Monday, 13 May 2013

The Mat Thing.

Back in March, I posted about videos with yoga exercises to help relax tense neck and shoulders. I did actually manage to keep doing good things like that for my shoulders - and not only them. These and related videos have resulted in my personal discovery of yoga.

Which has led to the inevitable: a yoga mat.

Yoga mats, essentially, are a non-slip surface with a little cushioning effect thrown in for good measure. Their main job, physically, is to keep hands and feet from slipping (thus making some poses much easier). In addition, they usually provide a bit of insulation against cold and said cushioning effect. The desired amount of non-slip, cushioning and insulation varies depending on the form of practice, the surroundings and personal preferences.

Yoga is not just about the physical, though - it also means going for a certain state of mind, awareness, however you would like to call it, with the practice. And entering any special state of mind tied to any activity is always made easier by using certain rituals - such as putting on special dress, or unrolling a mat - and ritual props tied by association to the procedure and the mind-set. Which is another (though less discussed) function of the yoga mat.

And finally, there is also the eco conundrum thingie - since many of those practicing yoga are inclined to be of the greenish persuasion (at least slightly greenish). And as you might know, I am fitting in right well with that.

There's gazillions of mats out there, from many different companies, manufactured in different places and from a multitude of materials. There is also quite a few these days that label themselves "eco" or "green". Well. To put it very bluntly, and going just for the most environmentally friendly, the best yoga mat? No mat at all. Nothing made, transported, and sold. No materials and no energy used. Second best is something serving as a mat that does not fuel the industry and incite them to make more mats (because they are obviously getting bought). That could be a rug or other substitute, or an old mat that is not used by its original owner anymore. (Not buying a new mat if the old one still serves, but continuing to use the old one, would also fall into that category.)

Buying a new mat, even if made from natural materials and produced (and transported) in the most environmentally-friendly way possible, preferably also with fair prices and wages paid for every one and every thing involved in the whole production process? That is third-best. At best. Because every thing that is produced... has an impact.

(Now is the point where I could ramble on about the "no-impact" and "no harm" thingie. There is no such thing as no impact, we each of us live and breathe and that alone makes a difference and an impact on the world. Not regarding that we eat, too.)

You can do worse by the environment, however: There's enough choices out there that use PVC or processes involving toxins, made in factories with not very good conditions. Those are usually cheap mats - which is not saying that pricier is always better in that respect.

I did, by the way, buy a new mat. One of those labelled "eco". Which smells, strongly, of rubber (dissipating only very slowly - it smells less than at the beginning now, though); which is very nicely non-slip, a pleasing colour, and gives me the feeling that I did something to treat myself to a little luxury...

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