Posted by: Trudy Prevost | July 23, 2016

Practice without a Yoga Mat

Kneeling Twist

If you have been practicing yoga for almost 50 years like me you remember yoga before yoga mats! The History of Yoga Mats is fascinating but I believe it is important for us to keep in mind our practice was different without mats.

I propose practicing without a mat occasionally to add an interesting slant to your practice and to build functional fitness.

Many postures when practiced without a mat require more strength and mindfulness because without some degree of instability in the practice surface, the tendency is to wedge oneself into postures.

The result is less engagement in the knees, hips, elbows, and shoulders because the mat sticks us in place actually causing an imbalance in the strength and flexibility required in practicing the pose and resulting in wear and tear in the joints.

Looking at Extended Triangle Pose as an example. With a yoga mat the front foot is stuck in position. This tends to make us release our weight straight down into that front leg rather than pulling up and back with the muscles of the leg. Practice Triangle Pose on a blanket and we must engage the front and back leg to prevent the front foot from slipping.

Looking at Down Dog Pose as another example. With a sticky mat we tend to hang out in the hands and feet – we need to make an effort to draw the hands and feet towards each other creating an isometric contraction and balancing the strengthening and stretching effects of the position.

During Balance Poses the mat provides a more stable less shifting surface therefore the muscles holding the pose need to be less active and we sink into the knees more.

This awareness of what the yoga mat is doing is not about using mats or not using mats.It helps us to improve our practice on and off the mat and hopefully encourages us to practice without a mat once in a while!

Remember – Wash your mat and when it wears out there are a multitude of ways to Recycle your mat!

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