Going Matless

I read the article, “Yoga Mats Are They Really Necessary” about a month ago. It briefly summarises the history of the yoga mat, and makes a few possibly controversial points about using them-

A) that they may be causing an imbalance in our practice by allowing us to stretch too much without the strength needed in some poses.

B) they define us, make the practice space ours and give us boundaries from other students.

It really got me thinking about the mat, I thought ‘hey let’s try it’. I gave myself a month to go matless in my home practice. It was challenging at first, not to reach for it, but eventually I really enjoyed the freedom, feedback and sensation I got from practising matless. It was very different, and quite challenging (especially in downward facing dog). In public classes it was impossible not to have a mat, I tried to explain- it’s OK, I don’t need one- but people bent over backwards to get one and I felt guilty refusing. After a month, and a very challenging week, I gave in, and crawled back to my mat, relishing the comfort it gave me. This particular mat was a special gift. It not only gives me a space to practice, but it reminds me of a thoughtful friend who encouraged me and gave me confidence.

Go matless for a while and see how it feels for you. If you have tried this, or if you have any thoughts on the article from Yoga International, leave me a comment, it would be great to hear your thoughts. I should mention, a few of my students practice on camping mats, instead of yoga mats- they seem to be doing just fine!  I will be doing 50/50 for now, at least I know what it feels like, and it will make travelling a bit lighter!

2 thoughts on “Going Matless

  1. I read your post and the original article with interest. I have occasionally practiced without a mat, when I’ve been away somewhere and have not had it with me. Taking your example, downward dog takes on a different complexion, the grippy mat permits me to try and stretch myself in to the posture, with a real ability to “lock down” the hands and feet. Without the mat, my core has to take on the work as much as everything else. In fact, as I have only been taught whilst using a mat I had thought that when I practiced without one I wasn’t doing the postures properly somehow! In light of your post I look forward to trying out some of my home practice sequences without the mat.

    I don’t see the mat as creating a boundary for myself (although you will notice that I always “bag” the same space in class!) rather I see the unravelling of the mat part of my preparation for the practice, getting my mind in a place ready for the yoga to come, like a ritual I suppose. Likewise I take care to roll up my mat evenly at the end of class, perhaps out of respect for the practice completed which provides a final focus before going back to my day. It is the setting up and clearing down parts of using a mat that I find useful to me at a psychological level.

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