Yoga mat death?

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Yogi David Williams once referred to fellow yogi and teacher Brian Cooper as “the real thing. If you get a chance to study with this man do it!”.

I have studied with him on three occasions so far, all in Glastonbury UK, and I can thoroughly recommend that anyone on the path of yoga takes one of his workshops. He is seen by some as a bit of a maverick in the yoga world as he doesn’t tow the yoga industry, fashionista line with all the distracting extras that have grown up around the yoga sensation. He is very refreshing, down to earth and funny. As an example, at a recent workshop in Glastonbury, one woman asked him ‘what is the good of getting your leg behind your head?’  His answer was ‘what is the good of any posture?’  And he wasn’t being flippant.

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Halfway through the workshop he told us all to roll up our mats and that we simply do not need a yoga mat and that in fact they do more harm than good as the yoga mat can hinder getting into the correct posture, particularly in standing poses as being on the mat stretches only one half of the muscles and the other half that, for example, need to be pulled inwards need a hard floor to work properly. He added that over many years one could have half a body with strong and stretched muscles and the other half mostly unused which would surely cause problem or injury in the long-term.  He agreed with a question that sure, have a blanket or cover for seated postures and for dirty floors but the yoga mat is unnecessary.  He is currently writing an article on the yoga mat which I think the yoga world will meet with great interest and the mat producers with some trepidation.

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I was nodding in agreement as the mat thing has always bugged me slightly as they were not a part of the original practice. They are a western addition or even invention to some degree. It could be said that hey have become somewhat of an antithesis of yoga – an attachment and they separate each yogi from each other.  They are like being in a car or a lifeboat , a sort of lycra or rubber based cocoon, a sock. Indeed when the mats were gone, we were suddenly all one, all in the same boat and barefooted. Individual space was destroyed and the yoga became a little bit more real – is the only way I can put it.

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the future? God help us

Originally, ancient yoga was practised on kusha grass – which is said to also be the material that Buddha was sat on as his mediation seat when he gained enlightenment – but mostly yoga was simply practised on hard earth with no barrier between oneself and the planet. When yoga came to the west thousands of years later practitioners decided to use a towel or a cotton mat over the wooden floors. This evolved to rubber to stop those mats slipping on the wooden floors and that further developed, as recent as 1982, to carpet underlay cut to a towel size – and so was born the ‘sticky mat’.

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Choice is being slowly taken away now as some insurance companies require yoga practice to be executed with a non-slip mat in order to be eligible for coverage.

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Apart from some form of mat being useful for sitting postures,  they would still be preferable for filthy floors such as some Indian shalas but it’s getting to the point where Yogi’s are even taking their yoga mats on to grass and beaches!

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It is definitely worth trying or if you are a teacher maybe advertising an occasional ‘matless class’ or call it ‘Indoor Wild Yoga’ just to see the difference it makes – which I can vouch, is quite huge.  I think there’s a niche – best not tell anybody :0

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Brian will be in Glastonbury in October 14 – limited places, see https://www.facebook.com/AshtangaYogaGlastonbury

Brian Cooper http://www.briancooper.eu/ teaches directly from his personal experience and studies.  He is founder and director of Union Yoga Training, approved by Yoga Alliance UK, which is dedicated to setting and maintaining high standards of teaching yoga in Britain and Europe.

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For more information on Brian’s Yoga Alliance teacher training courses. Brian has dedicated much time to teaching the benefits of Thai Massage for teachers and students of yoga. These interests have resulted in his new book The Art of Adjusting’ written specifically for yoga teachers.Brian has also co-founded Harmony Publishingwhich publishes out of print yoga classics.He is the Honorary Secretary for Scotland for the International Yoga Federation, an Honorary Member of the World Yoga Council, a member of the Advisory Board for the World Yoga Council, and on the Advisory Board of Yoga Alliance UK.

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10 thoughts on “Yoga mat death?

  1. I run a yoga studio in Melbourne Australia and we are and have always been “mat free”. We have a carpeted surface and use blankets for savasana and for wrist/knee support if needed. We have offered classes this way since 1986. Yes we have met with resistance (not from our sticky mats) from some students but have stayed strong to our intent. Here are the main reasons for our decision:
    ~ we offer a natural environment for practice with woollen carpet, blankets and beeswax candles.
    ~ people can become ‘lazy’ with mats rather than relying on their leg, shoulder and core strength
    ~ people become attached to and territorial over their mats, their space rather than a shared one
    ~ mats can be stinky and environmentally unfriendly
    ~ you can come to your practice unencumbered, just bring yourself to meet yourself in yoga
    ~ mats can get in the way of a creative practice. As a teacher you need to consider what direction the mats are in depending on the posture. I like my classes to be a moving meditation
    ~ without a mat you are that much closer to a direct connection to the earth

    Thanks for your post.

    Namaste,
    Gabrielle

    “If you get, give. If you learn teach.”
    ~ Maya Angelou

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    1. Hi Gabrielle.
      Thank you for visiting and for your wonderful post.
      A superb decision and quite brave and all totally valid points for making it. Hopefully this will be the way to practice yoga for all – once again!
      Namaste

      Like

  2. This is an awesome post. I work at a yoga studio and we have yoga in the park on Tuesdays. It is in the grass at a beautiful park nearby… People feel like they need the mat so they don’t get dirty and everything. They’re so attached to the mat. 10 minutes into the one session in the park I got annoyed with the mat and just did my practice on the grass. Really was amazing. you feel even more free, relaxed, and one with the world around you. Felt like yoga in its purest form! Hope the “mat free” yoga becomes more prevalent!

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    1. I think it will and possibly is very slowly catching on. But there is a huge yoga mat industry out there that, understandably, won’t want it to!
      Thanks for your great comment. 🙂

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    1. please do. To most people, apart from it being the awareness of an attachment, it’s a revelation as far as the benefit to one’s practice goes. Thanks for the comment 🙂

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  3. Hi Kev
    I am computer illiterate and cannot find your email address. I want to send you (finally) the article on the yoga mat-please tell me where to send it
    Best wishes
    Brian Cooper

    Like

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