I’ve been caught saying it as I teach class – “let your body be supported fully by your mat” or “lay down and love your mat for being there.” Along with mala beads and fancy yoga leggings, our mats are one of the material objects that most yogis allow an innocent obsession over. It makes sense, as your mat is a symbol of asana, the physical poses that so many people associate with good feelings and breath. But how important is your mat, really? Wouldn’t it be better to be supported by the earth or to love yourself for being there?
I moved to Bolivia in February, and unfortunately there was not room in my suitcase for my beautifully yellow, heavy and ever-sticky Jade yoga mat. I arrived in the country and told myself I’d get a mat and start practicing at home right away. Well, yoga mats aren’t sold like candy here in Bolivia like they are in cities like Boston, and some time passed before I did any yoga.
I said I’d do it as soon as I got a mat.
I’m embarrassed to say that as I watched my friends complete #YogaEveryDamnDay challenges on Instagram, I failed to do anything more than an occasional exhausted forward-fold; for an entire month. The girl who taught yoga 5 days a week and practiced almost as much in Boston, halted the physical practice of yoga for a month, and mindfulness, of course, followed. I never found a yoga mat and I stared at the cold tile floors of my apartment, thinking about the pain of doing cat/cow poses on my knees.
More time passed and I was crawling out of my own skin – sitting at a desk for the better part of the day left my back in pain and legs desperately begging for something other than another god-damned forward-fold. I got home, grabbed the thick llama wool blanket from up in my closet, and put it on the living room tile. I down-dogged around the blanket, letting the cracks in the tile keep my feet from sliding. My back was only a little sore as I knelt down on the wool to drop my belly into cow pose. I did sun salutation after sun salutation until my arms were shaking and my eyes collected tears in gratitude for the practice that never leaves you even when you leave it.
Coming into child’s pose I couldn’t help but love the scent of the old blanket, still feeling the cool floor underneath me. My brain collected itself and the buzzing slowed to a hum for just a few minutes. I couldn’t believe that I had become so attached to my mat that I had completely stopped practicing yoga due to the lack of it. Yes, I’ll still use my mat when I go back to Boston, but I’ll never make the mistake of thinking I need my mat again.