The Big Deal With Mala Beads

If you’ve ever been to a yoga class or casually perused (read: stalked the heck out of) the hashtag #yogaeverydamnday on Instagram (no? just me?), you’ve probably noticed that almost every yogi has a colorful stack of various beaded bracelets on his or her wrist. Sure, they’re cute and fashionable, but what’s the real significance behind these Mala beads?

Fun fact: Some yoga teachers wear Malas during class simply because they jingle and jangle. This serves as an audible warning signal for students, so you can hear your teacher coming before he or she assists you in a pose. No one likes being crept up on in the middle of compromising poses such as deaf man’s pose. No one. How functional!

“I Am Loved” and “I Am Calm” Malas from my Etsy Shop

While this is a great, simple, modern use for Mala beads, their history and spiritual significance is much deeper. After plenty of research (muchas gracias to the sites listed below), I give you, ladies and gentlemen, a crash course in Mala beads for dummies.

  • Malas were originally used in Buddhist and Hindu tradition for meditation and prayer. This dates back hundreds, or possibly thousands of years. Dates are inconsistent.
  • Traditional Mala necklaces have 108 beads, which are individually touched and counted while meditating or repeating a prayer or mantra. The number 108 is believed to ensure that the yogi repeats the mantra at least 100 times, assuming that about 8 will be missed during the series.
  • Malas can be made of fewer than 108 beads and used multiple times in meditation to equal 108. A bracelet of 27 beads, for example, can be cycled through 4 times for a total of 108 repetitions.
  • Mala beads can be made of wood, bone, or gemstone. Stones are believed to hold a specific spiritual and/or physical healing element and impact the lives of those who wear them. Turquoise, for example, is said to rid the body of toxins and increase circulation. It is also believed to rid the soul of hatred and bring love.

To read more about the history and importance of Mala beads, hop on over these lovely, oh-so-informative sites: Mala Collective, Share Yoga,  Buddhist Mala. If your heart is telling you Yes! I need some!, and you like pretty, handmade things and love supporting yours truly, head over to my Etsy shop! 🙂  Namaste.

Gaiam Everything Fits Gym Bag Review

This Christmas, I set out to purchase a new gym bag as a gift to myself in exchange for resolving to go to yoga at least once per week (so far so good!). I had quite a hefty checklist in hunting down the perfect brand and style for my needs, and my research eventually led me to Gaiam’s Everything Fits bag. Let me tell you, it goes down as one of my favorite purchases in yogi history!

The Gaiam Everything Fits gym bag is worth every penny. It’s more affordable than a lot of other brands’ bags (i.e. Lululemon, Athleta, Nike, etc.), and it has all the features I was looking for, plus some. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Yoga mat straps on the bottom. This was my #1 must-have in the search for the perfect bag. I need a bag that can carry my mat, not just gym clothes, and fit my dual yogi/runner lifestyle. The elastic straps are adjustable to fit any size yoga mat, and you can just tuck them up on non-yoga days (unless you’re not OCD like me & the dangling straps don’t bother you 🙂 ).
  • Ventilated zipper compartment for smelly things. My #2 must-have. Running shoes, sweat-drenched towels and clothes after a hot yoga class- these things belong in here, separated from the main compartment where your not-so-smelly things go. Especially if you go straight from work to working out or vice versa, you need that dressy work outfit to be isolated from your sweaty sports bra. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! And for my fellow big-footed friends (we just have so much more to root down through in our tree poses- aren’t we lucky?), don’t fret: the ventilated compartment is spacious enough for my size 10 Asics.
  • Interior pockets for organizing. I like organizing, remember (see #1)? A teeny zippered pocket to stash bobby pins & hair ties so you’re never stuck using rubber bands or twist ties (which don’t work, btw). Stretchy side pockets for small shampoo, conditioner, and body wash bottles if you’re a commuter type like me. A big, stretchy pocket for your wallet, keys, iPhone, and other goodies. Done, done, and done.
  • Light as a feather! I’ve almost bought several different gym bags in store, only to realize that if they weigh that much with nothing but paper in them, then they’ll be WAY too heavy once I load them up with my Big Foot sneaks, filled water bottle, the works. Gaiam’s bag? Not the case! Super light and manageable.
  • Doesn’t look too gym bag-y. Since I often run and/or yoga before or after work, errands, or meeting up with friends, I didn’t want my gym bag to look too gym bag-y. This bag is perfectly subtle and classy looking, so I don’t look too ridiculous layering my Everything Fits with my Longchamp.
  • Perfect Size. Enter Goldilocks. I’ve had bags that are way too small to fit running shoes (unless that’s the only thing you plan on packing), and bags that are so huge they wouldn’t even be allowed as a carry-on. This bag is PERFECT for me. I can comfortably fit a water bottle, running shoes, an entire workout outfit, brush & toiletries for afterwards, my favorite yoga towel, plus my wallet/keys/phone and Kindle for pre-yoga down time. What more could a girl need? 

Sold? You can buy the Everything Fits on Gaiam’s website, here!  

Where to Find High-Quality, Affordable Workout Gear

If you’re anything like me, you’re always drooling over the Lululemon and Athleta catalogs that turn up in the mail, eyeing all the yogis’ adorable printed leggings on Instagram, and comparing your workout ensemble to everyone else’s on the trail. I know, I know, working out is not about looking cute, but you’ve got to admit: working out is a lot more enjoyable when you feel good about yourself. And there’s no better motivation to get your butt to yoga than having a brand new polka-dotted pair of leggings to show off. Am I right?

Here’s the problem. Motivational or not, a new pair of leggings for a cool $100+ or a fun, bright top for $50+ is just not in my budget, especially when I’m already investing in expensive yoga memberships, race entries, and new Asics twice a year so I don’t end up with club feet and my dad’s knock knees (sorry, dad).

Salar leggings

Ladies, problem solved: FABLETICS. Fabletics is Kate Hudson’s athletic apparel line/monthly membership program. It’s similar to Birch Box, Nature Box (another obsession of mine), etc. in that you sign up as a VIP member and receive monthly benefits. Continue reading

Get On That Yoga Grind.  

Need an excuse to get back into your yoga routine? Or the motivation to start doing yoga on the reg? Or some new, challenging poses to spice up your practice? Three words: Instagram. Yoga. Challenges. 

IG yoga challenges are my latest obsession, and while my boyfriend groans at the thought of me having an excuse to spend even more time on Insta than I already do, I credit these babies with a renewed love for my yoga practice. I’ve tried (and nailed!) so many poses that I would’ve never tried on my own. You know, those intimidating poses that the instructor in your yoga class offers with little to no guidance: “and if [insert crazy pose here] is in your practice, you can take that for a few breaths now.” Like I’m going to try side crow/bird of paradise/headstand/eight angle/flying pigeon for the first time, right here right now, when everyone can watch me face plant into my lulu lemon mat…no thank you.

However, IG yoga challenges (I’m on my fourth one now) allow you to push your boundaries and try these fun new postures in the privacy of your own home, saving the face plants for your boyfriend/roommate/cat. They’ll still love you. Promise. 

This month’s #BalanceBums challenge. Hosts will usually post modified versions of tougher poses, too.

How it works: follow some of the yoga greats on Insta (a few of my personal faves are @jennifermartinyoga @robinmartinyoga @rebekahletch @shadesofjoy.co @yogagrams @beachyogagirl @kellymarie_yoga). Keep your eyes peeled for challenges- different yogis will host them and announce daily poses, along with tips and tutorials for each. Follow along and practice the poses each day, posting your attempt on IG with the challenge hashtag, tagging all hosts and any sponsors (automatically entering yourself for amazing yogi prizes, too- who doesn’t love prizes?). You’ll be inspired by all of the other participants’ posts with the hashtags, and you’ll impress yourself with your progress!

Taking one pose at a time and making it a daily focus is huge. Don’t get me wrong- you’ll definitely fall on your face and make a fool of yourself as well (stay tuned for a post of my yoga bloopers), but it’s worth it for that moment in class when your instructor says, “and if [insert crazy pose here] is in your practice, you can take that for a few breaths now,” and you nail it, sans public face plant. 

My eight angle pose for #BalanceBums day 5. I had never been able to get this one before this challenge!