Things to ponder on before buying a yoga mat

My first mat was from the Beth Bath and Beyond, I bought it as an afterthought while browsing for bath salts.  It was the usual, most generic purple mat you can imagine, not even a brand name on it. You can see her here (right) in all its 10 year old glory. Almost intact.


Later on my mind convinced me that I needed a "manduka".  I suppose what did me in was seeing all the Mandukas ventilating outside the windows in every Mysore street near the shala when I visited in '08.  It seemed cool to me, and I wanted to join the club. Why? because "it's fun and it leads to a better life", like Jesse Eisenberg says in the facebook movie.


Before seeing the parade of mat curtains I was very content with my good old purple one, but not afterwards.  So I searched, read posts, and consulted others.  Many people seemed to swear by the black manduka, a favorite among Ashtangis,.


Frankly I find that mat very heavy.  I believe the traction to be OK, as long as you are not sweating buckets, but not that much better than the old purple one. I ended up settling for one anyway, a green one because I wanted to be different.  It smelled like some sort of plastic for weeks in spite of plenty of ventilation and even a wash, but finally the smell went away, and off I went in my cool new mat.


I love the mat for my home practice. The only thing that did not go according to plan was that I thought it would last forever, as I had been promised by word of mouth from countless sources.  For example: my mat already has the beginning of a hole in the back (right where the down dog feet go) and there are threads coming apart on the side.  Nevertheless of course I still use it and do not plan on buying another one, because for me having less is, these days, a lot more.  I prefer de-clutering and few possessions, or rather, to own just what is needed.


A few months after I bought the brand new mat it came time to go to Thailand for a 5 week Teacher Training. The idea of carrying the Manduka through airports made me cringe, and the thought of buying another one (a lighter version) just for travelling did not make sense on my new minimalistic yogi frame of mind.  And so the good old purple one came along, and she was plenty enough, although, I wonder if it made me look less cool.


Another interesting thing that happened along the lines of my relationship with mats is Pure Yoga. They actually provide mats, orange ones, the "Jade" brand I believe although half the time I do not even see a brand in them.  The Ashtanga room has marroon ones, all other styles get orange. I am sure there is a code message there.


Once I also bought one of those Gaiam travel mats, but those are so thin that they really hurt my back as I roll back and forth mercilessly in garba pindasana.  That (right) is Iyengar by the way about to roll into garba, picture comes from this site. So even though the travel mat is light and easy to carry I just browse the websites of hotels where I will be staying and if there are mats available then the traveling mat stays where it always has been: the closet.


I do not regret any of the mats I bought, but I have to say that if I was starting and did not have one, I would probably go for a light yoga mat that has the durability and the unpretentiousness of my very first one.


I have a hunch that detaching from the mat is one of the practices we go through in yoga. 


These days I will practice anywhere and with whatever mat I can get a hold of, or not...  Matter of fact, about a year ago I practiced on the cement surface by the pool in a Miami hotel, no kidding, I am serious about going through that practice, mat or no mat!


If you are very concerned about he environment, and who isn't these days, the Eco Yogini wrote an excellent post with mat recommendations considering Mother Earth, you can read it here.


For an excellent in-depth review of the mythological Manduka, read Grimmly here.


And yes I know, Mysore practice does not end at one mat, there are is also a second mat, a sort of towel which helps on the sited poses whenever we are sweating lots. I use the equa towel and here is why. And I have to say, I have seen women with really cool "Mysore rugs" as these are called sometimes but I can never find them online, perhaps I will never be cool!




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10 comments:

  1. I bought a Manduka a few months ago and love it. I seem to remember from shopping that Mandukas have a lifetime guarantee -so you should be able to send in your holey one and get a replacement.

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  2. Hello Claudia,
    yes, I agree that detaching/practicing non-attachment to mats is probably a yogic practice in and of itself. I think it is a way to apply aparigraha, or non-grasping.

    Having said that, however, I feel that having a regular practice mat is just as useful as having a regular practice space and time: It serves as a sort of "anchor" that grounds you amidst the many demands of the life of a house-holder (as Mr Iyengar would put it), and helps give us a structure within which to grow our practice.

    I've been using a mysore rug on top of a jute mat for more than 2 years now. I think mysore rugs provide the best traction (I know manduka people would probably disagree with me here), especially since I am the sort who sweats buckets. The cool thing about mysore rugs is that, the more you sweat, the better the traction gets. Somehow the sweat that gets into the rugs translates into better grip. Hmm... nothing like ancient technology, is there?

    Fret not, Claudia: You can be cool too. (I mean, you already are, because you are already the most perfect being possible, but still...) You can order mysore rugs at this website:

    http://www.barefootyoga.com/Search.bok?category=Mysore+Practice+Rugs

    May the Force be with you (sometimes I think a mysore rug is almost like a lightsaber, but that's the Star Wars geek in me talking...)

    Best,
    Nobel

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  3. Thanks for the link :)

    Isn't it weird how when we get a mat, we seem to think we'll NEVER need another mat...... and then our consumer-ist type conditioning kicks in after a while and we start to wonder.... we see the latest newest mats and dream, as we were conditioned to do.

    I'm glad you're thinking about it and considering the purpose :)

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  4. KT, thanks for your comment, I was not aware of that with Manduka, very interesting... and by the way, I love the name of your blog sevethseries, perfect!, will look around and add you to my bloglist :-)

    Nobel, the Mysore rug is like a lightsaber, you know what? you crack me up!. I do get your point however about the mat being an anchor, good one, did not think about that, part of the "routine" or the "ritual", I like it. May the force be with you too.

    Eco, you are very welcome, I like that post a lot, and I agree with you on that our minds can trick us sometimes... oh yes! thanks for visiting

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  5. Hey Claudia! The Manduka Pro range has a lifetime guarantee, but not the Eko range. (My eko mat from them fell apart after 6 months). I now have the black mat and the thinner pro-lite in red (coz you're right - travelling with the black one is RIDICULOUSLY HEAVY!)

    I haven't ever coveted another mat in the 3 years I've had the black one and 1 year that I've had the red one. (OK, maybe I want the red one in blue. HAHA!) But both still look and feel brand-spanking new. I'm EXTREMELY happy with my Mandukas. :)

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  6. Skippetty, thanks for that piece of info, so the Eko range does not... oh well, I guess that is the one I have, so it will follow its dharma and develope a hole then! :-)

    I have to admit that the black one looks sturdy, no wonder you are so happy! Cant wait to hear about your Mysore stories coming up soon!

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  7. i have had the heavy black for 8 years.
    i also bought the eko lite for mysore. it is very light, and folded into my luggage. it was fine on top of the rugs there, but always felt a little weird on the tile.

    anonT

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  8. 8 years, well that definitely talks of durability!

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  9. I confess: I have been a victim of mat consumerism, and have definitely accumulated enough over the years to hold a small yoga class in my bedroom. Not because they all wear out (some have) but because I'm searching for mat nirvana. The mat that welcomes my hands and feet and draws me just a little bit more to my practice. I think I've found it with the Pro Lite Manduka, which I bought for travel, and now use all the time. It's red like @skippetty's. I like it better than the regular Manduka, and David Swenson's Gecko (had high hopes for that, but will probably give it to my daughter). I put my YogiToes cloth over it (I like the texture better than Equa - serious comparison shopper here), although sometimes I go for months using my Mysore rug instead, which I got, as Nobel suggested, from Barefoot Yoga. But beware: it too is very, very heavy.

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  10. Fran, wow, you are an expert here, you really know your products! I hear you on the mat nirvana quest, I got tempted many times, the last time when Grimmly said he had bought an orange mat, like the ones they get a pure, it takes a lot of determination to stay close to the minimalistic style! by the way, I went to the barefoot yoga website that Nobel recommended, but that is not the mysore rug I find cool, I am not sure I will ever find it... :-( so for now I am all santosha with my equa

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