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A Guide to Practicing Yoga Without a Mat

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So you have decided to become a yogi. 

You run out and get your very own yoga mat, your favorite color, your favorite pattern. You take it to every yoga class and carry it proudly in your yogi tote. You unravel it from your bag and roll it out on the floor on the floor when you are ready to transcend. 

But what if you don’t have a yoga mat? 

The History of the Yoga Mat 

Did you know that the first yogi’s didn’t even use yoga mats? 

They practiced on bare floors, in churches, school hallways, some on tiger rugs. 

The yoga mat hadn’t been invented until 1982 when a yogi by the name of Angela Farmer (a now world-renowned yoga teacher) needed to find a way to compensate for a condition she has. 

After two extreme surgery’s in her neck and spine that left her with many unfortunate side effects, Angela Farmer was left not being able to produce sweat. This made her feet very dry, which posed a danger to her slipping during yoga asana. 

Determined to continue her yoga practice, Farmer thought of many ways to solve her slipping problem. Most of which literally got thrown out by her teacher BKS Iyengar. However, when she started teaching, she came across a rug underlay, and from there, all of her slip problems were over. It was known as her sticky mat. Her father loved the idea and created a business out of it. 

Even though BKS Iyengar forbade Farmer from using it in his class, he, later on, ordered them for his own school.

Why Use a Mat?

  1. Hygiene

Using a yoga mat is, of course, a great aid to yogis. There are many benefits, for instance, the stickiness, or not having to mingle your DNA with the one that was left in a puddle of sweat from the last class. 

Hopefully, your lovely yoga studio is hygienic and does a once-over after every class. 

A Guide to Practicing Yoga Without a Mat

2. Style

Another reason to have a yoga mat is that it looks cool! We yogi’s look like warriors carrying our bow and arrow holder-like totes. It reminds everyone around us to do their own yoga. It informs people that if others are doing it, there must be something to it. 

3. Get in the Zone

My favorite benefit is that it automatically gets us in the Yoga zen zone. You know what I’m talking about! That feeling you get every time you roll it out. Your senses take you to that place of when you last “OM” your way to serenity, and as soon as the lights dim, you are ready to go. It’s a mindset. 

Doing Yoga without a Mat

There are just as many benefits if you were to nix the yoga mat. 

  1. Use a Blanket or Towel

You could use a blanket or towel in class to protect your bony prominences from digging into the floor, and then your hands and feet can spread on the shiny hardwood. 

I am actually a huge fan of getting off the mat during class during downward dog.

For me, yoga mats make me slip more. 

2. Yoga in Nature

Do you know what else is great? Yoga in nature. 

Give me an outdoor yoga practice in nature, sans mat, my fingers slipping through fluffy green grass, any day. I love to feel the grass’s coolness on the bottom of my feet and between my toes. 

To be in nature connected to the earth and rooting inward and listening to the birds, smelling the fresh air. And, you have your yoga cushion right there, squishy lawn. 

After my morning jog, that’s where you will find me. Rolling around in the grass or mediating mat free and connected to the earth. Studies say that being in nature helps to reduce inflammation too! 

So flip your shoes connected.

3 Different ways to do yoga without a Mat

Thinking that we can only do yoga with a yoga mat is just silly thinking. There are plenty of types of yoga that don’t even touch a yoga mat. Here are some of them.  

  1. Chair yoga
  2. Aerial yoga
  3. Water yoga
  4. Paddleboard yoga
  5. Acro yoga 
  6. Couch Potato Yoga
  7. And, yoga at the wall to name a few

Disadvantages of Yoga without a Mat

There are also some downsides to using today’s yoga mats. 

  1. Chemicals

Synthetic materials are toxic and sprayed with chemicals that we don’t want to inhale during our practice. Opt for more organic options, like a folded Mexican. If you are willing to pay the big bucks, get an eco-friendly yoga mat. Jade yoga mats are my favorite. Ooh, it might just be worth it. 

2. Not Enough Resistance

Using a yoga mat makes things too nice and sticky and helps with flexibility. 

However, you may not be using enough of your muscles because you’re not resisting slipping. 

Muscles need to activate and wrap around the bone to be effective in yoga. 

If you notice yourself on your mat in your next practice hanging in your flexibility, try it out off of the mat and see the difference in how your muscles react to the pose.

Final Word

Telling ourselves that we have to use a yoga mat in order to do yoga is just ONE of the blocks that we tell ourselves. Keep your mind open to all possibilities when it comes to your yoga practice, and you will notice it evolve over time.

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Christina Maldia
Christina Maldia is the Founder of Beintheworldyoga. She wants you to soar in your yoga practice! Through her love for Yoga and background in Clinical Massage Therapy, Christina mindfully creates yoga sequences that have you feeling the earth under your fingertips and the wind between your toes.

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