In recent years yoga has been described more and more frequently as an ‘industry’. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that as it does a great job of extending the appeal of yoga and interest in the practice but at what point is all the yoga ‘stuff’ just too much?
There is so much yoga stuff out there. Whether it be the clothing and books or the props and accessories, the choice available to us is vast. It’s nice that everything is so readily available but there comes a point when you have to stand back and ask ‘is the $90 yoga mat is really worth it?’ What part of yoga couldn’t you do without it?
When I first started practicing yoga in drafty community centers and schools you were required to bring along a large bath towel or floor mat to practice on. It worked. The towels did the job of providing a clean dry surface to stand on and I’m pretty sure it did a great job of cleaning the floor too! Then, along came the eighties, when yoga became the in thing, growing more popular by the day and, Ta-da!, out of the yoga ether appears the ‘sticky mat’ and the birth of the yoga mat industry.
“there comes a point when you have to stand back and ask is the $90 yoga mat is really worth it?”
I recently celebrated completion of a training by treating myself to a new mat even though I already own two. One is my very, very first mat – several years old and well used – and the second one was bought for less than ten dollars from a local consignment store. I still use them regularly as they both do the job but, for some reason, I felt compelled to buy a new one.
The justification for this investment was that I had worked hard during the training which had taken all my free time and I’d had plenty of opportunity to peruse the retail delights of the studio I was spending so much time in. I deserved a treat for my new, inspired yoga practice but how was a mat really going to change anything?
“no amount of ‘the right gear’ is going to change my practice. I’m either practicing yoga or I’m not, right?”
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a really nice one. Cost $50, even with the discount, and the manufacturer has a nice commitment to planting a tree for each mat purchased which appeals to my sense of environmental responsibility. It’s a great color too – a calming lilac blue with good texture for grip and a comfortable thickness. However, I never use it! I still go to class using my consignment store mat which continues to serve me well. It is a practical weight, super sticky and a dark turquoise color that disguises the feet markings from many a downward facing dog.
What made me spend so much on a new yoga mat when I already had two? I tried to analyze my logic and over time concluded that the marketing had worked. I’d been seduced by the yoga ‘industry’ to buy into the yoga lifestyle and, even though the brand is well known and respected, no amount of ‘the right gear’ is going to change my practice. I’m either practicing yoga or I’m not, right? The sporting of trendy leggings or a pair of designer yoga blocks are not going to change that.
So, with this tale in mind, think twice before being swayed by the label on the mat under your arm or the logo printed on the back of your t-shirt. Ultimately, yoga is in the practice not in the product.