This is a story about cheap yoga mats.
While I am not a yoga fashion snob, I will be the first to say that quality comes at a price and, as with most things, you get what you pay for.
I was at Target the other day, perusing the fitness gear and thinking that my yoga mat was starting to look pretty chewed up. I’ve had it a couple years and PiYo is a little more, um, vigorous, than your average yoga workout.
Target is not a yoga supply shop but they do have a small selection of mats that fall into three categories: cheap, nice, and extra squishy. The “nice” mats are Gaiam 3mm, super grip, non slip, 6P Free, and come in a variety of fruity colors. They are $20. The extra squishy mats are from Gaiam and The Firm, 5mm, same pretty colors and features. The extra squishy mats are $30.
Now, let’s talk about the cheap mats. For one thing, there didn’t used to be a “cheap” mat option at Target. There was only “nice” and “extra squishy”. Then one day, along came the cheap mat. To be polite, I’ll call it Brand X. Brand X mat is similar to the Gaiam 3mm mats. It is the same thickness, comes in a few less colors, and is made of something that appears to be the same material. Brand X mat is $10.
I should’ve known better, not only should have but did know better. I could tell that the texture was not quite the same as the Gaiam mats and I was a little bugged at the lack of color and design options but, for some reason, I let the crazy cheap price tag affect my better judgement and I got one anyway. I thought “well, if it’s terrible, it was only $10″. To be clear, there was really nothing about this mat that made me think it wouldn’t be terrible so I don’t know why I was surprised when it turned out to be unusable. I don’t know what this discount piece of crap is made of but it is so slippery that I cannot hold any pose without my hands and feet sliding out from under me. I would consider it borderline unsafe. Being unstable can lead to injuries.
Not wanting to admit that I made a bad decision, I still used this mat for a couple of weeks. I even conducted a Google search for how to make a yoga mat less slippery. I scrubbed it down with salt water but it didn’t help much. I had bought a $10 slip-n-slide. Last night I noticed that there are already chunks falling out of it caused by jumping from forward fold to plank. I’m really good at that transition. There’s no thumping, no toe injuries, and no reason this mat should be falling apart after only two weeks. So now, only $10 doesn’t seem like such a good deal. Wasted $10 sounds more like it.
Today I decided that I couldn’t deal with the Brand X mat any longer so I went back and bought a Gaiam mat for $20 except I really paid $30 for it because I tried to take the cheap route instead of just getting the right tool for the job in the first place.
How’s my what now?
Proprioception: The sense of knowing where the body is in relation to it’s various segments and the external environment.
Um, could you use that in a sentence?
Commonly known as the sixth sense, proprioception is the ability of the central nervous system to communicate and coordinate parts of the body with each other.
Riigghhttt, why do I care about this?
Now we’re talkin’. Proprioception is important because without it you would not be able to drive a car without looking at your hands to monitor their position on the steering wheel and that would be a problem, right? Proprioception is what allows you to talk on your cell phone, eat a bag of chips and walk down a flight of stairs all while looking around to make sure you’re going the right direction and don’t crash into anything. When you close your eyes and touch your finger to your nose, this too is proprioception. With relation to sports and fitness, sprains that are common to highly trained athletes often have nothing to do with strength, flexibility or endurance but rather have to do with proprioception, or lack there of, to be exact. For example, if a runner fails to make adjustments for uneven terrain, they come down too hard on one foot and sprain their ankle. If you’ve ever been walking and stepped off a sneaky invisible curb, you know what I mean.
For the fitness pros in the room, this type of kinesthetic awareness comes from structures called proprioceptors, which are receptors located in the skin, in and around the joints and muscles, and in the inner ear. Cutaneous receptors are located in the skin and send sensory information regarding pressure, touch and movement of the hairs on the skin. Joint receptors are located in the joint capsules and surrounding ligaments. They transmit sensory information relating to positions, velocities, and accelerations occurring at the joints. In addition, pressure receptors within the joints provide added information about pressure changes that is used for important postural adjustments and normal gait.
The topic of proprioception interests me because of the implications it has in day to day life.
For example, I see it in action in my PiYo classes. Most beginning students struggle to keep their balance during the flowing sequences when the center of gravity is constantly being adjusted. Some struggle even to stand on one foot in a stationary position. The interesting part is that, with practice, proprioception can be improved upon and maintained. I see dedicated students make rapid progress in this area all the time.
What could better balance and coordination mean for you? Well, it could mean not spilling your drink on the dance floor or it could mean not slipping in the shower and breaking a hip. It could be the difference between tripping on the stairs and recovering or tumbling to the bottom. Coordination and balance are skills essential to any physical activity.
Here are a couple of simple ways to test your own proprioception.
Raise both hands above your head and close your eyes. Keep the fingers of the left hand totally still (no moving!). With your right hand, quickly touch your index fingertip to your nose, then raise your hand back up and with the same finger, touch the tip of your left thumb. Continue this exercise, rotating though all the fingers on the left hand, and then switch sides.
On a lined sheet of notebook paper write the word “proprioception”. Any word will do, actually. Then, place your hand on the next line down, close your eyes and write the same word again. Do they look the same?
On the first exercise, you may find that unless you wiggle your fingers, it is quite difficult to automatically locate your fingertips. I found that, even though I could not see my hands because they were over my head, it was much easier to find my fingertips with my eyes open. I suspect this is because most of us are highly dependent on visual cues even if it doesn’t seem like there are any. You may find that, with repeated trials, this exercise gets easier.
Almost everyone does well on the handwriting test and this is because most people are used to the “feel” of writing provided by proprioceptors in our hands and fingers and do not rely heavily on visual cues for the reproduction of written words.
In case you wondered what I do on my day off, I do PiYo at home. Once I complete the workout, I usually take a few minutes to practice some more traditional yoga poses. Photos are an excellent way to evaluate your own form.
This is a perfect example of why it’s a good idea to have someone take pictures of you. I thought I was doing this pose correctly but I see in the photo that my hand is not under my shoulder and, because of that, my shoulders are rotated to the front. Something to work on for next time!
I will be conducting a PiYo workshop at Health Quest Chiropractic on the evening of Tuesday, April 17th from 5:30 to 6:00. This workshop is free and open to the public.
If you’ve been wondering what PiYo is all about, this is a great opportunity to come by and check it out! Everyone who attends will be given a gift certificate for one free PiYo class!
Peep this video for a sneak preview
*Health Quest Chiropractic is located at:
3824 Masthead Street
Albuquerque, NM 87109
I think most of us, when we hear the phrase “mind/body workout”, conjure up a mental image of yoga mats in a room with dim lights, soft music and maybe some chanting. Nothing wrong with that, of course, unless you’re looking for a more dynamic adventure.
So, are there other types of mind/body workouts? The answer is: yes, any workout that you bring your full attention to, and perform with specific intention, becomes a mind/body workout. An impressive thing happens when you not only pay attention to what you’re doing but also do it with a goal in mind; the workout becomes effective and you achieve results.
I remember a recent conversation I had with someone who told me their fitness regime consisted of walking on a treadmill while reading a book. I was like, “did you say reading a book?” I suppose walking and reading does burn more calories than sitting on the couch. I have to wonder, though, what could I realistically expect to accomplish with a workout that I was not mentally present for? Let’s draw a broad parallel; have you ever accomplished anything by not paying attention and half heatedly going through the motions?
If I could offer one tip to ensure success in achieving fitness goals, it is to be present in the moment. When you’re working out, clear your mind of all the clutter. Don’t think about everything you have to do, pay attention to what you are doing. Make your workout a meditation on self empowerment. It doesn’t matter if you lift weights, run, jump around in a salsa aerobics class, or do PiYo; all of these activities are an opportunity to tune in, pay attention to being in your body and to get in touch with your whole being.
The rest of your life will still be there when the workout is over so don’t phone it in, bring your A-game to the mat.