Category Archives: health

How to Buy a Yoga Mat

Tips for Choosing a Yoga Mat

When I first started yoga a couple years ago I got a mat at Target for about $10. Adequate, but not great.

I recently upgraded to a better mat and was amazed at the difference. The deluxe mat provides traction and support. No more heel slipping in down dog! Plus I do not have the keep putting something down on the edges to keep them from curling up. I picked a color I really like with a subtle lotus flower on it . . . and it puts me in a meditative state of mind. A small indulgence, but worth it.

If you are in the market for a yoga mat, here’s some tips.


Spend a little more. You are worth it.


For retail stores, check places like Marshalls or TJ Maxx, they have better prices than sporting good stores.


Look online for
better quality yoga mats. Online retailers like Amazon have more options.

Read the customer reviews at Amazon. Customers give really good honest opinion, not just hype. Look for 5 star reviews.

Remember that yoga mats are not the same as pilates mats. Pilates mats are thicker and not as “sticky.”

A good yoga mat provides proper grip so your feet and hands can sink in a bit and stay. The cheaper mats slide on the floor and do not allow your feet to “stick” to the mat. Sticking to your mat really does help you to hold poses easier.

Look for a mat of medium thickness. Too thin and you feel the floor underneath. Too thick and you sink into it too much, plus it is bulky to carry.

Avoid inexpensive PVC mats. They do not absorb moisture and have an unpleasant order.

Natural fiber mats, such as cotton, jute or cork provide a good feel. However, if you do yoga every day, these may break down too quickly. Some natural mats may get dirtier faster than others. Rubber is another natural material that holds up well and is easier to clean. But be careful choosing a rubber mat if you are allergic to latex. Read the label to see if it has latex.

Spend time thinking about what color you want. Yes, it does matter. Color affects mood. Choose a color you love that relaxes you. Some mats also offer a design to help you focus while holding a pose or just for decoration. Make sure the design will not distract you.

Alternate rolling up your new mat one way and then the other to help prevent corners from curling up.

If you paid more for your mat, you will want a yoga mat bag to keep it clean and away from sunlight. You can buy a yoga mat bag or you can make them. If you do not have a bag, do not store it in sunlight. When you need to clean your mat, use plain water, or water and vinegar.

When buying your mat, look at the other yoga accessories. If you buy them at the same time from an online store, you save on shipping.

If you buy a yoga mat online, first do a search for a coupon code using the name of the store and the words “coupon code” or “free shipping.” You may save some money.

No matter what mat you use, some poses, especially standing ones like tree, are sometimes better done on the floor.

Another tip: Try a new instructor from time to time. You may gain new insights into how to hold a pose.

Related post:

How to Make a Yoga Mat Tote Bag

How to Make a Yoga Tote Bag

Sew a Bag to Keep Your Yoga Bag Clean

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When I first started yoga I had a yoga mat I could roll up and toss in the car. Then I got a new yoga mat which was plusher and prettier . . .  But I noticed that the better material picks up dirt easier. So I decided to sew a custom yoga mat bag for it to keep it clean in the car.

Looking online I saw a few patterns. Some had three seams to make a big bag, but that seemed too basic.  Some were shaped more like a roll with a round bottom, but I am not a big fan of sewing on a curve if I don’t have to.  So I came up with my own design. The design is similar to the square-bottom shopping totes that a lot of crafters make.

It is pretty easy and you can adjust it. The instructions are for a lined yoga mat bag, but if you used thicker material you would not have to line it. To make the bag just line mine, you will need material 45 inches by 36 inches for the lining and 45 by 40 for the bag fabric plus matching thread.

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1. Measure. Roll up your yoga mat and measure how big you need to make your bag.  My mat is pretty standard and I started with material 45 inches by 36 inches for the lining and 45 by 40 for the bag fabric.  You may need to adjust if your mat is not standard.

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2. Cut material for handle. Cut a strip 45 inches by 6 inches.

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3. Fold the handle in half, right sides together and iron to get it even.

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4. Fold 1/4 inch on the ends and iron.

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5. Stitch the handle the long way.

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6. Flip the handle inside out by attaching a safety pin to one end and pushing the material up the tube.  Then iron.

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7. Tuck the ends of handle inside. Set aside.

8. Make the tie and the drawstring.  Use the same steps you just used to make the handle.  The tie is the same 6 x 45 inch as the handle, only cut from the bag fabric.    The drawstring is 4 x 45 inches and cut from the extra bag fabric.  Set aside.

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8. Fold the large piece of material for the lining of the bag right sides together, pin.

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9. Stitch seam on side of yoga bag lining.

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10. Fold down and iron 1/4 inch on the top edge.

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11. Sew the bottom edge.

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12. Make corner gussets by reaching your hand in one corner of the bag and flattening it in the opposite direction. Now fold it so you form a triangle. You are going to sew across the triangle to create the corner.  Making a corner gusset is not hard to do, but is a bit hard to explain.  Another blogger has a good description of making a corner gusset if you need more help visualizing it.

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11.  Sew across to form the corner.

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12. Repeat above steps to make the bag itself. On the outer bag you can make “edges” by sewing along the fold lines.  This makes the bag appear as if it has four side seams and makes it boxier.

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13. Make a deep hem on top of bag to form casing. Set aside the lining and now work on the bag itself. To determine the depth of the hem you want, first roll up the yoga mat, and put it inside the bag to measure, then remove. You are going to want about 10 inches of material above the bag after the hem.  My deep hem was about 6 inches. So I stitched about 6 inches down to sew down the edge, then stitched again about 1.5 inches up from that.  This forms the casing for the drawstring.

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14.  Make an opening in the side seam in between these two rows so you can insert the drawstring. The easiest way to insert the drawstring is to put a safety pin on the end and push it through.  Once it is through you can hand sew the ends of the drawstring together if you like so that it is a big loop and can’t fall out.

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13. Attach the lining. Put the lining inside the bag, wrong sides together, matching the seam at bottom and on edge.  Pull the top on the lining up and over the bag so that when folded down it would form a hems that ends just above where the drawstring casing begins. Pin and then in place baste by hand.

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14. Sew down lining at top. Fold over top of lining and stitch in place, but leave a couple inches open at the seam (so you have a place to insert one end of the strap.)

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15. Attach strap. One end goes under the contrasting hem on top you just made.  The other end goes at the  bottom of the bag.  I had mine go across the bottom of the bag and I stitched it in two places as shown in picture.

16. Use the tie to secure your rolled up mat.

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17. Enjoy your new yoga mat bag!

The yoga mat bag would be a great gift for a someone who loves yoga.  Let me know if you find the yoga mat bag tutorial helpful.

Need help choosing a yoga mat? Read my ehow article on how to pick the perfect yoga mat for you.

After yoga, enjoy a pomegranate smoothie. Here’s my recipe.

If you need relaxing yoga music for home, please check out the reviews for the cd “Cave of the Siddhars.” 5 stars from everyone who rated it on Amazon.

Other craft posts:
How to Make a Prize-Winning Scarecrow
How to Make a Tassel
How to Make Bookmarks from a Photo
How to Make Designer Baby Burp Cloths Using Ribbon

How to Make a Perfect Pomegranate Smoothie

 

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Pomegranate Smoothie Recipe

Refresh your taste buds . . . help your heart

Bursting with antioxidants, the pomegranate now shines as the darling of the health food industry.

Nutrients in the pomegranate lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and experts say they benefit people with heart disease and even some forms of cancer. One thing is sure: tart and yet sweet, pomegranates taste great. You will find pomegranate ingredients in all kinds of high-priced pomegranate supplements, but the best way to enjoy the benefits of this delicious fruit is to make pomegranate smoothie in your own blender.

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Ingredients needed:

100% grape juice
100% pomegranate juice
strawberries: fresh or frozen
frozen mixed berries (optional)
yogurt or yogurt drink
vanilla or plain protein powder
vitamin supplement packet (optional)

ice

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Equipment Needed: Blender. You can use any blender, but to make the best smoothies, use one that shaves ice before it blends. Shaved ice provides smooth texture. I love the Margaritaville Frozen-Concoction Maker. It cost a bit more than a standard bender, but it shaves ice perfectly and has a strong motor.

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Pour in about a cup of pomegranate juice. Make sure you buy 100% pomegranate juice. Check the label. Many companies sell “blends” that contain only a small percentage of pomegranate juice. Look for 100 % pomegranate juice in the juice section or in the health food section of your grocery store. It will cost more than other juices. You can also find it at large box stores like Costco and at health food stores.

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Pour in about a cup of grape juice. Again, you want 100 percent juice. Researchers say purple grape juice, also rich in antioxidants, may have the same highly touted health benefits as red wine. Like pomegranate juice, grape juice may help reduce bad cholesterol, lower blood pressure and support heart health. Tip: just like wine, grape juice varies in quality. Go for the name brand. It tastes better.

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Put in 3 to 4 large frozen strawberries. Fresh berries will work as well. Strawberries are packed with vitamin C and other vitamins, antioxidants and fiber.

Optional: Put in about a half cup of mixed frozen berries. You can often find a bag of frozen berries that includes blueberries and raspberries, but any mix will do. Fresh works as well. More berries add a more coplex flavor . . . and more antioxidants.

Optional: Put in half a banana. Bananas are good for your heart and nerves: Bananas are rich in potassium, which is essential for proper muscle contraction and thus helps the rhythmic pumping of the heart. Some studies link low potassium to high blood pressure and increased risk of stroke.

pomsmoothie70Add about one fourth cup of plain or vanilla flavored protein powder. Athletes and body builders make protein powder shakes because protein contains the essential building blocks for muscle. Many of us do not get enough protein in our diet, so adding protein powder to a smoothie is a great way to make the drink a more complete source of nutrition. Many brands and formulas are sold in health food stores and at markets like Trader Joes. You can research the differences in protein powder online.

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For extra health benefits, add half a packet of a vitamin supplement. I use Emergenc-C with zinc. Zinc promotes a health immune system and helps with healing. Many believe it helps prevent premature aging of the skin and muscles of the body.

Add about a half cup of yogurt or yogurt drink. Yogurt comes from milk and provides animal protein, plus several other nutrients found in dairy foods, like calcium, vitamin B-2, B-12, potassium, and magnesium. It also has the good bacteria. I like using a yogurt drink product in a berry flavor, but any good yogurt will do.

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Turn on the blender for about half a minute. Then add ice. If you have a blender with an ice shaver, add 4 or 5 cubes to the top. Shave then blend. For a regular blender just toss the ice cubes in before blending.

Enjoy. You will be amazed how delicious this smoothie tastes. And you can really enjoy it knowing it is packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber.

You can vary the ingredients to your liking or to provide variety.

If you find you made too much smoothie, no problem. Put the leftovers in a closed container in the freezer. You can eat it frozen with a spoon as a dessert, or you can put it in the microwave on low for a few seconds and then stir to turn it back into a smoothie.

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My ehow version of this recipe

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Donating Your Baby’s Umbilical Cord Blood

“Cord-blood banking: worth it or not?” That’s the headline in an article in the Health Section of today’s Los Angeles Times. But I think a better question is: Cord-blood donation: why isn’t is easier?

It has been 10 years now since I donated by baby’s cord blood. I only knew about this option because a friend of mine had a son with leukemia. She had told me that an experimental treatment using donated umbilical cord blood had saved his life. Once I learned about the magical powers of the stem-cell-rich cord blood that is routinely discarded after a baby is born, I jumped at the chance to donate the blood from the umbilical cord I shared with my baby.

It took a little research to figure out how to donate. But I started researching early in my pregnancy. I filled out the proper paperwork and talked to my doctor. She had collected cord blood a couple times for private banking but was unaware that you even could donate.

After I gave birth, all it took was a few minutes for her to collect the blood, and the package was picked up by UPS I think. That was it. So simple.

My baby daughter soon after her cord was cut. We donated our umbilical cord blood.
My baby daughter soon after her cord was cut. We donated our umbilical cord blood.

But a couple years later when my son was born I could not find public umbilical cord bank willing to accept a donation. So this time, our precious fluid was simply discarded.

In the decade since I first donated, doctors have learned more about the healing power of umbilical cord blood. A growing for-profit industry sprung up. Private banking allows parents store their own cord blood in the off chance that their child will need it some day. I can understand parents who can afford it wanting to pay for private banking, especially when the public cord banks may not have an exact match of blood type. But only wealthy families can afford the hundreds of dollars in collection and storage fees. And the chances of any one baby needing the blood is small.

As a public policy issue, what we need is a cord blood bank system similar to the regular blood bank system.

As the Times article put it:

“The number of privately stored units of cord blood, estimated at 500,000 nationwide, far exceeds those in public banks even though cord blood in public banks is much more likely to be used. An estimated 300,000 units of donor cord blood are available worldwide.”

It just so happens that my friend had a neighbor who ended up running for an assembly seat in California. He had also been inspired to try to donate cord blood when his daughter was born and found it difficult. The first bill Assemblyman Anthony J. Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) introduced after he was elected was to try to establish a network of hospitals in California to harvest umbilical cord blood. That hasn’t happened yet. But it should.

Collecting and storing cord blood is expensive. But since cord blood is rich in stem cells and holds promise of helping in difficult medical cases, I think we should be able to come up with a way to support better public banking.

I feel lucky that my daughter and I were able to donate our cord blood 10 years ago. I only wish my son and I could have done the same, and that all parents-to-be had this option easily available.

If you want more information on donating, visit the Parents Guide to Cord Blood. It lists which banks are accepting public donations and gives a great overview of how and why to donate.

If you have donated, or have a child who has benefited from cord-blood treatment, please share your experience below.

I really like this crib. And it is a great price!

If you do not already have a good digital camera, get one before your baby is born. You are going to use it.

Check out my post on making baby burp cloths.