Guide to Buying a Yoga Mat

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Guide to Buying a Yoga Mat

All yoga mats are not created equal. Weighing in on the most popular mats being used in hot yoga studios around Ottawa, I will discuss what makes five types of yoga mats unique and why one may (or may not) be your perfect match!

I was inspired to write this post because I am frequently asked about yoga mats by clients and students who are looking to invest, but have no idea where to start. There are so many mat options out there it can seem a little overwhelming. I decided to do the research for you! I asked the experts (teachers & dedicated yogis) and took a survey on Monday and Wednesday evenings at three different hot yoga locations around the city and here's what I found...

Which Yoga Mat Do You Practice On?

Sample size: 100 yogis practicing in a hot yoga setting

lululemon "The Mat"

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The Pros:

This mat is clearly the front runner here and for more than one reason. "The Mat" is not only a hot yoga specific mat, meaning that it absorbs sweat so the practitioner doesn't need a towel on top, but it is also reversible so it can be used for regular yoga as well. One side of the mat is "sticky" so it is grippy even when wet, while the other side is ideal for use in your home or in a non-hot setting. The price point for these mats also contribute to them being a top choice, ranging anywhere between $58 - $78, these mats are quality for a decent price. They are also available in a range of thicknesses, lengths and fun colours which makes them relatively customizable. This also happens to be my personal mat of choice!

The cons: 

A couple of the noted downsides to this mat include the fact that they can be heavy to transport especially if you are walking or biking to yoga. It has also been said that these mats have a distinct, almost rubbery, "smell" to them, but after several uses and cleanings this scent usually dissipates. While many yogis enjoy the sticky mat, if you are someone who enjoys using a towel over your mat you are better off going with the next choice.

Manduka PROlite

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the pros: 

This mat has quality written all over it! Manduka mats come with a lifetime warranty so even after years of use they hold up amazingly well. Also a top pick for those who like the support of a thicker, denser mat. The surface of this mat is a "closed cell surface", meaning that moisture and sweat will not absorb making cleaning a breeze! Manduka mats are the most expensive mats on this list, but for a lifetime of use, $110 - $130 doesn't seem that bad.

The cons: 

While a thicker and denser mat means support under your body it also means a heavier mat. This mat is heavier than lululemon's "The Mat", and therefore makes it even less convenient to travel with. If you are a travelling yogi, this is probably not the best option for you. Also Manduka mats do not absorb sweat therefore requiring a mat towel on top to prevent slipping. The use of a towel also means extra laundry and if you are practicing daily you will need to invest in several towels which can add up in cost as well.

Jade Harmony Mat

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The Pros:

This Canadian company specializes in eco-friendly products. These mats are constructed using all natural tree rubber and use "open cell" technology to absorb your sweat, so no need for a towel! Another huge selling point is that Jade plants a tree for every mat sold, with over a million trees planted so far! They are a company who is all about giving back, supporting the environment and a variety of charities with their "Colour Cause" program. For each mat of a specific colour sold, Jade will donate $5 to the corresponding charity, for example for every pink mat sold $5 is donated to the Canadian Breast Cancer foundation. They do sit on the higher end of the spectrum in terms of cost, ranging between $90 - $120, however this is a yoga mat you can feel good about buying!

The cons:

Some yogis have described this mat as "very sticky" meaning that it can be more difficult to flow on this surface if you need to drag your feet from an up-dog back to your downward dog. The stick factor also tends to attract lint and pet hair more than the other mats, so if you are an at home practicing yogi with a shedding dog, definitely not ideal! This mat also does have stretch, maybe a bit too much especially in the warm temperatures of a hot room.

Studio Mat

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the pros:

Depending on the studio very high quality mats may be offered. This is a great way to not only test out a mat before you buy one but it also gives you the chance to use a Manduka or a lululemon mat without necessarily having to invest in the full cost in one payment. Most studios offer mat rental fees for approx $2 per class, or if you are practicing more regularly a monthly fee of about $30 is charged. This is great if you don't want to worry about carrying your mat around, and mat cleaning is also often taken care of by the studio staff as well! 

the cons:

Some hot yoga studios, particularly ones that are located in more of a gym atmosphere, offer lower quality mats that are not necessarily hot yoga specific mats. These lower quality mats once soaked in sweat can be thought of as a bacterial breeding ground since there are usually no regulations or supervision pertaining to the cleaning or disinfection of these mats, even though sanitizing wipes are offered. The number of people also using a rental mat has a certain "yuck" factor to it, but on the other hand if you are just beginning with yoga and don't have a mat of your own this is still a good place to start.

Others:

The most popular "other" mat was the B MAT by B YOGA, followed closely by the generic yoga mat. I will discuss briefly each of these. 

B MAT PROS:

The B MAT is actually comparable to Jade in popularity. This Canadian made mat is a super convenient choice for travelling because of it's lightweight nature. This mat offers superior grip and a no-slide surface even in the heat! Costing between $56 - $88 this is a quality mat for a little price!

b mat cons:

This mat, similar to Jade, is a very rubbery and very sticky mat, also making it a magnet for dust and hair.

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Generic Mat pros:

Most yogis in the beginning phases of their practice begin with a basic, generic mat (myself included). These mats can be purchased somewhere like Wal-Mart or Winners. Generic mats are attractive to beginners because of their low commitment price, about $15 - $30. They often come in fun colours and patterns too!

Generic Mat cons:

While the generic mat is often the starting place for many yogis these mats are often flimsy and quite supportive. If you have any knee or back sensitivities the generic mat is going to do nothing for you in terms of cushioning. They also offer little to no grip in a hot yoga setting. If you are practicing even somewhat regularly you are better off to invest a bit of money and go with one of the other mats listed above!

Not all yoga mats are the same, but then again neither are the people who use them! It really boils down to each individual's priorities, practice style, lifestyle and budget. Hopefully the research and the information I have shared helps you to make an informed choice the next time you are shopping for a yoga mat.

I want to know what you think! Did your mat make the cut? Did I miss an important feature of one of the brands above? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading and sharing! Happy practicing yogis!

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Soups to Warm Up to

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Soups to Warm Up to

Three of my all time favourite, super easy, plant based, soup recipes to keep you warm this winter!

Soup might just be one of my favourite foods! There's nothing like a hot bowl of soup to comfort you on a chilly day. While I love a good bowl of soup, a healthy and hearty one is hard to find. Store bought soups are often packed full of salt and preservatives, not to mention most use an animal based stock and have added dairy. The following three recipes are vegan friendly, gluten free, and just as tasty as their restaurant and store bought counterparts! These are homemade soups you will enjoy making and will feel good about eating!

Sweet Potato Coconut

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into cubes

4 large organic carrots, chopped

1 large sweet onion, chopped

Knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

Fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, or sage all work well)

1/4 cup coconut oil

6 cups low sodium veggie stock

1 can coconut milk

In a soup pot, saute onion and ginger in the coconut oil until translucent. Add chopped herbs, sweet potato and carrot pieces and heat through. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about an hour or until veggies are soft. Remove from heat, add coconut milk and then pour contents into a blender in two batches and blend until smooth! Serve with fresh foccacia bread! Mmmm

Green Goddess Soup

1 large crown of broccoli, chopped

2 small zucchini, chopped

Approx 12-15 Brussels sprouts, outter layer removed and chopped

2 boiling potatoes (these help to thicken the soup and create a creamy texture)

1 large sweet onion, chopped (I find these guys don't make me cry)

3-5 cloves of garlic

Small package of organic baby spinach

Fresh herbs (thyme is my fav in this one!)

1/4 cup coconut oil

8 cups organic mushroom stock

Salt & Pepper to taste

In your large soup pot saute onion, garlic and thyme in coconut oil until onion is translucent and your kitchen smells amazing! Add Brussels sprouts and heat through. Add stock and bring to a boil. Then add potatoes, broccoli and zucchini and simmer on low for about 45 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Remove from heat, slowly wilt in the spinach last (this is what gives the soup its amazing green colour!) Pour contents into a blender in two batches and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Try this recipe with other green veggies too, asparagus is a great addition, and cauliflower instead of potato works too! Serve with avocado toast!

Veggie Chickpea Chili

3 large bell peppers (red, yellow & orange), chopped

8 celery stalks, chopped

2 small zucchini, chopped

1 large sweet onion, chopped

1 can of organic sweet corn kernels 

1 can black beans

1 can chickpeas

1 can crushed tomatoes

1 large jar/can organic tomato sauce

Couple handfuls of chili powder

handful of cumin

dash of smoked paprika

BBQ sauce or hot sauce to taste (optional)

Place the onion in a large pot with a bit of oil and saute lightly, add celery and cook until onion is soft. Add peppers, zucchini, corn, beans, and chickpeas, stir to combine and then season the veggies and beans with chili powder, cumin and smoked paprika. Stir and then add tomatoes and tomato sauce. Cover and simmer on low for about 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally. Add some hot sauce for a little kick or some BBQ sauce to create a richer flavour. S & P to taste and you are good to go! This one freezes well too. Serve hot with cool avocado chunks on top!

Happy cooking!

Let me know how your soups turn out and tag me in your photos! @aleyshaderksen on Instagram!

Tell me what your favourite soups are and share your recipes in the comments too! 

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For the Love of Almond Milk

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For the Love of Almond Milk

Not only is homemade almond milk more nutritious than store bought almond milk, it tastes better too!! It is also so easy to make!! 

Milk substitutes are becoming more and more popular as people educate themselves on the realities of the dairy industry. If growth hormones, antibiotics, and animal cruelty aren't appealing to you, you may think about trading in your bags or cartons of cow's milk for a cleaner, greener, and more compassionate alternative.

All ethics aside, strictly from a health perspective if you are looking to start to clean up your diet, getting rid of dairy, or at least limiting your intake is a great place to start. Switching to a milk alternative, such as almond milk over your breakfast cereal or in your smoothies, is a massive step in the right direction. Even if you are not vegan you cannot deny that the nutty, creamy taste of fresh almond milk is nothing but pure deliciousness! 

I'm going to share with you my recipe for homemade fresh almond milk and show you a couple of my favourite recipes to use it in!

 

Fresh Almond Milk

1 cup raw unblanched almonds (soaked in water overnight and then strained)

3 cups cold filtered water

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup (optional)

Dash of cinnamon (optional)

Place your soaked and strained almonds in a high powered blender with the cold filtered water and blend on high for about a minute.

Place a colander lined with cheesecloth (or a tea towel) over top of a large bowl. Pour contents of blender into the lined colander and let it strain into the bowl beneath. Squeeze any excess liquid from the cheesecloth.

Pour liquid from the bowl back into the blender and pulse to incorporate maple syrup and cinnamon (or your choice of additions). Pure vanilla extract, Medjool dates, honey, or agave all work nicely too. Try out different combinations to see what you enjoy! 

 

My Everyday Smoothie

1 cup fresh almond milk

1 banana

1/2 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

1 tbsp nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew, whatever you have)

1 scoop vegan protein powder (I like "Vegan Freak" hybrid PROTEIN supplement)

Handful of organic baby spinach 

1/2 cup coconut water

1 TSP CHIA SEEDS

Dash cinnamon

Place all ingredients in blender and blend on medium for 30 seconds and then high for another 30 seconds. Enjoy!

This is my favourite way to use my homemade almond milk. I drink this smoothie almost every morning! Inspired by the bohemian smoothie at Pure Kitchen! :)

 

Golden Tumeric Latte

 A warm, comforting alternative to a tea or coffee. With a hint of spice and a lot of flavour this stuff is seriously addictive! 

2 cups fresh almond milk

1 tbsp raw honey

small piece fresh ginger

small piece fresh tumeric (or 1 tsp ground)

pinch black pepper (helps the body to absorb tumeric)

nutmeg to taste 

1 tbsp coconut oil

Place all ingredients except for coconut oil in a medium pot and simmer on low heat for about 10-15 minutes. The longer you simmer it the deeper the flavour and the colour becomes!

Fish out or strain the tumeric and ginger pieces if you are using fresh roots, and then add remaining liquid to a blender with the coconut oil, and blend on medium for about 30 seconds. The coconut oil makes the drink thick and frothy just like a latte! Mmm... Enjoy!

 

Let me know how your fresh almond milk turns out and share with me what some of your favourite almond milk recipes are! 

Peace, Love, & Almonds 

 

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4 Unique Types of Yoga to Try

Are you looking to expand your practice? Hoping to incorporate something new into your routine? Up for a new challenge physically? Here are four trending unique types of yoga you should try ASAP!

 

AntiGravity® Yoga

Whether you are just beginning to introduce inversions into your practice, or you are a handstand master, AntiGravity® Flying Fitness is an amazing way to experience the world upside-down! Known for its zero-compression inversions, AntiGravity® will leave you feeling lighter, decompressed through the spine, and maybe a little taller too! The AnitGravity® hammocks are rigged for a minimum of a 1000 lbs per point of connection! They are super strong and very comfy too! Available in Canada only at Movati Athletic locations, check out the schedule on my home page to see when I am teaching a class near you, and enjoy the sweetest savasana of your life!

 AntiGravity ®  Yoga at Movati Athletic in Kanata

AntiGravity® Yoga at Movati Athletic in Kanata

Acro / Partner Yoga 

Partner yoga is a great way to strengthen your relationship with a friend, your partner, or significant other. It requires communication, patience, and a whole lot of trust! Starting with simple breath work and seated postures and perhaps working up to more advanced acro poses that require focus, balance, and again TRUST! Acro yoga is recommended in groups of at least three: a flyer, a base, and a spotter. Acro is a guaranteed way to bring some fun and laughter into your yoga routine! Check out pureyogaottawa.com for upcoming workshops! Grab and friend and get on your mat!

 Partner Yoga with @yogawithkassandra wearing @MalaRae designs captured by Aida Robbins.

Partner Yoga with @yogawithkassandra wearing @MalaRae designs captured by Aida Robbins.

Yoga TuneUp® (YTU)

Got balls? Check out a Yoga Tune Up® class and get your roll on! YTU uses different sized massage therapy balls to give you a deep tissue stretch and miofacial release. An amazing accompaniment to any sports routine, YTU is yoga therapy. It helps to relieve muscle pain and increase flexibility and mobility. In a typical class anatomy focused instructors will guide you through a series of movements and instructions as you roll away your pain using self massage techniques. Check out Movati Athletic or Pure Yoga schedules online to find classes in the Ottawa area. Trust me, you won't be disappointed!

 Photo of @jennasyoga by Lisa Hebert

Photo of @jennasyoga by Lisa Hebert

Stand Up Paddle (SUP) Yoga

Are you a yogi who loves the water? Then SUP Yoga is for you! This trending style of yoga is practiced on the open water atop a 10 - 12 foot stand up paddle board. This type of yoga really challenges your stability and balance, even for those with a very steady practice on land. For water loving yogis this activity is a must try this summer! Check out Wanderlust festival schedules for a workshop near you. The worst that could happen is that you get a little wet! 

 SUP Yoga on Lac Tremblant @Wanderlust

SUP Yoga on Lac Tremblant @Wanderlust

Get out there and try something new yogis! Be sure to let me know how it goes! Have you already tried one of these? Tell me about your experience in the comments below! 

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