There is no more significant symbol for contemporary yoga practice than the yoga mat. It is more than a sport tool employed by the yogi. The yoga mat is a metaphor. It represents the space in which our minds might experience some relief from the stress-laden, chaotic, and unpredictable nature of daily life.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE YOGA MAT
Angela Farmer is one of the most well-known and respected yoga teachers on the planet. She has been teaching for over 40 years. When she was young, she had a surgery that resulted in her being incapable of sweating from her hands and feet. I’m not sure if you have ever practiced yoga on a hardwood floor in the winter when everything is super dry. It borders on yogic tragi-comedy as your hands and feet slip and slide all over the place. Downward dog and standing poses in particular are just so slippery.
Farmer’s medical condition did not discourage her from practicing with BKS Iyengar when he was teaching in London in the 1960s. He forbade her to use a foam mattress or splash water on her hands and feet for traction. While teaching in Munich in 1968, she came across a thin piece of underlay from a carpet factory. It was the perfect solution to her problem.
When she returned to London, her carpet-underlay yoga mat became very popular with her students. Eventually Angela’s father connected with the owner of the German carpet factory and became the first retailer of yoga mats, establishing the business out of his home in Vancouver Island.
The yoga mat, as developed by Angela Farmer, was a therapeutic intervention. The stickiness of the mat alleviated a medical condition.
Yoga Mat Showdown: TPE vs. Rubber
TPE, PVC, and rubber yoga mats are the most popular yoga mat types as of now. Sometimes, deciding between them can be a hard decision, as there are more factors to consider than you may initially think. If you want to decrease your eco-footprint, you may opt for a different yoga mat type, but maybe sacrifice on other features. Or, you may want a better performing yoga mat, even though it is more harmful to the environment.
Rubber Yoga Mat
The rubber yoga mats are probably the most eco-friendly you can find on the market. They are sustainably created with natural rubber gotten from rubber trees that are renewable. Also, rubber yoga mat doesn’t contain extra materials such as EVA, or synthetic rubber types.
The rubber yoga mats are definitely one of the preferred choices when it comes to yoga practice. They are eco-friendly, very comfortable, and have a superior grip. The mats are also anti-microbe, so they are cleaned more easily.
There are some disadvantages to this kind of yoga mats too. If you are allergic to latex material, you may get an allergic reaction from some of the rubber yoga mats. Also, the natural rubber yoga mats are usually heavier than their counterparts, so that makes them less portable.
The price you will pay for rubber yoga mats is much higher than what you would give to TPE and PVC yoga mats. So, it is up to you to decide if you want natural, eco-friendly properties, and higher quality, with sacrificed portability; or something less eco-friendly, but more compact.
TPE Yoga Mat
Thermal Plastic Elastomer (TPE), elsewhere known as thermoplastic rubber, is a copolymer class or a mix of polymers. Usually, the polymers mixed to create TPE material are plastic and rubber. Anyway, the thing with TPE is that it consists of materials with thermoplastic and elastomeric qualities. So, TPE yoga mats are constructed from thermal plastic elastomers and other material. The fusion with other materials is done with closed-cell foaming under high temperatures. After this process, the TPE yoga mat is easier to clean and is resistant to various microbes.
Also, the TPE material has a few advantages, such as increased eco-friendliness, better elasticity, and recyclability; which make the TPE yoga mats more eco-friendly than PVC yoga mats. You see, the TPE material has some attributes of non-PVC, non-toxic, and non-heavy metal materials. This kind of profile makes TPE yoga mats suitable for both travel and house use.
The TPE yoga mats are a relative newcomer to the yoga mat market. Right now, it is the most popular in the USA, Europe, and high-spenders in China. Its market potential is huge, thanks to the high performance and high environmental protection it offers.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE PERFECT YOGA BLOCK
Yoga props were popularized by the late B.K.S. Iyengar as tools to support the body to allow a deeper expression of a yoga pose’s alignment. A yoga block or yoga brick is one of the most popular yoga props to use in a yoga class. Yoga blocks are most often used as an extension of one’s hands but are also used to support the back, head, and hips, and to deepen awareness of alignment. Most yoga studios have blocks available to borrow, but you may wish to purchase your own. Having your own set of blocks will be more sanitary than borrowing them, and you can use them in your home practice. When purchasing a yoga block you will need to consider size, material, cost, and quantity.
Are yoga blocks necessary?
The short answer is no—blocks are not necessary to use in yoga. But it is common for yoga instructors to suggest or require the use of one or two blocks for their classes. A yoga block is most helpful for beginning students and those experiencing injury or other physical limitations, but more advanced practitioners can utilize props to safely learn new challenging poses. Also, advanced yogis may have specific body proportions that make certain poses difficult and need blocks to fully access and experience them.
How a Yoga Wheel Can Improve Your Daily Practice
If you've been to a yoga class, chance are you're familiar with yoga blocks, straps and bolsters. But have you tried the yoga wheel yet?