10 uses for your old yoga mat

Yoga mats can last a surprisingly long time, which is fantastic given the potentially negative environmental impact of your mat.  Sadly, the more affordable mats generally contain PVC, which is not the most environmentally-friendly substance to manufacture or dispose of.  The alternatives tend to be quite expensive and may not be so easy to keep clean.  In the case of rubber mats, they also come with a rather overpowering smell.  However, when the time finally comes to say good bye, your mat doesn’t have to end up at the landfill site.  I really dislike throwing things away if I can find a use for them, so here are some ideas for reducing the environmental impact of your unwanted mat by recycling it into new uses around the house and garden.  Some are ways to use the whole mat, others will require a pair of sharp scissors and perhaps some glue or tape.

  1. Keep using it, underneath your new mat, to provide extra padding in class
  2. Line the boot of your car to keep it clean or as padding for pets
  3. Line your cat or dog’s bed to provide extra insulation and padding
  4. Cut out pieces to line terracotta plant pots in the garden.  It will help reduce water loss in the summer and increase protection from frost in the winter.
  5. Keep in the car as an impromptu picnic ‘rug’
  6. Cut a piece to stick on a step stool for extra grip
  7. Fold up the mat into quarters (or less) and tape or stick in place to create a kneeling mat
  8. In the garden lay it over bare soil on new flower beds as a weed suppressant before you plant them up
  9. Use small pieces to protect wooden floors from table legs
  10. Pass it on; sell it on Ebay to make some money, advertise it on Freecycle or donate it to charity.  You might be able to help out someone who can’t afford to buy a new mat.

If you have more ideas please share them!

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Dear Santa

Christmas comes but once a year, and perhaps it’s a good job too, given the amount of time that goes into making sure the day will be a special one!  It seems that Christmas erupted into community consciousness last weekend, with many houses now decked out in their seasonal finery. Now the lights are twinkling and the tree is resplendent in the corner, you’re going to need some parcels to put underneath it, right?

Choosing the perfect gift is never easy, and finding something they will want and enjoy at the right price for your pocket can take far longer than you might have hoped.  It’s not surprising that more and more people resort to shopping online, to avoid the crush and queues of the high street in December.

If someone special in your life is still trying to decide what to put in your Christmas stocking this year, then here are some ideas from my yoga ‘must have’ list to inspire them.

  1. A new yoga mat.  Is your mat looking a bit shabby?  Or perhaps you don’t have one yet.  A decent quality mat that is easy to clean will last you for years and is well worth the few extra pounds.  I like the Warrior mats by Yoga-Mad, which can go in the washing machine at 40C when they get a bit grubby.
  2. A yoga block.  Many people find sitting for breathing or meditation practices can be more comfortable with a yoga block.  The recycled chip foam ones are best for this purpose and they are a bit more comfy to sit on than the EVA foam blocks.  Be sure to get a block, not a brick, as bricks are really not a good shape for sitting!
  3. Toe socks.  We all suffer from chilly feet in class in the winter and these socks with separate toes are ideal to keep your feet toasty while still providing you with a good grip on your mat or the floor. You can get them with or without toes and they come in lots of fun colours too!
  4. Bedtime reading.  For more on all aspects of yoga try something by Esther Myers or Donna Farhi.  Or to learn more about mindfulness try one of the thought-provoking yet easy-to-read books by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Happy Holidays!

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Love affair with a yoga mat

A prospective student recently told me “I expected you would provide mats”.  I blinked, and for a split second my world stopped as my mind flashed up the implications of this statement.  Firstly, I would have to buy them.  At least 20 of them.  Goodbye £250!  Or perhaps more! Then I would have to store them.  That could be interesting, in my little house.

And for each of my 8 classes a week I would need to carry them to the car (goodbye walking to class), unload them into the room, return them to the car at the end and then carry them back into the house to store away til next time.  Assuming I can carry 4 at once, that’s 16 trips minimum per class … at least 128 a week.  Hello chiropractor!  Not to mention the extra time it would take.  There would also be the need to keep them clean – can you imagine washing and drying 20 mats on a regular basis?  My mind boggled.  I blinked again.  “Afraid not,” I replied.  “It’s not really practical.”

Aside from the practicalities of supplying mats for students, as custodian of your yoga practice I do also believe that it is for you to choose and care for the equipment you need, as part of your commitment to treating your body respectfully in class.  For advice on what it might be useful to bring along to class, please check out my FAQs page.

The key investment you are likely to need to make is, of course, the purchase of a yoga mat.  While you can get away with using any sort of exercise mat or even a thick blanket to begin with, a proper mat really does make the practice safer and more enjoyable.  So, what are you looking for when you buy a mat?

Your first priority should be to choose a sticky mat.  Many types of exercise mat provide excellent padding but will slip on the floor.  This can put you at risk of injury during standing postures and balances.  Ideally we do the practice barefoot, and the stickiness will also help to stop your feet (and hands) from slipping.  Wearing socks is not generally helpful here; either they slip on the mat, or else stick to the mat and you slip inside them!  Feeling that you are sliding on the mat is likely to introduce tension into the body and make it harder for you to relax into a posture.

Yoga mats are typically 4mm thick.  This is thick enough to provide some degree of padding and insulation from the floor but thin enough that the mat is still flexible.  It is also a reasonable weight to carry to class.  A 4mm mat is easily folded to provide extra protection when you are kneeling.  It can also be rolled up to help you sit more comfortably.  Some students like to use 2 mats, or bring a blanket for extra support and comfort.

Sadly, as with anything you tend to get what you pay for.  I have tried cheap mats in the past and found that spending a bit more is really worthwhile.  My current mat is a ‘Warrior Mat’ from Yoga-Mad (presumably called after the series of yoga poses of this name).  I have been using the same one for several years now and it is just starting to show some signs of wear.  Whilst this mat is not from the eco-friendly range, I particularly like the fact that I can put it in the washing machine when it’s grubby, although getting it dry is another matter!  More recently, I have started using a yoga towel on top, as this can be washed and dried much more quickly. A decent mat might cost you £18 or so, but t probably works out at just pennies per class before you need to replace it.  And then, of course, there are myriad uses for your old yoga mat – but that’s the subject of a whole different post!

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