Favorite Thing: Gaiam Yoga Mat

In early December, I purchased my very first yoga mat. This was after doing a year of yoga on the bedroom or living room carpet watching Yoga with Adriene videos. Not once did I think I needed a mat because 1) why spend the money when 2) the carpet is soft enough.

And then I signed up for a Yoga for Advent class at church and actually needed a mat so I wouldn’t be on the linoleum floor.

With Kohl’s cash and coupons in hand, I perused the modest exercise section of the store and found this beautiful gem:

The original retail price was $35, which is what you’d pay on the Gaiam website. While that isn’t the price I paid in Kohls, I would have no problem paying full price for this mat.

This particular mat, I just learned, is called the Serenity Reversible Yoga Mat and I don’t think I could’ve come up with a better name. As soon as I roll it out, I feel calm, eager to stretch, ready to slow down. Yoga has become a mainstay in my exercise routine and the addition of a yoga mat upped my game.

Honestly, I didn’t realize the grip feature was important, but it is! So much better than carpet! No slipping and sliding, which are counter-productive to proper yoga practice.

Additionally, the extra cushion does a make a difference, particularly as I try new positions and poses, as I attempt new practices that I finally feel confident enough to try.

That mat is reversible, but the chevron pattern isn’t as serene as the peacock feather.

Three things I love:
1. The grip of the mat was a feature I didn’t realize I needed, and not just in comparison to the carpet. As I’ve examined other mats in other stores, I’m glad I bought the Gaiam 5mm mat, as the grip bubbles and cushion depth are high quality.
2. The graphic print is a pleaser. This could be a petty perk, but I enjoy seeing the colorful feather every time I roll out the mat. Every single time.
3. Bringing out the mat readies my mind for the practice. It’s a feeling I didn’t have when I practiced on the carpet, when I’d pull up a video and begin. Now, when I place my bare feet on the mat, with the video set up in front of me, my body is signaled.  I’m in a specific zone. The air is different, and since yoga is a practice I value for not only for my physical health but also for my mental health, the air needs to be different.

 

Favorite Thing: Yoga with Adriene

My relationship with Yoga is long and sordid. We’ve been on-again, off-again for years. I’ve tried to make it work. I’ve put in extra effort, and I’ve half-assed it. I dabble, then I quit. Yoga and I are just so complicated, so combative. Yoga’s all, “Come on, try me again,” and I’m all, “No. You suck.”

And then I found Adriene.

Yoga with Adriene

Some random day during a random week in 2015, a Yoga with Adriene video popped up in my YouTube feed. She looked warm and friendly, like we could chat in the grocery line and realize we were meant to be friends. I clicked on the video. Her voice was sobering. I watched a few poses, then I tried them.

It’s fair to say that Yoga and I are working steadily on our relationship again. For the first time, I have hope.

Unlike my small collection of yoga DVDs, Adriene takes it down a notch. Not the intensity or creativity of her workouts, but rather the fancy-pants language of the yoga practice. Yes, she occasionally throws Sanskrit here and there, but she talks us through each step. She explains what each body part is supposed to be doing, how it’s supposed to feel, and modifies the poses for those who are less or more experienced. She doesn’t assume you know everything, and yet, even if you do know everything, you don’t feel like you’re in a beginner’s class.

Adriene is just so… easy. Mind you, yoga is NOT easy. It is not just a bunch of stretching. It is a string of positions that pulls your muscles to full tension and opens up joints to their capacity. Not all yoga instructors are easy to follow or even easy to watch, but following Adriene’s instructions are so calming and encouraging. She is constantly praising us, telling us how great we’re doing. For me, that’s huge.

It would be easier to stop trying yoga and stick to running and lifting at the gym, but the practice is always worth it in the end. My joints feel looser, more flexible. My posture gets a little straighter and my core gets a little tighter. It’s the sort of strength training you cannot achieve with weights. I push myself a little harder each time, and sure enough, it pays off afterward.

Adriene in namaste

If you’ve tried and failed at a regular relationship with Yoga, consider Adriene. Here’s three things I love:

  1. Her YouTube channel makes it easy peasy. All you need is WiFi and some floor space. No gym membership, no equipment needed. I don’t even have a yoga mat. (However, I do encourage you to wear tight-fitting clothes – tank tops and leggings or something similar. Loose clothing and yoga are not companions.)
  2. Her video variety is wide. Beginners to experts, 20 minutes to an hour, yoga for weight loss, yoga for relaxation, yoga for certain times of the month, etc. If you can’t find a video to suit your needs, you’re too needy.
  3. Adriene provides exactly what you need, nothing more, nothing less. In the beginning I used to skip the warm up/cool down breathing, but then I realized I was short-changing myself. The prep work really is necessary for an effective workout, and the cool down is a peaceful way to wind down. Unlike my yoga DVDs and other online yogis I’ve tried, the warm up/cool down time isn’t lengthy. It’s just enough to get you started and get you finished.