If yogis are supposed to be tree-hugging and earth-loving types…trying to make the world a better place – one downward-dog at a time; why do the majority of Western yoga practitioners use ‘sticky’ mats made of harmful PVC-containing plastics? Not only are sticky mats bad for yogis and the environment, but they interfering with the purity of a harmonious yoga practice. Perhaps the invention of the plastic/rubber yoga mat happened out of convenience or maybe out of ignorance. Sticky mats do work well for keeping the student stable during poses and they also prevent slipping on the slick floors of yoga studios. Nonetheless, there is more to yoga than contorting the body into unnatural and often uncomfortable postures for ninety sweaty minutes.
Why do the poses in the first place? What’s the ultimate goal? Most people practice yoga because they want to connect with that vibrant source of energy that’s alive and deep within their tired, busy souls. To be with that sense of “oneness” that connects us with the rest of the universe. Instead of enhancing our yoga practice, the use of a synthetic rubber mat actually blocks the yogi from achieving that subtle connection with the earth’s energy.
Yet, there is a way around this unforeseeable obstacle. Using a mat made of natural materials such as cotton yoga mat or wool blanket-provides an eco-friendly source of support for the student and allows the subtle energies to flow during the asanas. The benefits of using a natural yoga mat are far more advantageous than the convenience of a cold, synthetic slab of plastic.
The Bhagavad Gita, one of the oldest and most sacred yogic texts, states the importance of using natural materials during the practice of yoga. Chapter VI verse 11 (translated) states: “The yogi’s seat, in a clean place, should be firm (not wobbly), neither too high not too low and covered first, with kusha grass, then with deer or tiger skin, then with a cloth.”
Okay, we’re not suggesting one needs to slay a wild animal and practice headstands on the carcass, but the Bhagavad Gita does make a point. Kusha grass was once used as insulation against the damp earth. These days we have nice, dry yoga studios. The use of natural materials, however, is still important. Think of your “foundation” and what it is built upon. The stronger and more grounded your connection to the earth, the better the results achieved in your practice. Four thousand years ago, the first yogis in India were performing miracles based on the strength of their yoga practices. So much of that powerful yogic energy has been lost in the West, overtaken by form-flattering yoga clothes and celebrity “beach bods”. It’s time to step back, take a deep breath and remember the founding fathers of yoga, the masters who wrote the Bhagavad Gita in 3000 BCE. The use of natural materials represents yoga at its origins.
In meditation, the importance of a cotton or wool shawl is to insulate the body against the pull of the earth’s currents. Yoga is a prelude to meditation, during which the mind tries to withdraw the energy of the life force from the senses to the soul. It’s really all about the mind, but they use of natural materials to insulate the body helps to reverse the downward and outward pull of the earth’s currents and increases the inward and upward draw of the life force. By using a cotton mat or wool rug, you may achieve more satisfying results in the practice of the asanas.
For the same reason we remove our shoes and socks before yoga, we should look to remove obstacles that keep us from balancing and grounding to the earth. A sticky mat provides no connection to the earth; instead, it blocks the subtle energies produced by the poses. A cotton yoga mat can aid in deepening your practice-try one and judge for yourself.