I am ecstatic to share with you that I will be offering a 10-week prenatal yoga series at the Bangor YMCA from October 20th-December 30th! You can choose from Tuesdays 7:30 -8:15 a.m. or Wednesdays 5:15-6:00 p.m. This series is free for member and only $100 for non-members. Physician’s consent and registration required. Please contact the Bangor Y to sign up, and feel free to contact me with questions.
You shower after class. You wash your yoga clothes. But if you’re not cleaning your yoga mat you could be exposing yourself to dangerous germs.
Bacteria from your skin and floor can colonize on your mat causing infection. Not worried yet? Your yoga mat could be harboring more bacteria than your cell phone, which you’re directly exposing vulnerable areas of your skin including your face. Using a dirty mat can expose you to a myriad of diseases including the common cold and flu, rash, athlete’s foot, coryne bacteria that causes acne, planter’s warts (caused by the herpes virus) staff infections and even MRSA.
So what’s a yogi to do? The best protection is to purchase your own mat and bring it to class with you. Sharing mats greatly increases your risk of getting an infection. However, you can still get sick from your own germs and germs your pick up at the studio, so even if you have your own mat always clean your mat after class (see some of my mat cleaning tips here) and be sure it is completely dry before putting it away. I also recommend folding your mat in half before rolling it to keep the top as clean as possible. If you must borrow a mat, don’t rely on the student before you or the studio to have cleaned it for you. Take responsibility for your own health by cleaning the mat thoroughly before using it, preferably with an alcohol based cleaner or Lysol spray. Before you leave be courteous to the next student and give the mat a good wipe down after class. If you’re sick, consider skipping class and keep rashes, warts, etc. covered. Using products such as a personal mat towel, yoga socks, yoga mitts and keeping as much of your skin covered as possible can also reduce your exposer to unwanted infections. Finally, don’t forget the importance of good hand washing before and after class.
Keeping your mat clean is practicing saucha, or cleanliness, a key self-discipline in the yoga tradition and is just good hygiene. Don’t allow an infection from a dirty mat cause you to be uncomfortable or keep you from your practice.
Lately celebrity yogis have been sharing online and in magazines what’s in their yoga bags. Here is what’s currently in mine, and a few ideas for what to keep in your own.
1. Tingsha bells
I love using tingsha bells to signal the end of final relaxation (SAVASANA), to focus the mind, and to balance the energy in the room.
2. Jo-Sha Yoga Mat Wipes
These essential oil wipes smell great, have no oil or harsh chemicals, and are perfect to freshen up or give your mat a wipe down at the end of class. They come in both dispenser and individually wrapped forms. I like to offer the lavender wipes to my students after class to keep their mat clean as well as benefit from the calming and relaxing scent.
3. Toe Sox
I always keep a pair of these in my bag, and love that they keep my feet clean and safe from contact with germy studio floors and give me extra grip on the mat, especially while teaching when my focus on my students.
4. Alba un-petroleum
I absolutely love how this lip balm feels and tastes. The cherry flavor is my favorite! I also love the SPF protection this lip balm provides.
5. Kind bar
I like to pack a snack in case I need some extra energy before or after class. These bars are delicious and do the trick! Right now I am loving the Cashew Ginger flavor.
Great for writing down a quote I want to share with my class or post-meditation thoughts , I always keep a journal handy for when I’m needing a little inspiration or when inspiration hits.
7. Water Bottle
I am a big believer in hydration and always carry a reusable BPA free water bottle. Lately I’ve been using my Mauna Kea Nalgene bottle that my husband and I picked up on our honeymoon on the Big Island. It’s huge (32 oz) and brings back great memories whenever I take a sip.
While I forego other types of technology during class, I like to have my iPhone handy to plug in and play music, check my calendar, leave myself a reminder or to look something up quickly.
Depending on my day and what I am doing before or after class, I may throw in some other essentials like my wallet, deodorant, some essential oils or a change of clothes.
So what should you pack in your bag? Really it depends on the type of class you’re going to and your personal needs. I recommend students stay hydrated so a water bottle is a must. If you’re going to a hot yoga class you may want to bring your own yoga towel. In the winter, you may want to bring a pair of warm cozy socks. If you are going somewhere right after class you may need a change of clothes, deodorant, a hair brush, etc. And of course, we cannot forget the yoga mat! I’m really big on hygiene and always suggest students bring their own mat if possible. Try experimenting with what you carry with you and you’ll quickly find what you use most often and what is worth taking up space in your bag.
As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I watch the Little Women shows, and I was so excited when on the first episode of Little Women: NY Dawn invited Lila and Jason to take an aerial yoga class. The teacher admitted to having never had little people in an aerial class and began by lowering the hammocks. The class seemed to be off to a great start, but soon the characters were in in uncomfortable positions and even in pain. When Lila tells the teacher she is feeling pressure in her kidneys the teacher dismisses it saying they’ll fix it in a minute and continues to move Lila into awkward positions that do not work for her body. Jason mentions the issue of little people having short arms, and it is clear the class isn’t working for them. However, we cannot completely blame the teacher her- many yoga teachers have never worked with little people and their unique bodies. Below are a few tips to help teachers (and other students) provide students with small stature a more positive class experience.
- Physical Differences
Every little person will have different physical conditions and complications that will affect his or her practice, however, some common issues include bowed legs, knock knees, hearing loss, respiratory/breathing problems and spine/back/neck problems including scoliosis. Being familiar with these conditions will help you offer modifications and help the student have a positive experience.
- Studio Layout
Are your mats and props at a level that all students can reach? If you have smaller mats for children’s classes, are they available for all students? If you play music during class, is it at a level that does not distract students who might have a hard time distinguishing sounds from hearing your voice? Coming to a yoga class can be intimidating, and having to ask for props or the music to be turned down can make the experience even more daunting.
- Utilize Strengths
While some little people may be challenged by arm balances and balancing postures, poses involving bending of the legs and inversions, they may excel in positions such as Wide-Legged Forward Bend (Parasarita Padottanasana) if they do not have lower back problems. Be creative to find poses in which the student can feel successful.
People often unknowingly tend to infantilize little people due to their size. Allow little people their independence and rely on the student to ask for help if needed (believe me he/she will). Avoid accidentally talk down to the student, touch him/her without permission, over-touching, or singling out the student during class.
- Never Assume
Be aware of making assumptions about a student of short stature. While he/she may not have a standard body shape and may need to make some modifications or look slightly different in a pose, he/she may be very fit and be even be an accomplished yogi. Little people can also be deceptively strong, and will use this strength to counteract weaknesses. Finally, little people tend to be very in-tuned with their bodies so listen to the student and let him/her guide you to his/her personal edge.
So you’ve finally purchased the perfect yoga mat- that representation of YOUR personal yoga space. Depending on where and how you practice your mat can get pretty groody, and you will want to keep it clean to maintain its functionality and make it last as long as possible (as well keep it safe for you). There are as many ways to do this as there are yoga mats, and the method you chose will depend on the material your mat is made from as well as how often you clean your mat and your personal preferences (is it important that it is economical, something you already have at home, natural, etc). Below are some tips and different ways of taking care of your mat. Always be sure to check if your mat comes with any specific directions from the manufacturer.
1. WASHING MACHINE
One of the easiest ways to clean your yoga mat that requires no elbow grease is to throw it in your front loading washing machine. This is perfect for cotton mats, and is a common practice at gyms for public mats. To wash your mat in the washing machine, place the mat in the machine with a mild detergent ( I love Soak and Eucalan that do not require rinsing) and select a cycle that uses cold water (a delicate or hand wash cycle is great for this) and if possible remove the mat before the spin cycle or turn off the spin cycle on the machine. When you remove the mat or the cycle stops, simply hang the mat to air dry on a clothes rack, shower curtain rod, towel bar or your porch railing on a nice day. If you absolutely cannot hang your mat, lay it down, place a large towel or beach towel on top of your mat and roll it up carefully. The towel will help absorb moisture, but the mat may not completely dry this way so you will want to check on it and allow it to dry fully.
2. HAND WASHING
You can also wash your mat by hand with dish soap or a gentle soap. Simply add a few drops of your soap to a cup of water (a measuring cup works great for this) and using a sponge or paper towel give you mat a good scrub, rise it thoroughly so there is no slippery residue, wipe with a dry cloth or paper towel and allow to air dry. This method works great for getting the waxy residue off new mats.
There are lots of commercial sprays available to clean your mat, some from yoga mat companies such as Manduka’s mat sprays to those available at your local Walmart. You can also make your own spray easily at home! Mix a few drops of dish soap or mild detergent in a spray bottle with water and a few drops of eucalyptus, lavender or tea tree oil (these oils have antibacterial properties for extra cleansing power) or for a more natural version combine one part water to three parts vinegar in a spray bottle with or without a few drops of on the essential oils listed above.
A quick and convenient way to clean your mat is with a wipe that is prepared with a cleaning solution. From Clorox wipes to natural versions to those available from yoga companies there are many options to chose from. Wipes come in a variety of packaging from canisters and dispensers to individually wrapped versions that are easy to take to the studio or gym for quick cleanups.
One of the most important accessories for yoga is the yoga mat, which provides a padded (and often sticky) surface for your practice. There are as many types and brands of yoga mats out there as there are practitioners. When recommending a mat for students I suggest that they choose a mat that is appropriate for the type of practice they wish to use it for (do they prefer restful gentle or restorative classes or perhaps sweaty vinyasa or heated classes?), is of an appropriate material (does the student have a skin allergy, environmental concern, etc) and that inspires them to practice. Since my first yoga class, a power yoga class at a local dance studio back in my junior high school days, I have used mats that are too long for my body. While the long mat did not hinder my practice, with every new mat I purchased I longed to find a mat that fit my body and represented me. After one of my favorite mats recently began falling apart I started searching for a new mat, and found exactly what I was looking for- a thick, eco-friendly and chemical free mat that is a full eight inches shorter than a standard mat. As if it was meant to be, the only one in stock at the time I was placing my order was covered with a butterfly pattern- the symbol for Turner’s Syndrome! It seems as I have finally found MY mat.