How to Choose a Yoga Mat: 3 Things to Consider Before Buying a Mat

It can be confusing to know which yoga mat is ‘right’ for you, especially when there are so many different brands, materials, thicknesses, styles and colours available!

Here are 3 top tips to consider when choosing a new yoga mat!

  1. Material

    • Do your hands get sweaty or slip easily on studio mats?
      • If so, it’s important to consider GRIP when choosing a mat. Materials like rubber typically have better friction and grip, which means no more slipping around in downward facing dog!
    • Do you prefer a smoother surface or coarse?
      • It may sound silly, but some people prefer a smoother surface especially for poses where it’s cheek-to-mat. However, some people prefer the extra friction and grip of a coarse yoga mat!
    • Do you prefer eco-friendly materials?
      • If you’re trying to reduce your carbon footprint, the type of material used is an important consideration. PVC and other plastics are obviously not ideal but tend to be cheaper; whereas natural tree rubber or biodegradable materials are durable but often expensive.
  2. Thickness

    • Do you require extra padding?
      • If you have sensitive joints like wrists and knees, it’s best to choose a thicker mat for extra support and cushioning. This is particularly true if you often practise on hard surfaces like tiles or floorboards.
    • Will you be travelling with your mat?
      • Unfortunately, the thicker your mat, the heavier it will also be. If you plan to leave your mat at home, in-studio or have the convenience of a car, then a thicker mat may be no problem. However, if you often have to transport your mat or plan to take it when travelling (yes, I am one of those people…), then a thinner option may be more convenient.
  3. Budget

    • How much money are you willing to spend?
      • Finally, it comes down to money. Obviously, a thick, grippy mat made with 100% biodegradable materials will be fairly expensive. If you’re a beginner to yoga or still testing the waters, maybe you’re not ready to invest yet. However, if you’ve been practising for some time now, then it’s strongly recommended you invest in something durable. After all, you get what you pay for (most of the time)…
Still not sure which mat to choose? Check out our full range in-studio and let us help you!

Introduction to Yoga Philosophy: Feature Article in PWC

A couple of months ago I was kindly asked by Jack of Practical Wing Chun to write an article for their 5th Anniversary magazine. I have been teaching weekly group classes for their students for a few months, and realised that I often did not have the opportunity to cover a lot of yoga philosophy within the classes. We focus on flexibility, strength, and all the physical benefits of the yoga practice to complement the students’ Wing Chun practice, but the mental and spiritual benefits of both Wing Chun and yoga are actually commonly aligned. Therefore, I decided to write on an ‘Introduction to Yoga Philosophy’ – this article encompasses the main themes and concepts that I cover in my usual regular classes, and are the philosophies that I personally most strongly believe in.

Click on the link below to read the full article!

Introduction to Yoga Philosophy: PWC Feature Article

Thank you, again, to Jack and the whole PWC team for giving me the opportunity to share!

POSE OF THE MONTH: GODDESS POSE

A juicy hip-opener that can become quite intense, goddess pose is great for opening the hips, groin and knees, and strengthening the thighs, buttocks, calves and ankles.

SANSKRIT NAME

  • Utkata Konasana

ALIGNMENT & VARIATIONS

  • Beginning in a wide legged stance (like wide legged forward fold), turn the feet, toes pointing outwards
  • Inhale, draw the spine long, both side waists pulling long, draw the belly button in towards the spine
  • Exhale, sinking hips down, sitting down into pose
  • External rotation of the thighs
  • Keep heels beneath knees, drawing the knees back in line with the hips
  • Avoid rolling in or out on the feet – make sure both soles of the feet are flat on the mat and weight evenly distributed
  • Slightly tuck the tailbone under, engage the core, avoid dumping weight into lower back
  • Chest open, shoulders relaxed, shoulder blades drawing down the back
  • Arms: different options for arm placement – e.g. hands in prayer, maybe extend the arms up and open out like in tree pose (be creative!)

BENEFITS

  • Opens hips, groins, knees
  • Strengthens core muscles, thighs, buttocks, knees, calves and ankles

POSE OF THE MONTH: WIDE LEGGED FORWARD FOLD

SANSKRIT NAME

  • Prasarita Padottonasana

ALIGNMENT & VARIATIONS

  • Standing with legs wide, toes pointing forward, hands on hips
  • Inhale spine long, draw belly button back towards spine
  • Exhale, fold forward, chest leading forward
  • Palms down on mat, directly underneath shoulders, elbows drawing in at 90 degrees
  • Side waists long, spine long, neck and head relaxed
  • Thighs engaged, micro-bend the knees, outside edges of feet grounding down
  • Shoulders relaxed down away from the ears, chest open
  • Sit bones spread and pushing up towards the sky
  • Every exhale, gently push the mat away with the palms, drawing the chest back towards the shins, drawing the crown of the head down towards the mat
  • Option 1: If fingers can’t reach mat, lightly hold onto a block, keeping the shoulders down and spine long, chest open. It’s more important to keep a long spine here than have the fingertips reaching the mat but back rounded out.
  • Option 2: To increase the hamstring stretch, bring hands to outside edges of calves or ankles, drawing crown of the head down with every exhale. Keep shoulders relaxed, shoulder blades drawing down the back.
  • Option 3: (Not pictured) For an extra shoulder stretch, interlace the fingers at the base of the spine and allow the arms to drop overhead

BENEFITS

  • Opens and stretches arms, shoulders, back body, hips, groin, hamstrings, calves and ankles
  • Strengthens arms, shoulders, thighs, calves and ankles
  • A slight inversion, allowing fresh oxygenated blood to circulate to brain

DSC03103Option: If fingers can’t reach mat, lightly hold onto a block, keeping the shoulders down and spine long, chest open.
It’s more important to keep a long spine here than have the fingertips reaching the mat but back rounded out.

DSC03105

Option: Bring palms of hands down, directly underneath the shoulders. Keep elbows drawing in at a 90 degree angle. Push the mat away with the palms, draw the chest back towards the shins, and draw the crown of the head down towards the mat.

DSC03102

Option: To increase the hamstring stretch, bring hands to outside edges of calves or ankles, drawing crown of the head down with every exhale. Keep shoulders relaxed, shoulder blades drawing down the back.

 

POSE OF THE MONTH: SIDE ANGLE POSE

DSC03096

SANSKRIT NAME

  • Utthita Parsvakonasana

ALIGNMENT & VARIATIONS

  • Begin in Warrior II
  • Rest the right forearm on top of the right thigh, palm facing up – avoid dumping weight into forearm (should just be lightly touching)
  • Extend left arm up towards sky or up and over the head, fingertips reaching forward – long line from fingertips to back foot
  • Draw the left shoulder back, chest open, shoulders open
  • Ground down through all four corners of the right foot for balance and strength, ground outside edge of left foot down
  • Extend through back leg without locking out the knee – external rotation of the back thigh
  • Shoulders down away from the ears
  • Side waists long, ore engaged, strong, protecting lower back
  • Gaze down if neck is stiff, or maybe shift gaze up towards top arm
  • Repeat on opposite side
  • Option: Place a block directly underneath the shoulder, rest the fingers/hand lightly on the block (avoid dumping weight into bottom hand). Press down into front foot for strength. Reach top fingers up towards the sky, gaze following the hand.
  • Option: Bring fingertips to mat on inside edge of foot. Sink hips down lower to reach and open up the groin. Again, avoid dumping weight into bottom fingers or hand. Keep reaching up with top fingertips. Keep drawing shoulders back, rotating.
  • Option: Finding a full bind – bring the right shoulder as far beneath the knee as possible, thread right arm through and wrap the right thigh. Left arm reaches back, wrapping around the waist. Fingertips meet behind the back, interlace the fingers. Keep drawing top shoulder back, chest open, and sinking down into lunge.

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Option: Place a block underneath the shoulder, fingertips just resting lightly.

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Option to bring the fingers lightly to the mat. Keep sinking down into lunge.

DSC03100

Option to come into a full bind, interlacing fingers behind the back. Keep deep lunge and opening top shoulder.

 

BENEFITS

  • Strengthens the thighs, calves, ankles
  • Strengthens the core muscles and shoulders
  • Opens the shoulders, chest, waist, front body, hips, groin and inside thighs

WATCH: IN SEQUENCE

 

 

POSE OF THE MONTH: TRIANGLE POSE

SANSKRIT NAME

  • Utthita Trikonasana

ALIGNMENT & VARIATIONS

  • Beginning in Warrior II, straighten the front leg, keeping a micro-bend in the knee to avoid hyper-extending
  • Ground down through the big toe and all four corners of the front foot to help balance
  • Imagine someone pulling the front arm forward and out, sliding the whole upper body forwards from the hips
  • Hinging from the hips and keeping the upper body upright and side-on, tip forwards, bringing the bottom hand to rest gently on the shin OR back of the hand resting against the inner calf
  • Bring the top arm up, reaching towards the sky OR keep the top arm on the hip
  • Draw the belly button back towards the spine, keep rotating from the navel centre, stacking the hips
  • Draw shoulder blades down the back, top shoulder back, opening up the chest and shoulders
  • Avoid dumping weight into bottom waist – lengthen and pull up through the bottom waist, engaging the core
  • Gaze up towards the top arm, shoulders relaxed
  • Options for tight hamstrings: Place a block near the inside calf of front leg, directly underneath the shoulder. Rest fingertips lightly on the block – avoid leaning too much weight on block.
  • Options for stiff or tight neck: Keep gaze down towards bottom foot or straight towards the side. Keep shoulders relaxed, neck neutral.
  • Options for tight shoulders: Keep top arm on top hip.

BENEFITS

  • Stretches and opens neck, arms, shoulders, chest, waist, upper body, hips, groin and hamstrings
  • Strengthens arms, shoulders, core, thighs and calves
  • Challenges balance

DSC02854Option to use a block underneath the shoulder if the hamstrings are tight, and keep gaze down to avoid straining the neck.

DSC02855

POSE OF THE MONTH: WARRIOR III

The final Warrior pose in this series is Warrior III. Still remembering the strength and softness in our previous Warriors, but this time bringing it together with a balancing position.

SANSKRIT NAME

  • Virabhadrasana III

ALIGNMENT & VARIATIONS

  • Starting in Warrior I or a crescent lunge, keep bending through the front knee and transfer weight to the front leg
  • Begin floating the back leg up and leaning the chest forward
  • Flex the back foot, keep pushing heel towards the back wall
  • Crown pulling forward, spine long – straight line from crown of the head to the back heel
  • Shoulders blades drawing down the back, chest open
  • Engage through core, pull up through side waist, belly button drawing back towards spine
  • Hips square to the mat, back toes pointing down
  • Bottom foot grounding down into mat and pulling up through thighs for a solid foundation
  • Options: Hands and arms have many options in this pose – either on the hips, in prayer in front of the heart, straight out in front, or out long beside the body. Experiment and see which option feels most natural or helps your balance!

BENEFITS

  • Strengthens arms, shoulders, core, thighs, calves and ankles
  • Stretches and opens arms, shoulders, chest, front body, hips, thighs, calves and ankles
  • Practicing both physical and mental balance – keeping the breath and mind steady even as the body experiences physical discomfort

DSC02850

Option to keep hands on hips for balance.

 

DSC02851Option to lengthen arms out long in front – keep shoulders down, chest open, fingertips drawing forward.

WATCH: IN SEQUENCE (WITH WARRIOR I & WARRIOR II)

POSE OF THE MONTH: WARRIOR II

Next up in our Warrior series is Warrior II – one of my personal favourites. Starting to open up the chest, shoulders and hips. Still practicing that balance between ease and effort, strong and soft.

DSC02848

SANSKRIT NAME

  • Virabhadrasana II

ALIGNMENT & VARIATIONS

  • Front foot pointing straight ahead, bend into front knee, keeping heel directly beneath the knee
  • Back foot at 90 degrees, heel to arch alignment of both feet
  • Lengthen back leg, grounding outside edge of foot into mat, external rotation of the thigh
  • Hips square to the side of the room, slight tuck in pelvis and tailbone
  • Ribs tucked in, engage and pull through waist and core, drawing belly button back towards the spine
  • Crown of the head drawing up, keeping spine long
  • Keep body in centre – try not to lean forward or back
  • Chest and shoulders open, shoulder blades drawing down the back
  • Fingertips pulling out long in opposite directions
  • Ground both feet down into the mat for a strong foundation
  • Avoid locking out the back knee
  • Keep opening out through the front knee
  • Option 1: If hips, groins or thighs are tight, slightly lengthen the front leg (so there’s less of a bend) and/or shorten the stance of the legs.
  • Option 2: For a deeper stretch, widen the stance and bend deeper into front knee.

BENEFITS

  • Strengthens arms, shoulders, core, thighs, calves and ankles
  • Stretches and opens arms, shoulders, chest, front body, hips, thighs, calves and ankles
  • Practicing balance – keeping the breath and mind steady even as the body experiences physical discomfort

 

DSC02849

POSE OF THE MONTH: WARRIOR I

Preparing to go through our Warrior poses in these next few months – strong, masculine poses that challenge us both physically and mentally. Learning to keep the muscles of the body strong to hold the pose, whilst keeping the gaze, the drishti, the breath, the mind and thoughts, soft. Finding a balance between ease and effort… It’s always about the balance.

SANSKRIT NAME

Virabhadrasana I

ALIGNMENT & VARIATIONS

  • Front foot pointing straight ahead, bend into front knee, keeping heel directly beneath the knee
  • Back foot at 45 degrees, heel to heel alignment of both feet
  • Lengthen back leg, grounding outside edge of foot into mat, external rotation of the thigh
  • Hips square to the front, slight tuck in pelvis
  • Tuck ribs in, engage and pull up through waist and core, drawing belly button back towards the spine
  • Crown of the head drawing up, keeping spine long
  • Chest and shoulders open, shoulder blades drawing down the back
  • Ground both feet down into the mat for a strong foundation
  • Avoid locking out the back knee
  • Option 1: Keep hands on hips
  • Option 2: Raise arms up towards sky, arms straight and parallel, palms facing towards each other, fingertips drawing up, shoulders down away from ears
  • Option 3: If shoulders are okay, bring palms together in prayer above the head, keeping shoulders relaxed, neck long. If shoulders become stiff in this option, go back to option 2.

BENEFITS

  • Strengthens arms, shoulders, core, thighs, calves and ankles
  • Stretches and opens arms, shoulders, chest, front body, hips, thighs, calves and ankles
  • Practicing balance – keeping the breath and mind steady even as the body experiences physical discomfort

DSC02847Option to keep hands on hips if shoulders are tight.

DSC02844

POSE OF THE MONTH: PUPPY POSE

Puppy pose, or melting heart pose, is a beautiful heart opener to stretch out the arms, shoulders and chest, as well as open up the spine, upper back and lower back…

POM 6

 

SANSKRIT NAME

  • Uttana Shishosana

ALIGNMENT & VARIATIONS

  • Beginning in table top position, walk hands out in front, beginning to melt the chest down towards the mat
  • Keep hips stacked directly over knees, hips and sit bones high up towards the sky
  • Chin or forehead to the mat, being cautious of how the neck feels (be careful not to strain the neck)
  • Arms relaxed, shoulders down away from ears
  • Back body, waist, hips and legs relaxed
  • Breathe deeply, every exhale melting the heart a little deeper down into mat
  • Sensitive knees: roll the mat up or place a folded blanket or cushion beneath the knees for extra padding

POM 5-001

BENEFITS

  • Lengthens arms and shoulders
  • Releases tension in shoulders, neck, upper back, lower back and spine
  • Opens up the throat (if chin is on the mat) and chest
  • Mini back-bending action creates space in the spine and upper and lower back, relieving pain or stiffness

WATCH: IN SEQUENCE