The Sticky Mat Revolution: The Story Behind Your Yoga Companion
21st September 2023
Yoga is all about focus, balance, and inner peace. But trying to do some poses on a slippery surface can make finding those things quite challenging! That’s where the yoga mat comes in: the original ‘prop’ which is indispensable for many yoga practitioners around the world today. But have you ever wondered where this essential piece of yoga kit originated from?
Beginnings in the 1950s
The story begins in the 1950s with yoga luminary BKS Iyengar. He was a globe-trotting ambassador for yoga, travelling across continents to spread the wisdom of this ancient practice. During his travels, he gave lectures, demonstrations, and inspired countless individuals to embrace yoga.
The Carpet Conundrum
In most European and American cities, when Iyengar took the stage for his yoga sessions, he encountered a unique challenge: the stage was typically covered with carpets. While carpets might be warm and cosy underfoot, they presented a less than ideal surface for performing asanas; they were slippery and couldn’t provide the necessary grip.
On one particular occasion, BKS Iyengar decided to take matters into his own hands and requested the removal of the carpet that was interfering with the session. What he found beneath it was a revelation – a rubber underlay that offered a solid grip.
A Eureka Moment
With his characteristic innovative mind, BKS Iyengar saw the potential in this rubber underlay and brought a length of it back to India, determined to explore how it could be used during yoga practice. Little did he know that he was about to change the way yoga students around the world experienced their practice.
While most of us see the yoga mat as a simple rectangular piece of material to stand on, BKS Iyengar saw endless possibilities. He experimented with various ways to use this newfound material in his practice. Asanas became more stable, transitions smoother, and meditation more comfortable. The yoga mat was born!
A Legacy of Innovation
Iyengar’s innovation didn’t stop there; he continued to explore the potential of the yoga mat, finding countless ways to enhance the yoga experience. He also developed numerous other supports, or props, which are found in many yoga studios today – including blocks, bolsters, belts and blankets. His creativity knew no bounds, and his contributions to the world of yoga extended far beyond just the physical practice.
What started as a simple request to remove a carpet turned into a game-changing discovery that has touched the lives of yoga practitioners everywhere. Thanks to BKS Iyengar’s ingenuity, we now have the perfect companion to our practice.
So the next time you unroll your yoga mat, take a moment to appreciate the creative spark that led to its invention, and perhaps let it inspire your own practice.
One of BKS Iyengar’s early demonstrationsTeaching in Pune, India in the 1970’s