BY: TRISHA CURLING
Ok, I know it sounds weird, and I was a little hesitant to put it on paper, but I think it is an important discussion on a few levels. I have actually developed a relationship with my yoga mat! I didn’t really start thinking about it in such a specific way until I invested in a mat that I felt I couldn’t do without when I was ready for my practice. When I first made the decision to invest in a good yoga mat, I approached it in a way that would be practical in the physical sense. I later learned that I loved my mat for more reasons than how physically safe it kept me during my yoga practice.
When I first started using various yoga mats I thought a mat was a mat. I didn’t realize that there were a number of different options depending on what you need it for. One of the complaints I had with some of the yoga mats I had used was that I constantly felt like my hands were slipping and that I might fall in poses like Downward Dog. It became even more apparent when I began to feel major discomfort when I needed to place weight on my knees in given poses. Some of the issues I have with my knees would not allow me to be able to execute these poses without pain. It does not mean that every pose is for us, but I was relieved to find out when I started to research various yoga props and mats that there might be solutions to these issues. I was able to find a thicker, more comfortable mat that provided some cushioning for my knees. Getting this mat gave me more confidence and stability in my practice. When I had the ability to practice without having this worry on my mind I was free to simply enjoy the experience and focus on what I needed from my practice, rather than what I was trying to avoid.
Enjoying my practice meant that I could view my mat as this safe place for me to go where I could nourish myself both physically and mentally. It became this place that I could go to when I needed comfort. I knew that I could go there and focus on my breath, focus on the poses and the transitions between them. I could put everything aside that brought me pain, tension and/or discomfort. I could equally go there to celebrate life, movement, and all of the things that I am grateful for. It was/is a place where I can go to have a strong, hot, sweaty practice or a gentle one to relieve the physical and/or emotional kinks we all experience at the various moments in our lives. Leaving my mat out even when I’m not using it allows me to see this sacred spot in my home that is a constant reminder that there is a safe place I can go to when I need it.
There is definitely more to choosing a yoga mat than I have discussed here, but these are important things to consider. Choosing a mat doesn’t end here, you might need to choose multiple mats for reasons like travel or even type of yoga. Just like everything else in our yoga practice, it is a very personal decision. Getting advice from other yoga teachers or friends is helpful, but the decision comes down to you and what serves your needs as they present themselves. Just like a mate, find the right mat for you and not anyone else.