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Yoga Sutra: How a 2,500 Year Old Aphorism Can Increase Your Life Experience Now

The two qualities of sthira and sukha are essential to a yoga practice. Without these two attributes there is no yoga. Yoga is a state of union… mind, body and spirit. Without sthira and sukha, asana practice (physical postures) will remain relegated to the realm of calisthenics, stretching, exercise. There is nothing wrong with exercise. Exercise is fantastic. And we want more. More “bang for our buck” as the saying goes.

The two qualities of sthira and sukha are essential to a yoga practice. Without these two attributes there is no yoga. Yoga is a state of union… mind, body and spirit. Without sthira and sukha, asana practice (physical postures) will remain relegated to the realm of calisthenics, stretching, exercise. There is nothing wrong with exercise. Exercise is fantastic. And we want more. More “bang for our buck” as the saying goes. The Yoga Sutra is the classic work, the earliest known written text on Yoga by Pantanjali and it consists of 196 aphorisms (short expressions of profound wisdom).

In section 2, verse 46 Pantanjali states (in Sanskrit)… sthira-sukham-asanam

Sthira – to be conscious, steady, alert, present, firm, stable

Sukha(m) – to be relaxed, happy, gentle, at ease, comfortable, soft

Asanam – yoga posture, way of sitting, being seated, place

Basically Pantanjali is saying that every posture must contain both of these qualities to the same degree in order for the asana to be yoga. Here are some quotes that you might find helpful in putting it together…

“The posture is firm and soft” ~ Bernard Bouanchaud

“Asana must have the dual qualities of alertness and relaxation… alertness without tension and relaxation without dullness or heaviness.” ~ T.K.V. Desikachar

“The connection to the earth should be steady and joyful.” ~ Sharon Gannon and David Life

“To dwell in the sukha is to dwell in the eternal happiness of the soul.” ~ Sharon Gannon and David Life

Reaching this level of practice is attaining a certain degree of mastery with the asanas. At this point it is really not about putting your foot behind your head. It is about being fully present, steady, relaxed and happy no matter what position you are in. And this you can practice, even as a beginner.

Refining these qualities on the mat spills over to other parts of our lives as well. How would your relationships change or your attitude at work if you consciously cultivated being present, steady, relaxed and happy on a regular basis?

There is a depth to these attributes that evolves over time. Explore this yoga sutra by asking yourself in any posture “Am I… Steady? Alert? Relaxed? Happy?” In response, you may choose to slow down or to back off; at other times you may elect to engage to a greater degree in order to feel more steady or alert. This is the yoga we are cultivating. It is an inward listening and sensitivity to the moment. Not a pushing or striving to achieve something external.

Only each one of us can know for ourselves when it feels right to engage more or when it is time to soften. Our bodies are like a flower, we want them to open and to blossom so that we can experience their beauty, yet if we try to force it they, just like the flower, will break. We have to become sensitive.

Sthira and sukha are physical as well as mental disciplines. Mentally we become alert and happy. Physically we become firm yet soft. This cultivates an exquisite state of being, one where our Spirit can shine.

These qualities are the foundation upon which we are able to connect with Spirit, the Infinite. When we possess these characteristics we naturally dwell in the here and now. Our lives become more satisfying as we become more completely embodied, more fully ourselves.

Throughout history yoga has been used as a tool for transformation and awakening. Asana is just a starting point. Sthira and sukha set the stage for the practice of asana. Cultivate these qualities in your practice and increase your life experience from the inside out.

What’s Up With Om Chanting?

If you have been to a yoga class you might have been involved with chanting the sound Om. When a group of people chant this sound and all the voices find a resonance together a beautiful feeling is created. The benefits of chanting come through participation because it is something that has to be experienced to be understood. However, you may be wondering what this word is all about and why it is chanted so often, before you feel comfortable belting it out in a yoga class.

If you have been to a yoga class you might have been involved with chanting the sound Om. When a group of people chant this sound and all the voices find a resonance together a beautiful feeling is created. The benefits of chanting come through participation because it is something that has to be experienced to be understood. However, you may be wondering what this word is all about and why it is chanted so often, before you feel comfortable belting it out in a yoga class.

Om (Aum) is one of the most sacred sounds in the Sanskrit language. It is said to be the sound, or vibration, of the universe itself. Science has shown us that all of life is made up of energy (vibration); from the smallest particle to the movement of galaxies. Mind expanding adepts have passed on the knowledge that if one were to step outside of the universe and listen in, Om would be the hum or the pulsation that was heard. It is the sound of the universe experiencing itself.

Om is known as anahata, the unstruck sound; the sound made without any two things striking. It is an omnipresent vibration and is often referred to as pranava which translates into “humming”. Just as a bee hums as it goes about its business, the universe in which we live also has a hum. It is just that usually this sound is beyond our normal perception and the frequency of sounds we pick up on. It goes beyond thought and therefore Om chanting is an acknowledgment that one can indeed go into deeper realms of experience.

Om could be considered the vibration resulting from the movement of Consciousness and Energy. Science proves that the whole Universe is pulsing with energy; it is on the verge of discovering whether that energy also contains consciousness. Many Spiritual traditions have been philosophizing for thousands of years that all of life does indeed contain conscious awareness and that this in essence is God. Om is a “word expressive of God” used in the most universal sense; implying no special attribute, referring to no particular deity.

In Swami Satchidananda’s translation of the Yoga Sutras he says: “We should understand that Om was not invented by anybody. Some people didn’t come together, hold nominations, take a vote, and the majority decided, ‘all right, let God have the name of Om.’ No. He Himself manifested as Om. Any seeker who really wants to see God face to face will ultimately see Him as Om. That is why it transcends all geographical, political, or theological limitations. It doesn’t belong to one country or one religion; it belongs to the entire universe.”

If you dislike the term God, don’t worry about it — it’s just a word. Feel free to substitute other expressions that resonate with you like Source, Source Energy, The Universe, Universal Energy, Consciousness, The Infinite, The Infinite Field of Consciousness, Mother Nature or even Awesomeness whatever works for you. If you are religious it can take on whatever form of God you relate to. If you are atheist it can still work because it is not about blindly believing or worshiping some Supreme Being or Beings. It is more of a respect for the magnificence of the grand universe we live in, aware that it has a frequency tone and becoming conscious of our resonance with it.

In his book The Heart of Yoga Desikachar says… “In different cultures and different religions words are used to describe God and his qualities. It is more important that we express God with the greatest respect and without and conflicts.”

Om chanting is a form of mantra (a special word used for meditation); it is known to be the universal mantra. Mantra has been in use for thousands of years. These words are said to hold power because they have been used for so long by seekers with reverence and the belief in them to help them make their lives better. “Man” comes from mind and “tra” comes from protection. It is a protection for the mind to chant these sounds. We have hundreds of thousands of thoughts each day; many of those may not be helpful, positive or uplifting.

Often we have thoughts that loop or we say the same things over and over again; this has an influence on the mind. Imagine saying “I hate my life” over and over again all day long. It’s easy to see how you would feel bad pretty quickly. Now imagine saying “I love my life” a hundred times a day; even just saying it once can make you feel good if it’s not too far from the truth. The key is to say it with a light heart, feeling the truth of it or open to the possibility of it being true. You can not help but feel wonderful if you really embrace the meaning of these words.

Chanting the name of God (or a word that represents the most amazing thing you could imagine; or your resonance with this awesome, infinite universe we live in) also affects the mind. This type of repetition protects and calms the mind by allowing it to focus on a single, uplifting thought. Kind of like present day affirmations. These mantras are in Sanskrit; an ancient language where the words have a very specific sound or frequency that embodies the meaning. Mantra is also known to liberate conscious awareness and lift it up above mundane everyday thoughts. It can be repeated silently in the mind as a form of meditation or chanted out loud. Om can also be contemplated in a meditative state; in a very quiet, still space; in a state of listening; so that it can be experienced. You may hear a hum and it may sound like Om to you or it may not.

A mantra is to the mind like a comb is to the hair. A comb or brush is used to get out the tangles and bring all of the strands of hair together, flowing in the same direction. The mind is often like tangled hair going in all different directions at once. A mantra brushes the mind with a single thought allowing it to flow in the direction of ones choosing; calming and smoothing it at the same time.

Om represents the four states of consciousness: conscious, subconscious, unconscious and supraconscious; or another way of looking at it is waking, dreaming, deep sleep and samadhi (this translates into bliss or dissolution of the individual sense of separateness and a merging with the unified field of consciousness). It is considered a bija, or a seed syllable, out of which all other sounds arise because it has three syllables basic in all language: Ah, Oh and Mm.

The sound has four parts. In the first part the mouth is open and the jaw relaxed; the sound begins in the back of the throat as an “Aahhh;” it vibrates the belly and represents the waking, conscious mind. The second part moves through the mouth, vibrating the solar plexus and the heart area. The lips form a circle and the sound becomes “Oooh;” representing subconscious mind and dreaming. In the third part the mouth closes, the sound moves out through the lips and becomes “Mmm.” This vibrates the sound in the head and represents unconscious mind and deep sleep. The fourth part of the sound is the silence that follows, where it continues to reverberate throughout ones being and represents supraconsciousness or samadhi.

Chanting is just an exercise. It is a means to an end. It helps you get out of the cycle of negative thoughts or mundane thoughts. It is meant to lift up your mind to something higher. Yoga philosophy says that all of life is God; that every chair, cat, bird, person, rock and tree have consciousness, they have an awareness and all consciousness is a part of the mind of God; there is no-thing that is not a part of this unified field of consciousness. Quantum physics is beginning to confirm the validity of this concept. All are just different expressions of the one big mind; you could call it the mind of God or you could call it the unified field of consciousness; it’s just different words that refer to the same thing.

Now if you have a different concept of God I am not trying to convince you otherwise. If you are an atheist I am not trying to convert you to anything. I am just expressing my opinion, my experience and yoga philosophy with a little quantum physics mixed in. Everyone get to believe what they want to believe. Everyone gets to make up their own mind. Yet what I like about it is that the philosophy is open enough to incorporate all different religions and non-religious beliefs so that anyone can practice the postures, the breathing techniques, many of the meditations and chants and still benefit from them.

What makes yoga unique and useful is that it is a philosophy and a science; it has withstood the test of time because it is a duplicable process; it is about direct experience. No one need believe any of the philosophy blindly. There are techniques that the yogi uses to have an experience to see if this philosophy is true or not for oneself. Mantra and chanting are just one set of techniques that are used to bring about a higher state of awareness and understanding.

The important thing is not to get hung up on the technique, but on the experience that it is bringing to you, on the knowledge. Chanting and mantra bring you to a state where you can feel your unity with all of life; it is an experiential path. Yet if you do it mechanically, not fully in it, if your heart is closed to the possibility, you will never have the experience. One does not have to blindly believe; one can approach it as a scientist with an open heart, an unrestricted mind and an objective view that all is possible until proven otherwise. Then you are an explorer, a discoverer in unknown territory finding truth.

So chanting can be very helpful in the beginning but what we are really going for is the experience. The techniques of yoga help you have the experience of your awesome connection to all of life. And if you are not comfortable calling that God because of your upbringing or what you think that means I highly suggest you find a word you are comfortable with. Om is not worshiping a deity or a particular form of God. Om Chanting is an acknowledgment of life; pulsating, evolving, changing; beyond thought; beyond the reaches of our little planet and even our galaxy. It is an act of consciously choosing to experience our resonance with all of life.

Beginners Yoga: The Journey…

Yoga is a journey. It is not an outward adventure like it may appear, as you see yogis practicing backbends in mid-air gracefully touching their pointed feet to the top of their head as they balance, a bit precariously, on their forearms. In actuality, it is an inward exploration. And just like any trip you would take it is helpful to know where you are headed

Yoga is a journey. It is not an outward adventure like it may appear as you see yogis practicing backbends in mid-air gracefully touching their pointed feet to the top of their head as they balance, a bit precariously, on their forearms. In actuality, it is an inward exploration. And just like any trip you would take it is helpful to know where you are headed (at least what direction to start out in, if you are one of those bold, spontaneous travelers). It is even more useful to have a map and a guidebook of the area you are going to. What is most supportive in really getting to know an area and being successful in getting to where you want to go is to have a guide who is familiar with the area that can show you your way around.

What follows includes a look at the big picture (likened to a map of the earth, a country, a state or maybe even Mt. Everest). The postures (asanas) are the maps that you use to explore the terrain of your-self (these are more like maps of a particular region or the route you would take to get to the top of Everest). It is imperative to actually walk the journey yourself. There is no benefit in staying home and just studying the map! And for the beginners out there just arriving on the path of yoga, it is helpful to remember the old Chinese proverb that “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one, single step.”

One thing that emerges in the yoga world when you start looking around is that not everyone agrees on what yoga is, it can mean different things to different people. I would say that we are all on a journey. This could be compared to a journey up Mt. Everest. Everyone who decides to climb this mountain may get on board for different reasons. However, when you reach the summit, in whatever direction you turn, the top is the top. There are many base camps along the way. Someone might reach a certain camp and say “Yes, This is It! This is Wonderful, This is The Reason I Came Here. I feel so fulfilled at the beauty of this place. I do not need to go any further. This is enough.”

This would be like coming to yoga for better health, more flexibility, strength, balance, stress reduction etc… are all great because they get us to show up, to begin the journey. We might be quite content with this and just stay here for many, many years. However, at some point you might look up and realize that there is more. You might be ready to take the next step, to walk the next leg of the journey, or not. Either way is fine; one camp is not better than another; even the top is not better, there is always more, it is an ever unfolding journey.

You will probably find that if you dedicate to the practice and stick with it, it will change you in more ways than you thought it would originally; the changes are subtle yet noticeable. It will most likely help you to be more authentic – to be more fully you and at the same time to help you realize that you are more than you thought you were. It brings a sense of freedom and being limitless as you start to tap into, and have an experience of, that part of you that is connected to all of life and unbounded.

The true intention of the practice is understood in the meaning of the word, yoga means union; it comes from the root word “to yoke”. It is about uniting mind, body and spirit; leaving fragmentation behind and realizing, embracing the wholeness of who we are. This is not airy fairy, new agey stuff; and contrary to popular belief it’s not necessarily nice or pretty. It is truth: a truth that brings integration and wholeness. Each one of us must discover for ourselves our own truth. And for many of us here in the western world it starts out as being a process of self discovery, a discovery of the missing link, a recognition of the Spiritual nature of our being. We may wonder: “Do I indeed have a Spirit, a Soul? What is it? How do I know it? How do I know the difference between my Spirit and my personality?”

For some beginners, yoga may not reach this level, or base camp, for quite some time. Some may never reach this level of interest. Others might have gotten to this point from a different path. For most, in the beginning you are just trying to figure out how to breathe, how to get into these different positions, where your sit-bones are, where is your head in relationship to your hips etc… Yet as time goes by, you begin to think less, and feel more. Your awareness expands and you begin to have experiences of yourself beyond the level you are accustomed to.

This process of becoming whole is also about bringing light into the dark places, integrating the shadow, which naturally increases our own light if we can allow the process and not try to stifle or squander it. This can be scary and possibly the most difficult work we ever do, it takes a tremendous amount of courage which is why many people do not choose the journey of the Spirit.

The true purpose of Yoga is unity, integration, wholeness, connection. We start by uniting the mind and the body with the breath in the postures in order to become present; the breath is the gateway, as is the heart. In the present we are able to discover our connection with Spirit; in the present moment we are able to have an experience of the Infinite, our connection to all of life.

We are already familiar with the mind and the body (although there is still much to learn). The Spirit is the part of ourselves that has been cut off, left out and relegated to the deep caverns of our being for so long that this is where it gets fuzzy. Because the western world has, for the most part, disowned the Spirit. Many don’t even acknowledge its existence because it can not be measured in the realm of science. Yet this perception is changing, even with the help of quantum physics. A quantum physicist once told me that yogis are way of ahead of quantum physics and that they have known for thousands of years what the scientists are just beginning to discover.

Raja Yoga is the eight limbed path to self-realization. Hatha Yoga (an umbrella term for the physical postures/asanas) is the third limb, where most beginners start their yoga journey. Samadhi is the eigth limb and is often translated as bliss. So we could also say that the aim of Hatha Yoga is bliss. Many of us have had glimpses into this state of being: totally and unequivocally full of joy for no apparent (or external) reason.

Yoga is a state of being. It is not something we do, it is something we allow to unfold. We can only do practices which may lead to a state of yoga; a state of being connected, whole and full of joy for no particular reason. It is an expanded state that brings a sense of real freedom as we connect with the aspect of ourselves that is unbounded by the limits of the mind and the body… namely the spirit. It is one path, amongst many, that we can use to come home, home to ourselves and the limitless potential that resides within.

50 Reasons to Practice Yoga

Yoga has become so integrated into my sense of Self, health and well being I really can’t separate them anymore. Days that I abstain from practice just don’t seem to go as well, in general, as days that I do; I tend to be more emotional, a bit more down and the day just seems choppy; it doesn’t have the same grace and flow. When I do practice everything is put in perspective for the day, I am more clear and centered. It takes a much bigger wave to knock my socks off. I just tend to feel happier and not just emotionally, my body tends to feel lighter too. When I go several days with out practicing my body tends to get very cranky and eventually so do I until I take that time for myself.

Yoga has quickly become one of the most loved practices for health and well being here in the West. With millions of practitioners this is not just a trend. It is a lifestyle, a way of being in the world with no sign of decline in sight. So, if you are just playing with the idea of trying it for the first time or a seasoned practitioner that wants a little more inspiration I give you 50 reasons to get on the mat…

1) Increase strength and tone
2) Increase flexibility, elasticity and agility
3) Develop a better relationship with the body
4) Reduce the effects of stress
5) Improve breathing (oxygen is an essential nutrient to the cells and for many body functions)
6) Feel more centered throughout the day
7) Realize your connection to Source, Source Energy, your Higher Self, Spirit, God, The Universe, Universal Energy, The Divine, The Infinite, The Infinite Field of Consciousness; whatever you choose to call it
8) Improve balance
9) Reduce pain and/or discomfort
10) Gain focus and concentration
11) Clear out old emotional baggage stored in the body
12) Access your own inner guidance system, wisdom and intuition
13) “Know Thyself”
14) Liberate happiness, joy and well-being
15) Express loving-kindness towards your self
16) Gain emotional balance and stability
17) Improve the quality of sleep
18) Reduce or get off medications (personally I have seen some of my students get off of pills for depression and insomnia in a very short period of time)
19) Balance the hormones and glands
20) Heal injuries (if you practice correctly)
21) Reduce tension
22) Express yourself… each pose is like a work of art, a living sculpture, an opportunity for you to express your unique beauty
23) Open the channels of energy (meridians) and get the chi/prana flowing (in eastern medicine this is a state of health and wellness; disease begins in the energetic body in the form of obstruction and then moves into the physical)
24) Develop courage; learn how to do things you didn’t think you could do; expand your mind
25) Lower your blood pressure (if it’s too high)
26) Deepen your ability to be fully present for your life
27) Spiritual awakening; Enlightenment; Samadhi (bliss)
28) Improve your ability to sit comfortably for meditation and your ability to meditate
29) Establish a relationship with stillness (awake and alert, yet relaxed)
30) Prepare the ground and open the door to higher states of consciousness
31) Improve posture
32) Clean the window of the mind so that you can see things clearly
33) Cleanse, purify and detoxify the body
34) Discover a lightness of being
35) Alignment, integration and wholeness; oneness in body, mind and spirit
36) Improve the health and efficacy of all the organs
37) Gain an effortless ease; gracefulness and poise
38) Learn discipline
39) Explore freedom
40) Surrender to something greater
41) Increase endurance and vigor
42) Learn how to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations
43) Reverse the effects of aging
44) Enhance weight loss efforts
45) Elevate mood and outlook on life
46) Self empowerment; learn tools you can use to heal yourself
47) Develop a healthy spine… “You are only as young as your spine is flexible”
48) Gain core strength and a greater sense of ones power
49) Learn how to live well with an open heart
50) Beauty… with all of these benefits you can only become more beautiful in every way; a beauty that radiates from the inside out

I am sure that we could come up with many more. If you are new to yoga, just get started and see for yourself what it’s all about (it’s an experiential practice, you get to discover for yourself what it’s all about). However, I must say that it’s not always roses and sunshine. There are risks involved as with any physically demanding activity: be sensible, go slowly, practice wisely, go at your own pace, always listen to your body over anyone’s instructions and you should be more than just fine.

A lot of these are related and it’s hard to pick and choose (they are all important!), yet if I had too I’d say my top four reasons for getting on the mat regularly are #4) reduce the effects of stress, #6) feeling more centered throughout the day, #12) gain access to my own inner guidance system, wisdom and intuition and #34) lightness of being. These are the nuts and bolts, brick and mortar experiences that keep me coming back for more.

Did I leave anything out? Is there anything you want to add to the list? If so, leave a comment below and we’ll keep expanding the list! If you’ve been practicing for a while what keeps you coming back for more? If you’re new, what on this list is compelling enough for you to give it a go?

How To Clean A Yoga Mat

I never really thought about keeping my yoga mat clean until one day, in cobra pose, my nose revealed the truth of the situation at hand. It was at my yoga teacher training in Thailand. We were there for three months and it was very hot! Not to mention we were doing a very vigorous practice and there was much sweating going on. Needless to say the mats got stinky pretty quick; lucky for us we had a lot of fresh air moving through the space. Over there cleaning our yoga mat was pretty straight forward, we just hosed them off outside with cold water as needed and then hung them up to air dry.

The second time I really thought about how to clean yoga mats was while I was teaching at a community college. I realized that about a hundred different students used those mats each week. Thinking about all those feet with questionable levels of sanitation week after week and the infrequency in which the mats were washed I began to think it was kind of gross not only sharing foot funk but putting our faces down on those mats for prone positions like cobra, locust and bow. I started encouraging the school to wash them more and students to bring their own mats or at least a hand towel to put down under their faces if they were sensitive to that sort of thing.

This led me to think about my own mat at home. How long had I actually used that mat since it had been cleaned? Had I ever cleaned it? What should I be doing for maintenance to keep my yoga mat clean, sanitary and lasting for many years to come? I am actually surprised that I did not think about it sooner being the semi clean freak that I am. Luckily there are some very simple and easy ways to clean a yoga mat.

However, before I jump into the nitty gritty details of cleaning I’d like to mention that some yoga mats have a thin film on them when they are new that needs to be washed off. You’ll know you have one of these if your “sticky” mat is not sticky and you feel like you are slipping and sliding. If so, use the washing machine or the hand washing method as the spray method will not be effective in removing the film.

There are three basic ways to wash your mat as was just mentioned: hand washing, machine washing and using a spray disinfectant in between uses or as needed.

When hand washing it is helpful to have a bathtub. It works great if you have a hand held shower head (alternately use a plastic tub like the ones left over from yogurt). Use your hands, a clean sponge or a wash cloth; rub it gently (just use water or if you prefer use a mild soap like Dr. Bronner’s) and then rinse it well. If you use soap make sure you get all the soapy residue off. You can then put down a large towel, put the yoga mat on top of it, roll it up, stand on it, squish it and roll it around to get some of the water out of the mat and into the towel. Hang the mat to dry over a clothes drying rack, towel rod or over a shower curtain rod. If it is warm outside then put it outside to dry in the fresh air. The downside of this method is that it can take quite a while to dry depending on the temperature, humidity and airflow. It will probably take at least 24 hours or possibly even days. Be sure it is completely dry before rolling it back up. Otherwise the moisture that is in it will come out and it will feel wet, slippery and possibly a little slimy next time you go to use it. Give it more time than you think it needs.

Another way to wash your mat is to just put it in the washing machine. Some folks discourage this and say that it can cause little tears in the fabric, especially in top loading machines. I have not seen this happen to mine, yet use this method at your own risk. If you are nervous about it or feel uncertain just use one of the other two methods described here. I have tried this method with cold, warm and hot water, it all seems to work just fine, although most people recommend using cold water. Put one mat in the machine at a time, by itself. Sometimes I just use water other times I use a very mild soap. I have also put it in the dryer on the lowest temperature setting which seems to work just fine as well. Sometimes I’ll just dry it part way to get the initial wetness off and then air dry it the rest of the way; you can also do this with the bath tub method.

The third way to sanitize your yoga mat is to spray it down with an all natural disinfectant. Some of these are pre-made and sold in stores, yoga studios and online. You can also make your own very easily and inexpensively once you have the ingredients on hand. Find a nice, clean 8 oz. spray bottle with a good sprayer. Ideally find one that is pretty and makes you happy to look at and use, so you keep it out by your mat and will be more inspired to use it frequently. You will also need to find lavender and ti-tree essential oils and grapefruit seed extract (GSE). These are readily available at health food stores, natural supplement stores, some grocery stores and online. I know this will seem like a bit of an expense just for cleaning you yoga mat, yet if you only use these products for cleaning your mat you probably have invested in at least a five year supply of consistent use (you could even make some for your friends and give it away as gifts). Another possibility if you are on a budget is to just use one of the essential oils instead of two or even just one of these products diluted in water. However, the combination of all three is really the best and most effective. These three products have such a wide range of uses you may well find yourself using them more frequently for self care and around the home. Be sure to get real essential oils not the fake stuff and of course if you are a purest organic is best.

Grapefruit seed extract (GSE) is a very powerful antibacterial (we used it in Thailand to clean our water bottles out between uses and when we had an upset stomach from eating something questionable).

Ti-tree essential oil is anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial (very few of the essential oils are actually anti-fungal, so this is a good choice since we are dealing mostly with feet). A very small percentage of people are sensitive to ti-tree oil and many can use it directly on the skin for the healing of wounds, blemishes etc… (test a very small amount on the inside of your arm before using it more extensively on the skin; it can also be used diluted in any nut or vegetable oil). However, some people do not like the smell of this oil as it is a bit astringent (usually retail stores where you purchase essential oils have testers so that you can see for yourself if you like the smell or are turned off by it).

Lavender is one of the most loved, therapeutic and commonly used essential oils. This one is also very safe on the skin, most people can use it directly without a carrier; be mindful however these are very potent, concentrated substances (again use the inner arm test). This oil is antibacterial and antiseptic. It is relaxing, smells lovely and has balancing qualities to it. It helps treat burns (good do dilute in water and spray on a sunburn), helps accelerate the growth of new healthy skin in wounds and can help alleviate a headache by putting a few drops on the temples.

To make your yoga mat spray put 4 drops of lavender, 3 drops of ti-tree and 3 drops of grapefruit seed extract into your spray bottle (remember these are very concentrated substances and a little goes a long way). Fill the bottle with pure water, cap it and shake well (shake it up before each use). You can spray this lightly or generously onto your mat after each use or just when you feel inspired. It makes the room and the mat smell fresh and clean. You can rest assured that any funkiness has been effectively dealt with. This is one of the easiest and quickest ways to maintain and clean your yoga mat. Leave the mat out to air dry completely before rolling and storing.

Yoga has the potential to be such an opening, expansive experience. At times I have found myself laying on my mat on my stomach or in child’s pose and shrinking a bit energetically from the “ewe, my mat is stinky” experience. It is much more pleasant to stay in that expansive space; happy to breathe deeply, even with my face resting on the mat, with the peace of mind that all is fresh and clean.