Yoga and Pilates are the missing ingredients in many fitness plans, the ideal complement to cardio and strength work. Here, just in time for the holidays, are four convenient, space-saving innovations and the timeless gifts of flexibility and postural alignment.
FOR THE RECORD:
Yogahitch: Ring-shaped, 7.6-by-33-inch cotton towel that can be used as a mat carrier, yoga strap and towel.
Likes: It's a multitasking, space-saving wonder — ingeniously simple, stylish and functional. The efficient loop configuration allows you to cinch it to a rolled-up mat almost instantly and use it as a strap during yoga positions, as well as keep dry.
Dislikes: If it had a pocket, it could also store your gloves and booties.
Price: $45. (877) 964-4824; yogahitch.com
Pilates on the go
Empower Pilates Studio: Portable Pilates trainer that includes a 3-foot-long padded bar with two handled stretch cords attached. A three-workout DVD is included.
Likes: A great workout, especially for the price. The DVD, directed by aerobics legend Gin Miller, includes about 20 exercises, including side-lying leg lifts, double leg pulls, bridges, V-ups, arm curls and overhead presses. You definitely feel your core struggling to keep hands and feet in line, due to the stretch cords not being anchored to a fixed point (as they are with the Pilates Stick, reviewed here). To increase the resistance, just roll the bar to take up slack on the stretch cord. The two-section bar assembles/disassembles in two seconds, making it portable enough for travel.
Dislikes: I would have paid $5 more for a carry bag and spiral-bound exercise book with all the possible exercises, rather than a folded-up piece of paper with just six exercises on it.
Price: $24.95. (800) 704-5561; http://www.empowerfitness.com
Pilates door prize
PeakPilates PilatesStick Basic Kit Package: Doorjamb-mounted exercise system that allows many Pilates-style exercises. System includes a 26-inch-long, 1.25-inch-diameter wooden stick with padded hand-holds, 5.5-foot-long stretchable Slastix tubing, two foot straps, a ground pad and an hourlong workout DVD.
Likes: A variety of fun and challenging leg and upper-body strength and stretching exercises, done laying down, kneeling, and standing with and without the stick. To increase resistance of the Slastix cords, move farther from the door. A bag holds the mat and the stick, using the Slastix as the carry strap.
Dislikes: The fold-out wall chart displays only a dozen exercises; for the price, I think a dedicated manual with dozens of exercises should be included.
Price: $149.95. (800) 925-3674; http://www.peakpilates.com
Yoga block Party
Stick-e Wrist Saver Block: Traditional foam yoga block with an added internal handle to position the wrist for upper-body movements.
Likes: Very functional and effective, allowing for additional exercise options. Along with standard block uses (assisted toes touches and squeeze-between-the-knees situps and leg lifts), they allow for deeper dips, pushups and chatteranga.
Price: $19.95 (one block). (708) 960-4855; http://www.stick-e.com
Wallack is coauthor of "Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100" and "Barefoot Running Step By Step." firstname.lastname@example.org