But let’s face it, like any fitness persuasion, when you’re traveling and trying to keep your load light, or trying to fit your practice into a busy schedule, toting around a yoga mat isn’t easy or practical.
That’s what Jamie Getzwiller, a UA graduate who was raised on a cattle ranch in Southern Arizona, discovered. She was helping her mom, Gail Getzwiller, a yoga teacher of 30-plus years, produce a yoga video. The Navajo rugs they tried to use made it very difficult to demonstrate poses, despite the cultural ambience the rugs lent to the scene. That’s when they had one of those classic ah ha! moments: let’s make this easier! They put their heads togther and came up with and Yoga-Paws, a set of pads for the hands and feet that replicate the stickiness of a yoga mat.
Imagine a partial cycling glove with a thong that fits between your index and middle fingers to keep the pad in place. The footpads also have a thong that’s held between your big toe and second toe, and a pad that covers the ball of your foot. The comfortable gloves and footpads provide both support and cushioning on most surfaces.
The pads are designed to be used alone on nonabrasive surfaces like rugs, towels or slippery tile. But you can also use them with a mat. As we age, the cushioning fat in the palms our hands begins to thin, which is why older athletes are find Yoga-Paws especially helpful for improving stability and comfort on a mat.
Jan Wysong-Martin, a 67-year-old Phoenix Iyengar practitioner, says the gloves have transformed her practice. She says that the extra-thick nonslip material provides padding and traction for more complicated poses. Iyengar yoga promotes strength, flexibility, endurance, and balance through coordinated breathing and poses that require precise body alignment. The poses are generally held longer than in other types of yoga. Although Iyengar incorporates the traditional postures, or asanas, that make up the broader category of Hatha yoga, it also incorporates more props and cushions, which has made it the go-to yoga for athletes recovering from sports injuries, as well as an ideal practice for the elderly and disabled.
“I find they reduce slipping and sliding during more rigorous practice,” Wysong-Martin says, “which makes me feel a lot more confident and secure. I try a lot more poses than I used to. They’re also particularly beneficial for holding static poses like side plank.” When you perform the full version of the side plank, also known as vasisthasana, as taught by BKS Iyengar, you raise the top leg perpendicular to the floor. That’s often beyond the capacity of most beginners.
“Yoga-Paws,” she says, “have helped me perfect this pose. Now, I can actually raise my top leg for about ten seconds now. I couldn’t do that before—I use to just slip and and fall over.”
The Ashtanga method of yoga involves synchronizing the breath with a progressive series of postures—a process that produces intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs, and helps improve circulation, strengthen the body and calm mind chatter.
John Rehnquist, a 45-year-old ultra athlete who practices this form of yoga, swears by the gloves and feet pads: “They work great on hardwood floors and carpeting and are small enough to slip into a carry-on during my business trips. I strongly recommend them for yoga practitionersa at any level.”
Although they are very lightweight, they’re built to offer years of use, and certain to make your yoga training way more spontaneous. They’re also reasonably priced, so buying an extra set to leave in your car, backpack, panniers, suitcase, briefcase, or office is definitely doable.
Pilates practitioners use them, too. Melita O’Brien, a Pilates instructor in Los Angeles, says that she has clients who just could not “get” exercises like the Twist, a Pilates mat work exercise, until they tried Yoga-Paws.
“I can describe an exercise that shows just how vital this added support can be:
“Sit on your right side, legs bent, right hand supporting your torso, left foot in front of right foot. Then you have to lift up your body until your body and legs are in straight line with your left arm out to side. Then you need to hold that for 2 seconds.
“You then push with your right arm to reach your left hand toward your right hip, pushing hips to ceiling, and your chest to knees. But keep the sides of your feet on the mat. Then untwist to a side position and lower your hips down to the mat bending your knees at the same time. Repeat, four times, then switch to other side.
“You see, the idea is to lift out of the supporting shoulder —not sink into it,” O’Brien adds. “In other words, your shoulder blade should not poke out in back. Yoga-Paws give you the added support needed to pull this off. I swear by them for many of my clients.”
While the gloves and footpads aren’t as beneficial for full body on the floor asanas, if you’re someone who has limited range of motion, and trouble getting up and down, Yoga-Paws can supply some of the added reinforcement needed to move from floor to standing.
But their biggest benefit is their easy portability, making it possible to take your yoga practice with you wherever you go.
After a long day backpacking in the Grand Canyon or rock climbing in Sedona, find a big slick rock, don your Yoga Paws and run through a flow to bring some juice to the tight spots in your joints and spine. For backpacking in particular, it sure beats using your sleeping mat and the risk of puncturing it.
And with the added costs of traveling by air these days, where every additional ounce in your luggage puts you at risks of yet another fee, go ahead and tuck a pair in your carry-on or multi-pocket jacket, secure in knowing your Yoga-Paws are not only handy but saving you money.