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Toxic-Free Yoga Mats Your Health Will Thank You For

I capped my eight-day adventure in Cambodia many years ago with Ashtanga yoga that left me with beautiful, meaningful sores here and there. On the plane back home, I tossed and turned asking myself why it took me so long to dive into yoga when I had been reading about it years before my trip. Was it because I doubted myself too much or did indolence simply take over me? However, they say everything happens for a reason. I could have developed a lesser appreciation for the practice had I not done my first class with an almost flinty Indian ashtangi who told me that if I did not push myself, I would never learn. I could remember him towering over me, talking to me in a firm voice, and guiding me through salamba sarvangasana (shoulder stand).  This memory was sparked by my recent search for a quality yoga mat.  I can’t help but think about the first time I fell in love with yoga and how it challenged me in so many ways. Halfway through my first class, I was so sure I’d collapse sometime within the 90-minute practice. I was (obviously) out of shape albeit all the walking I did in the 21 temples I visited during my trip.

P.S. I made it through the challenging 90-minutes… smiling.

Is Your Yoga Mat Harming You?

The first thing I did when I reached home from that enlightening trip was to begin my search for the “perfect” yoga mat. I envisioned mine to be a shade of green, and that’s exactly what I got. Having very few options, and nothing more than a modicum of understanding of what a quality yoga mat should be, left me picking the first one I liked when I went to a sports store. The generic yoga PVC mat I bought served me for the first few years of my consistently inconsistent yoga practice.  I then felt the need to move on to a much better mat. By better, I mean something that would not emit a strong toxic smell every time I would unroll it. And yes, ‘a shade of something’ — I know better now — is not the best way to go to choose a yoga mat.

Looking for a quality yoga mat can be daunting. A quality yoga mat could also be expensive, that is why it is important for us to understand why, despite the challenges, we always need to choose quality over other factors. Yoga practitioners can benefit from high-quality yoga mats as they have an impact on our health, as well as the environment. While PVC yoga mats are cheaper and can last for a long time, they are non-biodegradable and are made from toxic materials such as lead, phthalates and cadmium. Our friends from Consumers Advocate got in touch with Cure for Mondays and gave us this valuable information: “The plastic mats that used to be popular are less favorable today because they are not bio-degradable. These plastic mats available today, at least the less expensive ones, are made with PVC. PVC mats can last longer but they come with a cost— they’re made with toxic materials.”

I’m not very happy with the thought of my body absorbing all the toxins and I’m sure neither are you. This served as one of my “I should have known better” moments.

What Exactly are Considered High-Quality Yoga Mats?

There are so many yoga mats available on the market now and making the right choice is done best following a good guide.  Different kinds of yoga mats can cater to your specific needs. There are rubber yoga mats available, natural and synthetic, that can be appealing to many yoga practitioners. Rubber mats offer a lot of grips and are very flexible. However, synthetic mats can wear down fairly easily and get damaged from heat.

Natural rubber is biodegradable and can be reused more readily. Synthetic rubbers, on the other hand, are not biodegradable and are harder to recycle. Therefore, if you decide to buy a rubber mat, make sure to buy the natural kind that is bio-degradable and better for your body.

Here’s a guide shared with us by Consumers Advocate so we can have a better understanding of our mats’ biodegradability.

quality yoga mats biodegradabiity
Integrate ‘ahimsa’ into your practice by choosing eco-friendly yoga mats.

The best mats that are offered today are eco-friendly brands. They are not only better for the environment, but better for your body. Eco-friendly mats are all made from biodegradable materials that are not toxic to your body and much better for the environment.

Eco-friendly mats come in cotton, jute, cork and many other materials that are comfortable and can meet your yoga style. Most of these mat types will provide you the right grip that’s helpful for your balance in all types of yoga practices. In fact, the sturdier eco-friendly mats are more helpful in yoga practices that require you to lunge, kneel or hold your position for any length of time. Most of the eco-friendly mats are thicker, which can help prevent you from getting injured during more strenuous types of yoga.

The great news is, now you can find a quality, non-toxic yoga mat that will suit your needs. Check this link to Consumer Advocates’ list of well-reviewed quality mats that won’t hurt your health nor Mother Earth.

toxic-free yoga mat
Here’s my current love, the Prana E.C.O.

E.C.O Prana is PVC free, chloride free, latex free, and uses non-toxic materials in its production. It is also recyclable.

Care to share the yoga mat you use? Help our readers choose the best-quality yoga mat by letting us know what you love about your mat!

What the Pho?! Flavors of Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)

You can have your food on a silver plate, in a fancy restaurant, and maybe even have it served by a dapper waiter. Or you can have it handed to you by a sweaty,  grumpy vendor (depending on what time of the day it is) who won’t need words to satisfy your gastronomic needs. Some of the best foods liven up streets no matter where you go. I used to tell our foreign guests in jest that in Southeast Asia, the dirtier the street food is, the yummier it is. Are you tasting the half-truth of this yet? There is something about food cooked in makeshift kitchens and pushcarts that make them more authentic and exciting.

I recently visited Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) and the place is a mecca of street food and all kinds of local cuisine. The colors, the smell and the entire experience left me surrendering to all the good stuff on my plate–and at other times, my friend’s plate.

Here’s a taste of Ho Chi Minh…

street food vietnam, colored rice
Pick your color. Here, it’s rice galore.
street food vietnam, local pizza
Bánh tráng nướng, the local pizza of Vietnam.
street food vietnam, Vietnamese pizza
Right in every bite, Vietnamese pizza.
street food saigon, different fruits
Fruits? They have it all. Seriously.
street food vietnam, banana crisps
Crispy banana sheets
street food vietnam, muffins
Muffins…because everybody loves them.
street food vietnam, pizza toppings
Not your usual pizza toppings, but these make Vietnamese pizzas scrumptious.
street food vietnam, duck soup
Duck in egg noodle soup, my first dinner in Saigon.
street food vietnam, mushroom in soup
The innocent mushroom in my duck soup.
street food saigon, beef
Beef for the hot pot.
street food vietnam, hot pot
The very hot pot.
street food vietnam, seafood rice
Seafood fried rice from one of the food stalls at Ben Thanh Market.
street food vietnam, seafood dumpling
The shrimp dumpling that left me smiling.
street food vietnam, spring rolls
Spring rolls, another winner from the Ben Thanh Market.
street food vietnam, beef soup
Beef soup with fresh leeks. It was Pho good!
street food vietnam, fern cake
Banh beo or rice water fern cake. This is honestly my least favorite local food in Saigon. You should still give it a try even if I don’t have any good reason to give you.
street food vietnam, beef taco
Beef taco from the Heart of Darkness Brewery.

 

street food vietnam, cassava
Cassava served at the Cu Chi Tunnels tour.
street food vietnam, cold drink
You tell me what this is because I really can’t remember the name of this yummy, non-alcoholic, coconut-laced drink from Runam Bistro.

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street food vietnam, honey tea
Organic honey tea with lemon from the Unicorn Island.
street food vietnam, local fruits
Dragon fruit, pineapple, papaya, makopa and guava…everything you’d ever want on a table of fruits.
street food vietnam, tea
A shot of local tea at the Mekong Delta.
street food vietnam, water spinach
Stir-fried water spinach at the Mekong Delta.
street food vietnam, banh mi
Banh mi!
street food vietnam, cake from phuc long
Whatever mini cake you’ll find at Phuc Long, go ahead and try it! They’re all cheap and won’t disappoint.
street food vietnam, tilapia
Tilapia, yes? It later evolved into a fish roll, a Unicorn Island specialty.
street food vietnam, fish stew
Fish stew that was absolutely yummy!
street food vietnam, aussie steak
Sometimes you also need to step away from local food and check their take on your can’t-do-without steak.

 

 

street food vietnam, chicken
No fowl left behind. Or is there?

If you have traveled to this part of Vietnam, share with us your favorite local dish and shoot us an e-mail at cure4mondays@gmail.com or leave a comment below. Would love to share gastronomic experiences with you!

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Do More With Used Coffee Grounds

Have you been throwing out used coffee grounds? That means you have a less stinky trash bin, which is good. But there are other coffee ground uses that will help you save on hand washes and body scrubs.

As I’m writing this, my head is throbbing. Must be from soaking under too much sun over the weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I had a lovely time taking in as much wind and view of the Sierra Madre mountain range as I could, but too much sun is taking its toll on me. My advice to anyone suffering from a migraine is to drink black coffee, no sugar. You know sugar kills. That has worked for me for years. But today’s a little different. I’m staying away from caffeine, but only for a day.

If I can’t drink coffee I might as well talk about it.

Coffee never goes to waste. After enjoying a heavenly brew you can save those grounds for a lot of other uses.

If you decide to throw the ground into your trash it’s still going to serve its purpose as a deodorizer. It will get rid of the nasty smell and you’ll get a whiff of coffee whenever you open the trash bin instead of the rotten stuff you threw in there.

Used coffee grounds — here’s what I like to do with them:

Hand wash – It removes stubborn smells that soaps and hand washes can’t get rid of.

Skin softener – Rub it gently on your hands. Massage the back of your hands with the coffee ground then rinse. The instant softness is addicting, I tell you. You’ll find yourself washing your hands with coffee grounds many, many times every day. I love using this on the back of my hands especially because it takes away years from them. It’s a great anti-aging formula!

Body scrub – Spas offer coffee body scrubs for a hefty price, but then, you have all that you need in your coffeemaker.

My favorite DIY would be this and I’m sure you’ll like it, too. Bring a jar with you to the shower and give yourself some good loving using coffee as a body scrub.

Facial scrub – Among the facial scrubs I’ve tried, this one works wonders. It’s non-drying and does a great job exfoliating even the sensitive areas of your face.

You can also use coffee grounds as food plants and general deodorizer in any area in your home.

Care to share what you do with your used coffee grounds?