A mat is the most basic piece of equipment in the yoga repertoire, and the most necessary. Not all mats are created equal -- some provide more stickiness, making it easier to stay on during an especially arduous session, while others are extra-thick to provide more padding.
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JadeYoga mats are known for being ultra-sticky, important for power or hot yoga classes, or even any crowded class where room and body temperatures can heat up quickly, eliminating the need for mat towels. Yoga practitioners who are also environmentally conscious will be pleased to know that the mats are made from real rubber, a sustainable resource, or recycled rubber. And, for every mat purchased, the company plants a tree via Trees for the Future. JadeYoga also encourages people to recycle their old mats via its 3R program -- Reuse, Reduce, Recycle. Details are on the website.
"This is an audience that cares about the Earth and their spiritual well-being," says Pennsylvania-based company founder Dean Jerrehian, a former Environmental Protection Agency attorney. "We have a new feature in our newsletter asking customers what they're doing with their mats in the community, and it's amazing what we're hearing back, like someone teaching yoga to recovering alcoholics and people with HIV."
The mats come in a variety of colors, widths, lengths and thicknesses, and some even have a cool die-cut edge. Kid-size mats are also available.
Price: from about $47.95 to $99.95.
Available at www.JadeYoga.com as well as other retail and online stores such as EverythingYoga.com and Amazon.com.
Swimming endless laps isn't the only way to get fit in a pool. A few inexpensive pieces of gear can offer a great workout by providing flotation or water resistance, which causes the muscles to work harder and the cardiovascular system to ramp up.
Hydro Resistant Arm Trainers from Speedo have a hand grip and provide a great upper body workout as arms move through the water. Use the trainers for individual exercises that target specific muscle groups, such as the triceps and biceps, or simply move them back and forth through water while you are traveling or standing still. Either way, the resistance of the water will tone muscles and increase the heart rate. The material is resistant to pool chemicals.
For the lower body, there's the Hydro Resistant Leg Trainers, which fit around the ankles and use the force of the water to work muscles. The multi-fin design won't encumber movement, and the neoprene cuff that wraps around the ankle is cushioned and comfortable.
Both have a distinctive ergonomic design that enables you to move through the water efficiently but doesn't stress the joints. An oversize grip on the arm trainers, plus wrist stabilization, prevents tired hands and wrists while in the water.
Price: about $29.99 per pair.
Available online at www.speedousa.com and www.swim2000.com as well as in some athletic stores.
Technology can be a wonderful thing, especially when it comes to creating new fibers. This Shuksan jacket from REI is made from a new fabric called eVent, which allows perspiration to escape, while still keeping out wind (it's windproof to 60 mph). So there's no need for underarm zippers or extra-large gussets (and the bulk they bring) to allow for air flow -- a big plus when you're working up a sweat. Closed seams also protect against rain. Other features include a helmet-compatible hood, an earphone cord port, and shoulder straps and hip belts that won't get in the way of the two mesh-lined front pockets.
One of the jacket's most outstanding features, however, may be the embedded Recco chip, a small reflector that can be picked up by a signal-emitting detector that is used by hundreds of search and rescue teams and ski areas. It supplements, but doesn't replace, avalanche transceivers.
Price: about $299.