gotta joga yoga app yoga mats

Why do we use yoga mats?

We have received a question from a Gotta Joga user, about yoga mats. Our yoga teacher Anu Visuri replied.

Question

“I have some thoughts on yoga mats these days. My old one grew very old at some point and I was thinking of buying a new one to replace it. My basic problem was slipping during practice, but it also had little holes that started to form.

So, I was thinking of buying a non slip mat, like Jade harmony. I finally bought it, but during the process of researching I wondered why other people would buy a mat that is slippery. But then I thought that past yogis did not have access to non slip mats. How would they hold the difficult asanas on the floor?

So is this a trend? Did they exercise different muscles by trying not to slip during a downward dog? Or are the mats essential for beginners only, so experienced yogis do not need them?

 

Some cotton rugs are pretty expensive, too. I think this is a marketing issue though.”

Answer

Thanks for your question!

Yoga mats have indeed not been around a very long time. In the old days, yogis in India practised mainly outdoors on the grass and used rugs, deer skin, or nothing. If they practised indoors, the floor was often a dirt floor or some kind of betong floor. So, they didn’t really have a problem with slipping.

Yoga outdoors

Yoga outdoors

In the West, when yoga was introduced to us, people used towels or rugs on a wooden floor, and thin rubber mats were just an accessory to prevent the towels from slipping on the floor. In the 70’s Angela Farmer, a yoga teacher, who had a medical condition which prevented the soles of her feet and the palms of her hand from sweating, and who was constantly slipping on her yoga towel, introduced the sticky mat which we use today.

The thing is that if your hands and feet don’t sweat at all or just a little, a ‘normal’ yoga mat is great for you. But, if you sweat a lot, they become slippery and your asana practice is a nightmare. Of course, when you are slipping on the mat, you use your muscles more and the practice is harder, but it can be really frustrating and soon you only think about slipping and hoping the teacher won’t keep you in the Down Dog a very long time.

Of course, nowadays, yoga has become a business. The yoga mats are high tech and really expensive. I wouldn’t say that a yoga mat is essential for beginners, but it makes the experience nicer and better. Also, some people need them, because their knees are sensitive or they have an injury, which makes the floor too hard for them. There are people, who don’t use a mat, but they are not always only advanced yogis. Also, the asana practice we do today is somewhat different from the earlier days. It is more dynamic and people sweat more. That’s one reason why the truly sticky mats are so popular.

So, everybody should decide themselves, with or without a mat. 😊 We do recommend mats: if you sweat a lot, it makes sense to invest in a really good mat, like you have. If you don’t sweat a lot, then you are the lucky one and have more choice!

Thank you for practising with Gotta Joga!

Anu Visuri, yoga teacher

 

If you wish to invest in a good yoga mat that you can keep for years, here are some recommendations for you:

 

manduka Yoga Mat

  • Traveling a lot? Select a travel yoga mat, that you can fold into a luggage or bag.

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6 comments on “Why do we use yoga mats?

  • Nice article, and a very interesting topic. I would add that rubber mats give an unnatural grip that allows keeping asanas without really engaging the proper leg muscles. This is not so good, especially for beginners learning how to root their practice. I would recommend a traditional cotton rug to learn rooting standing asanas and a rubber mat to flow in more dynamic practices 🙂

    • Hi Gianluca! You are right. Sometimes it is good to practice on a slippery surface to engage the muscles and feel the grounding, but sometimes it is good to practice the same poses on a sticky mat to feel the difference in the foundation.
      Kind Regards, the Gotta Joga Team

  • Thank you 🙂 I’m planning to test a normal light cotton rug as a yoga mat when my present mat starts to break, to avoid plastic

    • Hi Mia
      That is a great idea.

      Some time ago another one of our users was asking about the environmental factors of yoga mats..
      Here is what our teacher Anu answered:

      “Yes, it is a very good thing to be conscious of our health and our environment!

      There are couple of truly eco friendly mats on the market nowadays, but still many mats are full of PVC and heavy metals, which of course is not good for the environment nor for us who practise on the mats. But, because we consumers have become, and indeed are more aware of this, the manufacturers have started to pay attention to toxic free materials and production.

      The difference between Jade and Manduka is, that all the Jade mats are 100% natural tree rubber and some of the Manduka mats aren’t. The Manduka Pro Mat is in fact made of PVC, which of course is not good. But, Manduka also has mats, which are eco friendly. They are called Manduka eKO and they are also made out of natural tree rubber and no toxic chemicals are used in the manufacturing process.

      The thing with the 100% natural mats is that they don’t last as long as the PVC-mats. That is of course understandable since the natural materials tend to degrade with time. Which actually is not bad at all. So, it is up to us to consider, whether to by an eco friendly and a quite expensive yoga mat once in two to three years, or a mat that is not eco friendly and contains toxic chemicals but lasts almost forever and is often a bit cheaper than the natural ones.

      Check out these links:
      http://www.myfiveacres.com/go-green/is-your-yoga-mat-killing-you/
      http://www.myfiveacres.com/yoga/best-travel-yoga-mats-2017-adventures/

      They are interesting blogposts about this theme. The first one is already couple of years old, but they have updated some information in the comments below. And, the discussions about the blogposts also bring some light to this issue.

      We hope we could help You find some answers. Feel free to contact us anytime You have a question. We are happy to help as much as we can!

      Thank you for practising with Gotta Joga!”

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