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HELLOO! I’M ILSE

Welcome to NovaWoolf – my space to dream and to do, and to share it all with you. Hang around and let’s figure out how to live our best damn lives and be our most authentic, fulfilled, and creative selves, together!

When deciding which yoga mat you should buy, there are a few important aspects you need to consider.

With so many yoga mats on the market today, it might get a little bit overwhelming and confusing to decide which one will best serve your practice. When I first started practicing yoga, my thought process was essentially limited to a choice between purple or pink. Oh how things have changed! Back then, the yoga mats that were available were not great quality, they were loaded with toxins, terrible for our environment, and pretty damn boring too, let’s just be real.

Luckily there are now much better options available, both in terms of quality and style, and each variation is designed with very specific needs in mind. So I’ve decided to break it down, feature by feature, so that you are armed with all the knowledge you need before making a decision. As with everything in life, each mat comes with its own set of pros AND cons! Be weary of ‘guides’ that only supply you with the positive aspects of certain mats, just saying. Use this well-balanced, transparent guide to choose a yoga mat that will really benefit your practice, your priorities, lifestyle, values, and budget.

WEIGHT & THICKNESS

The thickness of your yoga mat is very important to consider, since it will determine how comfortable you will be during your practice. If you struggle with joint pain or injury, you will want a mat that offers the right amount of support and cushioning. However, the thicker the mat, the heavier and bulkier it will be to transport. You also need to be mindful of the storage space required for your mat. If portability is your main concern, choose a thinner mat. If support and cushioning is your main concern – choose a thicker mat. But be aware of the downfalls of each.

I saw a guy the other day carrying an extremely thick mat, that basically looked like a spongy roll-up mattress! This is probably alright if you have seriously bad joints, or if you are planning on taking a nice long nap on it, 🤷‍♀️ but for a young, relatively healthy person, I’d say it’s quite excessive.

Another downfall with a very thick mat, is that it breaks the connection you have to the ground. You need to be stable and grounded during your practice, which is why yogi’s practice barefoot. So, if you are practicing on a very thick foamy mat, you will likely feel off-balance – especially in more advanced, balancing-type postures.

Suggestion:

Consider your individual needs. We are all different and our bodies are also always in flux. If you need a roll-up mattress to enable you to practice comfortably, then by all means, use the damn mattress!😁But if you are relatively average in terms of needing a combination of support, portability, durability, cushion and stability, then a mat that is around 3mm – 5mm thick will do the trick.

GRIP & Texture

Think about it – you want a very grippy mat so that you do not slip and slide all over the place once you get sweaty. BUT you also don’t want a mat to be gross and sticky when you are trying to move fluidly between postures. Again, by considering the pros and cons of various varieties, you will be able to make a decision that will serve you well throughout your particular practice.

For instance, if you practice mostly hot yoga, or you get really sweaty palms and feet during your practice, then a mat with a very absorbent, suede, or towellike, texture will be great for you. These types of mats function as a combination between a towel and yoga mat, meaning that they continuously absorb moisture and become super grippy when other mats might fail you. This variety of mat is also very comfy and soft – ideal for yin, restorative, or meditation practices too. The downfall is that this type of mat might be a bit slippery when used completely dry. An easy fix for this though, is to simply spritz a little bit of water onto the mat to increase traction. More advanced yogi’s however, often prefer to use these mats dry, since it challenges you to build strength and stability.

Another variety to consider if you are looking for a very versatile mat that will be extremely grippy during any style of practice and in any environment, is the sticky surface of a mat constructed from rubber and polyurethane, such as this one (pictured on the right below). This mat boasts the most advanced engineering used for any yoga mat and really provides you with a great balance of thickness, grip, stability, comfort, and support. What’s more, is that the alignment line design will aid you in finding the correct alignment in each posture, to prevent injury and help you to progress more easily throughout your practice. This mat really is an all-round, high performance product, that I doubt you could regret purchasing. The downfall – they are a bit bulkier and heavier than the suede-type mats and the smooth, sticky surface texture is not as cosy as the suede finish mats, yet still extremely comfortable.

Alternative mats manufactured from cork, jute, cotton, or hemp are also all great options, but keep in mind the particular features discussed here. E.g. a lot of jute, hemp, or cotton mats are rather thin and might lack adequate cushioning. They also tend to feel rather course on the skin, especially as they wear with time. Cork mats tend not to be as soft and comfortable as the suede or PU type mats, and tend to be less durable. Ultimately, I like to invest in a mat that is going to provide all the performance features I value, as well as being versatile, portable, comfortable, durable, and stylish. Which brings me to my next point…

STYLE

Now that there is such a wide variety of yoga mats to choose from, it becomes almost like deciding which T-Shirt to buy. It would be very simple if there were only black shirts, or white shirts, but how do you choose between printed or plain, minimalist or sparkly, studs or lace trimmings, distressed or polished? Easy – you choose a design that resonates with you.

Beyond all the important performance features, I truly believe that your yoga mat carries a lot of symbolic value that goes way beyond branding and marketing. It is a container for the physical, emotional and spiritual journey you embark on when practicing yoga. Look for a design that is meaningful, makes you feel powerful, or calm, or expresses something about your journey with yoga. This will ensure that you treasure your mat, look after it well, and get excited to practice on it!

be conscious

Lastly, as yogi’s we practice the virtue of ahimsa: the respect for all living things and the avoidance of violence towards others. This implies a conscious way of life that is compassionate, and kind. I believe that an individualistic Western culture falls short in equipping us with the necessary values to live harmoniously with one another, with all species, and within our eco-system as a whole. We need to be critical of what we consume, and thus support. Our individual choices are a lot more political than most of us realise, but let’s not get into all of that right now.

What is important for you to realise when buying a yoga mat is that certain materials used cause a lot of harm to our environment. When you are buying a PVC mat, for example, it will inevitably end up somewhere in a landfill, polluting our planet. It is not biodegradable, and the manufacturing process involved causes a lot of damage to our water, air, and food supply – and thus to all species who rely on it. So even though it might be a less expensive option in monetary terms, the cost involved to our health, and ecosystem, is not worth it in the long run.

Luckily, there are a wide range of eco-friendly, toxin-free, and sustainable yoga mats available on the market today. Choose natural materials, recycled materials, and mats that are biodegradable!

novawoolf yoga mats

It was extremely important to me to create a yoga mat range that meets a variety of yogi’s needs, boasts exceptionally high quality, is eco-friendly, biodegradable, and looks and feels super luxurious and beautiful. The NOVAWOOLF premium yoga mat collection is designed with all the above-mentioned considerations in mind, and created to mitigate the possible cons of each feature. Beyond that, each design carries a very special story from my heart. I hope that this little piece of my story will become a part of your story too!

Namaste, happy yogi’s!

A yoga studio, vegan café, and zero waste grocer combined, in the heart of Greenside, Johannesburg.

Anesu Mbizvo, and Banesa Lolauoa Tseki, co-founders of The Nest Space, are on a mission to make conscious, zero-waste, and vegan living more accessible and convenient. Their aim is to encourage more people to join this healthier, kinder way of life. Naturally, I am excited!

Yoga Studio

The Nest Space started its beautiful journey in August 2018 as a proudly inclusive yoga studio, 100% owned and run by women of colour. The intimate yoga studio provides a warm and welcoming experience to yogi’s at any level of practice. Anesu recently invited me to attend a restorative class and I must say, it was one of the most cozy, comfortable spaces I’ve practiced in.

Vegan Café

Since the recent expansion to include the vegan café and zero-waste grocer, the studio space extends into a relaxed, loungey vegan café where you can stay connected for a while, before dashing out into traffic. The café also has free Wifi available, and there are charming plug points at all the tables. Because hey, some of us need our meditation apps! The menu includes all the plant-based goodness your body needs – freshly squeezed juices, smoothies, smoothie bowls, vegan sushi, and delicious daily wraps, burgers, and salads. Make sure to check out the delicious buffet on Saturdays and Sundays from 12pm – 4pm!

zero-waste grocer

Although the zero-waste grocer consists of a relatively small space, you will find all the essentials you may need for your kitchen, bathroom, and household. Expect to stock up on grains, nuts, granola, skincare and other toiletries, reusable wax food wraps, and organic cleaning products, amongst other items. All items are sold either packaging-free, in reusable packaging (like glass), or in biodegradable packaging that won’t harm the earth. For loose products, simply bring your own containers, or purchase reusable ones from the grocer, then fill up, weigh, and pay.

produce boxes & frozen meals

Further, The Nest Space also serves as a pick-up point for organic veggie and fruit boxes that are sold in three different sizes: for singles, couples, or families (four people). You can order your produce box during the week and collect after 12pm on the weekend. If you are like me and often run out of time to cook during the week, or if you are simply looking for an easy, healthy alternative to your regular take-out nights, then enquire at The Nest Space about their frozen vegan meals. These can also be ordered in advance and collected over the weekend.

novawoolf yoga mats

Lastly, I am BEYOND excited that the NOVAWOOLF premium yoga mat collection will be available to purchase at The Nest Space from 1 December 2019! Every NOVAWOOLF yoga mat is made from the highest quality natural, and recycled materials, is free from toxins, and is biodegradable. Naturally, having this wonderful space onboard as one of our proud stockists makes me very happy 🙂

Thank you Anesu & Banesa for creating this wonderful space and for doing your part to create a kind, inclusive, sustainable future.

I used to draw on tables. My teachers probably should have let me. I probably should have found somewhere else to draw.

When I was little, I used to draw on my school desks, doodle in the margins of test papers, and I used to ‘glam-up’ my year planners by pasting pictures from magazines onto any empty spot I could find and then drawing next to, over, and all around them. My year planners were a sort of journal where I kept track of what I did, who I saw, interesting things I heard or read, and how I felt about it all. I never used them for their intended purpose – I never really wrote down much in advance, and if I did have sections detailing my homework assignments, I pasted or drew over it as soon as it was no longer useful. Somewhere along the road of life, I stopped.

I could blame this on many things: it was because teachers always reprimanded me for doodling on desks (understandably so); it was because a kid in my class judged what they saw in my planner (I hope they have shown the criticised part of themselves some love by now); it was because a boy once called my expressions ‘silly’ (I hope he has finally embraced the silly part of himself); it was because adults told me to focus on ‘real work’ (I am yet to understand what that even means). Really, it was because I let the world get to me. I allowed myself to disconnect from who I am in favour of what I should be.

We hear this kind of thing a lot nowadays in the form of new age spiritual mantras and affirmations that aim to guide us back to ourselves, but honestly – wtf does that even mean? What does it look like to reconnect to yourself? How do you even know if you are disconnected in the first place, and how do you know when you’ve made the journey from being lost to found? I can’t tell you what this journey will look like for you exactly, but I can share with you my journey, and maybe you will find some useful knowledge, or some inspiration in what this all has involved (and continues to involve) for me. Or maybe you will simply find a place where you can relate to someone else’s experiences and not feel so isolated.

If you have been following my creative expedition over the last few years, you would have seen quite a lot of emotional content as I have spewed my inner conflicts and discoveries onto a page (but that’s another blog post), which made its way into your social media feed. It’s been interesting, difficult, exciting, and rewarding, and it has led me from posting daily doodles as a form of therapy while completing my Master’s Degree and going through major life changes, to creating NOVAWOOLF – my space to create, to dream, to do what I love and to share it all with you. I think that’s pretty damn amazing!

I’m so grateful for every person who has encouraged me to start posting drawings, to everyone who has bought my artworks, or commissioned design and illustration work, to everyone who has encouraged me to exhibit my work, and to take this even more seriously and turn it into something I once could’ve only imagined. I’ve listened to you all and I thank you all for being my guides and pushing me forward. NOVAWOOLF is ready, she’s brave, and she’s excited for what the future holds!

Since this is my very first (and very scary!) blog entry, I’d love to give you an exact roadmap of where this is all going and what you can expect to read if you subscribe to my blog, but the honest answer is that I can’t. At one point in my life I could tell you exactly where I was going, and what my life would look like in 10, 20, 30 years’ time, but I was wrong. Lol.

What I can tell you is that I am committed to sharing my current metaphorical doodle-covered school desks, test papers, and year planners with you in whatever form that might be. What I can tell you is that this will NOT be a blog where you will find “10 ways to perfect hair / nails / faking your way to that perfect designer outfit...”, etc. I’m not bashing those blogs either – they each have their place, and yisssss do I love a good beauty how-to when I find one! What I am saying though, is that I couldn’t write those blogs, because I don’t know 10 ways to the perfect… anything. My life is messy. It’s up, down, sideways, and real. That is likely what you will be reading about. Well that and art; design; psychology; yoga; rock climbing; hiking; dogs; eco-conscious living; and most definitely my new range of yoga mats that I’m beyond excited about!!

Follow me on this exciting journey so that we can all figure out how to do this adulting thing and create our best, most authentic, fulfilling, creative lives, together.

I would always appreciate your feedback and suggestions, so please consider leaving a comment below.

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