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Archive for June, 2009

So in addition to my post on how to create a Moroccan-themed spa day at home…I found some enviable Moroccan inspired bathrooms….take a look…

A Truley Moorish masaic  tiled bathub...le sigh

A Truly Moorish mosaic tiled bathtub...le sigh..designed by Sig Bergamin and featured in an Elle decor book

Those antique moroccan doors make you feel liek you are stepping bakc in time...

A bathroom at La Sultana in Morocco...those antique Moroccan doors make you feel like you are stepping back in time...

check out this dusty rose bathroom from

check out this dusty rose bathroom from moroccanarchitetcure.wordpress.com

Heres a modern twist on a Moroccan style bathroom

Here's a modern twist on a Moroccan style bathroom by Delpha designs

Moroccan inspired bathroom from designholeonline.com

Moroccan inspired bathroom from designholeonline.com

this abthroom was deisgned by St.Tropez design company using traditional moroccan style tile-making techniques

This bathroom was designed by St.Tropez Boutique design company using traditional Moroccan style tile-making techniques

Some main elements of the moroccan sesign style are moorish tiles and fountains...

Some main elements of the Moroccan design style are Moorish tiles and fountains...

Even just tiling a normal western shower with Moroccan tiles and adding some North AFrican plants create a Moroccan feel...like in this bathroom designed by TimClarke.com

Even just tiling a normal western shower with Moroccan tiles and adding some North African plants create a Moroccan feel...like in this bathroom designed by TimClarke.com

Here’s a little blurb about Moroccan interior design by the writers at moroccanarchitecture.wordpress.com

“The Moroccan home is a unique blend of African, Berber, and Islamic aesthetics…Interior decor is essential to Islamic architecture. Vaults, cupolas, and arched doorways are principle features which serve both functional and aesthetic purposes. In some village homes, recessed walls and benches set in cement stucco offer simple detail.

More elaborate elements may include geometric and floral motifs carved into wood beams or plaster walls. Ceramic tile, known as zellige, is also used, and may be applied to any and all surfaces, and not limited to walls, floors, roofs, and ceilings. Creative and surprising patterns, molded organic materials, and the intriguing lines of Moroccan structural motifs make the Moroccan home an extraordinary visual playground.”

When it comes to Color in Moroccan design..don’t be shy…if there is a spice or north African natural object/vegetable/fruit/flower in that color…go for it.

Also consider the Moroccan landscape when going for color choice…maybe try some golden hues (to reflect the sand) and some blues and greens to reflect the Mediterranean Sea..

A way to get a Moroccan feel, as stated before is to go for Moorish inspired tiles, Islamic-inspired architectural details and colorful fabrics. To get all three in one…try adding a Moroccan fountain or Moroccan inspired mirror to your bathroom’s interior.

Casablancamarket.com has a fair trade selection of Moroccan decor including tiles!

Also Star of Morocco specializes in Moroccan design (one of their fountains pictured below).

Also, at berbertrading.com you can find Berber furniture and decor…even a Berber bathtub! And it’s all fair trade!

HEres a gorgeous moorish style fountain I found at moroccan-furniture-decor.com...definitely a splurge...sigh

Here's a gorgeous Moorish style fountain I found at Moroccan-furniture-decor.com...definitely a splurge...sigh...can you envision listening to its water's run as you sit in the bathtub surrounded by Moroccan lanterns...candles...ahh heaven

To make your Moroccan bathroom even more eco-friendly, try scouring local flea markets for antique Moroccan-inspired wooden doors, room dividers, mirrors,chairs and tables…one’s with even a hint of arch detail can be transformed using a little paint and some fair-trade mosaic tiles added on top!

HEres a gorgrous girly-chic take on a Moroccan bathroom featured in House Beautiful

Here's a gorgeous feminine and chic take on a Moroccan bathroom featured in House Beautiful... even New England inspired paintings..a perfect West meets North Africa combo...

the other side of the above bathroom...featured in Elle Decor

the other side of the above bathroom...featured in Elle Decor

To purchase a fantastic book on Moroccan interior design called  “Moroccan Interiors”  click here.

Moroccan Interiors...available at amazon.com

Moroccan Interiors...available at amazon.com

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As promised I’m bringing you a few tips on how to create a  Moroccan-inspired spa in your own home this week. Of course Hammam (or Moroccan plunge pool)  not included…your bathtub will have to do!

But there are a few key things you can do to create the ambiance of a Moroccan spa, and to treat yourself to some Moroccan-inspired and eco-friendly spa treatments.

find your calm in a DIY Moroccan spa...photo courtesy of hawaiiresortspa.com

find your calm in a DIY Moroccan spa...photo courtesy of hawaiiresortspa.com

start of your day with some rose water cleasinng your feet in hands...or any local flowers

start of your day with some rose water cleansing your feet in hands...or any local flowers

Start off your spa-day by cleansing your feet and hands in some rose water as they do in Morocco…maybe sprinkle some rose petals in a bowl for good measure…and try this organic Rose Water (below) from Amrita.

Rose Water...you cna find organic rose water at your local Whole Foods

Rose Water...you cna find organic rose water at your local Whole Foods

Next do a few yoga poses..consider Tree and maybe some seated spinal twists that are extremely cleansing…followed by Savasana.

Then treat yourself to a cup of organic mint tea…a tradition in Moroccan spas…

try Numis Organic Moroccan mint tea...its delicious and brings your right to the source

try Numi's Organic Moroccan mint tea...its delicious and brings your right to the source

Next wrap yourself in an organic lush bathrobe…

try this one from feelgoodhampers.com

try this one from feelgoodhampers.com

Then create an atmosphere using some Moroccan lanterns…and maybe some lush pillows in deep Berber reds and burnt oranges. You can find lanterns anywhere, and imitation rugs/pillows are an easy find. Light some organic pale candles to further the ambiance…and try out some relaxing music…I enjoy Goldfish’s song “The Real Deal” when I relax…it puts me in another place (they are a South African band).

these lanterns are a STEAL! from gabrielsgiftsgalore...

these lanterns are a STEAL! from gabrielsgiftsgalore...

casablancamarket.com sells traditional Bereber rugs (like this one) and pillows!

casablancamarket.com sells traditional Bereber rugs (like this one) and pillows!

A Berber pillow from berbertrading.com

A Berber pillow from berbertrading.com

Now for the good stuff…

One of the major elements of Moroccan beauty treatments and even their food…is Argan oil.

Moroccan organic Argan oil...use it for hair, skin, nails, facials...

Moroccan organic Argan oil...use it for hair, skin, nails, facials...

Argan oil is used by Moroccan men and women, even on their babies, to decrease  acne and reverse the aging process. It is said to increase the skin’s elasticity, reducing the appearance of scars and stretchmarks and is a miracle worker on hair, especially ethnic and courser hair.
It is rich in vitamin E and fatty acids which aid in these processes.

Click here to purchase the above argan oil, or just hit a google search for “organic argan oil”.

Goats scouring for nuts up in the Moroccan Argan tree...the Moroccan tree of life

Goat's scouring for nuts up in the Moroccan Argan tree...the Moroccan "tree of life"

Argan oil is a product of Morocco’s Argan tree, or what many call the Moroccan “tree of life”. The tree is gnarled and thorny, allowing goats to climb up to eat branches and eat its nuts. The tree is extremely rare yet it lasts longer than olive trees and requires little to no upkeep.

The tree is only grown in the South Western part of the country in the regions of Essaouira and Agadir.

The goats go after the green fruit, in which inside there is a nut.  If you want to know why this oil is a little pricey…well get ready….

the green fruit of the argan tree

the green fruit of the argan tree

The goats eat the fruit and nuts….the nuts are ‘passed’…the farmers collect the remaining nuts and turn those into oil.

Argan nuts

Argan nuts

Making oil from the nuts of the Argan tree

Making oil from the nuts of the Argan tree

But the process doesn’t end there. Making oil is a laborious process done in factories or in individual homes. One litre of argan oil may take up to 20 hours to make because each individual kernel must be cracked open.

The great thing about this process is that argan oils are fair trade and they aid in the employment of women of that region in Morocco!

The purchase of this oil will also aid in preventing deforestation, while the argan trees in general aid in holding soil together due to their deep roots.

Here are some spa treatments using argan oil you can create at home…they are espcially good during this time of year, when dry skin and sun damage are wreaking havoc on our hair and skin.

An Argan facial

An Argan body scrub:

make your own argan body scrub...(photo: beaut.ie./blog)

make your own argan body scrub...(photo: beaut.ie./blog)

2 cups of sugar (or use sea salt if you want a courser scrub)

1/2 cup of Olive oil (or until desired grainy-ness)

1/8 cup Argan oil (or even less…use sparingly!)

a few drops of a favorite essential oil…try either lavender (to calm, orange (to energize), or eucalyptus (to cleanse)

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and head to the bath or shower. Use a natural bristle brush, or I like to justscrub with my hands. And massage the scrub in to wet skinin circular motions, all over. It will leave you glowing, i promise!

Kiehl’s also makes an Argan body cleansing oil…here.

make your own...or buy Keihls body cleansing oil and lotion using Argan oil.

make your own...or buy Kiehl's body cleansing oil and lotion using Argan oil.

For a Summer Argan Facial for dry/sun damaged skin:

Start by cleansing your skin with your normal cleanser, and then opening your pores over a steaming bowl of water (microwave a bowl and then lean over placing a towel over your head so the steam wont escape.

Try mixing

1 tsp organic powdered milk

1 tablespoon ground almonds

a few drops of Argan oil

1 tsp organic aloe vera

1 tsp  organic  honey

mix…apply to face…let sit for about 10 minutes…and rinse with luke warm water.

For more information on the Argan tree and its oil in a New York Times article click here.

Most of the time, the oil in households are use for cooking things like amlou. A traditional and delicious Berber dip (kind of like Humus and peanut butter). Check out a recipe below courtesy of moroccanfood.about.com.

Or click HERE for a video on how to make it!

Amlou

Amlou

  • 1 1/2 cups (6 oz. or 200 g) almonds
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) argan oil
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons warm honey
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Preparation:

Preheat an oven to 375° F (190° C). Spread the almonds on a baking pan and roast for about 10 minutes, or until a bit dark and crunchy but not burnt.

Allow the almonds to cool a bit, and then pass them through a meat grinder twice to make a powdery paste. Or, grind the toasted almonds as finely as possible in a food processor on high speed.

Next, gradually stir the argan oil into the almonds, a spoonful at a time or in a very slow trickle. You can do this by hand, stirring vigorously, or with the food processor on the lowest speed. (Note that the amount of oil in the recipe yields amlou with a traditionally thin consistency. Adjust the amount of oil to your own preference.) Next, gradually add the warm honey, sugar and salt in the same manner. Taste the amlou and adjust the sweetness if desired. Serve amlou on a small plate or dish with bread for dipping. Amlou will keep for two months in cool, dark cupboard.  Store amlou tightly covered in a jar, and shake or stir before serving.

For cooking: try this Alili organic argan oil..available here at alilimorocco.com…or find it at your local Dean and Deluca!

Alili organic argan cooking oil

Alili organic argan cooking oil

So we all may not be able to jump on a plane to that Moroccan dream spa I mentioned on Friday’s post…but try creating this little spa in your home! You deserve it!

Note: you cna also add some Moroccan tiles to your bathroom to give a Moroccan feel...

Note: you cna also add some Moroccan tiles to your bathroom to give a Moroccan feel...

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sirsasana on the porch this morning...definitely puts even the weather in perspective

sirsasana on the porch this morning...definitely puts even the weather in perspective

After a great  evening of wining and dining with friends at the Gaslight in the South End of Boston (fantastic food…and there’s free parking!) the other night, I came home to find that my beloved 2 1/2 year old weathered Macbook was not responding to me, or anything! Silent freak-out ensued and my whole technological addiction was revealed in the following 5 minutes.

I have admittedly developed a strong attachment to many many physical and material things in my life, and my computer is definitely one of them. It has been my little buddy through trips all over the world and through stressful all-nighters at college. She never let me down.

But after a few minutes of freaking-out and wondering if the Apple store would fix it with an expired warantee, I said to myself,  “Okay, Alex, get a grip…and some perspective…its a computer“.

We all have our inner voices and urges challenging our nervous systems, claiming things in life are more important than they are, or that challenges and problems are too difficult to overcome.

Especially in these times when we don’t know what’s around the corner, and small things, like paying the rent on time, or trying to keep a job, seem insurmountable compared to last year.

That’s why I chose Headstand this week.

This particular headstand is part of B.K.S. Iyengar’s Sirsasana Cycle and is Salamba Sirsasana II Five.

Ancient texts call sirsasana the “king of all asanas”. According to Iyengar’s book “Light on Yoga”, a healthy brain is the key to a healthy ruler of a country, or just a person in general. The brain was the first part of the body to emerge in this world and is the center of all “intelligence, knowledge, discrimination, wisdom, and power”.

Harmony, mobility and discrimination of emotions and reactions are governed by your brain. Practicing this inversion will help blood flow from the regions below your diaphragm to your brain to increase energy and clarity. The pituitary and pineal glands gain more blood which helps with our vitality and energy and it keeps the body warm!

This pose calms the mind and helps relieve stress and mild depression. It also helps  to strengthen the arms, legs, and spine, lungs, abs, digestion, relieves menopausal symptoms, and helps with asthma, infertility, insomnia and sinusitis.

The best part of this pose is that the world turns upside down in just a few seconds. We become self-reliant and balanced in our victories and losses, pains and pleasures, because we can see the horizon in a different way. Things that once seemed overwhelming, frustrating or problematic, suddenly do not seem as dire. My computer, for example, becomes just a machine, or that flat tire becomes a thing of the past.

see the opportunities present in every challenge, not everything is as it appears...

see the opportunities present in every challenge, not everything is as it appears...

Inversions also help us conquer fear. The pose itself is a bit of an ego boost as we support our entire body weight on a place we don’t usually carry anything. Suddenly the things around us do not seem familiar, but we feel larger than them. We feel if we can conquer this pose, we can conquer anything.

Lord Ganesh is the Hindu god that removes obstacles... take a little statue of him to keep you blanaced, especailly when you travel...

Lord Ganesh is the Hindu god that removes obstacles... take a little statue of him to keep you balanced, especially when you travel...

Along with this, there is another Sirsansana in which the forearms (not the hands) are on the ground. This pose is a bit harder to balance and ascend to, but it is incredibly freeing. There is nothing separating your head from your view. For this post I choose to share the second one in Iyengar’s sequence because it helps strengthen your arms and is good for people just starting out. It’s also easier and more fun to play around with your legs once you get up there!

umm...right...maybe one day...for now Im okay with the help of my arms

umm...right...maybe one day...for now I'm okay with the help of my arm, then again, no fear!

I used to study voice lessons (operatic style) until a few years ago. When I first began, I always viewed the notes in my range as incremental, increasing to heights I wouldn’t dare to reach. When I would go for an extremely high note, my vocal chords would tighten and of course I couldn’t get the note out properly. Finally my teacher literally threw a book at me. It was called “A Soprano on her Head” by Eloise Ristad and it changed the way I sang.  For a few weeks straight I would  start off new pieces, or challenging sections of pieces, by going into a handstand against the wall and singing it upside down.  Suddenly, I couldn’t tell which way was up, which way would I would have to reach for a high note, and all of the notes came freely out of my relaxed vocal chords. Amazing! Instead of the high notes appearing as insurmountable mountains, they flowed through my mouth with ease. If you are interested in reading the book….click here

In this book by Eloise Ristad, yoga inversion principles and singing go hand in hand!

In this book by Eloise Ristad, yoga inversion principles and singing go hand in hand!

Note: women who are pregnant, menstruating or anyone with high blood pressure should not try this pose, or do it only accompanied by a yoga instructor. Also, do not stay in this pose for longer than 5 minutes, and do not start off your yoga  practice with this pose. If you have neck/back injuries, the same applies. Always try a pose like this with a knowledgeable yoga teacher first!

For more info on this pose, read B.K.S. Iyengar’s “Light on Yoga” or click here for some basic info.

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I watched ‘Casablanca’ the other night and my desire to travel to Northern Africa was reignited immediately. I also was in the midst of a girls’-night-in, consisting of homemade summertime facial masks. I thought to myself…hmmm…spa PLUS Morocco would be the ideal….and what do you know? One of the top Eco-Spa’s in the world is located right in Morocco.

Kasbah du Toubkal Mountain Retreat

Kasbah du Toubkal Mountain Retreat (photo courtesy of http://www.highatlasfoundation.org)

Tucked at the base of North Africa’s  tallest mountain in Morocco is the Kasbah du Toubkal Mountain Retreat.

Kasbah du Toubkal

Kasbah du Toubkal...I would love to wake up doing yoga on this patio..followed by some homemade mint tea...(photo courtesy of http://www.sawdays.co.uk)

The hotel is run by the owners and the local Berber community, a naturally eco-friendly culture. The hotel’s philosophy is centered around the preservation of the local National park and a partnership with the local Berber community (all of the employees are Berber as well).The hotel has successfully transitioned from a feudal homestead into a place of warm hospitality.

At the base of Mount Toubkal, your luggage is thrown on a mule and you hike up to your room, passing gorgeous local flora along the way.

The gardens of the resort create a quiet and all-natural oasis in the Berber region...

The gardens of the resort create a quiet and all-natural oasis in the Berber region... (photo: http://www.noflights.com/gallery/original/kasbah_garden_large.jpg click to enlarge)

eat outside...or inside in the hotels romantic restaurant and lounge...

eat outside...or inside in the hotels romantic restaurant and lounge... (photo: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3265/2491179793_2d2ed58bd5.jpg)

Upon arrival you are greeted with mint tea and cleansing rose water while the hotel is lit with candles and wood-burning fires…no wasting electricity here. The candles and fires allow you to enter a  timeless ambiance that many hotels only fantasize about achieving.

simple yet chic and authentic bedroom at the Kasbah

simple yet chic and authentic bedroom at the Kasbah...thatched ceilings, stone floors, linen bedding and Moroccan lamps lit with cream colored candles (photo courtesy of http://lh3.ggpht.com)

The doorway to the resort makes you feel like you are stepping back into a forgotten time and world....

The doorway to the resort makes you feel like you are stepping back into a forgotten time and world.... (photo: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/91/229468518_80b01b1ede.jpg?v=0)

The Spa-resort is famous for its trekking expeditions to the summit of Mount Toubkal and consequential authentic Moroccan spa experience.

The hotel boasts an authentic and yet private hamman experience (a cleansing and rejuvenating plunge pool), steam room and options for many spa treatments.

the authentic hamman at the resort...I could relax in there for hours after a long trek...or a long lunch...

the authentic hamman at the resort...I could relax in there for hours after a long trek...or a long lunch... (photo from media.expedia.com)

The hotel has won many awards due to its efforts to reach out to the local community and reduce its carbon footprint. Every guest is charged a small surcharge (5%) to contribute to a community hamman, irrigation systems and local communication systems. Sustainable and chic…I love it!

The hotel ranges from about $200 to about $700 depending on time of year and type of room.

For more info on trekking Mount Toubkal click here.

For more information on the Kasbah du Toubkal click here.

Now, of course, not all of us can afford to jet off to Morocco for the weekend, so stay tuned for a post on things you can do to create your own Moroccan spa at home this weekend…

fresh organic organges and view greet you each morning at the base of the mountain from a room at the Kasbah...

fresh organic organges and view greet you each morning at the base of the mountain from a room at the Kasbah... (photo http://lh6.ggpht.com)

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Although its more economical to use the mat from the local studio at class, or to buy a cheap mat from Marshall’s or T.J. Maxx, local studio mats can have up to 100,000 bacteria per square inch, and el-cheapo mats can sometimes be made from non eco-friendly materials, and be of el-cheapo quality.

Who needs a yoga mat? (photo courtesy of anneliesrigterphotography.com)

Who needs a yoga mat? (photo courtesy of anneliesrigterphotography.com)

Original yogis, and many to this day, in India didn’t (and still don’t) even use yoga mats…connection to the earth  and stability through bare feet are optimal for a deeper yoga practice. Story goes, that B.K.S. Iyengar was teaching a class in the U.S. when he was slipping all over the place. Suddenly a student handed him a non-slippery rug…hence…the yoga mat was born.

While in India, the ashram I studied at used simple rugs, these yogis are using something a little less conventional... (photo courtesy of incomingindia.com)

While in India, the ashram I studied at used simple rugs. These yogis are using something a little less conventional... (photo courtesy of incomingindia.com)

However, for the average Joe, me, a yoga mat is a great tool to gain stability and to create a non-slippery space for oneself, in a class, or anywhere you “lay your mat”.

Most yoga mats are made with PVC’s  (polyvinyl chloride) which is a highly toxic plastic to prevent slipping. However, there have been some pretty cool advances in yoga technology to make mats eco-friendly, biodegradable, less ‘gross’ (using microban technology), and non toxic ,while new sites are offering services in which you can design your own mat! (and it gets even crazier…further down in the post)

Yogamatic provides a custom design service…

Design your own inspirational mat...even with a photo...at YOGAMATIC.COM (Click here)...a little pricey...but I would love to take some personal time on a space thats personally inspired!

Design your own inspirational mat...even with a photo...at YOGAMATIC.COM (Click here)...a little pricey...but I would love to take some personal time on a space that's personally inspired!

Even celebs have joined the yogamatic craze....

Even celebs have joined the yogamatic craze....

For some sustainable yoga mat purchases…try Jade Yoga mats. They plant a tree when you buy one of their eco-friendly mats! Their Harmony mat is also one of the best around (although they are a splurge at about $60 a pop)! Click here.

Jade Harmony Yoga mats come in an array of colors

Jade Harmony Yoga mats come in an array of colors

These Chakra yoga mats below, are on sale at yogaacessories.com and are so unique! They feature the Chakras (from root to crown) on a variety of corresponding rainbow colors to help focus your energies, mind and spirit. They are also long at 72″ and extra thick at 1/4″! Click here to purchase at only $24.95.

Chakra yoga mat

Chakra yoga mat

To support a local business…for all you Bostonians…try a mat from Lotuspad in Cambridge…and they eve are developing carbon-free shipping solutions for those not in the area, and they do BIKE DELIVERY for those who are local! The mats are wonderful, as well!

Lotuspad yoga mats in Cambridge, MA (click here)

Lotuspad yoga mats in Cambridge, MA (click here)

These all natural yoga mats, below, from 3Guna Ayurveda are more for meditation, but they are super comfy-looking, fair trade and made with organic materials.

3Guna Ayurveda yoga mat

3Guna Ayurveda yoga mat

Some eco friendly yoga mats from bluelotus.com made form natural tree rubbers (click here)

Some eco friendly yoga mats from bluelotus.com made form natural tree rubbers (click here)

treehugger.com makes a wonderful eco mat as well! (click here)

treehugger.com makes a wonderful eco-friendly mat as well! (click here)

You can also personalize your yoga mat with self-adhesive mantras and designs from omtime.com

a variety of mantra designs adn inspirational mats that are PVC-free!  (matsmatsmats.com)

A variety of mantras and designs on inspirational mats that are PVC-free available at (matsmatsmats.com)

For some more cool yoga mat designs…try matsmatsmats.com (above)

Mats that look like grass...the kitchen floor....and even chocolate?

Eco-friendly mats that look like grass...the kitchen floor....and even chocolate?

These Plank Mats (above)make you feel like you’re doing yoga on the grass, shag carpeting,  a plank of wood…or even chocolate, yes…chocolate…not sure how I feel about them for my practice, but if you’re interested click here.

Some new innovations in yoga mats include…

1. This mat by Yoga Maendy…its 6′ x 6′ Microban square mat, so its ideal for partner yoga, experimenting so you don’t fall of your mat in more difficult poses, and for the extra tall person…like me! For more info…click here.

This giant Maendy Mat is a steal at $49!

This giant Maendy Mat is a steal at $49!

2. Really want a yoga island? Try this ROUND mat from Mandalyogamat.com.

These round yoga mats from mandalayogamat.com make you feel lke you are in your own sacred mandala, or lotus flower...

These round yoga mats from mandalayogamat.com make you feel like you are in your own sacred mandala, or lotus flower...

3. In the “You’ve got to be kidding me” category….Technology and yoga mats? Who would have thought…? These guys did…at Yanko Design some yoga loving techies invented a “Super Yoga Mat” in which the mat ‘unfurls’ from a metal tube that can play music or yoga videos right on the mat…for more info click here.

Yanko Designs Super Yoga mat plays yoga DVDs right on your mat!

Yanko Design's Super Yoga mat plays yoga DVD's right on your mat!

I don’t know about you, but over the years i have accumulated a slew of mats. After about a year of practice they can get a little grimy, and I am the victim of impulse buying when I see a new funky pattern that inspires me. I started keeping mats in emergency places…like they are fire extinguishers or emergency flashlights…one in my car…the corner of my room…by the back door to the porch…the garage…you know, just in case….its getting out of hand.

But what do I do with all the extra/old yoga mats? There is a solution!

The Boulder Mat company has a recycle program where you can donate your old mat and get a $5 discount on purchasing a new one! The company will donate the mat to charity or break it down and make a new one!

Recycle your mat with any of these ideas or at the website above!

Recycle your mat with any of these ideas or at the website above!

Gaiam has a list of 50 ways to reuse your mat here. Tips include sound proofing, tree ornaments, dog/cat food dish no-slip pads, lining kitchen shelves, donating to animal shelters, flower pot drainers, and even bases for a baseball game with the kids!

Some tips on Yoga mat etiquette when in a class or practicing at home…

1. Clean it with a natural cleanser after use! Bacteria and mold thrive on yoga mats… and let it hang out to dry afterward, especially after hot yoga. Wash your yoga rug (blanket) as well after every few uses and cleanse your blocks/straps with some non-toxic wipes/cleanser as well.But be careful to dry after cleansing…sprays can leave your tools slippery and therefore dangerous.

Here are some wonderful cleansers I’ve found and tried…

This Vermont Soap Yoga Mat Wash is great! Its certified organic and is under 10 bucks for 16 oz.! click here...

This Vermont Soap Yoga Mat Wash is great! It's certified organic and is under 10 bucks for 16 oz.! click here...

Stirlen makes a line of all natural cleansers that are biodegradable. Stirlen Chi spray has natural hormonizing scents and is also under $10....click here...

Stirlen makes a line of all natural cleansers that are biodegradable. Stirlen "Chi" spray has natural harmonizing scents and is also under $10....click here...

Happy Yoga Mat wash comes in wipes ad spray! Its organic/vegan, with refreshing citrus and lavender scents, and antifungall tea tree oil...click here...

Happy Yoga Mat wash comes in wipes ad spray! It's organic/vegan, with refreshing citrus and lavender scents, and anti-fungal tea tree oil...click here...

2. Do not step on anyone’s yoga mat but your own (except in couple’s yoga). Feet bring in toxins and dirt from the outside world and its not the nicest thing to step on a neighbor’s “private practice space” they have set up in class. Wash your own feet before practicing…remember you’ll go from Mountain pose at the top of your mat, to face down in the same place while taking a break from Bow.

Summer time...try to feel the sand between your toes...(photo courtesy of livebreatheyoga.com)

The most eco-friendly mat around...(photo courtesy of livebreatheyoga.com)

One more tip…since it is summer…try forgoing the mat altogether for one practice and take a step to be closer to nature by performing some poses in a flat and sturdy patch of grass or sand….its amazing!

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Malawi….”the Warm Heart of Africa”…
Kaya Mawa resort in Malawi...an eco-conscious fantasy

Kaya Mawa resort in Malawi...an eco-conscious fantasy

Well, the weather still has not let up and its making me long to go back to the wonderful, and much drier, Africa. One country I have always wanted to visit in Africa is Malawi…in South Eastern Africa nestled in between Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania. One may think that because it is landlocked it may not be an ideal paradise, but Lake Malawi (which provides a border between Malawi and Tanzania and Mozambique) makes any resort in that area feel like a beach paradise. It is also called the ‘Calendar Lake’ since it is 365 miles long and 52 miles wide.

The beaches are pristine, the people are warm and energetic, and it is an untapped paradise for water-lovers despite being ‘landlocked’.

To experience Malawi in true luxury form without making a negative dent, but rather a positive one in the environment and culture try staying at one of the top eco-friendly and sustainable resorts in the world….the Kaya Mawa.

Bathtub overlooking those crystal clear waters at the Kaya Mawa...a dream!

Bathtub overlooking those crystal clear waters at the Kaya Mawa...a dream! Every hut has its own bathtub with the same view, a huge mahogany bed and even the 'loo' has a view!

Im ok with this view...Kaya Mawa resort

I'm ok with this view...Kaya Mawa resort

one of Kaya Mawas premium Chalets in the evening

one of Kaya Mawa's premium Chalet's in the evening

spectacualr rooms! uber romantic at the Kaya Mawa

spectacualr rooms! uber romantic at the Kaya Mawa

Located on the Likoma Island of the northern part of Lake Malawi (close to Mozambique), this lodge is a step back into a undeveloped wonderland of flora and fauna. The island is only 17 square kilometers and you will stay in one of 10 stone and teak-framed ‘chalets’.

The huts and resort were built entirely BY HAND (there was no machinery on the island) with help by employment of local people (who speak with the Tonga dialect). The workers used the local landscape and resources (stone and natural cliffs) to build the resort into the island as naturally as possible.

SCUBA is the pristine waters of Lake Malawi...

SCUBA is the pristine waters of Lake Malawi...

The Honeymoon suite is even located on its OWN PRIVATE ISLAND!

get there by small plane...maybe not the most eco-friendly...but certainly makes you feel like youre in Out of Africa...and surprisingly not as expensive as you would anticipte!

get there by small plane...maybe not the most eco-friendly...but certainly makes you feel like you're in "Out of Africa"...and surprisingly not as expensive as you would anticipate!

Get to the resort by air (small planes in Africa are so much fun for a birds-eye view!) or by boat and arrive to pure relaxation or get started with their activities which include snorkeling, SCUBA, sailing, mountain biking, exploration to Mozambique, and visits to the local village of Nkhwazi to the school or even to the local dance bars!

If you want to look into how to offset your travel emissions from flying…click here.

Childrens choir at the local school

Children's choir at the local school

some other local children in front of the school..adorable!

some other local children in front of the school..adorable!

The resorts sustainability initiatives stem from its mantra “Maybe Tomorrow” (in local Tonga dialect). The management works in partnership with the locals to stem overfishing, improve the agricultural scene in the area by planting as much new produce as possible, not using machinery in construction, employing locals, and helping the local village schools with volunteerism and large donations (for purchases of football fields for athletic programs in the schools and other endeavors).

They even started an Island Child program in which one can sponsor a local child’s education, health care, etc.

Likoma means beautiful, from “silikoma” or “sweet land” and it certainly lives up to that name.

Rates range from a semi-affordable (relatively speaking) $180 (US) up to $430 (US) per night (for a the honeymoon suite). Definitely a splurge, but compared to other luxury hotels that aren’t as sustainable, I would say it’s a deal!

Although March is the prime-time for the rainy season, it should be dying down by now! Note: you will want to look into getting some immunizations and some Malaria pills before you head over, and there are many different options for travel/air carriers, so contact a travel agent who specializes in African travel for some advice or check out a “Lonely Planet” guide here from Amazon…or the Lonely Planet’s condensed version of Malawi on their website here.

Malawi was a British colony (many obviously speak English making travel easier) that gained independence back in 1964 but has struggled to develop a market economy and provide the proper health care for its citizens, struggling with infant mortality rates, malaria, HIV/AIDS, agricultural sustainability, improving environmental protection and increasing the quality of education for its densely populated citizenry.

Although celebrities (aka Madonna) have made adopting children from this country popular, I suggest a better way for feeling socially responsible: donate to the local schools when you visit (even just some school supplies we take for granted would help), or maybe spend part of your time on vacation volunteering at a local school if you feel moved to do so. You will be helping more than one child!

An image of the Gule Wamkulu dance (photo courtesy of farm4.status.flickr.com/3556)

An image of the Gule Wamkulu dance (photo courtesy of farm4.status.flickr.com/3556)

One thing that really draws me to Malawi is its cultural heritage and its focus on dance. Since I am a dancer, and have studied some African dance, it would be my dream to go to Malawi and study some of their traditional dances of their Bantu people that are performed at many rituals and traditional ceremonies. Some dances include the Gule Wamkulu of the Chewa people in which the members dance in elaborate costumes and even on stilts, while the vimbuza which is a healing dance performed by witch doctors to help patients of the Timbuka in northern Malawi.The government even founded a National Dance Troupe!

some volunteers from Luzicare (luzicare.com)...the nonprofit utilizes the skills of locals to help those battling HIV/AIDS, even those who are battling it themselves

some volunteers from Luzicare (luzicare.com)...the nonprofit utilizes the skills of locals to help those battling HIV/AIDS, even those who are battling it themselves

A friend from my alma mater, Colby College,  a few years ago began an organization to help children in Malawi called Luzicare. This unprecedented endeavor by a busy college student, Jamie Goldring, has helped to bring aide to thousands of people (particularly children) suffering from HIV/AIDS in the country. It is a remarkable effort that is really making a difference by a remarkable young man…for more information on his efforts click here.

For some more basic facts on Malawi from National Geographic…click here.

sunset over Lake Malawi (courtesy of newsimg.bbc.co.uk)

sunset over Lake Malawi (courtesy of newsimg.bbc.co.uk)

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‘Wine’ not?

Okay so drinking wine may not lead us to spiritual enlightenment, and it may be frowned upon in  efforts to cleanse oneself…but something I have learned in my life is “everything in moderation”.

some red wine in moderation is good for the skin, heart and soul!

some red wine in moderation is good for the skin, heart and soul!

Wine, red wine in particular, does have its health benefits in its restorative ‘reservatols’, as many of you know. Red wine (a glass per day) can decrease cholesterol and decrease your risk of heart disease, heart attack , and diabetes.

In Ayurveda, red wine is called arista and is known for all these benefits and also helps decrease the effects of the aging process by relaxing blood vessels. There are even wine spas in India, meanwhile wine facials have become popular in some places like Jaipur! These wines, however, are made with a more herbal base than other international wines. They incorporate fennel seeds and other unusual ingredients, that, when applied to the skin, can draw out impurities. For more info on wine facials in India click here.

Indian woman picking grapes (photo courtesy of static.guim.co.uk)

Indian woman picking grapes (photo courtesy of static.guim.co.uk)

Wine + facial + India = Im there! photo courtesy of rajasthantravelportal.com

Wine + facial + India = I'm there! photo courtesy of rajasthantravelportal.com

Red wines in general contain antioxidants and Organic wines are now becoming a new trend in the business despite the argument that organic wines don’t contain the sulfites necessary to produce “good” wine. Just head to your local wine store and ask the manager what they recommend for organic wines, they will probably have a few in stock.

Here are some tasty organic wines I have found recently….for a primer on organic wines…click here

some award winning wines from Frey (click for website)

some award winning wines from Frey (click for website)

My dad and I enjoyed this Organic Syrah from the North Coast of California…partially because their name was Frey…at $13.99 it was a great, medium acidity, low tannin, fruity and moderately sweet wine with light body and a misleading tart smell, but it wasn’t tart at all! Hints of cinnamon…mmmm (freywine.com)

Bonterra....makes me want to move to northern California

Bonterra....makes me want to move to northern California

bottle of Bonterra organic merlot

bottle of Bonterra organic merlot

We loved this Organic Merlot from Bonterra in Mendocino County, CA (2006). At $15.99 it was a little more expensive, but a good oaky and soft subdued simi-dry wine. (bonterra.com)

Black Swan Shiraz-Merlot

Black Swan Shiraz-Merlot

For a good cheap wine try this Australian Shiraz Merlot blend by Black Swan (2008) at only $6.99 (we found ours at Trader Joe’s)  it was a steal!

Carmenet Cabernet Franc Moon Mountain Estate from Chalonewinegroup.com

Carmenet Cabernet Franc Moon Mountain Estate from Chalonewinegroup.com

And if you’re looking to splurge (for around $35) try this Carmenet Cabernet Franc Moon Mountain Estate (1998) from the chalonewinegroup.com…with a full body and hints of roasted chiles, concentrated figs an other dried fruits…its magical.

A great idea, especially in these economic times, is to ‘google’ some local vineyards and go have a free wine tasting! great for a first date or weekend day trip with your girl/guy friends!

Buying locally can be a great way to support local businesses in the economy and find more natural wines. My friend James (the running partner) and I, had an impromptu wine tasting at the previously mentioned Russell Orchards in Ipswich a few weeks ago. It was a foggy morning, much like today, and the manager brought out some fantastic homegrown fruit wines. We ended up going home with four bottles at about $13 a bottle! These fruit wines have a lower alcohol content (about %11) but were wonderfully original and made from fruit grown right on the farm. Russell Orchards gave us a pamphlet of their different types of wine and what they would taste good with (from Strawberry wines to Blueberry wines to Dandelion wines and many more).

photo of Russelll Orchards Cherry wine...click for their website

photo of Russell Orchards Cherry wine...click for their website

I fell in love with Russell Orchards Dry Blueberry Wine while their Raspberry Peach is a bestseller!

Another local winery...Alfalfa Farm Winery (click here)

Another local winery...Alfalfa Farm Winery (click here)

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