2008 Holiday Gift Ideas

11/30/2008 (last updated: 08/24/2009 13:42)
Johnny Kuo

giftThe holiday shopping season has officially begun. We at The Internal Arts don't endorse rampant consumerism and giving gifts which serve no purpose other than showing that you spent money to show you cared. That's why we've assembled a list of thoughtful and health improving gift ideas to help with your holiday shopping. These gifts conform to our mission of helping you (and your gift recipients) feel vibrant and healthy, while at the same time not breaking the bank.

Gifts for a Healthy Body

Foam Rollers allow you to do self-myofascial release. You roll your bodyweight on a foam cylinder to massage away adhesions in your myofasical tissue. The self-massage helps loosen up tight muscles and restore healthy range of motion. And it just feels darn good to have your muscle tension relaxed and myofascial adhesions loosened. The 3-foot long rollers are preferrable, but the basic 1-foot long rollers are still perfectly useable.

body back buddyThe Body Back Buddy is a massage tool that lets you do more targeted self-myofascial release therapy. The numerous knobs allow you to massage different parts of your body from several angles and using varying levels of user-controlled pressure. The Body Back Buddy is particularly good for applying therapeutic pressure to hard to reach spots on the back. It's cantilevered design allows you to reach those hard to reach areas of the back and apply massaging pressure to the tight muscles.

neti potNeti pots might be unconventional gifts and could weird out your gift recipient. It's unfortunate that these things aren't more commonly used though, because they really work. Flushing lukewarm salt water through your sinuses dislodges stagnant mucus and rinses out dust, pollen, micro-organisms, and other debris that might be trapped in your nasal passages. Regular sinus cleansing relieves allergy symptoms and prevents illness. Once you get past the initial weirdness of flushing salt water through your nostrils, you'll be better able to keep yourself healthy, especially during those winter months where dry indoor air thickens and stagnates the mucus so that pathogens have more of a chance to cause illness.

water bottleReuseable Water Bottle - It's good to keep hydrated by regularly drinking water, but preferably not from plastic water bottles. Those ubiquitous disposable plastic water bottles are environmentally unfriendly and leach bisphenol A (BPA), an estrogen mimicking chemical which is implicated in decreasing fertility, increasing risk of certain cancers, and contributing to childhood behavioral problems. Many of the reuseable plastic bottles use polycarbonate, which also leaches BPA. Your best bet is to get a non-reactive metal water bottle. Klean Kanteen and Sigg make popular stainless steel and ceramic lined aluminum water bottles which don't leach any chemicals and are non-reactive.

For the Fitness Nut

Jump Rope - Skipping or jumping rope is a fabulous total body, cardiovascular exercise. It lends itself well to high intensity interval training (HIIT), and the intensity level of the workout scales from beginner all the way up to advanced skipping guru. The number of step variations are practically endless, which keeps workouts from getting stale. Done with proper technique, jumping rope is lower impact than running. Jump ropes are also relatively cheap and super portable.

A basic $5 jump rope provides a great workout, but you can also upgrade to the Porsche of jump ropes: the Buddy Lee Aero Speed. The $40 price tag for the Aero Speed is a bit more of an investment than a basic rope, but the specially designed swivel bearings and padded aircraft grade aluminum handles make for a smooth turning rope that can be revved up to high speeds.

Elite Rings - Ever notice how gymnasts have really ripped physiques? Even though most of their training is bodyweight only, gymnasts develop a huge amount of core strength and a high overall strength to bodyweight ratio. The Elite Rings develop total upper body strength by forcing you to stabilize against the dynamic movement of the rings. Basic exercises like pull ups, dips, and push ups can become immensely more challenging on the rings, and you can work up to gymnastic type exercises like front levers, back levers, skin the cats, and muscle ups. At $75-$85 (depending on whether you get them on sale), the rings are more than just a casual fitness equipment expense, but they are well worth the cost for anyone serious about developing a lot of core and functional upper body strength.

Yoga Gifts

Gaiam yoga matRubber Yoga Mat - The cheap yoga mats that you pick up at the store may work well, but they are usually made from PVC. The manufacture of PVC release dioxins, chlorine gas, and other noxious chemicals into the environment. The PVC mats themselves offgas unhealthy fumes and contain plasticizing additives, including well-known endocrine disrupting phthalates. These additives leach onto your skin and into the environment. Fortunately, we're not stuck with just PVC mats nowadays. Natural rubber Gaiam yoga mats can be purchased in a variety of colors and print patterns. Yoga-clothing also offers its eKo line of natural rubber yoga mats in 3mm and 5mm thicknesses.

Yoga Anatomy bookAnatomy of Hatha Yoga bookYoga Anatomy Books are a good gift idea for yoga instructors and practitioners. These books cover the anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics of your body in relation to yoga practice. They're a great reference for yoga practitioners and non-practitioners alike for understanding how the body works.

Johnny Kuo is an I-Liq Chuan martial arts instructor and a health and fitness enthusiast. Originally trained as a biologist and then a biomedical engineer, he has been a medical imaging researcher, tai chi teacher, software developer, research engineer, and freelance web developer.