How to Choose a Yoga Mat

This is the first in a series of posts about developing your home fitness space. Stay tuned for more tips, tricks, and tools, and check out our post on foam rollers

Do you practice yoga, or know someone who does? The answer is probably yes. According to a 2016 Yoga in America study, more than 36 million Americans practice yoga, and practitioners spend upwards of $16 billion per year on related gear. That's a lot of yoga mats and pairs of stretchy pants!

If you're new to yoga (or looking to refresh your decades-old gear), a good mat is the most essential investment you can make. However, buying a yoga mat can feel like wandering down the bottled water aisle—there are so many options, they all look similar, and how do you know if one is better than the other?

Luckily, there are many, many high-quality mat options on the market, and your choice actually does matter. Here's your quick guide to choosing the right one—start with these questions:

What style(s) of yoga are you into?

No matter what type of yoga you practice, there's a mat out there for you. The perfect mat for a slower, restorative class might not be best for a sweaty vinyasa flow. Check out Outdoor Gear Lab's breakdown of class types and related mat recommendations. Key considerations include slippage and thickness. 

Are you practicing primarily at home or in a studio setting?

This question matters mainly for portability. With a home-based practice, you might prefer a thicker, heavier mat. If you are carrying your mat back and forth to studio classes, you might want to consider lighter, thinner options. Some companies even make travel-specific mats that fold up and pack down into a suitcase! If you want to get really serious, you can purchase mats for each. Also know that most studios rent mats at low or no cost if you forget your own or prefer not to carry it back and forth. 

Do you have any injuries or special needs?

Very tall yogis might consider XL mats, like this one from Manduka, which add a foot or more for additional comfort, especially in supine poses. If you have knee injuries or feel like you need extra padding, look into thicker or cushioned mats. Many standard mats are 5mm thick, but you can find a few, like this Hugger Mugger option, that are 6mm or more or made of softer material. Again, these tend to be heavier and less portable, but you'll be more comfortable while you practice. Also, keep in mind that soft foamy mats aren't great for balancing poses or intense flows. 

How much do you want to spend?

Mat prices vary widely, from under $10 on Amazon to more than $100 from big yoga brands. If you're newer to yoga and balking at the idea of dropping a lot of cash on a mat, do your research and spend as much as you're comfortable with on a mat that will meet your needs. There's some element of "you get what you pay for," so keep that in mind if you opt for a less expensive option! 

Once you've invested in a mat, take care of it. This is important for both hygiene and longevity. Spray and wipe down your mat a few times a week (or after practice if you're sweating a lot) with a DIY essential oil spray. Consider a deeper clean with mild, natural soap and warm water once or twice a month depending on how often you use your mat. Some mats can even go through a washing machine's gentle cycle. Check specific care instructions from the company before moving forward. Store your mat rolled up or hanging, in mild temperatures, and away from pets, kids, and contaminants. 

Whatever you decide, get to your mat often. We recommend a regular CHIYOGAFLOW practice, but any yoga will do! 

Create Your Vision Statement

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: personal growth and empowerment is as important to your overall wellbeing as nutrition and exercise. It's a whole-brain, whole-body approach to life. 

There are many ways we encourage you to build this commitment to emotional health and wellness, from meditation to a gratitude practice to finding your tribe. One other tool we love is visioning. 

Visioning provides you the space to dream and the direction you need to create your own future. In business, this is often referred to as a mission statement. But for you, as an individual, it is a glimpse of what’s possible, a big idea, or a dream. Your vision can, of course, include professional aspirations, but we encourage you to make it more personal. Visioning is a good practice to cultivate, as well as a first step in focusing your life, your legacy, and your happiness.

We love DIY vision boards--you can use a platform like Pinterest or get hands-on with magazine photos and glue--but there are many methods for creating a vision. For more, check out our recent piece on SharpHeels

One last thing to remember: Your vision is not a to-do list. Identify specific, actionable goals only after you have given yourself permission to dream without limitations. Go big! We're here to support you along the way. 

Your biggest fans in health and wellness, 

Angela and Team TRANSFORM

Your Snack Smart Guide

It's 3pm. You are starving. Lunch feels like a distant memory, and dinner isn't for hours. The chocolate-covered peanuts and bags of potato chips in your office break room are calling your name. What to do? 

We've all been there. It's that mid-morning or mid-afternoon slump between meals--or the hours between dinner and bedtime--and all we want is to satisfy our hunger with the easiest (and tastiest) thing we can get our hands on. It feels good temporarily to give into these cravings, but you may notice a negative impact on how your body actually feels. 

When we eat two or three big meals per day with very little in between, our bodies go into starvation mode. Those six, seven, even 12 hours kick off an evolutionary fat storage function. It works like this: When we eat, our digestive systems convert most of our food, especially large amounts of carbohydrates (those feel-good grains and sugars!) to glucose. Because our bodies are in survival mode, we use insulin to convert much of the glucose to fat. This is why people who constantly starve themselves can gain weight. Our bodies are automatically going to do what they need to in order to survive. 

So how do you shift away from fat storage? EAT! Consume four to six portion-controlled, balanced meals every two to four hours throughout the day. Snacks are an important part of this equation, and the very best thing you can do is be prepared for those slumps throughout your day. Keep your desk drawer, your gym bag, and your car stocked with grab-and-go options. Select snacks that contain 150-200 calories, and restock frequently so you are never caught with the temptation to hit the vending machine or fast food drive-thru. 

A couple of our favorite options: 

Whole Fruit: Apples, pears, and oranges make great portable snacks because they don't spoil easily and contain good-for-you fiber and essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. 

Fresh Veggies with Hummus or OM POWER BUTTER: Cut and store broccoli, celery, peppers, and green beans in individual snack baggies. Add filling protein and fats with your choice of hummus or OM POWER BUTTER

String Cheese: Roll up a part-skim stick with a slice of turkey for a satisfying protein-rich snack. 

Almonds and OM POWER MIX: Pack preportioned baggies for easy munching. Our OM POWER MIX with nuts and dried fruit is rich in healthy fats that fill you up and keep you going throughout your day. Note, however, that portion size matters when consuming nuts. Too many handfuls adds up to a lot of calories and fat! 

Instant Oatmeal and OM POWER BARS: Oatmeal is nourishing, packed with fiber, and easy to make anywhere with water, a bowl or cup, and a microwave. Our OM POWER BARS are a good grab-and-go alternative--oatmeal you can eat with your hands!

Chicken Tenders & Dip: Strips of grilled chicken paired with our TRANSFORM Hummus, Pesto, or dressings are both simple and super satisfying! 

When choosing your snacks, aim to have a little bit of protein and fat for satiety, and avoid simple carbs and sugars (put down the Oreos!). You'll feel better, physically and mentally, and bring that energy to your activities throughout the day. Tell us: what's your go-to healthy snack? 

Your biggest fans in health and wellness, 

Angela and Team TRANSFORM

 

Get Serious with Your Foam Roller

This is the first in a series of posts about developing your home fitness space. Stay tuned for more tips, tricks, and tools!

We consider our foam rollers to be our close friends. They often get a bad rap, as they have a reputation for causing extreme discomfort, but we are here to assure you that this is a "hurts so good" situation. If used properly, you stand only to score maximum body benefits from your foam roller. 

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What & why: Foam rolling is a form of self-massage that releases adhesions (irregularities, like scar tissue) that build up in your muscles and fascia (connective tissue). This is important because adhesions essentially weaken muscles, which can lead to injury and pain over time. The practice is also thought to increase blood flow, improve mobility, and speed recovery. A study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that foam rolling before exercise leads to less fatigue afterward. 

How: Foam rolling is an exercise that requires only the roller and your own body weight. Identify the area you are targeting and place the foam roller in such a way that you can roll back and forth across that spot. Roll out the muscle knot you are working for at least 60 seconds (up to 30 times). This may be unpleasant, so keep breathing! You can also watch our ULTIMATE TRANSFORMATION video on foam rolling for an in-depth demonstration of foam rolling technique for your knees, lower back, and shoulders. 

Tools: There are many different brands, shapes, sizes, and materials for foam rollers, but we recommend starting with the basic white, round, 36-inch roller. After you adapt to the sensation, you can graduate to a firmer or textured roller. 

Do not: It is possible to foam roll incorrectly, which can hurt rather than help. A couple of reminders: 

1. Roll around a sensitive area, not over it. Rolling out inflammation can cause more inflammation. Move a few inches away and start there. 

2. Roll slowly, and don't overdo it. Allow your muscles time to reap the healing benefits of foam rolling, but don't overstress them by spending 5-10 minutes in one spot. 

To create a foam rolling habit, start small and build gradually. If you are collecting equipment for a home gym--or simply accumulating tools to further your fitness routine--put the foam roller at the top of your list! 

Your biggest fans in health and wellness, 

Angela and Team TRANSFORM

 

Brunch Hack: Salmon Frittata

Suddenly it's May -- did it sneak up on you like it did us? Team TRANSFORM has been busy this season, and you can check out what we're up to in our spring newsletter

We also know that Mother's Day is coming up quickly (this Sunday, May 14th), and we encourage you to celebrate the ladies in your life who have raised and shaped you and your friends and family. To help you out, we're sharing our favorite brunch recipe: a quick, easy, and good-for-you salmon frittata! Whether you've been planning your Mothers' Day meal for weeks or are only just now remembering the occasion, we are confident this dish will impress even the choosiest of eaters. 

Salmon is favorite ingredient in the TRANSFORM kitchen because it is full of key health-promoting nutrients:

  • Salmon is a great source of vitamin B12, which has benefits for mood; energy level; and heart, skin, and digestive health. It is also an essential vitamin for fighting adrenal fatigue, regulating metabolic functions--including enzyme production and hormone balance--and maintaining the nervous system. 
  • Salmon is a key food source of vitamin D. Many of us sit inside in front of our computer screens every single day, which means we might not synthesize enough vitamin D from sun exposure. Vitamin D is important for immunity and mood. 
  • Protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids are in abundance in salmon. Protein in particular helps promote weight loss and muscle gain, and you'll get 34 grams in just 6 oz. of salmon -- along with 90% of your daily vitamin B12 and over 1800 IU of vitamin D! 

If you aren't a salmon lover, start small with our salmon frittata -- you'll also be getting great nutrients from some of our other favorite foods! 

SALMON FRITTATA

Ingredients

18 eggs, divided: 18 whites & 4 yolks

8-10 oz. smoked salmon

Portobello mushrooms, finely chopped (optional)

1 cup fresh spinach, finely chopped

1⁄2 teaspoon dill, fresh or dried

3 basil leaves, fresh

6 oz. goat cheese

1⁄4 cup water

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a medium bowl, beat egg whites and yolks until smooth. Chop salmon and add to egg mixture. Add mushrooms, spinach, and seasonings. Spray an 8x8 glass casserole dish with olive oil. Pour egg mixture into dish and sprinkle evenly with goat cheese. Pour 1⁄4 cup water over the dish to steam the eggs. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 20-25 minutes or until set. Cool and cut into 6-8 pieces.

For a single serving, drizzle olive oil in a pan and saute together 4 oz. protein of choice, 1⁄4 cup chopped fresh veggies, a handful of spinach, salt, pepper, and seasonings. Combine 4 egg whites and 1 egg yolk and pour over veggie mixture. Top with 2 oz. goat cheese and 1 tablespoon water, cover, and cook on low heat for 10-12 minutes. Enjoy!

Your biggest fans in health and wellness, 

Angela and Team TRANSFORM