Updated: Apr 29, 2019
What drives people to pick up a yoga mat for the first time? I ask people this all the time and I find their answers extremely varied and interesting...depending largely on how they discovered yoga in the first place (Aaahh but is it actually yoga that discovered THEM - a conversation for another day)...
We are big fans of conversations in SunBear so it was an inevitable set of questions for us, to try to get a feel for what possessed people to come with us on this journey in the Spanish Pyrenees...what were they thinking?
Some of our favourites: A mother had asked her son to join her, and the invitation was extended to her son's beautiful girlfriend. Looking across this small family within our SunBear family was heartwarming. There was always a lot of chatter and laughter from these lovely people...whether we were doing yoga together, or doing one of our mountain hikes. Occasionally, quietly, while a session was going on...I heard muted conversations...what seemed like words of encouragement would come from son to mother; and other times, from mother to son...It was heartwarming.
One of the attendees was 58 years old. A wonderful lady from Morocco. "...I love it here. I feel so blessed and happy, these mountains are so mysterious and glorious, I can't stop smiling!" And then as suddenly as she blurted it out, she looked away, shyly, and focussed on her yoga mat--"This mat has the perfect amount of stick and cushioning for my 58-year-old body, she continued...the light drawings on the mat are wonderful for alignment, stride, and symmetry—all which make a world of difference to my practice..."
Another gentleman who attended had brain surgery 3 years ago (4 times in fact over the last 15 years), and he shared this: before his 3rd brain surgery he had started doing yoga every day. This helped his body bounce back sooner than the prior one. He shared many things with other attendees...here's one about the tools you choose for your practice:
Having made the decision to take up yoga and actually getting in to the spirit of doing it on a regular basis is, for many, a small victory in itself. Taking control of you future, your body and your mind take a certain discipline. It’s not hard to do, but it does take a bit of willpower..
In order to embark on your new journey, you don’t need the latest and greatest work-out clothes. You don’t need fancy yoga socks. Nor do you need an expensive water purifying bottle by your side. All of these things can help with motivation, but you simply don’t need them.
The one and only essential, the thing you really should not do without, is a decent yoga mat.
We totally agree. Start with an inferior one and you’ll either give up after a while or end up spending on something better, thus nearly doubling your initial investment. It’s not a huge amount, you need not mortgage your house in order to get one, but getting something decent when you first start makes all the difference.
We thus thought to write this all out, as it seems one thing that seems crucial, and a feeling shared by everyone who attended our April Retreat: The yoga mat you choose can make a massive difference to the longevity of your commitment to pick up yoga from the first instance...
Firstly, it will last you a long time. In fact it can last for many, many years, even practicing every day. 20 years ago there was only one type of yoga mat. The only choice that you had to make was whether you wanted in in purple, yellow or blue. Today, there are a lot more choices, depending on what thickness you want, how sticky it feels or if it is eco-friendly (most yoga mats are PVC, thus not environmentally compatible, but usually with better traction). On top of that you have style and price range. Not quite as fraught with peril as buying a new car, but nevertheless an important choice.
As mentioned before, getting something decent and comfortable will make all the difference. Here is why, apart from the motivation factor. A good mat provides a cushion between you and the hard (and often cold) floor, where you’ll be spending a fair bit of time stretching, doing poses and kneeling. There is nothing quite like banging your knee on something hard to de-motivate. A good yoga mat will help you avoid this. Of course there is the hygiene factor. Having your own mat means that you are not forced into using the one provided by the studio. The one that smells just a little bit funky, which can get very distracting when you do a plank or dolphin pose. Of course no matter if you are at home or in someones studio, there is the added factor of not being on a floor that everyone walks on. Plus, if it is a busy studio, it kind of marks your space between you and the others practicing.
It is important, especially when you first start out, but even after you get really advanced, because a good mat helps with proper alignment. It makes it a lot easier to see if you are in the right position. And lastly, no matter what variety of yoga that you do, at some point you are going to sweat a little. This little investment is the best thing that you can have to keep you from sliding all over the place while doing down dogs or some of the more advanced moves.
Choose your yoga mat wisely - Start with our friends in Perfect Balance