What surface we should use during our yoga practices is described in many texts...
´´Spread a seat of grass on the ground in a clean space not facing the front door. Over that spread a tiger skin or deer skin and over that put a white blanket or a clean white cloth.‘‘
Chapter on Yogabhyasa, Krishnamacharya, Yoga makaranda
The Gita says...
Shuchau deshe pratishthaapya sthiramaasanamaatmanah; Naatyucchritam naatineecham chailaajinakushottaram.
´´In a clean spot, having established a firm seat of his own, neither too high nor too low, made of a cloth, a skin and kusha grass, one over the other.´´
If you want to start practicing yoga, you probably won't go to the forest right away to catch a deer or a tiger :)
मृद्वासने कुशान् सम्यगास्तीर्याजिनमेव च ।
लम्बोदरं च सम्पूज्य फलमोदकभक्षणैः ॥
"Seated in an easy posture, on a (deer or tiger) skin, placed on Kusha grass, worshipping Ganapati with fruits and sweetmeats, placing the right palm on the left, holding the throat and head in the same line, the lips closed and firm, facing the east or the north, the eyes fixed on the tip of the nose, avoiding too much food or fasting, the Nâdis should be purified, without which the practice will be fruitless. "
There are more reasons why ancient yogis used animal skin.
In ancient times, yogis lived outside of the cities. Their ashrams were mostly located hidden in the jungle, close to the water sources – which attracted many animals from the jungle. You may ask, but how one can meditate when there are plenty of animals around? They must get disturbed by them. And there are some who even can eat them!
So they used the skins of predators as their mat, mostly tiger or leopard skin which is bright yellow and easily visible in green jungle . They sit on that mat to meditate, as due to texture and color of mats other animals (including predators like other tigers) gets disguised as if another tiger is sitting nearby the saint, so they don’t attack on him when he was meditating deeply with closed eyes.
Skin of the deer was used because it is believed that they conserve the energy generated by meditation. There used to be many deers in the forests of India in the past. The Krishna mriga (Krisna in sanskrit – black) or Blackbug (a.k.a. Indian antelope) is described in the Vedas. India was referred to as "The land in which the Krishna mriga roam freely."
Since some of us are not hiding deep in the woods doing our practices (at least not yet haha).
During our practice we are protected by 4 walls of our flat or studio, it is enough if we get a mat for our practice, preferably from natural materials.
In his texts, Krishnamacharya mentions only a pure substance on which asanas should be practiced. I think he was referring to the purity and convenience of the materials on which yoga is to be practiced.
The floors in our homes or studios are often made of hardwood or tiles, which does not allow us to spread just a piece of cotton fabric and practice the whole series. Standing positions would still go quite well, but if comes to sitting or lying positions ... asanas such as garbha pindasana would be a harder nut to crack.
A cotton rug is a good alternative to a cotton fabric, because it is heavier and you will not roll or move during practice all over the place.
However, the rug itself slides on polished floors and it is suitable to use the mat under your yoga rug.
You may be wondering why I need a rug if I have a mat?
I would compare it to bed linen or tablecloth. You change and wash only the bed sheets or tablecloth, you do not change the whole bed or table every time.
Therefore, if you want to practice on clean surface, you can wash only the rug. The PVC mats wont suit in the washing machine to give them proper cleaning. But its great to use mat as a cushioning under the rug!
I personally use Manduka Pro with a lifetime warranty. Even after years of practice, the mat looks like new. And it will look like that for another few decades, if someone doesn't inherit it from me.
When using a rug, you really have no way to destroy it. The rug itself will last you about 10 years I guess, I haven't tried it exactly yet because I've been using mine for 3 years now.
As I look at its condition today, I give it at least twice as much time.
I personally have one rug, as I don't sweat that much, I wash the rug once a week during ‘‘day off “so the rug has enough time to dry.
My boyfriend Martin has two rugs as he sweats more than me and washes them more often.
What I’m trying to say is that one rug is enough, and it will stay with you for looooong time... therefore remember, QUALITY OVER QUANTITY!
Is the rug anti-slip?
This is probably one of the first questions we get from people.
It depends on our conditions where and how we do our yoga practice. If it is not too cold and we start sweating at 3rd -4th round of Sun Salutation, we have taken care of the "grip".
The rug "works" on the principle, the more you sweat, the better grip you get! While the most of the yoga mats with a super strong grip (anti-slip) usually become slippery when we start sweating, the rug will work in exactly opposite way! That´s why it will cover your back when you really need it!
On the other hand, these days we have many inventions, which can sometimes be too comfortable. In my opinion, one of them is an anti-slip mat. We should keep ourselves on the mat/rug on our own.
Try yourself a small test. Put yourself in a Downward facing dog - use a wooden floor or ceramic tiles as a surface. Put one towel under your hands, the other under your feet and try how many breaths you can hold. I know, right? Abs are on fire! :D
Thanks to this experiment, you now know which muscles are involved in down-dog (adho mukha svanasana). Now you can answer yourself whether you feel the same way on the extra gripy mat.
In the city of Mysore (mecca of yoga), rugs are necessary for classes.
Because of very practical reason – in Indian climate and with so many people in a class, you start sweating right away. Some of the people sweat excessively and sweat is overflowing their mats and end on the floor. Wet floor is dangerous because someone – the teacher may slip and injure himself or the student or both. When you have a few inches between the mats and the teacher has to walk around you, the safer surface is a rug – all sweat and excessive water is absorbed in cotton rug.
In Mysore, some students put on the rug when starting a sitting positions, which is also an option if you start with the rug and you need more time to get used to the new surface.
It is like with all new things - we need to practice them and learn to implement them into our lives and practices.
When you are used to "grip" or stick yourself to your mat (anti-slip mat), the rug will be a challenge from the beginning. It's like sitting on the ground or eating with your hands. In India, it is completely natural for them to sit on the ground and eat with their hands, they do it so naturally. However, after a few days, weeks, or months, when you observe and implement the right technique, you will also improve!
We have to accept that it will not be easy from the beginning. When I have a worse day, or I'm tired, I sweat a little (when I am in Slovakia during winter), I also start practicing on my mat...and I use the rug for 3 years.
The yoga rug is a suitable surface especially for warm and humid climates. In India at 6 in the morning we have already 35 degrees. Also in our country, Slovakia it can be pretty warm in the summer.
If you really have "hard times" to start sweating and your rug is slippery, use this small trick!
Sparkle a little amount of water – water sprayer you use for plants for example, (or the one which you use with Garbha Pindasana). At the beginning of your practice spray water on the rug where your palms are placed, or even in the area where your feet are. That will help you to get better grip. Remember, more water/sweat = more grip!
Another trick which helps is, that you wash the rug before the first use. It´s practical, and better to get rid of some additional dust which could enter during the production or on the way to you! During the first use, it is possible that the rug will leave lumps, which will disappear after a few washes.
And lastly, it´s love for life – by time it will get softer and nicer. The rug will be just getting better and better!
Why isn't a yoga towel enough for me? Why are you bothering me with rug?
Personally, I have never practiced on a yoga towel, after a few months of using only the mat, I started with the rug.
Here are couple of reasons why I wouldn't even try a yoga towel:
- I never wanted to buy a yoga towel because everything I could find was made of microfibers. Microfiber, it sounds like some super modern technology for making yoga towels. But it's just a fancy word that masks micro plastics, or micro acrylic fibers. One thing is that we practice on recycled plastic, and secondly, when washing these yoga towels, these micro plastics are released into the water and cause 30% pollution of the oceans. I'm not even talking about the fact that then in the form of e.g. marine animals, fish, those microfibers will return to our bodies – if you eat them. And this is how this never-ending circle goes on.
- Second thing is that the yoga towel is too light and during your practice it moves, crouches and lifts and considerable percentage of our attention, which we should pay elsewhere (to breathe or to the correct execution of the position), we pay only to fixing the towel, or we pay attention so that our arm or leg does not become entangled in it (personal experience from observing these endless fights with yoga towels in many shalas)
What can a rug help you with?
So far, it looks like practice on a rug will only make your life difficult, right? So let's take a look at what a rug can help you with!
"Jump back and jump throughs"!
If you practice ashtanga yoga, or another dynamic form of yoga, you know what I'm talking about ... jumps and dynamic shifts between positions.
At the very beginning, when jumping from a down-looking dog (adho muhka svanasana) to a seat (dandasana), it was a new element in practice for me, I had burned outer side of my ankles, because the anti-slip mat kept stopping me. Yep, sticky surface worked perfectly, I have to admit. When I started to use my yoga rug, the transition became softer – because I was sliding nicely on the rug. Still struggling :D Mission for life :D
The rug will make a pleasant transition from chaturanga to a up-dog (urdhva muhka svanasana) and then to a down-dog (adho muhka svanasana).
How else you can use your rug?
First of all, I would like to mention that the rug is great for traveling.
When we travel, we only travel with a rug, as we want to avoid shapeless size of yoga mat, which must always be rolled and we would have to have it slung over the shoulder in addition to the backpack. Quite uncomfortable, especially when we go somewhere for a long time and we have another 23 kg on our backs.
Usually we only take a rug with us, because there is always a mat around in our final destination.
On a trip to India, however, we had to get a travel mat – we knew that Indian yoga schools don´t provide mats to students and we were planning to stay longer time in India. Therefore, we knew that re-locating and travelling is highly probable and to keep the practice steady, it´s important to have proper gear!
Just for comparison, when we used a travel mat without a rug in the past, it lasted us only 4 months. When we lived in the Philippines for 4 months, we practiced on travel mats daily, but they couldn't handle the way back with us. The parts were falling apart, literally. However, this was not covered by the guarantee, as travel mats are not intended for daily practice. The standard of travel is probably mostly intended for 10 - 15 days a year, not for 4 months of use in a row :D
Ok. Let's go back to what I originally wanted to tell you... where else you can use the rug !
Here and there we use the rug for pick-nick or just chilling in the park. However, the disadvantage may be that if you have one rug and you want to wash it after used outside, it may not be able to dry for your morning practice.
Anyways, because the rug is made of cotton, it's a great pad to relax outside and still be able to get energy from the ground. Not everyone is lucky and can just run barefoot into the garden and draw energy from the ground. If we live in cities, we are often dependent on city parks, where we are not very sure what was happening on the spot where we just arrived.
Naturally, the concentration of people in city parks is higher. And don‘t forget the dogs.
Why does a natural rug help us connect better with the earth?
When you feel scattered, overwhelmed or you just feel tired, the best thing you can do is to go to the open space and walk barefoot for 10 minutes. The earth will suck that negativity from your body. You will feel refreshed and energetic all of sudden. This method is called earthing, it is really effective and easy.
Maybe you know this moments when you are on holiday on the sea side. You take of your shoes and start walking on the beach. How do you feel then? We should not limit it only to this holiday which happens once or twice per year. Put your feet on the earth more often!
Well, of course it's nothing new, but how many of us use it. Since I was a child I loved to go barefoot in our garden. Not everybody these days has an advantage of own garden, that's why we rely on city parks which are often not very clean. In this case I am using a rug to lie on and rest in the nature, close to the earth.
Because rug it is made of cotton fibers that come from the ground, earth electrons can pass through this material easily. Check out this article! https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3265077/
What is the life span of Leela yoga rug?
So far, we can tell you with certainty that it will not be less than 3 years, because we have been using our rugs for this period – 6 times ashtanga practice per week.
As we look at them, there is nothing wrong with them, except that the color may no longer be as bright as in the beginning. The color will disappear only if you dry the rug on direct sun and go out a lot with it. However, does not change the functionality of the rug.
We still love them, when we think of everything they have been through with us ... and how many times they saved our lives: D Like a 15-hour train journey to Jaipur, when the temperature was close to zero at night and we had a backpack full of summer clothes. At that time, it helped that we spread the cotton rug on the cold leather seats in train. At least something :)
What makes the rug even more special?!
The rug is made by hand, by local weavers, which is of great value, at least for us. Just knowing that with the production of each rug, local people will get a job and the craft that has been with them for so long will not disappear and is not replaced by fast and powerful machines. Each rug has passed through human hands, it has energy in it!