A Brief History of the Yoga Mat

September 01, 2014

Ancient yogis didn’t have mats but the modern yoga mat was born of necessity and now plays a vital role in the practice for many people.

For many people who practice yoga, it’s hard to imagine doing it without their trusty yoga mat.  The right mat becomes an essential tool in your yoga practice; providing you with safety, comfort and support.  Once you’ve developed a “long term relationship” with your yoga mat it almost becomes like an extension of yourself.  Your mat is small rectangle of both serenity and strength; a place where you can practice yoga with confidence and find inner peace.  So you’ve probably many hours on your yoga mat perfecting your poses but have you given much thought to where this simple but important tool came from?

The history of the yoga mat is fascinating.  Ancient yoga in India was practiced on the ground, either covered in grass or not.  Sometimes rugs made from animal hides were used.  The modern yoga mat was the invention of Angela Farmer, a yoga instructor born in London.  When she first started practicing yoga as a young woman she struggled to maintain her balance because previous spinal surgeries left her without the ability to sweat from her hands and feet.  She tried to bring a small foam mattress to class, which her instructor would not allow her to use.  She even tried sprinkling a little water on her hands and feet, which her instructor also did not approve of.

When she was teaching yoga herself in Germany in 1967 she found a piece of carpet underlay and along with it, the solution her stability problems.  She returned home to London with the material and her father contacted the manufacturer, which led to him opening the first yoga mat company in the UK and the sticky mat was born.  He eventually consulted with American companies who were beginning to create mats in this country.  From those humble beginnings the yoga mat has grown into a booming industry and become the faithful companion of millions of people around the world.

 

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