Friday, September 12, 2014

GPB: Halloween DIY Lovin'

It's that time of year.... HALLOWEEN IS COMING!

This year I am SO extra excited... go read about all my DIY nerdiness at the Green Phone Booth- and share your DIY Halloween tips and ideas :)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Update on "Eco" TPE Yoga Mats- Has Anything Changed?

**Caveat: my goal with this post is two pronged: 1- to share information and shed light on greenwashing and misinformation so yogis can make an INFORMED choice and 2- call out businesses that greenwash. I'm a realist: I recognize that there are levels of "eco" in our choices but I take a firm issue with businesses manipulating and purposefully misinforming consumers by greenwashing their products. 

An essential tool for an environmentally conscious yoga would obviously be an environmentally "conscious" yoga mat. Over the past 5 years I've written a bunch of posts on the topic (How "Eco" is your TPE Yoga Mat?" 2009, "TPE Eco Yoga Mat Review" 2011, reviewing a variety of yoga mats and mat materials. My final verdict? Rubber mats sustainably harvested are your best bet (and 99% are latex free), OR even better- mats made with rubber and recycled materials (like this Hugger Mugger mat).

Rubber mats:
Manduka eKo mat
Jade Mat
prAna Revolution Mat and Indigena Mat
Hugger Mugger (recycled!) Mat
Halfmoon Rubber Mat


Unfortunately, rubber mats are pricier and often require more care than other mats... and many companies have caught on (or not) that "TPE" or "thermoplastic elastomer" really isn't a true "eco" solution.


What does "Biodegradable" really mean?

Before we get into what is TPE we need to remember that terms like "biodegradable", "compostable", "degradable" and even "recyclable" aren't standard terms and don't have a lot of meaning. Biodegradable and compostable are often used to mean "capable of decaying through the action of living organisms" (bacteria etc)". That said- this definition could also be used to stretch the meaning of "natural" (ie arsenic is "natural") and sometimes the individual compounds are worse apart then together. Further, there is no time limit to this statement and most municipal composting facilities on this planet won't accept your yoga mat. (similar things could be said for the rubber mat...)


Is Recycling really the solution?
Recyclable is relative. Not all plastics or products can be recycled at all recycling plants. Recycling plastics are a complex process, each recycling cycle results in a lower quality, degraded plastic that has limited recycling lives.





What is a Thermoplastic Elastomer?

From "PolyOne" FAQ on TPE:
Until as recently as 1996, the six primary TPE types could be categorized into two generic classes, block copolymers (styrenics, copolyesters, polyurethanes and polyamides) or thermoplastic/elastomer blends & alloys (thermoplastic polyolefins and thermoplastic vulcanizates).
In addition to these TPEs, two new technologies have emerged. They are the metallocene-catalyzed polyolefin plastomers & elastomers, and reactor-made thermoplastic polyolefin elastomers
So basically, I'm not sure- a shady synthetic rubber. What I can gather from my non-chemist self: Thermoplastic elastomers are cheaper to make: basically a synthetic rubber replacement with all the rubber tensile properties without the cost and yes, a lower energy footprint in production (the only bonus). According to wikipedia (which you can take or leave) they have the "potential" to be recyclable but their rubber flexibility makes them a rare recyclable candidate.
What are "block copolymers- styrenics, copolyesters, polyurethanes, polyamides, metallocene-catalyzed polyolefin plastomers and elastomers and reactor-made thermoplastic polyolefin elastomers" ? 
Essentially different molecular forms of synthetic materials derived from plastics or petrochemicals. 

  • Styrenics: Styrene is produced in large quantities from ethylbenzene; an organic compound made from benzene (a natural aspect of crude oil and one of the elementary petrochemicals) and ethylene that is highly flammable occurring naturally in coal and petroleum, used in the production of petrochemicals and use of ethylbenzenes have contributed to air exposure which in a short time sunlight biodegradation results in chemicals found in smog.
  • Copolyesters: a modification made to polyesters (particularly PET- a type of plastic).
  • Polyurethane: a polymer with organic units with urethane (carbamate) links. Clicking on the chemical rabbit hole you get chemicals involved in production such as isocyanates that can be a health hazard. 
.... and my head is spinning, I give up. 
Which leads us to:
Synthetic Polymers: which is essentially what we are talking about here. This category includes beauties such as PVC, nylon, Teflon and as mentioned above PET plastics. Most are created from petrochemicals and most are non-biodegradable in the "eco" sense of the word: biodegrades into organic, safe compounds (and not "biodegrades into smaller plastic parts of itself" which is often the case). 

OK. Is your head spinning? Yeah me too.


Summary:
So. "TPE" or "thermoplastic elastomer" is NOT in fact made from natural, safe biodegradable materials. It has "plastic" as part of it's name for goodness sake! It is a less off-gassing, more energy efficient production version of the traditional PVC mats. Kinda like choosing a plastic to-go cup cuz at least it's recyclable instead of the plastic coated paper coffee cups when really you should be bringing your own mug.

Companies are spinning TPE for all they're worth though. For example only ONE of the four major companies are still using "TPE" in their product description:

1. prAna "E.C.O. Yoga Mat": "toxic-free manufacturing process", "biodegradable", PVC Free, Latex Free (why not say Gluten-free? None of which are relevant here), 100% TPE (see above for TPE definition). 
2. Halfmoon Breathable Eco Yoga Mat: Made of SEBS... wait what??? What is this?
SEBS: Brand name: Kraton (like Teflon and Nylon are brand names). Styrenic block copolymers consisting of polysterene and rubber blocks. See definitions of styrenes above, re: plastic. 
Back to Halfmoon eco-spin: "decompostable" (seriously, did they SEE what styrene is made of?? would you want that breaking down anywhere?).
3. Kulae tpECO Yoga Mat: These guys are tricksy, like Halfmoon, indicating it's made from "closed cell technology" which is actually a fancy way to say "foam" or "closed-cell polyurethane foam" which is a category of TPE (see above list) AND I gather why they have the "tp" in "tpECO"... Sneaky sneaky. Again, may not truly be recyclable nor biodegradable. 
4. Manduka LiveON Yoga Mat: Again with the cleverness: made from "PLUSfoam". Which the website looks fancy, but I have no idea what it's made of... only that the company claims it's 100% recyclable. Which is cool... but I'd rather practice on something that is natural from the start. Keep in mind that although better than not, recycling isn't the solution (as every recycle cycle degrades the plastic- plastics cannot be recycled forever).

On top of this, TPE mats do not last as long as rubber mats, often flaking off into bits within a few months or a few years of use (depending on the frequency you practice). This means replacing your mat (either via recycling: issues stated above, or landfill) every few years at least. Reducing consumption is WAY sexier than recycling. Just sayin'.

If you already have a TPE yoga mat- consider making a different choice when (because they don't last forever) you purchase your next yoga mat. The most important part? Greenwashing exists in yoga too- be critical and ask questions!

Friday, July 25, 2014

GPB: Glowing: Soulful Skincare Review

Who here has issues with their skin? Yes?

Peeps, I have just finished reading a fabulous book by one of my fav bloggers/natural beauty product lovely: Yancy Lael. It has forever changed my views on my skin and my health.

On top of that- it was the perfect "eco+Yoga" fit for my skincare journey.

So. Curious? Click over to the Green Phone Booth for my review:


Happy New Moon :)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pop-Up Yoga Halifax: Community Yoga at it's Best

This summer's Halifax Yoga in the Park has been phenomenal; with great regular turnout of 30+ yogis and lovely yoga teachers giving their time so that we can practice under the sun and near the ocean each week.

One such fabulous yoga teacher is Brigitte LeBlanc (a fellow francophone!). A Facebook friendship revealed that Brigitte not only gives back to her yoga community at HYITP, she helps organize something called “Pop-up Yoga Halifax”. It immediately made me think of Much Music's Pop-Up Video (all you under thirties, non Canadians are missing out, seriously), and as such I had to find out more.

The yoga world is weirdly sliding into the exhibitionist category (Tara Stiles practicing in a glass,vehicular cube around NYC, yoga selfies in dangerous shoes and clothing, yoga selfies in GENERAL). I find this sad because I like the idea of subverting “the man” (whatever that really means) or fine, just bringing something like yoga to the public sphere, but these recent “yoga selfies” trend aren't my cup of tea.

Which is why Pop-Up Yoga is perfect. The very premise of a spontaneous (yet planned enough in advance to attend!), outdoor (and public, but organized for an actual practice in beautiful spaces) and affordable yoga class in Halifax rocks. I was a bit curious on how it works, and the why so Brigitte was kind enough to answer a few questions for me (Merci!!).

If you live in Halifax, be sure to check out her Facebook Page: Pop-Up Yoga Halifax

1. What is Pop-Up Yoga Halifax? Pop-Up Yoga Halifax is an opportunity to do yoga in a non studio setting, at different locations throughout the city with an affordable cost of $5. We believe that yoga should be fun and affordable, and with the summer season upon us, it's a good way to get outdoors, breath in deeply and feel the sun be pushed away by a gentle breeze on your skin.

2. What brought you to organize Pop-Up Yoga Halifax? One day, Rebecca Blanchard (my partner in this project) and I attended a drop in class which cost us $20 for a 45 minute class. We felt like yoga had become an activity for the rich, and those who need it the most (well...everyone!) should have access to it without breaking the bank. We also thought it would be a great opportunity for both her and I to get experience teaching without being hired at a studio. I work as a massage therapist, she works as a nurse and we both love yoga and wanted to teach in our spare time. We didn't want it to feel like a job, but an offering to our community of yogis.

3. What have been the challenges in organizing Pop-Up Yoga Halifax? Just like any project, you start with a concept and you roll with it. Every step leads you to another and sometimes you need to take a step back. The vision has shifted since we began, and is progressing in ways that we are excited about. We asked two other teachers to join us, which is incredible. It’s nice to work on this as a project and have 4 teachers with different visions mix ‘em up together to get a blissed out brainchild.

4. So far, what has been your favourite moment during a Pop-Up Yoga Halifax practice? My favourite moment so far has been our first class. It was a beautiful day, we had a good group of people show up and I just really felt like a proud mother of a beautiful newborn. Although child birth is more painful then the process we went through to make this happen, but you get the symbolism, right? Perceive and conceive

5. What would you like to see Pop-Up Yoga Halifax become?
We would love to offer Yoga classes within local businesses. I see us offering classes in coffee shops, on rooftops, in art galleries, and in conference rooms. We're hoping that once the weather gets cold, that we may continue offering yoga throughout the city in fun locations. We hope to partner up with festivals, and events. Maybe even local dj's who would like to perform a set during a class, or maybe a local whole food company would offer free samples to our yogis. It's a great way to bring like minded folk together, and build a healthy and happy community, while bringing something new to the HRM.

5. We love having you lead during YITP, you have such an open and connected style. What has led you becoming a Yoga Teacher and what do you feel is important in sharing the practice of yoga? I've never been good at sports and I wasn't the athletic type growing up. Being in the health care industry, being active is something that is important to me and I feel that Yoga is suitable for anyone! It is also very complimentary to Massage Therapy since it creates body awareness. I always found myself offering stretches and strengthening postures to aid in my clients dysfunction in their body. I wanted to learn more, not only to deepen my practice, but to also empower my clients to heal. 

I like creating a mind/body connection during my classes. Where is it in your life that you can be more flexible, where is it that you require strength? Challenging yourself in these postures go way deeper then your superficial body. They translate into your relationships, your reactions, and more importantly, they encourage you to breath and be calm when faced with challenges. Yoga is a moving meditation, and in my opinion a great yoga practice should leave you feeling grounded, connected and inspired.
Body glorification has been linked to yoga, and even though this comes along with the package, and is a wonderful result of a consistent practice, there is so much more to value when it comes to yoga.

6. Besides yoga, what is/are your life passion(s)? I love gardening and plants. I feel like I need a bigger home to accommodate for the current jungle of plants that I live amongst. I love creating vegan and vegetarian meals. I love DIY projects. I am passionate about leading a life through a perspective of love. I am passionate about people. 
More then anything, I am passionate about health care and about healing, and the whole concept surrounding it. I believe in the bodies wisdom to heal. I'm passionate about helping people and assisting them in their process. I love learning about natural remedies, and encouraging optimal health through nutrition. I am constantly reading and learning about all things health care related. In September, I will be opening up a clinic called "Anatomy: A Massage and Wellness Centre" and feel like this will be a true creative expression of that which I am passionate about.

Brigitte LeBlanc

Brigitte has a lusty love affair with yoga. She began this beautiful relationship back in 2004 when she took her first yoga class in Canmore, Alberta. Even though it has been an on again and off again relationship, she is now committed to her practice and has found a soul mate for life. She has practiced in numerous locations around the world, exploring what it means to truly know herself. She took her month long, 200hr training in Guatemala. It was an unforgettable journey which led her to her bliss. Brigitte is a Registered Massage Therapist, a co-coordinator with Pop-Up Yoga Halifax and she is currently enjoying the creative process of soon opening her own clinic in the heart of Halifax. You can find out more from her website www.brigitteleblancrmt.com


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

YITP Tips and Tricks for the Teacher and the Receiver

Yoga in the Park is now mid-season and we have had a wildly successful summer so far! (*does happy dance*). It truly is something lovely to look out each Sunday and see 30-40 odd people that don't look like carbon copies of a young white woman all present and ready to practice together under the sun.

There are a few things/tips to consider for both Yoga Teachers and Yoga Receivers for YITP though, so I thought I'd share a few extra insider tips here :)

Tips for Yoga Teachers:
Leading a YITP outside is an amazing and fulfilling experience. It also poses some interesting challenges.

  • Projecting your Voice: It is *much* more difficult to hear your voice, instructions and suggestions with the wind, the sounds of the ocean and a wide open space for your voice to travel. Demonstrating while you talk becomes almost impossible; no one will hear you while your facing away in downward dog. YITP also attracts a more varied yogi, several who most certainly have some level of hearing loss (like yours truly, it's not just the wisest appearing among us with evidence of experienced life that may have hearing loss!). The best strategy? Project your voice (while protecting it!), face your yogis and:
  • Have a demonstrating buddy next to you. I've done this twice, and although kinda weird (since I am far from a model asana practitioner) it does allow other yogis to see what the heck you're describing while permitting you to continue said describing. Just make sure you introduce why the demo buddy is there- otherwise it's a bit awkward (who's the keener at the front???)
  • Reference Nature: We're outside- think about changing your spatial references from "the floor" or even "the mat" to "the earth, the ocean, the sun, the sky". It's one of the beautiful parts of practicing outside, remind people of that.
  • Consider Nature: Think about the wind making balancing postures more difficult, the squishy grass making for non-solid bases in standing postures and the possibility for dog poo when arms out for supine twists. Balancing postures are often extremely challenging outside and it's nice to be reminded of the extra trickiness so as not to be too discouraged. 
  • Consider alternatives for Savasana: Laying out, face up to the sun for long minutes at the end of the practice may not be the most relaxing or comfortable (or safe!) end to a yoga practice. Maybe shorten your savasana, offer alternatives (seated meditation) and suggest that yogis cover their face. The end goal isn't laying on our backs, but integrating and absorbing our practice- however that may be.
  • Leave out all "extras" that might detract from Nature: Music and technology is a big one. I've found that blocks and straps are nice, but practicing outside is really about connecting with Nature through yoga. The more "extras" we have, the less we're truly experiencing the natural moment. 
  • Please no pictures! True consent during a yoga practice isn't given. I know it looks really cool and we just want to share, but getting consent without pressuring the yogis to give it (no matter if you ask first- are they simply going to walk away after setting up their yoga mat?) is unlikely. Instead of experiencing the practice through a lens, take a breath and practice fully observing what you're having an urge to photograph and keep that in your memory to cherish. 
Tips for the YITP Yogi Receivers:
  • Bring LOTS of sunscreen: and apply liberally. No really. You should leave YITP with a sense of peace and renewal, not a sunburn. Skin cancer is serious business- don't mess around!
  • Bring Water: Staying hydrated is so important. Reusable water bottles are better than plastic disposables, and stainless steel tend to be the best. I've found that the BEST for keeping water cold is the insulated stainless steel coffee mugs topped with ice cubes. My Klean Kanteen coffee container, although smelling slightly like coffee, really kept my water cold during an hour out in the sun. 
  • Use a YITP specific mat: (or no mat!). This is only if you happen to have two, relegate one to "YITP" for several reasons: a) it will get dirty. Which is kinda gross. If it's your YITP only mat that means you only have to wash it every so often instead of directly afterwards. Bonus! b) nicer, more ecologically friendly mats made of rubber biodegrade in the sun. You should actually keep your nice rubber Jade mat FAR AWAY from any sun exposure if you want it to last. 
  • Talk to the Teacher Before YITP Begins: even though we're not in a traditional class setting, it's important to share injuries or discomforts with the teacher. If you don't feel ok with that, the nice thing about YITP is that honestly, you can spend the entire time in child's pose and that is just fine. YITP really is about what you need- so be sure to take it!
  • Look out for dog poo: Seriously. It is everywhere. 
And above all else: enjoy sharing your practice outside, surrounded by the ocean, the sun and other lovely yogis!

Any thoughts/suggestions from your YITP experiences that I missed? Please share!