Yoga is a pastime for more than twenty million Americans. Whether you wake up and do some stretching before pouring your cup of coffee, or you get home from a long day to stretch out all the stress from the office, or maybe after lunch and the kids are off to school you sit down to meditate and clear your head, if you do any of theses then you probably use a yoga mat. In fact twenty million Americans use a yoga mat.
A tool so useful we forget that it’s a tool at all. Without it, yoga, stretching or exercising would be a bruising hassle. So it’s odd that so many people use the yoga mat while knowing next to nothing about it. Even if you’ve only ever taken PE in your school years, you’ve probably used a mat similar to a yoga mat. No matter if you’re a casual stretcher, an ambitious yoga expert or new to the entire concept of exercise it’s pretty cool knowing the interesting history of the yoga mat. With a history that stretches from culture to culture it’s hard not to be intrigued by the very thing we’ve been sitting on all these years.
The History of Your Yoga Mat and Yoga
Since yoga has been around for so long, it’s hard to pinpoint when exactly someone sat down and started stretching till everything hurt and called it yoga. What’s been speculated however is that the practice dates back to Indian pre-Vedic traditions. Mentioned in Rigveda, the collection of sacred texts, known as some of the Vedic Sanskrit hymns. Or put simply, a collection of sacred texts in the book on Hinduism. That aside, for the most part among the enthusiasts of yoga history, It’s agreed that it came up around the sixth or fifth centuries, BCE.
At this time the yoga mat was at it’s most simplistic. Or rather not at all. The closest thing to today’s yoga mat back then was a rug of deer or tiger skin. But the most common yoga mat was simple kusha grass. However it’s origins to this day are still speculated and argued about by enthusiasts of it’s history. Ancient history aside, today yoga and yoga mats are both in full swing. Still enjoyed and practiced by many. Since yoga is ingrained in Hinduism and other flourishing religions based in India and Asia, it still plays a large roll in culture. Today yoga schools and destinations bring in millions of tourists, who are starved for the spiritual aspects yoga has to offer.
Yoga’s Introduction to the West
In the mid nineteenth century, yoga came riding the coattails of Indian philosophy which was becoming a popular interest among westerners. Swami Vivekananda was the first Hindu teacher who actively ushered in the ideas of Indian cultures such as Indian philosophy and yoga. Thanks to the many teachers who popularized yoga to the everyday American, we now have plenty of yoga classes and resources for anyone who wants to nurture an interest in the spiritual mind cleansing practice of yoga. As stress and anxiety becomes a more and more common thing among the regular American, it makes yoga that much more rewarding.
Used today for physical therapy, to therapy for the stressed out mom or for the everyday student who needs a step back from their essays and research papers, it’s growing more and more common for Americans to enjoy yoga and all of it’s spiritual benefits. There’s never a better time to clear the mind than today in America. When Yoga was a new concept to westerners, during the nineteenth century, it was common to use cotton mats on wood floors or tiles or just soft fluffy towels. Although slipping and sliding with cotton mats became a real issue among enthusiasts. Nobody wants to accumulate scratch marks when their trying to wind down. So rubber mats made their debut.
While Angela Farmer was teaching yoga in the fresh air of Germany, 1982, she used a precisely made carpet underlay, measured down to towel size for when she’d be teaching her classes. When she came back home to London, her father got everything in order for a German padding manufacturer, thus “sticky mats” made their debut.
In the 1990’s Hugger Mugger Yoga Products made the first yoga mat, specially for yoga. It was a success, yoga gurus flocking to the products. Soon Eco-conscious mats followed suit in 2002, produced by Eco Yoga, filling shelves by Yogamatters.
What Goes into Your Yoga Mat?
Now that we’ve filled you in on some of the history of the yoga mat, you might be curious to know what goes in it today. Granted while you’re stretched over the foamy material, trying to rid negative thoughts, the question, “what is this made of” might be the last thing that comes to mind. But you must be curious especially if you’ve gotten up every morning for the last twenty years to stretch on that yoga mat and you still have no idea what goes into it.
Well, the first yoga mat that was produced, specifically to be just that, a yoga mat was made from PVC. Or polyvinyl chloride. After that, yoga gurus and casual yoga stretchers alike became more Eco conscious. Yoga mats shifting to a more popular jute and rubber. The jute mixed with the thin rubber creates a good grip. Perfect for slippery floors and a long session of yoga.
Today yoga mats are used for more than just yoga. Today they’re used for exercising in the floor, perfect to prevent a sore back and elbows and knees. Easily compact with a simple roll, the yoga mat goes where you go. An ancient tool used for an ancient spiritual experience both still thriving and serving millions today.
The Yoga Mat
You may have learned a new thing or two about that yoga mat you’ve been using for the last twenty years. Or maybe that yoga mat you haven’t gotten around to using in five years. Well, yoga is thriving now, more than ever. With India and the rest of the west pulling out their yoga mats nearly everyday of the week. Thanks to yoga and the yoga mats, healthier lifestyles have been flourishing for the past couple of decades. Encouraging the young and old to pull out their yoga mats and get a good stretch in. Combined with the healthy exercise that yoga insures, it also encourages a healthy mind.
Cleansing us of our stress and negativity, setting us in a better place where we’re not so on edge. Thanks to yoga and the yoga mats themselves, yoga can be a relaxing and body stretching experience, rather than an awkward stretch where you’re constantly scraping your elbows and knees, or trying not to slip on your face while wrestling with a pesky towel. So next time you schedule a yoga session and unroll your yoga mat. Take a second to think of all the people who got it here and how awesome it is that it stays put when you’re doing that complicated bird move.
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