How to Find the Perfect Yoga Mat

Image By BalaYoga.com
Image By BalaYoga.com

Today my much-anticipated yoga mat arrived. It’s a good one. However, finding the perfect yoga mat can be challenging. Yet, there comes a time when you can’t ignore the holes and thinness of an old one and you have to start shopping.

I began by perusing the mat selection at my yoga studio, which has a wide variety of colors, lengths and thickness, but only a couple of brands. Next, I explored Amazon.com to find a good one quickly since many of the mats at YogaWorks and on YogaJournal.com’s shop were too pricey. I figured the reviewers on Amazon would help me decide.

I also didn’t want to pay $70-80 for a yoga mat. Plus, I wanted to know what the real differences were among brands like Gaiam, Manduka, JadeYoga, Agoy and Aurorae? Turns out, there are many.

I spent hours reading about yoga mats, yoga mat companies and reviews by other yogi shoppers seeking the zen of a perfect mat. I agonized over the materials, prices, colors, lengths and thickness. Choosing a mat was more than just selecting a useful piece of athletic equipment; picking a mat says something to your fellow yogis. It demonstrates your style, feelings about the environment and shows what kind of practitioner you are — if you choose a boring color, or a mat made out of PVC, instead of eco-friendly products or get the wrong length or thickness, you could totally look like a novice (or just someone who doesn’t care about the landfills filling up with discarded mats).

Maybe I’m over thinking it, but I didn’t want these yoga toes leaving too big of a carbon footprint. Here’s a quick cheat sheet I came up with so you don’t obsess the way I did.

My Tricks For Picking the Best Yoga Mat:

1. See the mats in person. Visit a yoga mat retailer and touch every type of mat. Get a feel for the texture, lengths, colors and thickness. Make note of what you like and what you don’t.

2. Do not make an impulse purchase. Avoid the temptation of walking out of the store with an overpriced mat. Do not buy one.

3. View options online. Go home and check out the online selection of mats on Amazon.com.

4. Narrow selections immediately. If you have Amazon Prime, you might as well filter buy Prime products only; especially since you were so eager to by that $80 mat earlier at the store. This way, you’ll get it in two days once you decide.

5. Go for the best. Sort your search results by the highest rated reviews. Begin reading about each type of mat and starting thinking about what you need in a mat. How thick is your current mat? Is it long enough? What would make your practice better?

6. Make it a 50-50 choice. Choose two mats that seem like the top rated products. Check out their websites to make sure they are legit and aren’t offering a special promotion that is cheaper than Amazon.  Begin reading the reviews for both mats. Read the best ones, read the worst ones — make sure you also read the comments on the reviews. You’ll want to see how people respond to negative and positive review in case they disagree. I would also make sure there are a lot of reviews, if there are only a few, it might be a sign that it’s a new product or a bad one.

7. Budget.Consider the amount of time you spend using the mat and the amount of money you want to invest in your practice. Also consider how long you think the mat will last and if the price point fits into the amount you have to spend.

Image By Aurorae
Northern Lights Yoga Mat By Aurorae

8. Talk it over with a friend. Tell a friends you are trying to find the best mat for your buck and then describe both mats. Tell your friend the pros and cons that matter to you and then see what he or she says about your options.

9. Make a decision. Ultimately, you need a mat, so once you’re pretty sure which mat will work best — buy it.Make sure there’s a good return policy in case you find it doesn’t work for you after all.

10. Try it out. Be your own best reviewer. Once the mat comes in the mail, try it out in the studio. If you have problems that can’t be fixed based on the reviewers notes return the merch, yogi! You have that second choice waiting for its test run.

Which mat did I choose? I went with the Northern Lights Yoga Mat by Aurorae because it had the best reviews. I had narrowed it down to Aurorae and Manduka mats because both had rave reviews. I ended up choosing the Aurorae mat because it was $45 as opposed to Manduka’s $84 for the BlackMat Pro or $63 for their PROlite. Plus, Aurorae has unbelievable customer service. In dozens of reviews the CEO of the company responds to people thanking them for reviewing his products or if there is negative feedback he wants to understand it and send it back to his company, and he gives away free stuff to entice his customer to remain loyal. And, it’s completely free of anything toxic or polluting when it’s produced or discarded. I also adore the ombre dip-dye effect in the colors.

On the other hand, Manduka has a lifetime guarantee for their mats, which is amazing, but I just couldn’t pass up this smaller brand. Plus, the Aurorae mat is machine washable and has a focal point to help you balance during tricky standing poses.

UPDATE: As of August 5, 2013, I’m still enjoying my yoga mat by Aurorae that I purchased. I’ve washed it, wiped it down a lot and basically used it every other day since I bought it. I hasn’t started showing signs of wear and tear until now! There are small little divots forming in the spot where my feet generally are for downward dog. This isn’t a huge issue, but thought I would note it here in case anyone wanted to know. The mat is still thick and has a bit of stickiness to it. Loving it. (Also, I get compliments on my mat all the time!)

Getting Nailed

I like nail polish. It’s colorful, trendy and a fun way to express your personality while adding some style to your look. And mani-pedis are relaxing and let you feel pampered, but I would never consider the paint, or the practice, “orgasmic.”

However, a couple days ago I received a distasteful email about a new line of nail polish by Mattesse Elite sold at Ricky’s NYC called the “Orgasmic Collection.” The name of the collection didn’t bother me until I scrolled down and saw a very naked woman splayed out in my email inbox. I was shocked at the vulgarity of the ad and completely offended that anyone would think this is effective marketing. (And, hello, NSFW!)

It got even worse as I read the email:

“As if saucy new shades weren’t enough to get you worked up… Mattese Elite’s new Orgasmic Collection embodies the phases and progression of an orgasm! Yeah… You heard it right… we’re turnin’ it up and turnin’ you on with new nail colors intense enough to get your primal instincts goin’ straight to your nearest Ricky’s!”

I’m sorry, but in my opinion, this is not only stupid — it’s gross.  Since when does nail polish, or the mere thought of buying beauty products get people off? And why would marketing to women include a nude porn star (pretending to have an orgasm) with silver stars pasted on her body? The only thing this ad nailed is objectifying and demeaning woman. You can barely even see her fingernails!

To top it off, the line includes names for shades like “Soft & Wet” and “Cream Dream.” So, as you can imagine, I’m definitely worked up, but it’s not to buy their nail polish. If anything, I will now AVOID purchasing it because it’s degrading. If you’re as offended as I am, I recommend not subscribing to this beauty retailer’s newsletter and limiting your purchases of this nail polish brand.

I’ve unsubscribed from Ricky’s newsletter and will not post the image in this blog, but if you want check it out and comment with your thoughts below, I’d be interested to read what you think about this ad.

You can view the complete newsletter and explicit image here: http://www.rickysnyc.com/newsletter/newsflash-101410.html.

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Boot Season is Back

Labor Day has come and gone and Fall Fashion Week is upon us — all dressed up with tons of places to go for Fashion’s Night Out, the ultimate set of chic celebrations fashionistas adore. As I got ready this morning, excited by the thought of visiting shindigs across the city, I noticed that fall temperatures are here. So, I pulled out my boots.

That’s right, boot season is back and better than ever.

This year, anything goes — ankle, slouchy, studded, flat, stiletto or platform — the gang’s all here. To some, it may seem overwhelming with the possibilities. The fall fashion magazines and blogs are flooded with an amazing array of boots that we’ve added to the boot style file: from bold biker and bohemian, to the outrageous-over-the knee trend. How does a girl choose?

If you’re short, like me, you’ll probably skip the sky-high over-the-knee trend because that may be a little too Puss in Boots (a la Shrek) for the petite, but everything else is a go. And, if you haven’t guessed, fall is my favorite and it has a lot to do with the put-together looks that go along with such pronounced and polished footwear.

It has taken me a few years to build my boot collection and though it is small, I’ve thought a lot about them, read magazines and seen the eclectic styles walking down Fifth Avenue. So, now, here’s what I’ve gathered on keeping your autumn footwear staple up to date.

Chinese Laundry, Image by Amazon.com

First, buy a couple classic styles in two neutral colors, that way, every season, you have your go-to shoes that match everything in your wardrobe. If you want to buy something plain without many details, those boots will be timeless, but a buckle, stud, or two, won’t render them out by next year.

I also recommend picking up pairs that have different fabrics. If you buy all

suede shoes, you’re totally out of luck when rainy season hits, so vary the color and fabrics, for sure.  And, seriously, don’t buy fake leather to save $20-40. It may look o.k., but trust me — from my experience, they only last one season. Good leather can last a long time and can save you from having to buy another pair.

As for the style of the boot, go with what catches your eye. An interesting shoe can totally change the look of an outfit, go for something chic, especially if you already have two classic staples. I recommend trying an ankle boot, they are perfect for the autumn because they go well with pants, dresses, skirts and tights. Plus, they are a nice transition from your sandals and wedges. Ankle boots are more durable than pumps.

Image By Mod Cloth

There are two ankle boots I’m obsessed with right now. The first is a pair of suede boots from Chinese Laundry. They are very modern and also fit the classic code. However, for those of you on a budget, like me, who may also ruin suede from time to time by stepping in a puddle, these micro fiber boots are adorable. I found them on the Mod Cloth blog and they are very now — beige with studs (and you can’t beat the easy care of micro fiber).

Another good pick for boots are lace up styles. Whether they are flat, platform or stiletto, they all look fab with anything in your wardrobe. I’m wishing I’d held on to a pair of brown lace up boots from high school I’d totally wear them now. See, that’s another tip, don’t give away stuff unless it cannot be repaired. Lesson learned here!

Well, it goes without saying that you should make sure you select boots that fit with your wardrobe. There’s nothing worse than purchasing a beautiful pair you can’t wear because it doesn’t fit in with the style or colors of clothes in your closet.

Alright, that’s all I have on my beloved boots. Enjoy boot season because it won’t be long before you’re pulling out those sunny sandals again!

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Something Wicked This Way Comes

If you thought Bratz were scary, there’s a new crew of makeup clad monsters creeping in the toy market that will haunt you. Mattel is set to launch a new franchise called Monster High this fall. The company plans to release the first book in the series this September. The toys are already on sale online and the TV series, website, apparel line and feature length movie are all in the works. Each of these products are dedicated to a group of teen monsters going through high school… dressed like hookers.

That’s right. Instead of creating positive and age-appropriate characters for a multi-million dollar new campaign for young girls, these “ghouls” are covered in a frightening amount of makeup, trashy clothes and sky-high platform heels. There’s nothing like a cast of mini-skirts monsters to make a buck and alter the collected perception of sexuality among tweens. Really Mattel?

And you thought toys were becoming more gender neutral. Sorry, but Mattel not only wants young girls to buy lots of dolls, clothes and watch their shows, they want tweens to dress in creepy, sexy Halloween costumes year round! As if the trend toward sexy apparel for teens isn’t bad enough, tweens are now the target with this new cast of saucy socialites.

Check it out — each doll is complete with her own “scary” pet and “fashionable” (read slutty) outfit. Kids can collect Draculaura, Clawdeen Wolf, Frankie Stein and Lagoona Blue. Each teen is the offspring of legendary monsters like vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein and sea monsters. What sucks, is that the idea is cute given all the passion for mythical creatures among youth culture, but the way the girls are dressed is a crime — no, I’m serious, if you dressed like this you’d be mistaken for a prostitute and hauled downtown.

Since I’m the product of the 80’s cartoon and toy marketing, I know this is nothing new, creating toys around entertainment and vice versa, but at least the toys we had growing up back then were empowering to girls and not weirdly sexual. I’m talking about My Little Pony, Rainbow Bright and Care Bears. Each taught lessons about confidence, community, intelligence and being independent — not popularity, shopping and premature sexiness. Where’s the lesson in looking hot?

As a culture, we deem it necessary for young girls to be pretty, hot and always made up. These pressures affect the self-esteem young women, leading to sexting, cyberbullying, hook up culture, sexual harassment and anti-feminist behaviors that are then perpetuated by adults. We need to break children free from the marketed sexism of toys like these. Barbie may have gotten a pass because she was also a doctor, among many diverse roles — and at least Courtney and Stacy dolls had outfits that fit their age — but these little monsters are young and wearing cell phones strapped to their legs like strippers. Too far!

So, how did I find out about these nightmarish toys? A friend of mine sent me an article by Peggy Ornstein in the New York Times. It’s a must read. If you want to read a press release from Matell, visit DreadCentral.

“The Hot Boy”

“The Jaundice Brothers”

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Down with American Apparel Ads?

Many love the eclectic mix and match clothes at American Apparel (myself included), but I think a lot of us are officially OVER those demeaning advertisements where women are reduced to sexual objects by showcasing their body parts, often without their faces.

Take this ad, an example of American Apparel’s provocative and objectifying ads — a woman bent over in front of a computer with her butt exposed. Some are targeted by region. This promo ran in Silicon Valley. Do they really think techies will start wearing 80’s g-string work out gear to work?

In Manhattan, there’s a prominent billboard on Houston near Broadway close to trendy bars and shops, where the clothing company often features a woman who looks post-coital, or just finished with dance rehearsal…half naked. Obviously, the promos get a lot of attention, but it’s not always the kind the company wants.

In 2007, someone tagged “Gee, I wonder why women get raped?” on a billboard (shown right) which featured an image of a woman bending over in American Apparel tights without a shirt. The defaced ad was immediately replaced, according to a report by Jezebel, where they also asked New Yorkers if the ads were “Sexy or Sexist?” You can view the video here.

This year, About Face, an organization dedicated to combating negative images of women, will protest American Apparel’s advertising campaign this Saturday, May 1, 2010 at the Haight Street location in San Francisco tomorrow.

Join fellow protesters for an activist afternoon, where About Face will address the founder of American Apparel, Dov Charney, directly. Since Mr. Charney has come under hot water for many reasons, including the sexual harassment charges by his employees, indecent exposure to reporters and strange, demeaning photo shoots for the company — I hope the event will be nothing short of a roast.

They’re calling it:

An Afternoon with Dov Charney (An About-Face Action)

“American Apparel is famous for its t-shirts and its vertically integrated labor. What it’s more famous for, though, is its advertising: pseudo-candid images of young women, legs splayed open, breasts exposed, butts zoomed in on, all in the name of selling tights and tube socks. We’re sick of seeing these images.

We’re sick of seeing women reduced to their body parts. We’re sick of seeing female sexuality being exploited to sell clothing. And we’re especially sick of how American Apparel attempts to dress up their particular brand of exploitation in a shroud of hipness, edge, or irony — after all, we’d like to think of ourselves as hip and edgy and we certainly aren’t down with these images. American Apparel’s ads contribute to a culture where women are valued for their bodies over their minds, and we’re working to eliminate that kind of thinking.”

To learn more about the event in San Francisco and the mobile protest, check out AboutFace.org for more info. If you don’t believe that American Apparel objectifies women, look at this blog, then tell me what you think.

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