A month ago I read a very interesting article about the use of mats in yoga and how it can fundamentally alter what’s going on in your body, the muscles, how they’re being used etc.
Written by two yoga and body specialists (Dr Brian Cooper and Dr Christopher Norris) it discusses what happens in the body when we use a mat when practising physical yoga postures (they use four examples), and what happens if you try doing the same things without a mat, and particularly in socks on a wooden floor!
Rather than me badly summarising the article and their views, I recommend you read it. You may want to read it and practise the postures without a mat as an experiment.
Whilst the authors are coming from this from an anatomical viewpoint, I’ve had discussions with a few people in the past who argue that the mat is an unnecessary piece of equipment, and comes complete with a potentially large environmental footprint (PVCs etc) and plugs us into the commercialisation of yoga. I’m struggling to remember what I used, if anything, when I started practising yoga in 1991. I know I didn’t own a mat. If we go back further, to the time of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika text (c.1400s), the yogi was to live and practise yoga in a very basic hut “well plastered with cow dung”. But then only men became yogis and so we don’t want to go back to that era! And I’m not going to practise on cow dung. But we can look at our current perceptions and habits and experiment a bit now and again.
As it’s coming up to summer now is the perfect time to do some yoga outside – try it without your mat and see what you feel.