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The Best Yoga Accessories for a Better Practice

Leggings and a yoga mat: That’s all you need to do yoga, right? While that technically isn’t wrong, it’s not totally right either. You can definitely get your yoga on with some stretchy/comfy pants and a mat, but if you really want to commit to and grow your practice, there are a few additional yoga accessories you should consider adding to your toolkit.

The 4 Best Yoga Accessories for Improving Your Practice:

Yoga Mat

1. Find the best yoga mat for you
Let’s start with the obvious: your yoga mat. You can find a mat for all types of practices on any budget. There are mats specifically for hot yoga, mats for taller people, and mats with a little or a lot of cushion.

I have personally tried several different brands and the best yoga mat I have found is my Yoga Design Lab yoga mat! It’s beautiful, vibrant, and makes me happy when I roll it out. It’s also great for hot classes and preventing slipping in general. (Side note: if you like hot classes, you may want to consider getting a towel to spare your mat some sweat!) But for me this one has great grip and just the right amount of cushion.

I have the studio version and I find it to be a great weight to throw over my shoulder (it helps if you have a strap for this) when I head out to class while still being supportive and soft under my body. If you want a smaller, even lighter option, you could try the commuter version! This is easily one of the best yoga accessories to invest in!

2. Get good yoga blocks for support
After you lock down a mat you love, you can move onto (in my opinion) the next most important yoga accessories to support your physical practice: yoga blocks and a strap. These props are key to a solid, aligned, and safe yoga practice. In my classes I notice a lot of people resist using props because they think it makes them look like a beginner.

I promise, it doesn’t. I have been practicing yoga for more than 10 years and I still use blocks and a strap every time I step on my mat. Rounding your back because the ground is too far away, or straining your shoulders because you cannot properly bind your hands behind your back isn’t only not cool, it’s not good for your alignment. Think of these props as your friends and know that by using them you’re doing your body and your practice a favor.

No need to go crazy and spend tons of money on these puppies, though. This combo package from Gaiam has both yoga blocks and a strap at a reasonable price. Or, if you’re looking for something a little more advanced, consider getting a yoga wheel.

books on yoga

3. Deepen your practice with books on yoga
Remember that yoga isn’t just a physical practice! If you’re interested in yoga beyond asana (postures) and want to explore the philosophy behind it, I encourage you to read. Read lots of books about yoga asana, meditation, spirituality, and anything else that interests you about the world of yoga.

One of the first books I read about yoga and the yoga lifestyle was “Happy Yoga” by Steve Ross. I love this book because it breaks things down in a simple way. It taught me how to take my practice off my mat and into my life. Ross makes it entertaining and fun by keeping things pretty light and sometimes silly, but also weaving in yogic stories and philosophies. There are also postures at the end of each chapter to help incorporate what you have read into your physical practice. This book also helped me make the decision to become a vegetarian, so be warned and encouraged!

Another great yoga book is B. K. S. Iyengar’s “Light on Yoga”. This one is a little heavier and has more in-depth explanations on yoga philosophy. It’s a great resource if you’re ready to deepen your understanding of yoga, yoga asana, and pranayama (breath). Fair warning with this book: Iyengar can do insane things with his body. It’s important to remember that he practiced his whole life and can only achieve these expressions of the postures because of time and practice.

For more personal, spiritual aspirations, I’d also recommend “Adventures for Your Soul” by Shannon Kaiser. This book helped me through a time of transition and connected me more deeply to my soul and my purpose in life. You can easily pick it up, read a chapter, do the work associated with that chapter, and then set it down for another time. Get yourself a journal dedicated to this book as you will need to do some writing and brainstorming throughout. Kaiser’s writing is entertaining and her story is easy to connect with. There are so many awesome self-help style books out there, and this one is definitely worth adding to your collection.

Yoga Meditation

4. Raise your vibration with a meditation cushion
Lastly, if you are looking to venture into the land of meditation, a good meditation cushion is a great thing to add to your arsenal of yoga accessories. One option is to get a bolster, which you can use for your physical practice, too. But I find that having a dedicated prop used only for meditation helps me actually meditate because it feels special and sacred.

My personal favorite is this meditation cushion by Peace Yoga. You can adjust the cushioning by changing up the amount of buckwheat inside. It also helps to make yourself a little space, even a corner of your bedroom or living room, where your meditation cushion lives. Let that be the space you can come back to each day, to be quiet and still, and tune into yourself.

Wherever you are in your practice, these are all great yoga accessories to develop a solid, educated, aligned, and connected practice. Call it the basic starter kit, if you will, but it’s great for advanced yogis too! Enjoy your new props, books, and anything else you decide to add– and congrats on starting or deepening your practice!

 


 

About the Author: Tacy Nielson is a Yoga Instructor and Reiki healer who is passionate about holistic healing, traveling and living life to the fullest. She was born and raised in Minnesota and is now enjoying life in Minneapolis after studying massage therapy in San Diego. Read more from Tacy here.

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yamdrok-lake-in-winter

The 4 Best Reasons to Tour Tibet in Winter

Perched high on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Tibet boasts awe-inspiring Himalayan mountain vistas, mysterious Tibetan Buddhist culture, and captivating local customs. With blinding sunlight and clear, deep blue skies, all visitors need to go through the phase of acclimatization to the high altitude on the plateau as they tour Tibet.

With its incredible alpine scenery and inhospitable natural environment, Tibet has many natural features worth seeing during a Tibet tour. But first, we want to clear up some misconceptions about Tibet travel, particularly about visiting Tibet in the winter.

Insider Tip: Tibet has an average altitude of more than 4000m (13000 feet), and the oxygen content in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, is one third less than that of Beijing. Tibet tourism reaches its high season from early April to Oct. From mid-Oct. to early Feb the next year, it’s the off season. During mid-Feb and March, Tibet has a recess and is completely unavailable to visit by international tourists.

Here are the 4 Biggest Misconceptions about touring Tibet in winter:

 1. The winter weather in Tibet is unbearable.

Undoubtedly, this is one of the biggest misunderstandings of Tibet. True, the weather on the lofty plateaus does get bitter cold. In reality, the weather is quite temperate from season to season and Tibetan winters are not as cold as one expects.

Take Lhasa (3658m), the capital of Tibet for example, the average annual temperatures are: Spring ( -2℃ to 12℃); Summer (9℃ to 22℃); Autumn (7℃ to 19℃) and Winter (-7℃ to 9℃).  There is not a huge difference between winter and the other three seasons. There is a proverb in some places that one can experience four seasons in just one day. In Tibet, it can be hard to tell the difference of the four seasons in a single year. The unique climate of Tibet is largely due to the ample sunlight and strong solar radiation. As long as there is sunlight, you won’t feel cold at all. Besides, heavy snow normally occurs in mountains areas, while the Lhasa valley is spared most of the time.

Insider Tip: Whenever you come to Tibet you will experience the dramatic temperature change between day and night. Be prepared for the chilly winds on the plateau and use a sunhat, sun glasses, and sun screen to protect you from strong UV light. Don’t forget to drink lots of water as the mountain air is very dry.

2. The Oxygen Content Is Extremely Low in Winter

Many people assume that the heavy snow and lack of vegetation in winter would further intensify the low oxygen content. In fact, according to the statistics from the China meteorological bureau, the oxygen content of Lhasa in summer is around 66% of that of the plain regions, while in winter the figure falls only 3 points to 63%. The subtle difference feels negligible to the body.

All people travelling to Tibet will have some mild altitude sickness symptoms in one way or another. It’s highly advisable to stay in Lhasa for a couple of days for acclimatization purposes.

Insider Tip: After your arrival in Lhasa, never hurry to tour attractions inside Lhasa or other areas. Instead, you’d be better served to have a sleep at your hotel. If you have shortness of breath, try to avoid smoking, drinking too much alcohol, or eating too much food because they will only exacerbate the situation. Also, try not to overexert yourself, otherwise you might suffer acute altitude sickness.

3.  Most of the Attractions Can’t Be Seen in Winter

Another common misnomer about touring Tibet in winter is the belief that many attractions and shops will be closed due to the heavy snow and subsequent fewer numbers of tourists. In fact, the attractions in Lhasa and surrounding areas are readily available for tourists year round (except from mid-Feb to March). The temperature does get cold in mountains areas. However, as long as the road is not completely blocked by a blizzard, all attractions still remain available.

namtso-lake

The frozen Namtso Lake(4718m) will take your breath away instantly, with its surface exquisitely embedded into the lofty Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains. October is also one of the best seasons to visit Mt. Everest (8844.43m) at EBC in Tringri, Tibet.

Instead of closing souvenir shops, most of the businessmen inside Lhasa offer more products that cater to local Tibetans. In winter, Tibetan farmers and nomads have more time to go on a pilgrimage in this holy city. The few tourists and more Tibetan pilgrims allow you to enjoy the most intense religious atmosphere in Lhasa. You can explore more local customs than in high seasons of tourism.

Insider Tip: In addition to being less crowded, it takes less time for you to get your Tibet Permit in winter. You can enjoy more tourism promotion events in Lhasa and Shigatse, and the cost for hotels, transportation, and attraction tickets can also be much cheaper. In addition, the grandest celebration, Losar (Tibetan New Year), is also celebrated in winter. The various performances and distinct local dishes can only be seen and tasted during this particular time.

4.  All You Can See Is the Lifeless Mountain Scenery

Many falsely believe that the scenery in winter of Tibet is little more than monotonous, cragged mountains and valleys. But in fact, even in winter, Tibet is full of surprises. In Nyingchi (3100m), in eastern Tibet, the evergreen pristine forest and enchanting landscape will awe your senses.

Tour Tibet

Due to the influence of the warm air currents in Yarlung Tsangpo River, the typical “Swiss-Alps” scenery in Nyingchi remains unchanged. Why not enjoy the ride either on the tour bus or bicycle along the charming Nyang River, or explore in the renowned Lulang Forest? Nyingchi is the only place with dense forest coverage and lower altitude, so there is no need to worry about altitude sickness there.

Insider Tip: In winter, a large number of migratory birds will fly all the way from other provinces to spend the winter in Tibet. Never miss the rare chance to see a large number of black-necked cranes in the suburbs of Lhasa.

Best Travel Routes for Winter Tibet Tour

tibet-tour

Different regions of Tibet

Lhasa—Gyantse—Shigatse—EBC
Lhasa— Namtso (Nagqu)
Lhasa—Nyingchi

Overall, for international tourists, the excitement of a Tibet tour in winter definitely surpasses all expectations.

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roadtripont2

Toronto To Montreal: JustFly’s Guide To Canada’s Most Popular Road Trip

If you ask anyone to name Canadian cities, you are likely to get two places more often than any other. Toronto, Ontario and Montreal, Quebec, for example, are two world-famous cities for various reasons. With just five hours of country highway lying between these two urban spots, it’s become very popular to make the journey between these two distinctly Canadian cities. While one might think there isn’t much to see in the wilderness between these two spots, there are actually a number of unique stops one can make over the course of this trip. To find out what you could be missing, we asked JustFly, an online travel agency, what exactly you should do between point A and point B.

First Stop: The Big Apple

No, not that Big Apple. Just East of Toronto you come across the small town of Colborne, Ontario. While this tiny town seems like just a small dot on the map, it is also home to The Big Apple pie shop. You can try as hard as you want, but you can’t miss the giant apple on the side of the road.

roadtripont1

Complete with a sign that claims more than 5,000,000 pies sold, this shop has a reputation for having great pies and other neat souvenirs. You can’t miss it, nor should you, and it’s a great first stop if you happened to hit traffic on the way out of the Greater Toronto Area. Don’t take our word for it, though. Check out JustFly’s review for more details.

Second Stop: Sandbanks Provincial Park

You like sand? You like fresh water? What about massive sand bars and dunes while sitting in fresh water? Then Sandbanks Provincial Park is a must-visit. Featuring the world’s largest fresh water sand bar and dune system, Sandbanks is one of the best beaches to sit and just relax. It’s true that its Northern location can make the water a little brisk if you aren’t there during warmer weather, but if you’re lucky enough to catch a day with warm water, there may not be a better beach in all of Canada. Keep in mind that the sand at this park is very active, making it necessary at times to relocate the roads keep them accessible to the public.

Third Stop: Thousand Islands

The name itself can be deceiving, as there are actually 1,864 islands in the region, according to JustFly.  Nevertheless, the Thousand Islands area will certainly provide a relaxing experience. Whether you just want to ride the Thousand Islands Parkway to get a break from the relentless 401 highway, or you are looking for some great sightseeing hikes and boat trips, this region has something for everyone. Nestled between Ontario and Northern New York State, the islands are held to high standards. In fact, a land mass is required to protrude from the water year-round, occupy at least one square foot, and support at least two living trees to be counted as one of the nearly 2,000 islands.

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Likoma Island Sunset

Top Travel Safety Tips

Travel is scary. No matter how experienced the traveler, each new destination is a stretch outside the comfort zone. For some, the fear of the unknown is incapacitating. It’s the reason many people never leave their home town, let alone their countries. For others, though, it is the thrill of conquering these fears alone that entices them to hit the road. There is unparalleled growth beyond the walls of our safe and monotonous existence.

The potential to be in a dangerous situation in a foreign place is probably the scariest thing about traveling. Imagine being somewhere you know next to no one, where you don’t speak the language, and couldn’t get anywhere quickly without taking ten minutes to consult a map. Yikes. I personally don’t believe, however, that this is reason enough to not venture out.

In fact, I would argue that danger lurks in even the safest places, and that instead of laying fault to the locations, we can take it upon ourselves to be prepared for what may come. Last summer, for example, I spent two months traveling through Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique. Although I had been to Egypt and Morocco before, I had no idea what to expect. The American media perpetuates a misconception that travel in Africa is more dangerous than nearly anywhere else.

For the most part, this couldn’t have been further from the truth. Not only did I feel largely welcome wherever I went, I also met a number of female solo travelers who felt the same. In Zambia, I squeezed into packed buses, with my luggage tucked away out of sight, hitchhiked on the back of flatbed trucks and in the personal cars of complete strangers without issue for almost a month.

But this is not to say the entire trip was without incident. Because when I crossed over into Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world, I was met with an unfortunate event. After withdrawing cash and heading to the market, I had almost $200 USD pick-pocketed directly from my backpack in the capital Lilongwe. It was a series of simple mistakes that leaves you wanting to blame the state of the world.

I was angry, of course. It forced me briefly to reconsider visiting Lilongwe, or to think that the locals were mean-spirited (also untrue, as Malawi is rightly known as ‘the warm heart of Africa’). But then I realized that the risk of theft is present almost anywhere in the world. I could have been pick-pocketed in San Francisco or Paris and to shame an entire city, country, people or continent for one fateful event is quite simply wrong.

And, truthfully, I was partly to blame as well. I had lessened my guard after becoming more comfortable on the road. I stopped carrying my money belt and wearing clothing with hidden pockets. If instead I had taken a sturdier pack with more zippers, I may still have my $200 USD (probably not, because I like souvenirs). The truth is, though, that in the end it didn’t matter. The experience I got from being in Malawi far outweighed the worth of the money itself.

Cape Maclear Malawi

Cape Maclear Malawi

 

That day I learned an especially valuable lesson: that you should go wherever your heart desires (within reason), but you should also be prepared to take necessary precautions. When it comes to pick-pocketing in particular, there are several travel safety tips for safe-keeping. A money belt is a simple, straightforward way to keep your personal belongings on your person. Another newly developed option is clothing with built-in security. You can get a travel jacket with specifically designed secret pockets to guard your goodies.

Whichever way you choose to go, know that there is a numerated amount of risk that comes with travel anywhere at any given time, but running the risk is always worth the rewards of the experience.

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Clouds hang over Whistler BC

5 Must-Have Travel Items for a Cold Winter Trip

LEANNE MARIE – ON BEHALF OF AWEEKATTHEBEACH.COM

I think we can all agree that often the most difficult part in planning a trip is preparing the items you need to bring. It varies, of course, depending on where you’re going and for how long. The task, for example, becomes especially difficult when you are off to a destination with cold and snowy weather.

Recent weather is bringing plenty of snowfall in California and across many of the Northern and Western states. (Finally some great news for all us winter sports fanatics!) States like Idaho and Colorado, a few of our favorite destinations to visit  if you are brave enough to travel this cold winter season, are perfect for a mid-winter trip. If you haven’t already heard, Keystone Snow Fort and Skating Rink comes with some of the best attractions, like a snow fort complete with mazes and slides. But, even with enough courage, an unprepared traveller will find it difficult to enjoy this kind of trip if they don’t  pack the right items.

Because we want you to enjoy every trip, we’re highlighting what every traveler must have in their luggage.  These are the 5 must-have travel items for a cold winter trip.

1. Layers of clothes

When it comes to your clothes, consider packing in layers rather than in bulk, as heavy sweaters and sweatshirts take up a ton of space in the luggage. This strategy will also give you more clothing options, which is always a plus. Clothes made of wool are especially helpful because it helps to regulate body temperature in any weather. Thin wool shirts will help keep your body cool when the temperature suddenly heats up, unlike a heavy sweater, which will most likely be sitting useless in your bag. You can also choose clothes that come with hoods, so you don’t have to worry about bringing additional hats along.

2. Thermal Socks

Along with your clothes, thermal socks will be highly important in this trip. Commonly, the feet are one part of the body that have the least clothing, but you can keep them more insulated in chilly weather by packing thermal socks with optimal warmth and comfort. A great tip is to pack hiking socks, because they tend to come in thinner styles than regular winter socks, but they’re also made of wool to keep your feet warm. Better yet, they’re designed to dry faster, can be hand-washed, and they still take up less space in your bag.

Winter Travel

3. Gloves

Gone are the days when mittens and wool gloves were the only options to cover your hands, at least for savvy travelers. Today, the best hand covers come in all shapes, designs, and sizes. If you’re on the hunt for something special for a particular trip, look out for gloves that offer any of the following features:

  • Waterproof
  • Breathable
  • Light
  • Quick-drying
  • Good grip
  • Metal fingers for smartphone use

4. Boots

When looking for footwear, opt for the shoes that give you both comfort and warmth in case you will be walking on ice. Boots are easily the best way to meet this requirement when traveling in winter. Apart from providing more warmth, boots are durable, come with good traction and are often waterproof. There are a number of solid, low-frills, attractive winter boots that you can wear right onto the airplane. We’d suggest ones with light lacing and dark colored, so stains will not show easily, but nothing is as heavenly as slipping into a comfortable boot apres-ski.

5. Scarves

To complete your look for the winter, don’t forget to bring a warm scarf on your trip. Consider colorful ones to bring balance to more muted winter wear. It will brighten up your whole ensemble all the while keeping you warm. Scarves aren’t only for the ladies, either. Men can also wear a scarf to look dapper in winter. If you’re still not sold, check out this Life Hack guide with 11 ways to tie a scarf for men.

Winter is as fun a season to travel as any, since there are certain attractions that are only available at this time. But it does usually require more preparation than a destination that only really calls for swimwear. If you have other tips worth sharing for travelers going on an adventure this winter season, leave your ideas in the comment section below.

 

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