10 Reasons Cork is Good for Your Yoga Practice

I have tried many products and always come back to cork for yoga. I prefer a cork mat, blocks and anything else I can get my hands on. I love the feel of cork but there are so many more amazing benefits besides it’s durability. Some facts you may have not know…

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1. Cork forms antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic compounds that may reduce the risk of heart and degenerative diseases (Furthermore, waste from the cork industry gives rise to composites which are used in vaccine adjuvants to enhance immune system response).

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2. It’s durable, unique and environmentally friendly. Plus, cork is a natural material, so it doesn’t off-gas like many other types of materials.IMG_20190403_090855_776

3. Light weight: Due to the fact that more than 50 % of the cell volume of a cork piece consists of air, cork is one of the lightest solid substances, with a specific gravity of .25.

4. A cubic inch of cork can withstand as great a pressure as 14,000 lbs. per square inch without breaking, and retains 90% of its original form after the pressure is released. Less or more normal pressure increase return to original form from 97% to 100%.

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5. Because heavy pressure does not break down or destroy the tiny air cells, but compresses the air within the cells, the cork begins to spring back when the pressure is removed. A roll or sheet of composition cork can be compressed in one direction without losing its dimensions in the other direction. This is of great importance for many applications of composition cork.

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6. While cork is not completely impervious to moisture penetration, its cellular structure gives it a high resistance to penetration by water which with the addition of the proper binder can be proofed.

7. Cork is a highly frictional material, both in its natural form as well as in cork composition. Even when wet or coated with oil or grease, cork retains this quality which surpasses that of leather, rubber, and many other products used for frictional or non-skid purposes.

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8.  Next to a vacuum, a “dead” air space minutely divides one of the most efficient non-conductors of heat. The cell construction of cork provides this property for which cork is so famous.9. Cork, with its 200 million air cells per cubic inch; of which 50% is air, essentially acts as an “air cushion”, absorbing vibrations and direct impacts.

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9. Cork is a tough, durable substance with remarkable capacity for retaining its initial properties wherever recommended. The high degree of stability under varying conditions is paramount to the continuing success and use of cork in the world today.

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10. 42 Birds makes eco-friendly yoga mats and accessories using cork from Spain and Portugal. The brand is driven by functionality, sustainability and natural beauty. They are looking to create the best performing yoga products that also look good in your home and in your practice. These products should be owned and enjoyed with the knowledge that they both come from and support nature’s eco system.

Meditation for any Personality

When I was in Yoga Teacher Training my mentors told us that a meditation practice has to be consistent to be powerful. This mean everyday, the same amount of time and the same type of meditation.

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The velvety Ajna cushion makes sitting for meditation a joy.

One thing you can find comfort in is taking your time to figure out which type is best for you. While my typical practice falls under Lovingkindness meditation, I still use mantra or chakra meditation when needed and often fall asleep to a guided yoga nidra meditation.

Whoa, that’s a lot of confusing words at once. Here I’ll describe the different types of meditation and I suggest trying each type for at least a week and then committing to one type as your daily practice and leaning towards others for specific times or needs. Try to meditate daily for at least 5 to 20 minutes.

Guided Mindfulness Meditation: Being mindful is the trend right now, but how to be mindful is often confusing. Mindfulness is being attentive to a specific act or thought while letting other intrusive thoughts pass through without paying any attention to them.

For this you can download apps so a teacher can verbally direct your attention to physical sensations and what is happening in your mind. The teacher will also guide you through distractions and how to refocus. I use Insight Timer App often for Guided meditations.

Moving Meditation: This meditation seems to come easily to most people! You can practice this anywhere and in any way. When in sitting mediation I focus on my breath to let my brain and body know what to get ready for. I also practice this while cooking, cleaning, gardening, walking and basically in everything that I do. Whatever act that you choose, focus deeply on the movement, every body part that is touching the ground, slowly feeling each movement and even repeating what you are physically doing. Think about the sounds, smells and tastes. Observe what you see. We often run on “automatic” and don’t fully take in everything around us. This is the perfect opportunity to try that. When an intrusive thought arises, notice it and refocus on a physical sensation.

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Lovingkindness Meditation: I often find myself focusing on people and their behaviors to a point that it consumes too many of my emotions. I use the Lovingkindness meditation to reiterate that loving everyone ultimately sets me free from negative emotions. To practice this, you use a mantra and repeat it to direct love and compassion towards yourself and others that you may have negative feelings about.

Come up with three to four short phrases that are important to your happiness. I typically use “May I be healthy, May I be happy, May I be calm, May I live with ease” as the ultimate wishes for my life. Start repeating your mantras about yourself and really extend those wishes deep into your heart. Know that you deserve these wishes and can have them. Send these wishes to others you love. Next send them to someone you don’t have any emotional attachment towards, like a neighbor or someone you see around town. Lastly, send these wishes to someone who typically triggers negative emotions for you. Remind yourself that they need these wishes as well and remain with an open heart. Over time, you will begin to see others with love and compassion and not be triggered by differences or personalities.

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Chakra Mediation: If you haven’t heard of “chakras” you have probably been living under a rock, although many gurus find their chakras and open them by being in rocks, so you’re probably just blind. Chakras are the areas of different energies throughout our being and consciousness. For this meditation form, you have to know a little about the chakras to perform it. You will begin in a seated position and breathe through the chakra points and central channels. Check out this link for an in depth guide to the Chakra meditation.

Mantra Meditation: One of the more commonly know forms of meditation and probably the most straight forward. In this form of meditation you recite a phrase/sound/word either silently or aloud. You can lie down in savasana or sit comfortably in a chair or on a meditation cushion. Start by repeating your mantra according to your breath and let it form it’s own pattern. You can look up a mantra or be given one by a teacher. Click here for some sanskrit mantras to try!

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Meditation actually changes the way your brain responds to situations and the longer you consistently practice, the stronger and more positive your brain becomes. Give it a try for 30 days and see how differently you feel and react to daily triggers! Let me know how it goes in the comments.

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What does acupressure really do?

I’ve recently shared acupressure mats and pillows with family members and they asked me lots of questions about why, how, where. I realized so many people probably have the same questions and would love to learn more about it!

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I’ve tried the new Ajna Pillow which I use multiple times in a day for underneath my legs, my lower back, shoulders, neck and head. Basically any time I am sitting or lying down I’m using this mat to heal.

I love all Ajna Wellbeing products, but I adore this pillow for accessibility, price and quality. Check out my review on their full acupressure mat!

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What is acupressure?

Acupressure is NOT acupuncture as it requires no needles or anything penetrating the skin. Research is now showing that a lot of our health is affected by fascia, a thin sheath of fibrous tissue enclosing a muscle or other organ. Acupressure is thought to work through putting pressure on these tissues to release toxins, built up pressure and/or inflammation.

Before the realization of fascia, traditional Chinese medical theory describes special acupoints, or acupressure points, that lie along meridians, or channels, in your body. These are the same energy meridians and acupoints as those targeted with acupuncture. It is believed that through these invisible channels flows vital energy — or a life force called qi (ch’i). It is also believed that these 12 major meridians connect specific organs or networks of organs, organizing a system of communication throughout your body. The meridians begin at your fingertips, connect to your brain, and then connect to an organ associated with a certain meridian.

According to this theory, when one of these meridians is blocked or out of balance, illness can occur. Acupressure and acupuncture are among the types of TCM that are thought to help restore balance.

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How to use acupressure?

Use it for 20 minutes or until you feel a reduction in pain. If you want to use a neck pillow with an acupressure mat, lie the maton a flat surface. Slowly lower yourself onto the mat and place the pillow under your neck. Adjust your body and the pillow as necessary until you are comfortable. Many people suggest using acupressure mats as soon as you wake up. Doing this will help you in flushing out toxins and other waste materials from your body. Drink at-least 24 ounces of water after being on the mat, which might help your body to release the impurities through out the day. Some other quick tips on how to use acupressure mats on a daily basis.

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Where to use acupressure?

You can stand on a mat with bare feet to energize the body and release fatigue.

People also sit on the mats to release any thigh or glute tension or recover after sore muscles. It also brings blood flow to these areas and helps reduce cellulite.

You can lie flat on the mat with a bare back to help any back pain from the shoulders to pelvis. Or lie on your front to release any tension held in your front body.

You can lie on your side with a roll under the mat to reach your side body.

Pressing your hands into the mat can help with dexterity and motor functions.

Rolling the back of your skull slowly from side to side on a mat can reduce migraines and headaches as well as stress.

These mats can be used endlessly, these are just some suggestions! Check out Ajna Wellbeing as I recommend these for their quality and affordability!

 

Bolsters make me happy

I have wanted to get my hands on a round bolster for over 2 years! I have an oval one with a flat wide sides and a pranayama skinny ovalish one but it took this many years to get my hands on a large Round Bolster!

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Why have I been obsessed with getting a round bolster? They support backbends more than standard bolsters and they can follow the natural curves of the body. I need backbends in my life to bring space and blood flow to areas of my spine with degenerative cartilage.

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I like this round bolster from Sol Living because it gives me a nice lift, I like to call it “active restoration” vs. a standard bolster which is full restoration. Although I’m still resting in poses, I can feel the stretch, rather than with pure restorative which sometimes I don’t feel as much but know it’s still working.

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The Sol Living round bolster has a removable and washable cover, which I’ve already done and it’s great. My kids smeared gross stuff on it one day (I don’t want to know) and I threw it in the washer and hung it to dry and it came out perfectly!

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Also mentionable, Sol Living makes their products with organic cotton and this Bolster is no different. I feel great using it, knowing that while I’m trying to get healthy I’m not inadvertently using toxic products.

The bolsters are super stiff and sturdy, creating a massive amount of support for the body. They can be used in endless ways to support, lengthen, relax or deepen your postures.

Check them out here: https://solliving.envelorhome.com

 

I LOVE TIE DYE

Growing up in the 90’s tie dye used to drive me nuts. It was the weird mix of colors that don’t really vibe well together to make this awkwardly loose and/or baggy outfit set with big hair and long, long nails.

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I despised it.

Lucky for me, tie dye has come a long way! Unlike me, Jenna, the owner of Trippy Wear, has a long live affair with tie dye clothing. Thankfully for us, she has been doing this since childhood and her talent and experience reflects in her clothes in her shop.

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The yoga pants I received are stunning. The color combination and pattern is an amazing cooling kaleidoscope of blues and purples.

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They are the most comfortable pants I own. I’m not exaggerating in the slightest. I have worn them everyday, washing them every night. I know this is too often but I only have one pair and they are just too good.

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They’re perfect for practice too, I almost forget I’m wearing them. These pants stay put, don’t squeeze everything in and are soft and luxurious. Not to mention how awesome they look. They often become my drishti point because they are entrancing.

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So I propose this to you Jenna, with your talent for color and masterful technique.. if you ever decide to do a yoga hammock or silks in one of your stunning patterns, I’d live in it everyday!

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Check out her Etsy here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/TrippyWear33

And follow her on Instagram to keep up with everything Trippy Wear new! : www.instagram.com/trippywear33

The Original Headstander

If you’re on Instagram and follow any popular yogi you’ve seen Headstander props encouraging an inversion practice without the pressure on the cervical spine.

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I cut headstand out of my practice because of degenerative cartilage in my spine creating excruciating pain in my neck despite proper form. Over time I asked teachers for help in headstand and ended up mostly lifting my head off the ground, even a centimeter, using my forearms or hands to mimic a headstand.

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I found the ORIGINAL headstander created by EvolutionHealth. I loved the easy set up of the BodyLift and the comfort of the cushion. It takes up little space and has the instructions right on the back as well as pose ideas!

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I’ve been using this everyday to get at least 5 minutes inverted. The biggest reward I’ve seen is how relaxing the practice is with the BodyLift. There are so many times I use this as a restorative practice as well! I often focus on strengthening practice and flexibility and forget restoring my mind, body and soul. Why not practice just to feel good rather than gain a pose, get stronger, get more flexible.. etc. ?

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Thanks to this I do restorative just a little more each day.

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Besides the fact that it’s more affordable than other headstanders, it’s also the original! I absolutely love encouraging a company that creates innovative tools to further my practice!

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About Evolution Health: “With the aid of the modern BodyLift yoga headstand prop, you can now experience the lofty benefits of the famous Yoga Headstand for yourself. But now you can do it without using your head! That’s because the BodyLift requires no special strength, balance or agility. Your shoulders rest on the foam cushion. Your head dangles off the floor. Your neck stretches naturally to relieve tension and headaches.

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The unique sensation of suddenly and gracefully overturning gravity’s depressing force on your entire body, while using your BodyLift, defies all earthly description. It must be experienced.”

The BodyLift is so easy to use that after a couple days my children could easily lift up into inversions as well! My kids love being able to go upside down easily and comfortably. The put the BodyLift up against a wall and I practice a couple poses next to them as the practice.

I definitely recommend the BodyLift for anyone looking for a safe inversion practice! The cushion is comfy. It can be even safer up against a wall. It is stable and helps engage the core. Just make sure not to get lazy in the back and keep it engaged as you go up!

Check it out here: http://www.evolutionhealth.com/bodylift.html

Handmade Props that are Super Serene

I love props. Yoga props can help make a practice safer or even evolve your practice further. No matter what your level of experience is with yoga, a strap can provide useful help on support, alignment, and posture.

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When I started yoga, like many beginners, I wanted to get away from props. I thought they meant I wasn’t getting the full benefits of the pose. I thought props meant I was “less than” in the yoga world. What I realized is that my ego is what made me less of a Yogi and not my use of props. I read a beautiful statement from Yoga International that put yoga props in perspective for me, especially when I started practicing Iyengar.

“Props help practitioners of all levels gain the sensitivity of a pose while receiving the benefits over time without overextending themselves. They allow students to practice asanas (postures) and pranayama (breath control) with greater effectiveness, ease, and stability.” – Yoga International

Thankfully, I am lucky enough to have props available for me to use and can now use them as tools to better align my asana and relax into a pose.

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I’ve just recently started using straps, thanks to Love My Mat and their handmade strap that is long, comfortable and has a belt loop one end and a sewn loop on the other, which is perfect to slip your foot in and is extra comfortable. I’ve reviewed straps before, comparing and contrasting other brands and this is by far the best yoga strap I’ve ever had the pleasure of owning.

I also adore using their eye pillows for Savasana and resting poses. These eye pillows are so dreamy they can rest even the most tense mind. But why use an eye pillow? I bet you don’t realize how much tension and stress originates in our eyeballs.

“Light pressure on the eyeballs lowers heart rate, sometimes by quite a bit, by eliciting what’s called the oculocardiac reflex. It also stimulates the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve has an extensive resume: It regulates heart rate and digestion, and it’s the primary medium through which our belly brain regulates mood. It’s the main communicator to our rest-and-digest system, which helps us to relax more deeply. It also elicits our tend-and-befriend system, enabling us to reach out and connect with others. This is a critical factor in long-term stress resilience and, research shows, in happiness.” The Yoga Journal

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What about your sense of smell? I often find that if I spray my mat before I practice, my experience can be quite difference. This spray cleans your mat and the air but I typically rely on a mat spray when I’m not feeling well or up to practicing and the result is a happy, energized flow and joy from practicing.

“Depending on the oil [used] and its properties (and any past experiences you’ve had with the smell), the result is usually an emotional response and/or a memory. In most cases (since essential oils usually smell pleasant) this triggers the brain to release neurotransmitters, such as serotonin or dopamine.

Getting the brain to release these neurotransmitters is the primary effect of aromatherapy, helping keep our bodies in a healthy and happy state.” – DoYouYoga

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I call these Love My Mat props the Essentials Kit because it’s absolutely perfect for every yogi at any level with any particular needs. They even sell them with a Mat Bag as a Beginners Kit!

All the props are made from reclaimed fabric, they are sustainably made and eco-friendly but even more, the quality is outstanding and will last for what I believe, many years to come! The range of products they make is outstanding: yoga mat bags, eye pillows, meditation cushions, knee pillows, yoga bolsters, yoga mat straps and yoga practice straps, zabutons, sandbags, essential oils and more.

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The team behind Love My Mat:

“We’re a mother-daughter team who love yoga, recycling and sewing. We’ve married our passions to create an entire line of eco-conscious yoga & meditation supplies including bolsters, yoga mat bags, yoga straps, meditation cushions, yoga mat cleaner, eye pillows & much, much more! If you’re looking for more, check out website for a complete listing of available products www.lovemymat.com

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Aerial Yoga is SO much more intense than floor yoga.

I recently received a beautiful yoga hammock from Artistic Fitness and it got me thinking about the whole aerial yoga sport. I had to find out more and I had to try it for myself. It took quite a few days over several weeks of practice to feel comfortable with this cloth holding my weight and not fearing it would just give at some point and I would land on my head.

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I also learned a little about these hammocks and how they affect children. Both of my kids suffer from health issues, especially one that often cause unpredictable pain. I noticed with both of my kids, even as infants they seemed to show signs of anxiety. I further researched it and found out that anxiety disorders are common in children with health issues (and adults) which seems like common sense. I also found out that yoga and other forms of exercise can help ease painful health conditions and even create healthy coping skills in children. Then comes the yoga hammock, after some testing with my own children I noticed how much they love to lie in it fully extended and fold their arms and just be quiet. They also like to swing gently and watch everything going on around them through the cloth. I found these to be very calming and restorative for them.

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Of course I play on it, I sit on it and watch TV, I lie in it, I hang in it. I flip and twist and spin. The Huffington Post explains the added benefits of aerial yoga as opposed to floor yoga:

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Greater Flexibility. Since you have more freedom of movement, you can move your body into new positions. In some cases, this can result in a deeper and more fulfilling stretch than traditional yoga offers.
Better Focus. By putting yourself in a more challenging situation than usual, aerial yoga forces you to be more alert and aware of your surroundings. You will likely also try to concentrate harder because you’re not used to being suspended in the air during your yoga practice.
Strengthened Muscles. Because gravity is working harder on your body than usual, your muscles work harder too. Aerial yoga is also a great core workout because you have to engage your core muscles to balance and stabilize yourself during your yoga session.
Stress-Relief. Much like traditional yoga, aerial yoga is great for stress relief. Not only do you use poses and stretches common to other forms of yoga to relieve stress, but you also experience the joy of knowing that you did something new and exciting, which makes you feel good.”

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I have started posting videos of my home aerial practice on Instagram and even though I was hesitant at first, I’m really glad I put this hammock up. It was an easy set up for us and luckily I had the space in my bedroom. The hooks always stay in the ceiling (although they are removable) but I can easily take my hammock down when necessary. Though I have never found it necessary. Even during holiday visits, people ate and sat in the hammock, others tried some tricks, it became a fun part of the night!

 

This is a little beginner flow I worked on, aerial yoga definitely opens your creativity because the opportunities are endless!

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I’m saying if you don’t already do it, aerial yoga is definitely something to add to your practice. It is just as amazing as everyone else says!

Here is a great shop to get your hammocks at, Artistic Fit has the best price around and as the hammock I use I can attest to the great quality of them.

Thank you again Breonna, for letting me test out your high quality products and share them with my friends!

Yoga Straps and Bands: How different ones affect your practice

I’ve been lucky enough to experience Mamakuka’s YogaSpheres, The Infinity Strap, and a Gaiam yoga strap with a belt latch. I tried some poses with each product and noticed a lot of differences between them.

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While my Gaiam strap was the most difficult to deal with (it felt like a waste of time for me) until I noticed how much it helped me in dancer’s pose. I could “climb” the strap to stretch myself further after getting an overhand reach. It is the only strap that held on to my limb because it was strapped around it. This is a strap I got when I first started yoga, years ago, so there’s that too, it still looks brand new.

The Infinity Strap is all over the market right now. So when it popped up on sale over Independence Day I grabbed a bamboo band and checked my mailbox everyday excited for it to come. The first thing I did was a handstand because unfortunately, it was too uncomfortable with my Gaiam strap. I had to twist it at least 3 times to get it the right length for my shoulders. I conquered a puppy press up on my first try. It is so soft, so comfortable and definitely functional. The fact that it is a figure 8 and stitched tightly in the middle gives a lot of strength and support to the band, which made my arm balances feel effortlessly. The only issue I have is that there is a lot of fraying around the label and even with the braided stitch I can imagine eventually the whole thing will be in shambles. When I contacted the company they assured me that the stitching is extremely strong and that if it does fray more they will replace it.

My Mamakuka set of YogaSpheres.. I have to admit before anything else that when I was researching straps and bands this is what I was really looking for. It is a set of gradual straps, two in each length.

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When I reached out to MamaKuka they generously sponsored a set for me to try out (without a requirement of a review) and of course I have to share my experience anyway.

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First, I took the largest strap and twisted it A LOT to get it shoulder width and use for a handstand. It was functional but I felt the Infinity Band worked better for handstands. For backbends, reaching over, binding and basically anything else in yoga besides handstands, Mamakuka won hands down.

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For binding there are different sizes to challenge and make a bind possible. I felt the most stretch and found a lot of new positions with this set.

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It comes in a cute little bag (which throw all my straps in because the others did not come with a bag). I throw it in my purse to bring my set with me everywhere. The best part about the YogaSpheres are that they are loops so you can use it anywhere, in dancer’s pose I wanted to pull up from my thigh rather than my ankle and the loops fit around any limb.

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Overall, my Gaiam strap probably will not get much more use. My YogaSpheres are part of my daily practice and help me get to the next level but I’m also glad to have my Infinity Strap for arm balances, if not anything else.

If I had to pick one brand to live with, it would be my YogaSpheres, they are the most diverse and adaptable for any practice and I love them!

Below you can see boat pose with each option. While my Gaiam strap and my YogaSpheres both flipped my grip, the strap actually lessened my pose and focused more on arm strength.

How about you? What are your favorite bands or straps? Let me know in the comments below!