Yogasmoga: A Review

I’m on a mission to find a great pair of American-made yoga leggings that can withstand the sweaty rigor of a hot yoga session. So far, I’ve come up short. I’d had great hopes for Outdoor Voices, which used to make all of its clothes in the US. I loved their Steeplechase bra and planned to make more purchases. Then, I saw that the OV had moved production to various sites overseas. After emailing the company, I learned that some items — mostly tanks and tees — are still made domestically. No leggings, though.

So, I really wanted Yogasmoga to work. This American-made brand gets pretty good reviews, and a friend who comes to our yoga studio owns a pair and swears by them. I ordered two of the Laguna bras and a pair of the Tippy Toe n’ Twist leggings in November, taking advantage of the amazing 70% off Black Friday sale. I snagged the bras for $20 each and my leggings for just $30. However, due to an influx of other orders and the company’s small size, the leggings took three weeks to arrive. I think they may have taken even longer if I hadn’t emailed the company to check on the order (at one point they declared the leggings I ordered were shipped, and then, realizing the ordered hadn’t shipped, they declared the leggings lost and offered store credit. The whole thing was a bit of a mess and may have been related to the company’s bankruptcy filing in December). When the leggings arrived (they weren’t lost after all), I was excited to try them out. They are opaque, fit nicely, and aren’t overly hot. However, when I tried them out at hot yoga, every drop of sweat seemed visible. Now, they are my home practice leggings, and I certainly didn’t need another pair of those.

In contrast, the Laguna bras arrived in a timely fashion and worked great. They fit well, move easily, and wick sweat nicely. The Lagunas are my go-to bras for hot yoga or home practice because they perform so well and look pretty flattering.

I’m tempted to try Yogasmoga again because of my friend’s high praises, and because of my positive experience with the Laguna bra. I probably won’t do so after a huge sale and, if I do, I’ll just make sure I don’t need my gear any time soon!

What is your favorite ethically made, hot yoga- approved apparel?

More about the blender I can’t stop using

The one ingredient that can make or break your smoothie is your blender. Find the perfect ingredient and the leafiest veggies become smooth as a milkshake. In contrast, sub-par blenders create smoothies with flecks of greens that must be chewed rather than sipped.

That’s why I was elated to find a great blender in the Ninja Compact System I bought recently. The system comes with a full-size blender, a food processor (with an optional dough blade), and two 24 oz blender cups. Each component is compatible with the blender base, and each component works beautifully (I have tried every single one).

The components that surpassed my expectations were the blender cups. They are used with a small blade that I doubted could handle a soft-fruit smoothie, let alone a smoothie with leafy vegetables. I was pleasantly surprised. Day after day, these cups and their little blender blade make silky smooth green smoothies (to see the handiwork, check out Monday’s post on how to make a green smoothie). Even better, the cups come with lids so that you can take your smoothie with you. You just unscrew the blender blade when you’re finished bending and then screw in the lid. It’s quick, simple, and makes enjoying a healthy breakfast or snack that much easier.

I know I sound like I’m being paid to endorse Ninja (I’m not), but I am really impressed with this product — especially since it can be challenging to find a blender that works well but doesn’t cost a fortune (ahem, Vitamix). I’ve had a regular Ninja blender in the past and it did not perform nearly as well as this one when it comes to green smoothies. If you’re looking for a single unit to blend your smoothies and handle your food prep needs, consider this jewel. I know I haven’t been disappointed yet!

Worth the splurge? Liforme mats

I’ve written before about my favorite yoga mats, but I’d like to add another to the list: the Liforme mat.

I shied away from the Liforme for years; the $140-plus price tag seemed way too steep. Plus did I really need all those alignment doo-hickeys etched on the mat? And was it truly as grippy as the website claimed?
I changed my tune when a friend rolled into yoga one day with her Liforme. The mat was grippy and its 72″ x 26″ dimensions offered plenty of room for my long limbs. Plus, the mat was light enough to carry to and from class, yet substantial enough to cushion my joints.

Since I was due for a studio mat and a birthday, I decided to gift myself a Liforme mat. I was not disappointed; this mat is the real deal, y’all.

Here’s what I love:

It is grippy.

I practice hot yoga, but I loathe having a towel between my hands and my mat. It is therefore imperative that my mat stays grippy throughout a heated practice. The Liforme mat fits the bill in this respect.

It has alignment markings!

I really didn’t expect to like the alignment etchings. I figured I’ve practiced yoga for many years and had enough body awareness to know when I’m aligned. I was wrong. Though I don’t refer to the etchings in every asana, they’ve proven so useful in poses like side plank and revolved pyramid– poses in which it seems harder for me to maintain alignment. Notably, the etchings are ever so slightly textured, allowing you to feel for alignment rather than glancing at your hands in every down dog.

It doesn’t smell terrible.

When I first got my Lululemon mat a couple of years ago, it smelled so strongly of chemicals that I banished it to a closet for several days; when we shared a room, I always ended up with a headache. Though the smell eventually subsided, I wasn’t eager for a repeat. So, I was relieved when the Liforme mat came out of the box ready to use. A brief airing out before my first class helped get rid of that “new mat” smell and I was good to go.

It’s pretty and it ships quickly

This lovely red mat came to me within days after ordering. I love that I didn’t have to wait around for it to arrive.

All in all, this mat has been well worth the splurge so far. I’m glad I gave it a try!

Three Black Friday deals for yogis

imageI am loving that online retailers are beginning Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales earlier this year. Why? I’m not much of a Black Friday gal (preferring instead to hang out with my family and munch on Thanksgiving leftovers) and I always forget about Cyber Monday because I’m working all day and too tired to search for deals at night. Lucky for me, there are great deals to be had on yoga gear right now at some of my favorite retailers.  I went ahead and stocked up on clothing for next year because the sales were just that good.

All the sites listed below sell clothing and/or gear for men and women, so this might be the perfect time to purchase gifts for the family!

Yogasmoga
With 75% off EVERYTHING sitewide, Yogasmoga has, by far, the best deal I’ve encountered this season. Even better, all of their gear is made in the USA and earns great performance reviews. If you’re considering taking advantage of this sale, act sooner than later — the great deals mean that sizes are running out quickly. There is no promo code needed for this deal.

Alo Yoga
A favorite of Instagram yogis, Alo is offering 30% much of its new merchandise right now. Alo is known for its environmentally conscious practices both at its headquarters and its flagship brook-and-mortar store. You’ll need a promo code for the Alo Black Friday deals, so be sure to sign up for their newsletter and follow Alo Yoga on Instagram.

Manduka
Manduka is currently offering 25% off its gift guide, which includes its coveted Black Mat Pro, select clothing for men and women, yoga towels, yoga props, and other goodies. Manduka creates quality products that are often sustainably made (many clothing items use organic materials), so this deal is particularly sweet for yogis. A bonus: there is no promo code needed for this deal.

Road trip? Don’t forget to bring these!


For the past week, we’ve been on a road trip that’s taken us from Texas to the east coast. That’s well over 20 hours of driving one way (plus plenty of hotel yoga)! Such a long trip can make eating healthfully and staying hydrated pretty difficult. Luckily we brought along a few things that kept our bodies going strong:

A cooler full of sliced veggies, soft fruits, and protein

I hesitated to bring a cooler along, since space is a premium when you’re a family of five traveling halfway across the country. I’m so glad we went ahead and brought a cooler. I’m not a fan of stopping at fast food joints meal after meal, as healthy options can be few and far between when you’re on the road. So, we packed things like seven-layer dip (with guacamole, cheese, “refried” beans, and other yummies), pan fried Field Roast fake meat, turkey sandwiches, homemade vegan chocolate chip cookies, avocado, sliced cucumbers sprinkled with salt and pepper, sliced bell peppers, blueberries, and strawberries. Thanks to our cooler, we only ate one restaurant meal during two and a half days of driving. The fresh fruits and veggies helped us stay energized during the long hours.
Hard fruits and shelf-stable fruit

We bought a box of applesauce pouches from Target. These are great if you need fruit in a pinch.


We plowed through the fruit from the cooler pretty quickly, so it was nice to have more fruit that didn’t need refrigeration. We had apples and applesauce pouches to supplement hotel breakfasts and to serve as snacks once we got to our destination.
Electrolyte packets 

I love a good electrolyte packet. I like to use one per liter of water so the water has just a hint of flavor.

Since we were heading to a warm locale, and since I’m terrible about drinking lots of water when I travel, I brought along electrolyte packets. These Ultima are not too sweet and they were great for hydrating after a sweaty walk around an amusement park.

Powdered veggie packets


I’m always worried I won’t get enough veggies on the road, so I decided to try some powdered veggies. You add them to water, juice, coconut water, or a smoothie for extra nutrients, stir or shake and then enjoy! I’ll admit this is a bit of an acquired taste — my husband was definitely not a fan — but I was so keen on getting my greens that I happily slurped it down. Just be sure to shake or stir thoroughly, keeping in mind you may need to continue doing so every few sips.

Nutty protein bars

I love the energy boost and satiety offered by nutty protein bars from companies like Kind and Larabar. These came in so handy when we needed a good snack or when the hotel breakfast setup had slim pickings. I’d post a picture of the bars but we ate them ALL!
Water bottles!

Another Target find. We use these bottles during the school year with packed lunches, while running errands, and during trips. They are durable and so handy!


Last but not least, we brought our reusable water bottles so we could refill and rehydrate with ease. Though we still ended up buying some bottled water, we saved quite a bit of money buy bringing reusable bottles and I was better able to avoid dehydration by keeping up with how much water I actually drank.

14 songs for your yoga playlist

It’s amazing what a song can do for a yoga practice. In my own practice, the right song can snap me out of sluggishness or make me as calm as a sleeping baby. The same is true for yoga classes. When I play upbeat music before class, the mood is effervescent and people are chatty and smiley. Slower, more meditative music, not surprisingly, yields more silence and introspection. I love playing with music and using it to reflect or gently shift the mood in my own practice and the classes I lead. Here are a few of my favorite songs, all of which you can stream from Apple Music (I’ve also linked to YouTube audio or visuals for almost all of them):

Warming up

Muzzle of Bees – Wilco

This is a good song for the warming up stretches taking place at the beginning of practice. Since my studio doesn’t usually play music until the end of class, I typically save this for my personal practice or for savasana when I’m teaching. The song begins with a slow rhythm and spare instrumentation, then builds up to a crescendo. It’s just the song for getting the body ready for the vibrancy of a vinyasa practice.

Ready to Flow

Why Don’t You Love Me – Beyoncé
This is usually a song I save for my personal practice, but I love the upbeat, retro tempo of this song. It never fails to get me flowing.

Shut Up and Let Me Go – The Ting Tings

This is another song I save for my personal practice since it’s one I play toward the beginning of my vinyasa flow. I love the steady drum beat, the fun vocals, and the crash of melodies in this energy-infusing song.

Restoration and Release

Sound and Color – Alabama Shakes

The soulful vocals and simple beat of this song always help me turn inward. I love it during seated forward folds, half pigeon, or frog pose.

Universal Traveler -Air

You can count on Air for calming rhythms and interesting melodies. This is a great song for restorative poses, seated postures, or savasana. This is another song I always get asked about when I play it.

Shake it Off- Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams covered Taylor Swift’s entire 1989 album and it’s awesome. I especially like Adams’ slowed-down introspective version of “Shake it Off.”

Calm and Traditional 

Sea of Oms – Leraine Hortsmanshoff

If you like more classic yoga tunes, try this song. The Oms layer over one another to create a single, multi-dimensional meditative soundtrack.

Traditional –  with a Twist

Across the Universe – Fiona Apple
I’ve enjoyed this version of the Beatles song since it appeared on the Pleasantville soundtrack years ago (back then I had no idea she was repeating the mantra “Jai guru deva ok”). I prefer the Fiona Apple rendition because of its updated instrumentation and because of Apple’s otherworldly voice. I usually get asked about this track after class.

Upbeat Savasana

Hot Knife – Fiona Apple

This song is so fun. Its simple drum beat reminds me of the beat of my heart, while the repeated lyrics and intricate harmonies help me relax. I played this during class yesterday and got good feedback.

I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free – Nina Simone

Great lyrics and vocals make this song a winner for savasna. The class always feels lighter and more optimistic after this song by Nina Simone.

Ethereal Savasana

Stop Where You Are – Corinne Bailey Rae

So much by CBR falls into the ethereal, upbeat category, and this song from her latest album is a great example of her soothing vocals and lush melodies.

Touch the Sky – Hillsong United

This song by the Christian band Hillsong United is actually a good fit for a class full of people of all worldviews. Essentially, the song is about the amazing beauty and mystery in creation, and how one can metaphorically touch the sky while feeling grounded in prayer. I find it to be a song that helps me relax and let go of tension in my personal practice, and one that connects to many in a group practice.

Calm Savasana

Present Tense – Radiohead

Radiohead is  go-to for yoga-friendly music. I like the Spanish guitar-like feel of this track, which is from their newest album.


Lilac Wine- Jeff Buckley

Jeff Buckley’s voice was smooth and beautiful, seemingly able to soar to the highest heights. This song helps me and my yoga students relax, like we’ve all had a swig of sleeping potion. I usually get asked about anything I play by Jeff Buckley since his voice was so distinctive (there’s also an equally cool version by Nina Simone).

I’d love to know your favorite songs for yoga – I’m always searching for additions to my playlists!

My favorite ethically made clothing brands

I focus quite a bit on asana, or the physical practice of yoga. However, asana is only one of eight limbs of yogic practice and recently, I’ve been thinking more about  yama, which refers to our personal ethics. One of the five yamas is ahimsa, or being compassionate and doing no harm.

In particular, I’ve been thinking about how ahimsa translates into my clothing purchases; I want to wear clothes with the knowledge that the people who made the clothing did so under good working conditions. However, I’ve found it incredibly difficult to buy clothes that are made under conditions that I would be proud to support.

I’d like to stop and say that ethical clothing purchasing is a complicated issue. Though working conditions are deplorable in the developing countries where most of our clothes are made — there are environmental hazards, extremely low pay, and intimidation for those who speak against their conditions — many who work in these garment factories depend on their factory jobs to put food on the table. Additionally, it seems nearly impossible to know the specific conditions under which  each individual item of clothing in a store were made. Two identical t-shirts could have been made under very different circumstances.

Still, I feel that unless we consumers demand higher standards from our clothing brands, the sub-par conditions are unlikely to change. And because of this, I’ve been challenging myself to think a bit more critically about my personal clothing purchases — to pay a little bit more for clothing that is made sustainably or under viable working conditions.

It can be challenging to adhere to these standards all the time, so I try to take it purchase by purchase, and to plan ahead so I’m not reaching for the bargain rack at TJ Maxx because my clothes have holes and I’m desperate for something to wear. I certainly don’t purchase ethically all the time, but I am trying to move in that direction.

In that spirit, I want to share a few brands with which I’ve had good experiences. Most are US-made, simply because in the US, labor practices are standardized, workers have recourse if they feel they are mistreated, and owners can be held accountable. I’m open to EU-based brands for the same reasons, but I just don’t know of that many.

Many brands listed below can be pricey when purchased new. To save money, look out for sales, and also be sure to scour EBay, Poshmark, and secondhand shops for finds.
I’d love for you to share your favorite well-made brands, as I want to have a long list of brands I can tap when I need something cute to wear, but I that I can also be proud to have purchased.

Outdoor Voices

I’ve mentioned this brand before in my post about favorite workout gear. I only have the Steeplechase bra from OV, but it is, hands down, the best sports bra I’ve ever owned, period. I’m definitely looking forward to trying more from OV.

Emerson Fry

Designed in New Hampshire and manufactured in New York, EF features effortless-chic clothes with minimalist lines. I have several EF items and adore them all for their simplicity and long-lasting wear. Sign up for their mailing list to keep up-to-date with when their newest collections release. You can also find pieces from the brand on EBay and Poshmark.

Imogene + Willie

I love this Nashville-based denim house and am particularly enamored of the high-waisted Elizabeth cuts. I + W jeans fit great and are US-made. I can’t yet bring myself to paying 200 smackers for jeans, but I’ve found some excellent deals on EBay and have snagged a few pairs that way.

This one shirt from Jcrew

I was pleasantly surprised to find this US-made shirt from J. Crew. Until I got a stain on it, the shirt was constantly in my wardrobe rotation. There are other variations of the shirt — there is a men’s version, as well as a tank and a dress — that are also made in the US.

Royal Apparel

This brand is great for basic tees and such. I’ve bought a couple of sweatshirts and t-shirts for myself, and several undershirts for my husband from this site. You can also find gear for kids and babies. Another bonus is that the brand sells wholesale, too, in case you’re in the market for a bevy of t-shirts. Be sure to search the website for US-made clothing or for organic or bamboo items, since not all their wares are US-made.
Pons Avarcas
These comfy sandals are made in Spain, are super cute, and are perfect for summer weather or beachy strolls. I got a pair last summer and wore them for a couple of hours during a rainstorm in London. They still look and feel great despite getting totally soaked. I ordered my avarcas through Avarcas USA, but you can also occasionally find a pair on EBay. Also check out the wedge, espadrille, and ankle strap varieties.

Liquido

This brand isn’t US-based, but it does purport to be sweatshop-free. As I wrote in a previous post, these leggings perform extremely well and stay cool even after a sweaty hot yoga class. Liquido and Outdoor Voices may just end up being my staple brands for workout gear.

Jade

Looking for an ethical yoga mat? Jade offers US-made mats composed of sustainable, biodegradable rubber. The mats are also super grippy and come in fun colors. One of favorite mats of all time was my teal Jade Harmony mat.