Like many bits of Eastern culture popularized in the West, yoga has become commercialized. In October, The New York Times did an article on how yoga mats are, by true yoga enthusiasts, being scrapped as an interference between the lotus (the yoga practitioner) and its root (the earth, or at least the hardwood floor on which the practitioner is performing). This is a notable step in a country where the yoga industry garners over $5 billion a year.
The mat has become in the West a sort of New Age status symbol-"I do yoga, therefore I am fit and enlightened." In fact, yoga itself has become incorporated in the even bigger diet industry of America, and is practiced for its calorie-burning effects, not its meditative benefits or those to the circulatory system, sore muscles, chronic pain, and the like.
What many Westerners (and westernized Easterners) fail to realize is that the deluge of yoga products-peace and om shirts, yoga pants, om keychains, refrigerator magnets and bumper stickers boasting the downward dog pose-is in itself a contradiction of yoga. Yoga is unconcerned with surroundings, with appearances and fashion statements, with calories or pounds and kilograms. It has, sadly, become for many cultures another industry to grow and in which to invest.
For some broader-minded yoga enthusiasts, however, commoditized products like the synthetic rubber yoga mat interferes with the practice of yoga. Not only has it become a false status symbol, advocates of going back to au naturel hardwood flooring indicate that the environmental impact of a yoga mat is greater than a mindful yogi can bear. The manufacturing, processing, and shipping procedure don't do anything good for the earth, and the synthetic material can release toxins through the user's air passages and pores.
Many Americans balk at the idea of not bringing their personal yoga mat to their yoga classes at local gyms, but using no mat at all is arguably more sanitary than using mats others have sweated upon. While a personal mat may still be favorable over a questionable floor, slippery carpet, or hard floor that could damage tender joints, bonding with the earth rather than a sheet of rubbery plastic is more economical, more mindful of the earth and its people, and more honest to oneself and to the practice.
Traditional yogis, after all, don't peddle or wear yoga merchandise.
Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education performing research surrounding online universities and their various program offerings. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.
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I don't like the fact that yoga is becoming so commercialized today.
I guess that's the way the things work in most of today's modern societies. What can't be commercialized is usually doomed to being not so popular. The good news is that, in essence, only one branch of yoga - Hatha Yoga - is commercialized. The other, more spiritual branches, for example, Jnana Yoga, Kundalini Yoga or Raja Yoga are still pretty esoteric and not know to the general public. This is not to say that commercialization is wrong, per se.
real yoga has nothing to do with mats yoga blocks & straps, yoga blankets & other silly accessories.