Monday, June 13, 2011

Mat-Less and Fancy-Free

As a yoga instructor I often feel I am the student of those who attend my classes.  The most recent experience of this was when an unfamiliar woman entered my class without her yoga mat.

Shortly after I instructed everyone to close their eyes and connect with their bodies an unfamiliar face took her spot front and center.  I assumed she sat directly on the floor because she was new, ignorant to the practice of yoga and it's mat.  As I transitioned everyone into the first asana, yoga pose, I squatted next to her and said "if you need a mat I'd be happy to get on for you."  She smiled and replied "no thank you."

No thank you?!

Stunned and curious I paid close attention to her movements throughout the class.  As I observed her practice, downward facing dog seemed a little more challenging, but mostly I found myself inspired even a little envious of her freedom.

Often using flowery and cliché language I remind people to spread their toes and fingers to get grounded, and to connect with their environment, but while I watched this mat free woman I began wondering:

Whether inside or outside, whether it's a smooth or rough surface; how grounded can you get with a cushy mat separating you from the floor?

The yoga mat as we know it is only about two decades old.  Angela Farmer, instructor and practitioner of yoga, found a solution to slippery hands and feet when she discovered a "sticky" carpet padding while in Germany.  The use of carpet padding grew in popularity, and eventually the first formal yoga mat was manufactured and distributed by Hugger Mugger in the early 1990s.

Since its birth the yoga mat as become the standard equipment used for asana practice.  The mat helps to support the body by offering protection from slipping and over tensing the muscles to stay steady.  Some even say that over time the mat will collect your energy that creates a cocoon of positive reinforcement and safety.

Since my encounter with the mat-less yogini I tried my practice free from my mat.  I felt liberated and free to move outside the lines that are usually dictated by my mat.  I don't plan on giving the mat up completely, but now I will use it less and let myself experience the different textures and spaces around me.  What do you think about ditching the mat?

Are mats just one more thing that disconnects us from our environment?


Motivated me to try it as well. Especially when outdoors - seems silly to have a mat at that time, doesn't it?

Hi Steltzer,

Very interesting site and articles. Really thankful for sharing.Will surely
recommend this site to some friends! Regards,

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