Consider price. You can go cheap but I would avoid it (for the reasons above). So then you are into the £60 – £120 range of prices. But the problem – there are blooming millions of them to choose from.

My choice

Having searched all the possible sites I got it down to 2 choices. The Lifeform mat definitely appealed. I am a sucker for the most expensive choices which doesn’t always mean quality but the reviews on this one do stack up to it being a great product. I almost went for it but there was one thing that held me back. The lines for alignment (or something like that) are brilliant. My alignment is lacking in brilliance though. I still end up at different bits of the mat in my sun salutations. I get that this might improve matters however I would not like to highlight my inadequacies just yet; opting for the blissful joy of feeling like I am getting through my classes, improving in posture and decreasing in the sweaty knees and red face effect. Next mat though; this is probably the one.

So Manduka it was. I already knew (from the studio mats) that I was comfy on them. But again there is so much choice. The 5mm ones looked good but I worried about them being a little heavy to carry up the hill. Mandala also do different styles. The pro or eKo. I went for eKo which is made from natural rubber and so has enough stick without being sticky. I also figured the eKo lite wasn’t giving away to much comfort in thickness with the bonus of being lighter to carry. Choice made and mat purchased (by my sister as a present: bonus). It cost just over £60 (the lifeform is just over £100) so mid range in terms of cost and brilliant in terms of quality./

The bag

This was important. I know they have these strap things which you sling round the mat and over your shoulder. The weather here isn’t always great though. So I bought a bag. Check this one out. This took me just as long as the mat choice as I wanted to look at least a little stylish walking to and from class. I apparently do. My neighbour caught me coming back in one day and said I looked very ‘New York’. I felt like a yoga pro 🙂

The practice

I said buy one in the title and I really mean this. If you are going to go to yoga regularly, even if it is just once a week, having your own mat makes a difference. It settles you into the practice without the distraction of your mind trying to figure out how your body will manage on a mat you don’t know. Your knees (even if they do get sweaty like mine) will thank you for it.

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My new yoga habit

How I started

I started yoga for the first time last August. Seven months in and I absolutely love it. My gym membership is redundant as a result and in February I was at classes 3-4 times a week.

Like all good cynics of Yoga I always had the view that it was unachievable, too sedentary and full of overly pretentious people who love to give fake hugs and ‘namaste’ every one they see. I was really wrong about this; not for the first time in life! So being in the ‘lets try everything’ frame of mind I took a class at my gym. A bit of time out from the never-ending deadlifts, squats and (the ones I really hate) burpees. I liked it. The instructor was doing free classes as she was pretty new to teaching. But first class in and done I felt pretty relaxed. The next morning my muscles ached. First realisation of yoga, it isn’t as easy and ineffective as I thought. It can be expensive though and my free classes at the budget gym weren’t going to cut it if I wanted to give it a go. Aims – strength (obviously in this day and age) but also flexibility.

Luckily a new studio opened up in Edinburgh and I signed on immediately. The studio you go to is important. This one was perfect. A place that didn’t have an inexplicable list of classes that I wouldn’t understand. Easy explanations of what the types involved, and more importantly, taglines telling me all levels welcome and intensity of each type.

Which class to pick?

I started with Hatha. The slow pace has really allowed me to understand what the poses are, how to build on flows and it also meant my teacher was able to take time to teach me. The class was mixed. Yes there were the tall, skinny typical yogi type. But no one was pretentious. First myth debunked! Secondly I could do most of it without falling over and the strength Ive built up with weights really helped in things like high lunges and planks. I never imagined I would be able to do it. Hatha is great. Its not as easy as I thought it would be and sometimes I wake up with the same DOMS as a leg day in the gym produces but that just makes me more hooked.

I tried Yin. Wow, just wow. There is an edge to the long held stretches. But doing it by candlelight in an Edinburgh studio in winter is just the most relaxing experience. I literally float away from every yin class.

The vinyasa classes. These vary so much depending on the teacher in terms of strength, fluidity. But they all have one thing in common – a class that moves you through an hour of poses which help you develop and make you feel great. I don’t think I could touch my toes at the start of my yoga ‘yourney’ (yes using the lingo now!). Now I can and feel comfortable enough with the other yogis (non-pretentious bunch that they are) to know that my practice is my own and my flexibility is getting better at better. My muscles are even developing (shoulders and back especially!).

I say pick them all and enjoy the variety this brings. There is something for everyone.

Biggest achievement in yoga

Crow! I know it is probably the easiest of the arm balance poses, but for me it is the most impressive thing I have done. There is something about balancing with a somewhat wobbly appearance when you know last week you were face planting the floor.

So today I’m off to my Hatha class. I can’t wait and yes I will bow namaste and be grateful for my practice when its done. I am a yoga person. I like yoga people. I am basically a new me 🙂