How to make your own probiotic yoghurt

I’d always fancied the idea of making my own yoghurt from home and so when the lovely people at Water For Health offered to send me Progurt’s Yoghurt Incubator I leapt at the chance. I loved the idea of being able to create my own fresh probiotic yoghurt.

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Photo by Gerard Hughes of Natural Mumma Magazine

The benefits of probiotics:

  • Restoring the good bacteria to your gut (especially useful after a course of antibiotics)
  • Improved skin quality
  • Increased immunity
  • Improved digestive health
  • There is evidence to show that it can help with cognitive problems in children

Probiotics are suitable for vegans and anyone with a gluten or lactose intolerance. They are also suitable for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

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How to make your probiotic yoghurt:

It’s really simple, you take a litre of UHT milk or coconut cream and add a sachet of probiotics. With 1 trillion beneficial bacteria in each sachet, this is where the good stuff is stored! The machine does the rest of the work for you.

I used coconut milk because of the nutritional value. Coconuts are full of fibre and vitamins (such as vitamin C, vitamin E and many of the B vitamins) as well as iron, potassium and calcium. Of course, if you wanted to add nutritional benefits to a UHT based yoghurt you could always add fresh fruit, nuts and seeds when serving.

The instructions tell you to use every bit of the sachet so I was careful to do that. You simply stir the sachet of probiotic into your chosen milk/cream until well combined, before incubating it for 12-24 hours. If you are after a thicker more tangy set yoghurt then you will want to go for 24 hrs, if you prefer a creamier yoghurt then 12 hours is perfect. Making your own probiotic yoghurt is so easy. You switch on the machine so the light at the front comes on, then pour the yoghurt/probiotic mix into the reusable container that is provided. Ensure the lid is tightly sealed and slip the container into the incubator for the desired amount of time. The machine will do all the work for you, gently heating the yoghurt and making the magic happen!

Once the yoghurt is ready you remove it from the incubator and store it in the fridge until you are ready to enjoy it.

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My thoughts:

I left my yoghurt for 6 hours before tasting it. The texture was great and the taste was fabulous. It had a light coconut flavour but it wasn’t too dominant and had a pleasing freshness. I added prebiotic stimulating syrup to my yoghurt which added a sweetness as well as enhancing the health benefits. This yoghurt is also delicious with manuka honey and fresh fruit.

I would thoroughly recommend the Proghurt Yoghurt Incubator to anyone. The yoghurt tasted great and the machine was so simple to use. It is also compact and quiet. If you were planning on making fresh yoghurt each day then the cost of the probiotics would quickly mount up, but I feel that it is worth it for the quantity and quality of product that you end up with. It is also worth remembering that there is a much higher number of colony-forming bacteria in the Progurt yoghurt than in the products you buy from the supermarket. In fact, it contains up to 40 times more good bacteria than other brands! You can leave the machine running overnight so that the whole family can enjoy probiotic yoghurt for breakfast. I certainly felt a lot healthier and more energised after consuming the yoghurt for a week.

As well as this fabulous Progurt Yoghurt Incubator and the accompanying probiotics, Water for Health also stock a fantastic range of supplements and health products.

You can watch me making probiotic yoghurt here:

Find your perfect yoga mat

This fascinating review of yoga mats was first published on www.reviews.com and has been reproduced with their permission and gratitude. 

As an instructor and student who rolls out the mat quite regularly, I know what features I prefer to support my practice. However, considering the many styles of yoga and workout routines that involve mats, I wanted to see what other yoga professionals thought, including those that have been at it practically since the time mats debuted (despite the practice of yoga dating back over 5,000 years, the yoga mat hasn’t been around all that long).

In the end, my top choices were pretty easy to grip. There is no perfect yoga mat, and no single mat fits everyone. If you’re looking for the best yoga mat that will support your asanas and be your new place to call OM for a lifetime, the Manduka PROlite is the way to go. It gets my top pick because its durability and versatility are unmatched. However, if you’re looking for an eco-friendly option, the Jade Harmony Professional Mat is made of 100 percent rubber, and offers great traction and support.

With over 50 hours of research on dozens of yoga mats, I focused on the properties and composition of the mat and how this applies to the various styles of yoga. I surveyed the masses, consulted with over 10 yoga professionals with years of experience on mats, and personally put many mats through hours of testing.

The process was sweaty, and reconfirmed that choosing a yoga mat is akin to choosing your wine — some get better with age, and it all comes down to personal taste. To help find the best yoga mat for you, I’ve also recommended top picks for specific formats, some of which include my top choices and others which do not.

The 10 Overall Best Yoga Mats

  • Manduka PROlite($75+)
  • Jade Harmony Professional Mat($70+)
  • Manduka Black Mat Pro($90+)
  • Hugger Mugger Para Rubber($85)
  • PrAna Revolutionary Sticky Mat($60+)
  • Kharma Khare($70)
  • PrAna E.C.O($47)
  • Gaiam Print Premium($16+)
  • Liforme Yoga Mat($140)
  • Yoloha Native Cork Yoga Mat($140)

How We Chose the Best Yoga Mats

My yoga mats aren’t pampered, and they’re used in a variety of styles. One week, I’m traveling to practice yoga in Mexico, and the next, I’m instructing 50 students outdoors on the beach or in a park in New England. I consistently practice a vigorous vinyasa both in and out of a hot room, and teach a gentler flow to athletes who are new to the practice.

There are a number of important features across the board that make some yoga mats better than others, and these factors are useful to take into consideration before purchasing your own. In total, I spent over 50 hours analyzing yoga mat reviews, scouring online publications, and researching the technology, history, brands, and the various qualities of top yoga mats. I drew from previous experience and surveyed over 100 yoga professionals, teachers, and students (of all levels and practicing styles) to get an idea of what people look for most.

I consulted with 10 yoga professionals, including “Boston’s 2014 Best Yoga Instructor” Sadhana Studio Owner, Glen Cunningham, who has been savasana-ing on a mat for over 15 years; Orange County’s Core Power Yoga manager and instructor Lacey Calvert; and international yoga teacher Goldie Graham. I also tapped popular blogger, YouTuber, and traveling yogi Candace Moore, as well as Rasamaya Studio owner and yoga instructor, Carrie Tyler, who is a 20-year veteran of teaching movement.

An initial 30 products were taken into consideration after analyzing reviews from Amazon, REI, and Yoga Consumer Reports. I also consulted some 50 publications (like PopSugar Fitness, Mind Body Green, and Outdoor Magazine) and popular yoga blogs (like Ekhart Yoga, Yoga Journal, and DoYouYoga). I further narrowed the list down to 15 of the best yoga mats based on my criteria of positive reviews, experience, recognitions, and ultimately what other yogi consumers had to say. This strategy helped me get to a manageable number of top products so I could physically test each myself.

I took the research to different studios and tested the mats in temperatures both over 100 and below 85 degrees Fahrenheit. I also tested on a carpet, on a hardwood floor, and in the comforts of my own home. I received feedback from fellow yoga students, and for a week, observed how the top mats appeared and were performing for others in class. Then, it was time for me to get on all the top yoga mats and put them each through a standard 60-minute yoga class. I used the mats in two different formats, restorative and vigorous, and in both heated and unheated conditions. I continued to test the mats at home through various poses and practices. (Tough work, but hey — someone has to do it!)

In my survey talking to other yoga teachers and students, responses demonstrated that the drawbacks to current mats were heaviness, difficulty in cleaning, poor traction, and a short lifespan. The data also proved that the majority of people desire stickiness and comfort. So with the intention to find the best yoga mats for the masses, I focused on a mat’s ability to provide the right amount of traction, density, comfort, and stability. Other criteria that came into play were weight, size, eco-footprint, and color assortment. I also wanted to make sure I factored in price, even though most buyers said they were willing to pay up for the aforementioned qualities.

Other Yoga Mats to Consider

The Best Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat

Jade Harmony Professional MatThe Jade Harmony Professional is a favorite among yoga professionals everywhere because of its great balance of traction and support. It’s made from all-natural rubber, making it environmentally friendly. As a bonus, JadeYoga also plants a tree for every mat that’s purchased.

The Best Budget-Friendly Yoga Mat

Gaiam Print PremiumIt’s important to invest in a reliable mat, but if you are unsure of making that investment just yet, try the Gaiam Print Premium. It retails for under $30 and is backed with a lifetime warranty. It comes in an array of fun colors and prints, too.

Best Non-Slip Yoga Mat

Liforme Yoga MatMy new favorite mat for hot yoga, with a non-slip surface that requires no breaking-in period and performs well no matter how much you sweat. At $140, it’s on the pricy side, but it offers traction unsurpassed by any of the other mats I tested.

Most Low-Maintenance Yoga Mat

Yoloha Native Cork Yoga MatThe Yoloha Native is made from a mixture of recycled rubber and cork, resulting in a pleasantly springy surface that’s naturally antimicrobial. Cork gets grippier as it gets wet, making the Yoloha another good option for hot yoga.

A Full Review of the Best Yoga Mats

Manduka PROlite: Best Overall

If you want a mat to last you a lifetime, and can also tick the boxes for grip, portability, and comfort, the Manduka PROlite is the way to go. This mat beat out its category contenders for longevity by a landslide. It’s an extremely durable, high-performing mat that’s stamped with a lifetime guarantee. Yoga teachers everywhere (including myself) agree that the Manduka PROlite gets better with age the more you use it, similar to a baseball glove. I’ll get upside-down to that.

The PVC material and density of the mat make it competent under any condition — outdoors, in a heated room, in a non-heated studio, and with gentle-to-vigorous practices — which can’t be said for the majority of the mats tested here. I took this mat through a multitude of restorative and standing poses, sun salutations, arm balances, and inversions.

I’m not the only one who ranks this mat at the top of the list. Boston’s 2014 Best Yoga Instructor and Owner of Sadhana Studio, Cunningham, has been using the Manduka Pro series mats for 14 years.

I’ve been using Manduka mats since 2001 and I still think they make the best overall mats out there in terms for grip, comfort, thickness, feel, size, and durability. I’ve been teaching for over 15 years and see a lot of ‘mat shrapnel’ on the studio floor, but I’ve never seen a Manduka Mat get worn out.

Glen CunninghamOwner of Sadhana Studio

In asanas that tend to be slightly harder on the knees, like Ustrasana (camel pose) and Anjaneyasana (low lunge), this mat provides just the right amount of support and cushion to feel ease and comfort throughout the pose, even when held for long periods of time. The mat also provides stabilization and joint protection during asanas that require more stability, balance, and impact (think: Tree pose, handstand, and jumping back to chaturangas). At the same time, it won’t compromise the ability to feel stable and connected to the ground.

As far as texture, grip, and comfort go, I give this mat two thumbs up. The slip-resistant traction kept fidgeting to a minimum. The surface, which isn’t super sticky, allowed for gliding transitions through quick vinyasas. The transition to take my foot into or out from a lunge felt effortless compared to when catching or sticking on mats made from a different textile (like some of the natural rubber mats did).

Other than the first couple of uses during the “break-in period,” the manual labor for this mat is practically nonexistent. Its closed-cell technology makes it incredibly easy to clean and wipe down after class, and with a weight of around four pounds, it’s light and easy to carry. The mat comes in an assortment of colors and in two different sizes (71 and 79 inches) to accommodate style preference as well as the taller yogis out there. It’s fairly pricey for a yoga mat, but with a lifetime warranty, it provides outstanding value.

Manduka PROlite is always my go-to. It’s easy to travel with, stays good for years, and [is] easy to clean since I’m a sweaty mess! I don’t always use a towel because I don’t need one with this mat. It’s awesome!

Lacey CalvertRegional Manager of CorePower Yoga Orange County

Don’t just take my word for it, though. Based on research, and many conversations with other yoga practitioners, the Manduka company is considered the holy grail of yoga-mat brands. It continuously tops the charts in reviews. The Manduka PROlite series is a lighter, more portable version of the beloved Manduka Black Mat Pro, which has been on the market for 15 years. The PROlite mat receives accolades from a number of magazines and popular publications. It was voted the Top Pick Award by OutdoorGearLab, voted a “must have” by Yogi Approved, and is sold and used by the most popular yoga studios across Boston, New York City, and Los Angeles.

CorePower Yoga Orange County’s regional manager, Calvert, says the Manduka PROlite is her favorite, and it’s the one the company carries in its studios all across the United States.

We see over 500 clients a week using our Manduka mats for barre and yoga. I teach on them and take class with them, and I have no complaints — they are super durable. We used to have Jade, but switched to Manduka because they are better performing overall.

Lindsey JamesManager and Instructor of Barre & Soul in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Barre & Soul Studios, found in several locations around the Boston area, provides the Manduka PRO series mats to its members for use in class.

Manduka instructs consumers to scrub the mat down with coarse sea salt prior to using, which helps to remove a thin layer that is applied in the manufacturing process. Wearing this down actually helps improve the mat’s traction with continued use. This process may be a little more labor-intensive than you’d prefer, but there’s something comforting about having a mat get better with time and form to you. Cunningham likens the breaking-in process of the mat to that of a new baseball glove: You break it in and then it fits “like a glove.”

Who should skip it?

Although some people, like Calvert, find the mat to grip fantastically with moisture, some evidence points to a few issues. In an email from the company, Manduka implies the mat does require a breaking-in period (although this is not always the case for everyone), meaning it could feel quite slippery for several uses until it has seen some action.

The traction for the Manduka PROlite is best used under dry conditions with minimal moisture, so ultra-sweaty practices and those done in a heated room may not benefit from this mat without the use of a towel on top of it. I recommend the Liforme Yoga Mat for these conditions.

In terms of eco-friendliness, the mat is made with PVC rather than natural rubber or another more environmentally friendly material. However, no toxic emissions are released during production, and its lifetime durability results in fewer landfill dumps, still making it a safe choice for the environment overall. If you are concerned with practicing on a mat that is made from eco-friendly material that’s still high performance, my recommendation is the Jade Harmony Professional (a top pick tested here).

The Runners-Up for the Best Yoga Mats

Don’t dismiss these mats just because they didn’t make my top pick. Like I’ve stated, yoga mats, like yoga, are not created equal and preference is unique to the individual’s style. Depending on what you’re looking for, these mats could be better suited for you.

  • Jade Harmony Professional Mat

    About half of the yoga instructors I interviewed suggested the Jade Harmony as their favorite yoga mat, and it made an appearance as a top pick on just about every review publication I read. The Jade Harmony offers a sturdy grip with open-cell technology and a texture to provide great performance overall. It’s comfortable, lightweight, and is a fantastic alternative for those looking for a 100 percent natural rubber, eco-friendly mat.

    This mat puts up a good fight against the top contenders, but the natural rubber makes it more apt to degrade under certain conditions (like heat and sunlight) and doesn’t include a lifetime guarantee. In my experience, the Jade Harmony does wear down rather quickly with consistent use, and needs to be replaced more frequently than with other top contenders. To sustain use, it should not be used or left out in direct sunlight. This mat’s open-cell technology means it retains sweat (good for gripping, but bad for bacteria) and oils, making it more difficult to clean.

    Warning: Those with a latex allergy should not use the Jade Harmony Professional Mat.

  • Manduka Black Mat Pro

    Known as the ruler of all yoga mats, this is a mat that appeared as a top pick in research and throughout conversation. Except for width and density (it’s wider and thicker), it’s virtually the same as its little brother, the Manduka PROlite. However, with its weight of seven to nine pounds, and a heftier pricetag, the PROlite is more appealing overall. If you are looking for a heftier rendition of the Manduka PROlite, and aren’t concerned with trekking some extra pounds to class, this mat could be for you.

  • Hugger Mugger Para Rubber

    It’s grippy and I found it to provide more cushion than fellow eco-friendly mat, the Jade Harmony. The texture, however, made transitions on the mat a little more difficult for me. As far as durability goes, I was seeing signs of wear (albeit small) within the first week of use.

  • PrAna Revolutionary Sticky Mat

    This mat is firm and not too spongy. But at nine pounds, it’s not only the heaviest, but also the biggest mat tested here. I just couldn’t justify trekking it back and forth from a studio or rolling it out anywhere but at home. However, consumer reviews suggested that taller and wider people benefit greatly from the added length and width of this mat.

  • Kharma Khare

    I love this company’s eco initiatives, and its unique recycled tire material provides the mat with undeniable grip. However, this mat didn’t pass the durability test since there was a small rip within first use.

  • PrAna E.C.O

    This mat has comfort down, but staying put…not so much. It was a little too lightweight for my practice and moved around on a hardwood floor. It also didn’t lay completely flat on the ground, which can be a hassle when moving in and out of poses. It is a more affordable, eco-friendly, and latex-free mat, which makes it a better choice for those looking for these specific needs.

  • Gaiam Print Premium

    For a budget-friendly mat, this isn’t a bad pick. In my opinion, and all the professionals I interviewed agree with me, it’s definitely worth investing in a quality mat for added comfort, injury prevention, and improving your practice. For these reasons it is difficult for me to recommend one.

The Liforme: Best Non-Slip Yoga Mat

Yoga classes done in a heated studio are popular today (and let’s face it, many of us continuously perspire holding Warrior II), so I wanted to find a mat that would provide the best stick under super-sweaty conditions without having to rely on the use of a towel. Enter the Liforme Yoga Mat. The mat has attracted plenty of notice on social media thanks to its distinct visual appearance, with alignment markers etched directly onto its surface.

As a yoga teacher, what I most love about the Liforme yoga mat is it’s unique alignment system that self-teaches the practitioner proper alignment. As a student, I love the incredible grip and traction, and how it’s equally great for high-intensity, hot, and restorative yoga.

Ashton AugustFounder of YogiApproved.com

Liforme offers a grippy surface that was unmatched by any other brand I tested (although Yoloha, below, came close). The mat has a natural rubber base, topped with a layer of polyurethane, a material that’s very good at absorbing sweat — hence the no-slip grip. No breaking-in period was necessary. I got perfect traction straight out of the box and never felt like I was in danger of falling. The mat itself also stayed put, even on a slick hardwood floor.

The Liforme is 4.2mm thick, offering a middle-of-the-road balance between no give at all and feeling like you’re practicing your asanas on a Tempurpedic. It’s a couple of inches longer and wider than the Manduka PROlite, and while I appreciated the extra room, it does mean the mat is on the heavier side, at 5.5 pounds versus the Manduka PROlite’s 4.6. At $140, the Liforme is also an investment — but if hot yoga and heavy sweating are part of your weekly routine, it’s one worth considering.

Who should skip it?

James Armitage, Liforme’s creator has said the mat is only intended to withstand 300 to 500 sessions. You can keep using it beyond this point, but the material may lose its grip. Depending on how frequently you practice, this could mean replacing your mat every year or two, which gets pricey. (Though to be fair, I’ve found many mats need replacing after a couple of years.) To prolong its life, the Liforme shouldn’t be stored in direct sunlight — its materials are biodegradable, and prolonged sun exposure can cause them to break down more quickly.

The Liforme also stains pretty easily. After resting my head in Child’s Pose, I noticed marks where my face had been, and the manufacturer cautions against using the Liforme directly after applying body creams or massage oils. I also found it to have an odd scent straight out of the box — an almost fishy smell. It began to fade by the second time I used it, so this probably isn’t a deal-breaker unless you have a very sensitive nose.

The Yoloha Native: Most Low-Maintenance Yoga Mat

Like the Lifeforme, the Yoloha Native Yoga Mat has a non-stick surface designed to accommodate hot yoga and lots of sweating. But this mat gets its non-slip powers from a surface of cork and recycled rubber. A little unusual, yes, but cork is naturally antimicrobial, helping to minimize odor and kill the bacteria attracted to your sweat.

Despite being 6mm thick, the Yoloha Native is also more lightweight than the Liforme (4 pounds, versus Liforme’s 5.5), making it easier to roll up and take with you. It comes with a carrying strap made of natural fibers, which I found a little uncomfortable — I’d probably spring for a case if I used the mat regularly, but the strap does have a minimalistic appeal.

The Native performs very similarly to the Liforme, providing plenty of support through a variety of poses. Because it’s made of rubber and cork, however, the texture is slightly more tacky, which can take some getting used to. Cork becomes more grippy as it gets wet, so if you don’t sweat much but still want a rock-solid grip, you might consider misting the mat with water before you start.

I also appreciated Yoloha’s commitment to being eco-friendly. Cork is a renewable resource in the truest sense of the word: the bark can be harvested every 3-5 years without harming the tree. My mat was also shipped with minimal (and totally recyclable) packaging, and the company included a plantable pear seed with my order.

Who should skip it?

Cork is naturally prone to cracking over time, and while the company says this shouldn’t affect the mat’s performance, it’s something to take into consideration if you’re concerned about aesthetics. You can use regular household glue to fill in the cracks if you’re bothered by them, but it’s admittedly an extra step.

As with the Liforme, some people have also noted that Yoloha mats begin to lose their grippiness after a year or two of regular use. And at $140, the Yoloha is an investment on par with the Liforme and might be out of reach for those on tight budgets.

Choosing the Right Yoga Mat for You

Choosing a yoga mat simply comes down to your preferences, your needs, and your practice. As it should be, not all yoga mats are created equal, and there are variables you will want to consider before purchasing your own yoga mat. First things first, let’s start with the basics.

Do I even need a yoga mat?

Sounds kind of ridiculous given the nature of the article, but with mat rentals available at just about every yoga studio, many may question the need in owning one.

The truth is, no, you don’t need a yoga mat to practice yoga. In fact, the whole phenomenon of practicing on a mat is relatively new. In today’s day and age, and when practicing in traditional studios, it’s advised to practice on a yoga mat, and one of your own for that matter. Yoga mats not only provide traction against sweaty palms, but also represent personal space. And yoga teachers agree, while mats are not mandatory, you should absolutely use one in class for safety reasons.

Mats are helpful in getting people focused, instead of being frustrated with a bunch of other variables in the process like being uncomfortable, slipping, struggling, straining, etc.

Glen CunninghamOwner of Sadhana Studio

Additionally, for hygiene purposes as this New York Times article suggests, you should invest in your own yoga mat because of germs on communal mats at studios. Now, let’s get you yoga mat savvy.

Yoga Mat Materials to Consider

The material the mat is made from dictates its stickiness, durability, comfort, texture, and whether or not it’s friendly for the environment. Yoga mat material is a matter of personal preference, beliefs, and how it reacts to your body.

  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC): This is the stuff that keeps slippage to a minimum, is durable, and provides the most “give.” A concern with PVC, without going into too much detail, is that it contains phthalates — substances that have been linked to health issues and negative impacts on the environment.

Eco-Friendly Materials

  • Cotton: A cotton mat helps to absorb sweat and can increase grip when wet, but doesn’t provide a lot of give.
  • Recycled, natural rubber: It may not be as sticky as a PVC mat, but will still provide great grip. Those with a latex allergy, however, will want to avoid this type of mat.
  • Jute: Made from fiber of a jute plant, this stuff keeps you in place due to Polymer Environmental Resin (PER), a nontoxic material. Jute has the added bonus of having antimicrobial properties for those extra-sweaty practices.
  • Bamboo, cork, and hemp: These are some other natural fiber mats to consider.

Other Factors to Think About Before Buying a Yoga Mat

Aside from materials, there are a slew of other factors that go into choosing the best yoga mat for your practice.

  • Open- versus closed-cell structure
    There are two other factors to consider when it comes to mat material: closed-cell and open-cell structure. Open-cell mats absorb sweat and oils, which keeps grip even under wet conditions. This, however, also makes your mat harder to clean. Closed- cell mats don’t absorb moisture, which makes these great for cleanliness, but also makes slipping easier.
  • Density, thickness, & weight
    The density of a mat will determine your comfort level, the support of joints, and stability in balancing poses. If a mat is too thin, kneeling poses may not be comfortable. But if a mat has too much cushion and not enough density, the connection to the earth may be lost; balance poses may feel unstable; and wrists, knees, and hip joints may be distressed. Generally, the thickness of a mat ranges from 1/16 to 1/4 of an inch thick. The thickness and density of the mat determines its weight, and weight of a yoga mat can be under two pounds (making it easy to trek and travel with) and upward of 10 pounds.
  • Durability
    The durability of a mat will dictate whether it will withstand thousands of surya namaskars (sun salutations) for years to come with minimal wear and tear. Some mats, like the Manduka Pro and Manduka PROlite, offer a lifetime guarantee. Natural rubber and some eco-friendly mats will hold up well. However, lack of proper care (like failing to clean them or leaving them in a hot car), and using them in the outdoors or heated environments can cause the material to break down rather quickly.
  • Price
    Like many other things, you’re going to get what you pay for, and this certainly applies to yoga mats. The price of yoga mats range from $10 to over $100, which is a considerably wide margin. The lower price range can typically be found in big-name department stores, but it means you probably won’t be investing in a reliable, quality mat. The price tag increases with brand name and materials used. Just know that a quality mat is well worth the investment.
  • Yoga style & location
    Take into consideration the type of yoga and where you’ll most frequently be practicing before making the purchase, since the best type of mat can vary based on the style of class. For example, comfort and cushion may be a higher priority when practicing a more restorative yoga. For styles such as Bikram and other hot yoga classes, you won’t necessarily need a sticky mat, but you may look for a mat (or invest in a towel) that absorbs sweat and is easy to clean. For more vigorous styles of yoga, like power yoga and ashtanga, you’ll want to look for a mat with a no-slip grip to provide traction once you begin to drench yourself in sweat.
  • Length & size
    This one is pretty simple: You’ll want to make sure a yoga mat covers your whole body when lying down. If you’re buying a mat online, make sure to look at the measurements. If you’re in a store, ask if you can lie down on the mat to test it out.

What makes a good yoga mat?

The most important qualities in my opinion are: Cushion (enough to protect joints but not too much that it throws off balance), weight (easy to carry to class), and durability. The $15 mats may see breakdown after a few weeks, so consider this when purchasing.

Candace MooreInternational yoga instructor & blogger

The question isn’t necessarily what makes a good yoga mat, but what qualities in a yoga mat make you feel good in a practice designed to make you feel good. A good yoga mat is relative to the individual. If you want to invest in a high-quality yoga mat, I’ve outlined the most important features below.

The 8 Most Important Features

  1. Durability and longevity — A yoga mat’s ability to withstand even the toughest of practices over time.
  2. Comfort and support — Just enough cushioning for your joints can reduce squirming in kneeling postures and provide padding for impact, but not so much that it compromises support.
  3. Stability — A firm, dense mat can help you feel stable throughout standing and balancing poses.
  4. Portability — Consider how much travel you will be doing with your mat. A mat’s weight and size will dictate whether or not it is toteable. Since most people walk, bike, and travel to class, an easy-to-carry mat is an important feature.
  5. Traction and stickiness — It’s important for a mat to provide traction both to keep you from slipping and in staying connected to the ground. The last thing you want is for your mat to function as a Slip N’ Slide.
  6. Texture — Mats have different surfaces, but most yogis agree that it’s best to have a mat that feels most natural.
  7. Environmental consideration — Buying an eco-friendly yoga mat is important to many practitioners. If this holds true to you, consider purchasing a mat made from all-natural materials.
  8. Size — Your yoga mat should cover the length and width of your entire body. Not every yoga mat comes in various widths and sizes, so make sure to check measurements before purchasing.

Bonus Features to Look For

These don’t make a yoga mat “good” per se, but they add a nice touch, depending on your own interests and beliefs.

  • Giving back: Many brands are part of a greater cause, participate in recycling programs, or give back for every mat that’s sold. Consumers often like to both feel good and do good!
  • Color selection: Not every brand provides an assortment of colors, patterns, and sizes, although most provide neutral colors. It’s nice to have options.
  • Smell: This seems like a weird one, but depending on the material used, mats can have an undeniably strong scent. It’s not out of the realm for shock to set in after taking a nice big inhale through your nose in child pose. Although, most of the manufactured smell disappears over time.

Final Thoughts

Best All-Around Yoga Mat

Manduka PROliteThe best yoga mat that will support your asanas and be your new place to call OM for a lifetime.

Like your practice, your yoga mat should be one that you invest in, one that you keep coming back to, and one that supports you through every inhale and exhale. It should feel like a little island you want to call home for every practice.

The Manduka PROlite allows me to take my practice in a variety of settings and teach to a number of yoga styles, while ensuring a long-lasting relationship with my mat. Another favorite among yoga professionals, the Jade Harmony Professional Mat is a heavy duty mat made of 100 percent rubber.

If things get extremely hot and sweaty, I suggest turning to Liforme Yoga Mat to ensure you don’t slip and slide around.

Don’t be afraid to test a few mats on your own and ask around before making a purchase.

When a yoga mat feels just right for you, it can make all the difference in your practice.

Pregnancy yoga benefits for childbirth and beyond

Whether you choose yoga for pregnancy classes or decide to practise prenatal yoga from home using one of the growing series of pregnancy yoga videos that are available on YouTube; Yoga is a wonderful way to bond with your growing baby, keeping your body strong and flexible, prepare your body for the birth and develop a state of inner calmness. It is also a lovely way to meet new friends. Here is my pregnancy yoga story and the reasons why I am such an advocate of pregnancy yoga.

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It came as no surprise that pregnancy yoga became such an important part of my natural childbirth story. Yoga has been part of my life since I was a child. I was fascinated by my mum’s yoga books and by the time I was a teenager they had migrated up to my bedroom. After my brother died, yoga classes were one of the few things that got me out of the house – there were very few yoga classes in my local area and so I had to join a class for over 40s (I was 17 at the time). At university, I surprised the admissions nurse when I told her I practised yoga every day for a full hour. I also fell in love with Bikram hot yoga, ashtanga and kundalini. During one of the Bikram classes, my instructor led us in a pelvic tilt – it didn’t feel right. He asked me if I was currently menstruating – I explained that I wasn’t. He suggested that I sit that exercise out. Within days a sudden bout of sickness paired with heavy, tender boobs prompted me to take a pregnancy test. It was positive, I was overjoyed… I was also unable to return to Bikram. In fact, I left Scotland and returned to England to be near my parents much to the chagrin of my university teachers.

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After a little research, I was able to find a yoga class within 10 miles of my house. I was hoping for some gentle exercise to keep me healthy throughout my pregnancy but what I actually got was so much more.

Through the classes I met a group of wonderful like-minded people who were all due to have babies at a similar time to myself. 13 years later and a couple of us are still firm friends. As a young mum, I found this support invaluable.

I also met our wonderful instructor, Marilyn who spoke so passionately about active birth, owning your birthing experience and tapping into your instincts to enjoy an intuitive birth. This wasn’t just some hippy-dippy mumbo jumbo. Marilyn used a full-sized model pelvis to demonstrate how lying flat on your back restricts the movement of the coccyx. Her methods were based on her own birthing experiences, attending the births of friends and family and years of devoted learning. Marilyn herself had been inspired by active birth educators such as Janet Balaskas and Sheila Kitzinger. Marilyn’s support, inspiration and encouragement meant that I had a joyous birthing experience myself and went on to teach pregnancy and childbirth classes in children’s centres and ultimately to devote years of my life to researching and writing my first non-fiction book The Natural Baby.

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Practising pregnancy yoga not only gave me a new found confidence in my body, in its strengths and abilities but it also made me feel completely in control. It allowed me to have a depth of faith in my own body, that I hadn’t felt before. I feel like modern life has so many of us trying to block out the signals that our body is telling us. If we are tired we caffeine it up, if we are in pain we knock back analgesics, we ignore hunger pangs and so many of us ignore the signs of ill health until they are out of control. Taking the time to slow down, to breathe and to truly connect with your body, to feel its limitations and strengths is such a wonderful experience. It is something that I truly believe we should practise for life. It really helped me to own my labour experience, but this love of yoga is something that has continued right through the healing of the post-partum period and as my daughter has grown. Now she is in her teens and we still have great friends who I met in that pregnancy yoga class. In fact, we went for a curry just a few weeks back and from nervous women with glorious bumps, it was joyful to see that we had evolved into a room full of families. The children are all beautiful and had their own table, their own conversations and plenty of laughter. I am still grateful to those pregnancy yoga classes for bringing this treasured friendships into our lives. There is something especially beautiful about friends you’ve known since birth.

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For pregnancy yoga videos so that you can practise pregnancy yoga at home in safety and comfort, there is a series of prenatal yoga routines on the Natural Mumma YouTube channel.

There are numerous benefits of prenatal yoga and preparing for labour is just one of them. Whether you opt for actual yoga for pregnancy classes or decide to practise pregnancy yoga at home, you should always consult your medical practitioner before doing any exercise. Opting to attend a class is a wonderful way to meet other expectant mums but it can prove costly. If you like to exercise alone, then there are lots of wonderful pregnancy yoga videos around.

You can read my story here: From teenage pregnancy to international author; how I turned my life around.

You can watch me sharing my story and tips for active birth here.

Women, Motherhood and Independence: An inspirational interview with author Penelope Magoulianiti

I was fortunate enough to interview the inspirational author Penelope Magoulianiti, we discussed her new book Women, Motherhood & Independence: A Guide to Financial Freedom, Beauty & Confidence After Birth as well as practical ways to achieve the perfect work/life balance, what inspires her and what life lessons she feels are the most important to teach our children.

“When you feel that there is no hope, when you feel invisible, disappointed and tired just take a break. Take an hour just for you and go somewhere to relax. Go for a long walk, find someone to care for the kids and go for a massage, have a bubble bath with a glass of wine, candles and soft music. Do something just for you.”

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Penelope, you’ve not only managed to create a sense of perfect balance in your own life (juggling a successful career and a family) but you are also devoted to helping other women achieve the same. What tips do you have for women who are struggling to find their own equilibrium?

It is extremely important to know what you really want to achieve. What is your goal? Do you want to spend more time with your kid? Do you want to have an hour within the day just for you? Maybe you want to start your own business but you blame a lack time. Once you are clear on what you really want, then you can practice the technique I am about to describe to help you find time to do the things that you truly enjoy in life:

This is a simple formula but very powerful, which helped me understand why I was so overwhelmed every day.

On a piece of paper, write all the tasks you do within a day, you must record everything, even the smallest task. With the goal you want to achieve in mind, categorise them based on the following three categories:
*Important
*Delegate
*Non-important / delete

Then – the ‘delete’ ones you just stop doing. If they are not important, they are not contributing towards your goal and they are giving you lots of stress so don’t do them.

The second category – delegate – personally, I looked and found ways to delegate these tasks. For example, I needed approximately 2-3 hours a week for ironing. I found a lady to do the ironing for me and I used those hours to grow my business. The cost to hire someone to iron for me was cheaper than me doing it.
Supermarket shopping. It’s cheaper and quicker to do online grocery shopping than going at the supermarket with a list because most of the time we end up buying more and spending more time at the supermarket going from corridor to corridor in case we miss something.

Finally, the last category – the important one – this is the list I am concentrating on because this is the list that will help me achieve my goals.
Again, being focused on what it needs to be done is extremely important. To achieve this I have created and I am using on a daily basis “The Ultimate Jugglers Task List”. Basically, it is a list where each day I concentrate on the five most important things that need to happen within the day and I don’t do anything else until I finish these five things. By using this list I’ve managed to increase my productivity and achieve more with less time.

Your readers can download this list for free at www.womenmotherhoodandandindependence.com

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Have you always found it easy to achieve a sense of balance in your life, or was there a pivotal moment that changed things for you?

Finding balance in life was a struggle for me at the beginning, especially when I became a first-time mom. I was a career woman so you can imagine how hard it was at the beginning to get used to my new life. I was carrying the belief that once you become a mom you need to forget your dreams and ambitions to raise your kids and that belief was making me very unhappy. Only when I started reading and researching this matter did I understood I was suffering due to an outdated belief system I was carrying subconsciously. A belief that has been installed from childhood and I had never questioned it up to that moment of time.

I started questioning and evaluating my beliefs one by one. I kept asking myself: “Does this belief help me grow or is it holding me back?” And if it does hold me back what do I need to do to change it?

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What inspired you to write your wonderful book ‘Women, Motherhood & Independence’?

As I said before when I became a mother for the first time I found it very hard to adjust to my new way of life. One minute I was over the moon at having the gorgeous little man and the next minute I wanted to go back to work. It was like I had two Penelopes in my head fighting and talking all the time. It was exhausting. And the worse part was that I was passing all this stress on to my son.

Only when I realised that I couldn’t go live my life in the same way I used to and that I had to make some adjustments that would work better for me, things started to work out. I’ve started putting into action things I’ve read and learned from seminars I have attended in the past like: how to manage your time better; how to find confidence in yourself again; how to feel beautiful even when you have 5-10 kg to lose; how to use the time that you’ve got for yourself to relax and re-charge. All these made me happy again, my relationship was better and I found my confidence again.

This is how the idea of the book came along. I wanted to share what I’ve learned with other women and help them find the right balance for them. Each one of us is different and each one of us has different needs so my model for a balanced life may be different from yours but the principles and techniques remain the same.

Were you raised in a family where women were encouraged to embrace a full and rounded life?

No, I was raised in a small village in Cyprus where women they were supposed to get married at 18, not get educated beyond high school and support their husband in everything he did.

Where I am today I owe it to my mother who encouraged me to study, who encouraged me to live life fully, to explore and learn and never accept ‘No’ for an answer.

You are exceptionally motivated. Where do you think this drive comes from?

When I was 15 years old, my family went through some very challenging times. Having people accusing and gossiping without even knowing what was really going on it was my reality for a while. Unfortunately, when you live in a small village where everybody knows everybody this is unavoidable. However, this situation made me stronger and more determined. The first seminar on personal development I attended was with Anthony Robbins. That was the beginning of my new life.

I also keep filling my mind with positive stuff daily. I make sure that I devote time to meditate and I avoid watching the news, reading the newspapers or engaging in any kind of gossip. I also prefer to read, listen or attend a seminar or an online course instead of sitting in front of the TV. Learning should never stop. For me it is an on-going process and I am so happy and grateful for the things I have learned over the years.

Can you share some words of wisdom for mums who are feeling overwhelmed or stressed?

When you feel that there is no hope, when you feel invisible, disappointed and tired just take a break. Take an hour just for you and go somewhere to relax. Go for a long walk, find someone to care for the kids and go for a massage, have a bubble bath with a glass of wine, candles and soft music. Do something just for you.

We should schedule time for us. We can handle everything from a position of calmness, we can’t accomplish much when we are stressed and overwhelmed.

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If someone is hoping to turn their life around, where would you advise them to start?

Examine their belief system – identify what kind of beliefs they are carrying; positive or negatives? And as I said before try to change the negatives to positives. Also, we need to pay attention to our vocabulary. The words we are using as a way of communication. Do we use words that uplift us or words that are negative and puts our spirits down?

What do you feel are the most important lessons that we should teach our children?

Never, ever give up from the first set-back, or the first failure. They need to believe that they can do it and not to be afraid to fail. They need to learn to love themselves and set high goals.

As a mum, what would you like to change about the current state of the world?

I am devastated with so many children suffering and living in horrible conditions. No child should have to face so much cruelty and injustice but we have so many of them suffering. If only we could love unconditionally and understand that we are all the same. If only we could show to these children how important and precious they are, and that they are not alone in this world.

What can we expect from you in the future? Do you have any exciting projects on the horizon?

I am currently working on gathering material for my second book. I am also in the final process of finishing my online program called “21-Day Transformation Program for a Balanced Life” – a product where I teach techniques and principles to help you create the balance you want in life. I am very excited about this program because it doesn’t require too much time to watch and it’s very easy to implement. I have developed it with the working mum in mind and I believe it can help us find the right balance in our lives if we follow the process I am describing.

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About the Book

This book is intended to help all of Women who wish to continue living their dreams, achieving their goals and becoming successful without having to compromise their dreams and desires because of Motherhood.

In this book you will find strategies and ideas that you can apply to your life daily in order to stay on top of things, become more creative, more energetic, and healthier irrespective of how much sleep you have managed the night before.

It will encourage and guide you to step out of your comfort zone and claim what is rightfully yours… your success, your financial freedom, your confidence, and beauty.

It is my belief that we can achieve anything we want, in life if we are clear about what it is that we want, make a commitment to become successful, and then take the necessary steps and actions required to achieve that success.

Women, Motherhood and Independence will help you reclaim your life and assist you in finding your own success path post childbirth.

After reading this book you will be able to:

• Set goals and actually achieve them

• Get things done on time

• Become financially independent

• Lose weight, becoming more energetic and healthy

• Gain confidence

• Become a good role model to your kids

• Help improve your relationship with your spouse

Whether you are already in a career, you have your business, you would like to start a new business, or you just want to be more present and engage more in family life and activities, Women, Motherhood and Independence will help you utilize your talents, become more focused and achieve more in less time with less stress.

About the Author

Penelope Magoulianiti used to work as a private banker for many years. From a very young age, she had to face many challenges, both financial and social. The challenges she faced through those difficult times make her more determined to succeed in life.

When she became a mom, she felt the urgency to pass to her own children a legacy that they would be proud of. She wanted to become a good example for her son and daughter; a successful businesswoman, and entrepreneur dedicating her life to helping her fellow women in becoming successful in their niche.

With the economy getting worse every year and the corporate world looking not so promising, she finally took the decision to quit her job and move forward in creating her own business. Her dream to help other women in gaining their financial independence while being good mothers and living their lives more fully became her ultimate goal.

With her experience throughout her working life in the corporate world, the invaluable knowledge gained through her mentors, together with her home life as a wife and mother of two, Penelope delivers her message in a simple and to-the-point manner that will help women to regain their drive to succeed and the determination to conquer their dreams and ambitions.

Penelope’s book Women, Motherhood & Independence: A Guide to Financial Freedom, Beauty & Confidence After Birth is available in Kindle and paperback version on Amazon: http://a.co/062sJvM

You can find Penelope:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Women.Motherhood.and.Independence/

Twitter: @penelopem0809

Website: http://www.womenmotherhoodandindependence.com/

 

Sweet Potato Pancakes – guest post

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Thanks to Samantha Quinn of Mumma Love Organics for this wonderful recipe

These nutritious pancakes are ideal for breakfast, lunch, dessert…Your kids will devour them – no persuasion required!

Makes 4 mini pancakes

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cooking Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

100g sweet potato

75g coconut flour

1 tsp vanilla essence

2 beaten eggs

1 banana

75ml milk

15g butter

 Method

Peel and dice the sweet potato and then steam cook it for 15-20 minutes until tender. Drain and mash the cooked potato and then set aside.

Place the milk, butter, eggs and banana into a food processer and blend to a smooth paste. Add the sweet potato and blend again.

Sift the flour and cinnamon into a medium bowl. Blend in the sweet potato and banana mixture to form a batter.

Preheat a little oil of your choice in a frying pan over a medium heat. Using a big serving spoon, place a quarter of the mixture into the pan. Use the spoon to make a circle with the mixture. Cook for around 2-3 minutes on each side, turning once with a spatula when the surface begins to bubble.

Mumma Love Organic’s Tip: If you need a chocolate hit, add a handful of chocolate chips into the mixture!

http://www.mummaloveorganics.com

Natural Mumma’s homemade cough syrup – guest post

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Many thanks to Samantha Quinn from Mumma Love Organics for creating and sharing this recipe

During pregnancy, your body works hard to deliver vital nutrients to your growing baby, and sometimes that can mean your own immune system takes a bit of a battering in the process. Unfortunately, pregnancy is a time where many over the counter medications are not always recommended, and those that you are able to take you might want to avoid anyway. This is a time to nurture your baby and protect your body as much as you can, rather than swamp it with chemicals.

Natural Mumma’s homemade cough syrup has been designed specifically for mums to be. It’s cheaper than shop bought remedies and as it only contains natural ingredients it’s much kinder to your body- and probably more effective too.

To make the syrup you need:

  • 1 small jar
  • A juicer
  • A glass bowl
  • A whisk
  • Half a small red onion
  • Manuka honey
  • 1 fresh lemon
  • Cinnamon
  • olive oil

To make the syrup, simply:

  • slice the onion in half and pop into the juicer. Process until liquid.
  • Then take one tablespoon onion juice, add seven tablespoons Manuka honey and mix well in a large bowl.
  • Squeeze the juice from one lemon into the mixture, taking care to stir as you do.
  • Finally add one teaspoon of cinnamon and two tablespoons of  olive oil, then whisk well.
  • After a few minutes your syrup will be combined, and ready to pour into a jar.
  • Make sure the lid is air tight and your syrup can be stored in the fridge for up to a month, or in a cupboard for around 3 weeks.
  • Simple!

Please note that due to it’s properties, honey should not be given to children under the age of two.

Why is Natural Mumma’s homemade cough syrup so effective?

The reason why this cough syrup works so well is all down to the natural ingredients we use. Not only are there no chemicals to upset the natural balance of your body, but there are no nasty artificial flavours or colours either, so you know it’s perfectly safe to take during your pregnancy. Each of the ingredients have super powers…

Red onion: this super ingredient helps to strengthen the immune system just when you need it to, and also works as a natural antibiotic and anti-inflammatory supplement- so mucus is softened during a cold.

Honey: we cannot sing the praises of honey enough, and use it regularly for so many different reasons. In this cough syrup it works to soothe your itchy and irritated throat. Honey is a natural anti-viral and anti-bacterial agent with incredible healing properties and Manuka honey is the best variety out there. Methylglyoxal is the major antibacterial component in Manuka honey and which it’s also found in other types, but not in the same quantities. Honey also gives the syrup a naturally sweet taste, eliminating the need for refined sugar.

Cinnamon: this spice is a natural antibiotic and gives a warming flavour to the syrup.

Lemon: another super ingredient! Full of vitamin C, the lemon juice helps to boost your immune system and it’s a natural antiseptic too so helps to target sore throats and stuffy noses. The naturally occurring acids in lemons also help to loosen mucus and soothe your throat from inflammation.

Olive oil: this ingredient is regarded as essential in the diet of pregnant and nursing women because it has vast nutritional and healing properties. It has been used in the east for centuries and because it’s packed with vitamins, antioxidants and other phytonutrients its a vital part of this cough syrup too.

All of the ingredients used in Natural Mumma’s cough syrup compliment each other and work to target your cold quickly and effectively. It’s quick to make and you can get all of the ingredients easily and cheaply too. Alongside the cough syrup, make sure you drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated, and rest as much as you can. Having a cold is not pleasant at the best of times, but when you’re pregnant it can make you feel quite poorly quite quickly. You will need to focus all of your energy into recuperating as best you can, so don’t be afraid to bow out of commitments for a day or two if you can.

You can find Mumma Love Organics’ recipe for Natural Bottom Balm on our youtube channel: 

How to bring mindfulness into your day

When you bring your focus into the present moment, you can really check in with yourself, acknowledging your feelings and finding acceptance. Mindfulness can be deeply therapeutic and rewarding, some may even say life-changing! Although developing a regular seated practice of mindfulness meditation is a wonderful way to connect with yourself, there are plenty of other ways in which you can live more mindfully.

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

  • stress relief

  • decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression

  • improved mood, memory and attention span

  • decreased addictive and self-destructive behaviour

  • improved brain function

  • reduced blood pressure (lowering the risk of hypertension and improving circulatory health)

  • improved immunity

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Seated practice

The key elements of mindfulness involve really connecting with your senses and listening to the state of your body and your emotional climate. By sitting in a chair with your feet flat on the ground, your hands softly folded in your lap and your eyes gently closed you can start this deep listening process. Mindfulness practice is about noticing your body rather than changing anything. Connect with your feet on the floor, feel their weight, acknowledge the sensation. Note how your legs feel against the chair. Breathe slowly and pay close attention to how the air feels as it moves in and out of your nostrils. Softly scan through your body, like a wave caressing the beach, note any areas of discomfort. As you breathe your body will naturally soften and adjust.

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To start with you may find that your mind wanders and you start to worry about work commitments, what to have for dinner and your to do list. You may only find a few moments of pure calmness before you start thinking about things. That’s ok. Give this practice time and patience. You might like to start off doing it in a quiet home, with few distractions, unplugging the phone and finding a quiet space. In time you’ll be able to do it for longer periods, regardless of distractions. Waiting rooms, queues, train and tube journeys can all be ideal settings for practising mindfulness, taking you away from the chaos around you and connecting you with your own inner stillness.

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The mindfulness walk

If you are walking somewhere familiar where you don’t need to worry about directions, then practising mindfulness as you go is a wonderful activity. This gives you a real chance to connect with your senses. What can you see? What can you smell? How does the feeling of the path change as you walk through different areas? Walking through an ever changing environment really allows you to get lost in your senses which is a fantastic way to acknowledge yourself and check in with how you are feeling. You might like to schedule in a short walk each day as part of your mindfulness practise, or use mindfulness as a way to instil a feeling of calm and confidence before certain engagements.

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Mindful bathing

Baths and showers are a wonderful way to get in touch with your senses. The calming sound of running water, the potential to use beautiful fragrances, the opportunity to explore sensations: trickles of water pouring soothingly over your scalp, gently scrubbing your skin, rubbing away any tight areas in your neck muscles. Your daily bath or shower can become a powerful mindfulness ritual if you allow yourself the time to truly connect with your body, rather than rushing to get clean as quickly as possible so you can get on with your day. Mindfulness is all about slowing down and simply being. You might like to create your own aromatherapy blend to enhance the experience. Combine 2 drops each of rose, lavender and bergamot essential oil with 2 tablespoons of your choice of milk (dairy, soya or nut milks are all fine). Rose brings comfort, lavender is calming and bergamot is wonderful for mental clarity. Swirl the oils around your bath, or place the container on the floor of your shower to create a beautiful aromatic steam. Breathe deeply and connect with yourself.

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Mindful exercise

There is no denying that exercise is a brilliant way to stay mentally healthy as well as physically healthy. Mood-busting endorphins can help us through the most stressful of times. Yet, how often do you occupy your mind with other things while you are working out? You may listen to audio books or podcasts, watch TV or zone in on music videos in the gym or even use the time to problem solve issues related to work, home or your children. Ideally, whether you indulge in yoga, swimming or aerobics, you’ll use this time mindfully. Creating a calm mind while your body is so actively engaged can result in a much more fulfilling workout. Feeling each movement and connecting it will not only help you to be aware of your body and reduce the chance of injury but it is also a beautiful way to stay mindful.

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Mindful meals

We all need to eat and really enjoying your food and savouring it is a wonderful way to practise mindfulness. Think of the colours, tastes, textures and smells you get with a good meal. Celebrate each mouthful. Grabbing food as you dash out the door can easily become a habit when you are balancing a lot of responsibility, but that simply means you need to slow down more than ever. Stop eating at your desk. You’ll find that connecting with each meal in this way will also mean you may eventually be more drawn to nutritious wholesome food and may make better food choices.

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Even a simple tea break can become an expression of mindfulness. Fragrant fruit teas, delicate green tea and herbal infusions are ideal for this practice. Choose a mug that feels wonderful in your hands, something that looks lovely too, or choose to enjoy your tea beside a vase of freshly cut flowers or a beautiful view. Taste every sip, explore how it feels as it warms your lips and tongue. Be aware of its journey down your throat. Even water can be drunk mindfully, you might like to add ice to increase the sensation or add a slice of lemon for additional sensory benefits. A mindful tea break is a wonderful way to recharge and refresh without taking up too much of your time.

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So next time you feel like your day is too busy to find time for mindfulness ask yourself this… Will I sit today? Will I leave the house today? Will I bathe today? Will I exercise today? Will I eat today? Will I drink today? These little windows are the perfect opportunity to allow mindfulness into your life.

References (for benefits of mindfulness)

Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J. Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S.F., Urbanowski, F., Harrington, A., Bonus, K. & Sheridan, J. F. (2003) ‘Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation’, Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, pp. 564–70; Tang, Y., Ma, Y., Wang, J., Fan, Y., Feg, S., Lu, Q., Yu, Q., Sui, D., Rothbart, M., Fan, M. & Posner, M. (2007), ‘Short-term med- itation training improves attention and self-regulation’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104, pp. 17152–6.

Brown, Kirk Warren, Ryan, Richard, M. (2003), ‘The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), pp. 822–48; Lykins, Emily L. B. & Baer, Ruth A. (2009), ‘Psychological Functioning in a Sample of Long-Term Practitioners of Mindfulness Meditation’, Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 23(3), pp. 226–41.

Bowen, S., et al. (2006), ‘Mindfulness Meditation and Substance Use in an Incarcerated Population’, Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 20, pp. 343–7.

Tang, Y., Ma, Y., Wang, J., Fan, Y., Feg, S., Lu, Q., Yu, Q., Sui, D., Rothbart, M., Fan, M. & Posner, M. (2007), ‘Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104, pp. 17152–6.

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