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Too slippery and your downward dog will feel dangerous. Too grippy and you might take your mat with you when you jump forward during sun salutations. You might ask yourself, then, why use a yoga mat?
The yoga mat, however, is now unmistakably associated with contemporary yoga practice. The mat, which many people feel essential to avoid slipping, to mark their territory in crowded classes, or to establish a sacred place, is one of the most widely recognized tools of yoga. Almost all yoga classes in a yoga studio begin with rolling out on a mat, entering a standing position with your bare feet, and finishing with relaxation and rolling up the mat.
The main goal of using a mat is to prevent the body from touching the ground in order to prevent the loss of energy and heat. There are many various shapes, colors, and materials for yoga mats.
A Short History of the Yoga Mat
Yoga is one practice that has been around for thousands of years. Yoga was originally practiced on the bare floor, perhaps with a rug made of deer or tiger skin. These surfaces had a tendency for feet to slip, making it difficult to maintain a pose like Trikonasana.
Angela Farmer was the first to stress the significance of using a “yoga mat” when performing yoga in 1982.
Angela Farmer utilized carpet underlay that had been trimmed to towel size while teaching yoga in Germany. She brought the material back to London. Her father then made contact with a German maker of padding and became the first company to sell “sticky mat.“
Types of Yoga Mats
Yoga mats differ in terms of thickness, surface texture, “stickiness” or grip, weight, and price.
They typically measure 6 feet (180 cm) long and 2 feet wide (61 cm). Yoga mats can be as thin as 1/16 inch (2 mm) for lightweight “travel” style, 1/8 inch (3 mm) (standard), or as thick as 14 inches (6 mm) for either high-performance mats or softer mats for yoga therapy.
There are numerous colors and styles of mats available.
Alignment mats have printed guidelines for proper alignment, to assist practitioners in accurately spacing out and aligning their feet. Others have graphics printed on them. Some travel mats can be compactly squared up.
The first commercially available “sticky” mat had a smooth surface and was more affordable because they were made of PVC.
More recently, natural jute, organic cotton, and rubber have been used to create “eco-friendly” mats.
PVC mats are the most pliable and have the most “give” when stepped on; cotton and jute fiber mats are the firmest.
The most grippy mats are suited for the more vigorous forms of yoga, such as Ashtanga Vinyasa. However, they may be less comfortable and show stains more rapidly.
Why Is It Important to Use a Yoga Mat?
Defines Your Space
You tend to wander away and wish to find a place for yourself as a result of the constant stress, whether it be at work or at home. A tranquil environment, a place you can call your own.
The yoga mat represents the space for you to perform yoga asanas and engage in meditation. It turns into “your” private area, a place you can call your own where you may unwind, and do yoga to release all your tension and emotions.
A mat serves as a measure of stability when it is placed over the area where you want to do your asanas and/or meditate. Yoga mats can be used to provide a stable surface. As you stretch, it gives your body the stability it needs. The yoga mat gives an additional layer of support whether you do your asanas on your back or on your stomach.
Improves Posture and Grip
Better grip is always guaranteed with yoga mats. It is crucial that the surface is slip-proof when you are engaging in a body-balancing exercise, especially when it comes to doing yoga asanas.
After several months of practice, you start to engage in more challenging yoga poses, and have longer yoga sessions. In this situation, there is a danger that you could lose your balance and hurt or injure yourself if the ground is uneven, slick, or even if you are sweating.
When you practice yoga asanas and/or meditate, you usually release your tensions and stress. You can feel rooted and connected to your realities thanks to the yoga mats here. They stand for the fact that your reality is in contact with the earth’s limits.
Disadvantages of Yoga Mats
Anyone who practices yoga would benefit greatly from having a yoga mat.
However, you should be aware of a few disadvantages of yoga mats before making a purchase.
Challenging to Clean
Yoga mats can be difficult to clean, which is a major disadvantage. If you’re not careful, sweat and dirt can accumulate on the mat and become hard to get rid of.
Take up a Lot of Space
Yoga mats also take up a lot of space, which can be a problem if you don’t have space to store them. This can be a hassle when traveling, especially if your backpack is filled with a huge roll of a yoga mat.
Non-recyclable and Have a Strong Smell
Yoga mats can be made of non-recyclable, environmentally unfriendly materials. Your mat will probably end up in a landfill after you’re done using it.
Many yoga mats have a distinct plastic scent, which some people find rather off-putting. Yoga mats might not be ideal for you if you are allergic to such scents.
Alternatives to Yoga Mats
There are a few alternatives that you might use at home or in a yoga studio as an alternative to a yoga mat to help you.
These alternatives may not be the best long-term option, but you can still use them to carry out the practice. It is unacceptable to skip a workout because you don’t have the necessary equipment.
So put your worries aside and choose one of these yoga mat alternatives.
A quilt can be a challenging but good substitute for a yoga mat. You can choose whether a quilt is best for your yoga needs based on how soft or rough the cloth is. It’s crucial that you avoid choosing a fabric that is overly slick and silky because this would interfere with your yoga sessions.
Old thick blankets are a great option for yoga mats. All you need to do is take a brief trip to the storage area where all the used blankets are stored. Simply cut the blanket’s sides to fit the size of your body. Or, if you believe it need not be exactly the same size as your body, don’t worry. Start using your blanket as a yoga mat substitute without trimming the sides.
The closest thing to a yoga mat is a beach towel. It is not only the ideal amount of length for a good fit, but it’s also not too slippery. The entire purpose of using a yoga mat is to protect the body from injury while doing yoga. As a result, you must perform it on some surface that is both soft and sturdy enough to support your weight. You’re set as long as the fabric doesn’t slip.
Costs of Yoga Mats
You might ask yourself, why yoga mats are so expensive?
A yoga mat is an investment, not a cost. Try to ignore the fashionable branding and instead focus your attention on the mat itself when determining how much money to spend on a quality yoga mat.
Does the mat provide you with the support, quality, and durability you require for your practice? Does the mat actually symbolize yoga’s principles and is it sustainably made?
Answering all these questions will help you choose the one that suits YOU.
To mat or not to mat?
Yoga mat or sans mat? It all comes down to freedom. Freedom here means being aware of your options and having the power to make your own decision.
Overall, yoga mats might not be necessary. However, you’ll need a sturdy mat-like material to assist you in your movements if you want to avoid accidents while practicing.
Yoga may be the simplest and calmest practice, but your safety is and should be a top priority! A yoga mat is very significant. Aside from the fact that it offers safety, it becomes a place for you to unwind, evaluate, and realign.
Start your session with some motivational yoga quotes!
While a yoga mat will provide you with support and traction while practicing, you can do yoga without one. However, for people who are new to yoga or who practice vigorous and fast yoga types, using a yoga mat is recommended.
A nice yoga mat can make a world of difference in your practice if you’ve ever slid helplessly in a downward-facing dog or cringed as your knee buckled in a low lunge. Actually, it’s an investment—not just in a more pleasant class, but also in making sure you stay pain- and injury-free.