Two friends recently gifted me with a gorgeous Magic Carpet Yoga Mat. Not only is it beautiful, but it is literally the nicest yoga mat I have ever had in my life.
In my closet is a small collection of yoga mats I have purchased over the years: a thin, ultra-light for traveling and doing yoga in studios; a thick one for when my knees pained me; and a couple of medium-weight ones I throw down on the hot pavers when I practice on the balcony. All were bought on sale and my favorite cost $12.99.
My new mat is a collage of my favorite colors, orange and teals. At each end is an eye, a traditional amulet employed to guard oneself against negative energies, especially jealously. As wonderful as a gift it is, I must say I don’t believe anyone needs an expensive yoga mat, or even a mat, to practice yoga.
Daily, I practice my standing asanas on my office tiles. Sitting asanas are done on my bedroom carpet. I prostrate through my morning sun salutations on the pavers in my backyard. My favorite place to “do yoga” is at night in the park on the grass when the world is more peaceful. There, I often spread a cotton shawl across the grass to protect myself from biting ants and itchy grasses. But it is thin and I can feel the Earth’s energy move into my body. The real work begins when I stop moving and simply breathe, melting into the natural world.
Many people view their yoga mat as their sacred space. Stepping into a yoga studio and onto their mat in a yoga studio represents the time they devote to cleansing and renewing themselves before returning to the world. Their mat signals their minds that THIS is the moment for self and to leave the world’s turmoil for sixty minutes. I hear many yoga teachers talk about life on and off the mat, a dualistic delineation between the private and the public self, the sacred and the mundane. I applaud their efforts but I suggest this type of practice is preparation. It is talking to and teaching our body as we would a child. These are necessary steps; yet they are merely preparation for the real work of transformation.
Before you begin writing your comments, let me say, I get this developmental stage. I understand a mat provides a clean, tactile surface for us to practice asana. I understand by purposefully taking a step away from the captivating energy of the whirling electronic dervishes, that suck our energy into their “social” vortex, we are taking a stand for Self and quietude. But it is only a step.
Our wholeness will happen, as The Mother says, when we do the “methodical work of infusing consciousness into the cells of the body, infuse at the same time the truth of the divine Presence”.[i] Where is that divine Presence? Deep within us yet all around us.
Wholeness will happen when we locate the divine Presence within and we feel its upward and outward movement to connect with all that is, not all that humans do. It will happen when we feel the Presence within each person, plant, animal, rock and microbe. Yoga is more about connecting with that which is invisible to the eye. It is about connecting with that which can only be felt.
This is why, as often as possible, I leave the studio to surrender to the heat on the soles of my feet and the dew wetting my yoga pants. I toss away my mat to bury my nose in the grass, to palm the earth and to close my eyes against the sun’s brightness. I trust these natural extensions of the divine Presence will deepen the expansion of my Self in a way my Magic Carpet mat cannot.
May I be blessed with power and energy
derived from heaven, earth and space.
May I draw inspiration from the fire, the sun, the waters and the gods
so that I may act with wisdom. – Atharva Veda, The Prthivī Sūkta, Verse 53[ii]
[i] The Mother, Health and Healing in Yoga: Selections from the writings and talks of THE MOTHER, pg. 129.
[ii] Dwivedi, O.T. and Christopher Key Chapple, In Praise of Mother Earth, The Prthivī Sūkta of the Atharva Veda, pg. 53.