Students often ask: "What yoga mat should I buy?"; " What props do you recommend for practice?"; "What are good books to learn about yoga, meditation and breathing?" I'm happy to share my recommendations for practice on this page. All items have a direct link to Amazon for quick and easy ordering.
Manduka brand yoga mats are built to last. Have you noticed that that mat you buy from the box store has a tendency to wear out after a year of practice? It either starts to crumble or the cushioning of the material begins to diminish. Instead of spending $20 - $25 year after year, if you are confident that you will enjoy yoga the rest of your life, invest in a Manduka Pro Yoga Mat. This mat is 1/4" thick and you can also purchase an extra long if you are tall (standard mats are 71" long; extra long have an additional 14" for a total length of 85"). Manduka has a lifetime guarantee on their mats.
The Manduka Yoga Strap is an Iyengar style strap. There are some pluses and some minuses, but I feel that the pluses outweigh the minuses. The buckle is designed so that the strap material can easily and quickly slide to the size of loop needed (big plus). Once the desired loop size is obtained, the user just need to add tension inside the loop for it to hold. From time to time the metal bar that slides inside the rectangular buckle falls off (the minus), but it can easily and quickly be inserted back into place (plus). I recommend at least an 8' long strap for practice. In a few rare instances it is nice to have a 10' long strap and Manduka has those available as well.
For yoga blocks, I do not have any particular brand that I favor over others. The main requirement is the sizing of the block: 9"x6"x4". Foam ones are great. Usually you want two blocks to practice with and most vendors will sell you two basic colored blocks for around $10-$12 as a set. I do like companies that recycle material, so for that reason I recommend Clever Yoga's blocks (Clever Yoga has neat two tone colored blocks). Nice price point for being eco-friendly.
The yoga bolsters I use to teach my restorative classes are Manduka bolsters. I find the microfiber covering to be a really pleasing feel; the cover also easily zips off for laundering. The bolsters have a handle on the end that makes them easy to lift and carry. The core is made with recycled fiber; students find the level of stuffing to be very comfortable and supportive.
Round ones are great starter bolsters. You can connect with chest openers, elevate the hips and place them underneath the knees. Some students like the rectangular ones for their back and hips. If you're unsure, it may be worthwhile to make it a point to attend one of my restorative classes so that you can try out the two different shapes and determine which will fit your current needs best.
Mexican blankets are fantastic props for restorative yoga. Their size, weight and uniformity makes them very versatile for many aspects of restorative practice. Unfortunately, I have not seen any Mexican blankets on Amazon that I would recommend. I obtain my blankets through a wholesale company who makes sure that you receive the quality and color of blanket that you are expecting. Periodically I place an order of Mexican blankets for my students so that they can receive the cost benefit of being part of a bulk buy offer. My recommendation is 5 Mexican blankets for a good restorative experience; when part of a bulk purchase, the blankets end up being $12 each. Contact me if you are interested.
Including a yoga sandbag into your restorative practice is a real treat. They can be placed on the lower back in child's pose, on the bottoms of the feet in legs-up-the-wall, or any other place where a sense of supportive stability is required. Be sure you understand where to place the bag by regularly attending a restorative yoga class. Usually I buy the unfilled sandbag and obtain play sand for filling from the home improvement store. The outer bag can be easily taken off for laundering.
The books I recommend are ones that address how pain in the body can be managed. Keep in mind that books are books and they cannot watch how you practice a posture or give you any direct insight on how your should adjust for your particular condition. Books are helpful references when paired with observation and guidance from your yoga teacher as well as recommendations from your medical professionals.
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School has many books on mindfulness and meditation. His work is highly respected by professionals in the medical field. I incorporate many of his techniques into the classes I teach.
The practice of breathing has profound effects on your health and well-being. Many people in this day and age go about their day with little to no attention on how they breathe. Learning how to breathe well again can help the body to heal, relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression with no side-effects, and so much more. I encourage you to explore the gift of the breath.
Cher Kaufman is a local artist in the Dallas area that I partner with to offer workshops on coloring and meditation. Out of the scores and scores of coloring books out there, what makes hers unique are the human quality in the pages of her books. If you really pay attention, most of the widely released coloring books have computer-generated images. Cher's are all hand-drawn. Her first book, The Artful Mandala, includes drawings by her and by her students.
This year Cher has released a beautiful series of books - "Color Your Way 10 Minutes a Day". These books are the perfect size to fit in a purse and can easily slip into your desk drawer at work - they are portable! You'll want to one with you wherever you go. When you're waiting at the doctor's office or for a friend at the restaurant; when you find yourself needing a breather from the stress at work; when you come home and are seeking to create calm and clarity in your mind once more - open up one of these books and enjoy the simplicity of meditative coloring.
The practice of yoga involves taking care of all the body systems. Sometimes our respiratory system is challenged due to congestion or our immune system needs a little extra help. I have found that regular use of a neti pot helps to keep my nasal passages clear and that certain supplements provide a supportive boost during seasons where illnesses like cold and flu are more widespread. The GI tract houses 70% of your body's immune system, so be sure to support it adequately with probiotics.
Please consult with your doctor if you are unsure of interactions with your current medications and health condition.