3D yoga mats: how sensory cues can boost your practice
ou’ve downward-dogged through every flow on FIIT and giggled at your yoga buddy’s headstand attempt over Zoom.
The next step to mastering your at-home yoga practice? Adding in some tactile cues. Meet your new workout hero: the 3D yoga mat.
The new cutting-edge technology is based on the so-called ‘science of feel’ and launches today in the form of lululemon’s Take Form Mat, the world’s first 3D-zoned cushioning mat, designed to improve alignment using ripple-like zones and sensory tactile and visual cues - you can feel the ridges beneath your toes and it helps to know where to put your feet and hands as you move between positions.
The concept behind it? To help yogis feel their way to perfect positioning, rather than watching it on a screen or getting distracted by someone else in the room.
“The mat supports and elevates alignment by enabling yogis to focus on optimal body positioning and how it feels, versus looking around the room for external cues,” explains Dennis Wang, lululemon’s Vice President of Accessories Design and the brains behind the mat’s cutting-edge design.
“Most often the cues are visual, including looking around at a teacher, fellow students or even yourself in the mirror – which can actually distract from your practice.”
Thanks to Wang and lululemon’s Whitespace Lab team, the 3D water droplet-inspired zones have been mapped out and rigorously tested to guide optimal body positioning across the poses yogis identified as the most difficult to master: according to experts, split-like handstands, crow poses and the praying mantis position are among the most challenging.
This cushioning is then combined with lululemon’s signature sustainable rubber material, plus a super-grippy tidal flow-inspired texture and contoured edges to boost stability - no more wobbling through your tree pose or slipping mid-handstand.
But 3D cushioning isn’t just for experts. Wang insists the mat is for beginners just as much as it for advanced yogis, and he and the team team hope other brands will follow suit. Yogamatters already sells mats with aligment cues and Liforme’s mat range incorporate practical markers to guide users through their positions - will its next iteration include a third cushioning dimension?
For Wang, it’s all about allowing yoga-lovers to form a deeper, more stable at-home practice, so the launch is well-timed. One year since going into lockdown, we certainly all need a bit of that.
It’s no longer the intimidating, male-dominated section of the gym to be avoided at all costs. Now, more and more women are strength training too. From a female-only weight lifting gym to expert beginner tips, Rosie Fitzmaurice has your guide to pumping iron
here are endless benefits to be gained from lifting weights as a woman.
Not only will it increase your metabolism, burn fat and increase bone density, but it can have a transformational effect on your mental health, too.
Studies have shown that resistance training, or strength training, can help to reduce symptoms of depression. And anecdotally, many women also say that building strength improves their confidence too.
How to get started? Here’s your expert guide.
Set a goal
Before undertaking a weight lifting programme, it’s crucial to be clear on what your goal is, as the method to achieving it will vary accordingly.
“You can’t have everything sadly,” says Héloïse Nangle, COO of Core Collective. “Are you trying to lose fat? Are you focused on gaining muscle? Are you trying to improve your endurance? You will be far more successful if you focus on one specific goal only.
“For example, the training processes involved in losing fat or gaining muscle are very different and do not mix well with each other,” she continues. “Improvements in your strength profile won’t be huge if you are doing too much endurance or cardio work, so if you want to gain muscle, you will need to do less. Too much cardio can actually hamper your muscle gain by slowing recovery and burning calories that your body needs for the process of building muscle.“
That doesn’t mean you have to cut out cardio completely, though. “One to two sessions a week is normally the right number to maintain cardiovascular conditioning and help with fat loss, but long periods of steady state cardio can be detrimental to your strength gains.”
How to actually build strength
Strength training is all based around a concept called progressive overload. “This is where you are continually increasing the demands on the musculoskeletal system to make gains in strength, and endurance,” Nangle says. “Simply put, in order to get stronger, you must continually make your muscles work harder than they’re used to, “but you don’t need to reinvent the wheel each time you train. Think simple compound lifts with unilateral work (on one leg, like lunges) to support these.”
Compound exercises like squats and deadlifts work multiple muscle groups with movements at multiple joints simultaneously, whereas isolation exercises, like bicep curls, “do not work as much stimulus, making it harder for you to apply progressive overload, meaning the rate of progression will be much slower,” so stick to the former. “This is what we do in our strength classes at Core Collective.”
The added bonus of incorporating compound lifts into your workout? You can fit it into less time. “You would need more isolation exercises to replace the work of a single compound lift,” says Nangle.
Just don’t over do it
“If you want to get stronger, you’ll need to challenge yourself and work to overload the muscles. But with that overload, you need to build in some rest time so the muscles can rebuild and adapt to the stress. Overtraining is going to impact the results you want. Rest and recovery are so important when it comes to making progress. To prevent overtraining, keep in mind that you can increase either frequency or intensity, but not both, or you will burn out quickly,” Nangle says.
“The best way to prevent this, particularly if you are new to strength training is to seek advice and work with someone who will provide a progressive programme for you that builds in variation that includes both phases of high-intensity training followed by phases of reduced workloads and increased recovery time,” she adds.
If you’re a total beginner to lifting weights, it’s best to begin under the watchful eye of a trainer to ensure you’re nailing your form and to avoid injury.
Over in Bethnal Green StrongHer, the capital’s first women only strength training facility, is a good starting point once gyms finally reopen their doors. Owners Sam and Tig (above) offer both personal training and group classes.
Want to really see jaw-dropping results ? Hit up The Foundry, a London gym with locations in Bank, Vauxhall and Old Street, which in normal times runs eight-week strength transformation programmes which include access to semi-private personal training and group classes, plus plenty of strength and fitness testing along the way - and I can personally vouch for the formula.
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