YOGA KNEE PADS

Yoga knee pads can be a really useful accessory. A good yoga mat provides cushion for the joints but when I started practising more low lunge yoga sequences in backbend and hip opening classes, I always had to cushion my bony knees with a folded towel. So when I discovered the yoga knee pad, it was so convenient.

Knee pads are not just for senior folks with bad knees. Beginners with tight hip flexors or even regular practitioners could use some extra support. Some people may also need a seat cushion for poses like navasana (boat pose where you balance on your bottom) if your coccyx (tail bone) is protruding. These are foam pads that you can place over your yoga mat to provide cushion for your joints. You can bring it to the studio because it is lightweight and can be easily rolled up. 

When choosing a yoga knee pad, you want to ensure that it provides enough padding to cushion and protect your joints but it should be dense enough to provide support as well.  If you are bringing it to the studio, you also want it to be lightweight and portable. Cost is also a consideration. The price can range from US$10 to US$50.

The first one I bought gave some comfort in my practice but intensive regular practice meant the padding got dented. My second pad which I am still using is a Sukhamat which is one of the most popular in the market. I am happy with it. It is thick and firm enough. Friends also recommend Heathyoga and Florensi yoga knee pads so I have included them in this list. There may be cheaper options but they may not give you the same kind of support and protection. Also they will get dented more easily and may not be durable. In the end it will be more economical to invest in a better quality yoga knee pad. It is also more environmentally friendly to buy one that lasts longer. 

Yoga Knee Pads We Like

Heathyoga 

26″ x 10″ x 12.7mm
US$17.95
US$11.52 shipping 
Total US$29.47
Available from Amazon 

Made from eco-friendly TPE material, PVC and latex-free. Certified Phthalates free. Heathyoga closed cell foam will not absorb sweat or liquids, and it can be easily cleaned with a damp cloth after your practice. Comes with a carry strap for easy packing. It has a good grip and can be used on any surface or mat.

Sukhamat

24″ x 10″ x 15mm
US$18.95
US$6.95 to US$11.69 shipping 
Total US$30.64
Available from Amazon and Sukhamat.com

Made from eco-friendly high density closed cell NBR foam, this is a highly popular choice and has been certified “Yogi Approved” by YogiApproved.com. Coming with a lifetime guarantee, it is designed for optimal comfort, balance and stability. 

Florensi

26″ x 10′ x 15mm
US$24.99 US$18.11 shipping
Total US$43.10
Available from Amazon 

Made from eco-friendly TPE material, PVC and latex-free. It also has an excellent grip that works on any type of floor and mat. Extra thick support with alignment patterns.

Yoga Jellies

Average price US$50
Available from Amazon

They can come in pairs, one for each knee. Some are round while others can be in the shape of flower petals. Due to its small size, it needs to be adjusted and placed correctly when extra support is needed during yoga sessions. Good for posting in IG photos because it looks prettier and less cumbersome. Other than that we still prefer the rectangular mats for practice.

Strapped on Knee Pads

We do not recommend knee pads that are worn over the knees like volleyball players for yoga practice. They may provide protection but restrict movement and possibly circulation.  If you have knee issues, we want to use yoga poses to heal but wearing a thick knee pad only provides protection and does not allow you to work properly in the pose and thus may slow down the body’s ability to heal itself.

Author: Nam Yogi

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Why I love Vinyasa Class

In the early years of my yoga practice, I did a lot of flow and Ashtanga classes so later when I started doing Vinyasa class it felt similar, yet different. I loved it. As with Ashtanga Yoga, it was supposed to be like a moving meditation but the sequences of poses flowed like a dance to me. Unlike Hatha or Ashtanga Yoga where the poses are held steady for a longer time, in Vinyasa there is a constant flow and an emphasis on the sequencing that links each posture to one another allowing the body to move freely guided by the breath. The poses are familiar but the sequences can change with each class and you have to listen intently to the teacher’s verbal cues and be aware of your alignment. My body feels open and relaxed after a Vinyasa class because of improved prana(Qi) flow and blood circulation.

Vinyasa Yoga seems to have originated from Ashtanga Yoga. Both employ flows and transitions with a vinyasa (linking sequence between poses). However the two practices are quite different. Ashtanga uses the vinyasa (with the signature jump-backs and jump-throughs) while Vinyasa adopts more of a Sun Salutation type vinyasa (eg. plank, chaturanga, upward dog, downward dog linking sequence between poses). In Vinyasa Yoga, the sequences of poses also vary. The movements are more fluid and allow for more creativity as compared to Ashtanga Yoga where the 6 series of postures adhere to a set sequence in a predetermined order of postures practised in a progressive manner. As a philosophy, Vinyasa Yoga recognises the temporary nature of things so poses are not held for long but you enter a posture, stay for a while and then move on. You can think of it as a freestyle Ashtanga Yoga. The similarity is that both practices emphasize an alignment of the movement with the breath.

As challenging poses are done in quick succession, Vinyasa Yoga can build strength and endurance providing a good cardiovascular ‘workout’. A defining characteristic of Vinyasa classes is the variety of sequences offered that changes with every class. Generally, no two classes are alike. Practitioners who are familiar with yoga poses will enjoy the challenge. Sometimes inversions and arm balances can also be weaved into the flow sequences. Due to its intensity and variations, the mind has to be alert to follow the teacher’s verbal cues while observing good alignment when transitioning through the poses. I find that it helps improve my balance, concentration and focus. 

So if you are new to yoga, it may be better to start off with Hatha Yoga to learn the poses and correct alignment in a slower-paced class. But if you want to try out Vinyasa Flow, why not? Just do both. With regular practice and guidance from a good teacher, you will get the hang of it and pick it up. Maybe you will enjoy it as much as I do. And now I love teaching it too.

Author: Nam Yogi

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History of Yin Yoga

Yin yoga is a slow paced practice based on the Taoist concept of Yin and Yang, opposing forces in nature which are complementary.  It is about finding balance in our practice, being able to step back, let go and go slow.

Incorporating principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the yoga poses are held passively for extended periods of time using minimal muscular effort. The postures could be held from 1 to 5 minutes or even longer. The sequences of long-held poses work on applying moderate stress to the deeper connective tissues – ligaments, joints, tendons, bones and fascia – to lubricate the joints and increase joint mobility as well as to stimulate Qi flow along energy channels known as meridians in TCM or nadis, its equivalent in Hatha Yoga. Yin Yoga also helps in cultivating stillness and improving flexibility particularly in the lower body – hips and pelvis – to prepare one for sitting long hours in meditation. It is not a complete practice on its own but useful in complementing the Yang or more active yoga styles to balance the body.

Long-held poses are not new. These practices have been around for thousands of years and were practised in Hatha Yoga in India.  In China, Qigong which also involved long-held poses and breath work were also practised in Taoist temples in China to cultivate internal strength of martial arts practitioners. In his book, Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar had also recommended holding various poses for longer periods of time eg. Supta Virasana (reclining Hero Pose) for 10 to 15 minutes which is Yin-like in nature. The original form of Hatha Yoga emphasised both the strong muscular Yang type of yoga as well as the softer practices of working on the deeper tissues like the joints and ligaments. However, with the modernisation of Hatha Yoga, the softer side had been de-emphasized or relegated to Restorative Yoga which catered to people who were unwell. 

In the 1970s, martial arts champion Paulie Zink introduced Toaist Yoga to North America. He taught a combination of Hatha Yoga and Taoist Yoga to improve the flexibility of his martial arts students. Then in the 1980s, Paul Grilley started studying with Paulie Zink. He was a yoga teacher and ran his own school. Grilley had earlier studied anatomy with a medical doctor, Dr Gary Parker. In 1989, he met Dr Hiroshi Motoyama, a Japanese scholar and yoga practitioner. Dr Motoyama had researched the physiology of TCM and compared the Chinese meridian theory to the Indian yoga concept of energy channels, nadis. Grilley synthesised these ideas of Taoist Yoga, anatomy and meridian theory and started teaching entire Yin Yoga classes. In deference to his teacher, he called it Taoist Yoga. It resonated with many people because of its physical, mental and emotional benefits.

One of Grilley’s students, Sarah Powers, who is also a yoga teacher coined the term ‘Yin Yoga’. She suggested it to Grilley. Powers developed her own style of Yin Yoga incorporating Buddhist philosophy and concepts. She added dharma talks on mindfulness and meditation to her courses. In her book Insight Yoga, she introduced Yin Yoga sequences with breath work to enhance flow of Qi along the meridians. Her style of yoga also integrates a flow or Yang practice influenced by her Ashtanga background. By 2009, Yin Yoga classes were available throughout North America and Europe.

In Singapore, Paul Grilley’s disciple, Jo Phee, is a pioneer of Yin Yoga here. She had been teaching Ashtanga and flow classes but later she switched entirely to teaching Yin Yoga and has been conducting Yin Yoga teacher training courses since 2013. In those days when we attended her Yin Yoga classes, they were 90 minutes long and it was a welcoming respite from her challenging 90-minute flow classes. Not many studios offered Yin Yoga classes then. While we held the poses on the mat, she would sometimes talk to us and explain the meridian system, the benefits of stilling an active mind and play music that sometimes made us want to cry. We aspired to be more flexible so we endured the long holds. It is gratifying to know that now many practitioners are aware of its many benefits and enjoy the Yin practice.

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