True Yoga: On or off the Mat?

The True Goal of Yoga (Part 2): On or Off the Mat?

Practitioners commonly refer to Yoga as on or off the mat. But the Yoga mat is a relatively new creation, usually made of some sort of synthetic rubber or plastic material. Too many people today accept the false notion that using such a mat is suitable for all Yoga practice.

Since the use of a Yoga mat is primarily for asanas, its invention has led to further distortion of the nature of true Yoga. Through the mastery of asana, we lessen the natural tendency for restlessness. We are then increasingly able to meditate on the infinite. Facilitating mindfulness and focus helps us reach the greater goal of our physical practice – higher consciousness in the individual.

In addition to Yoga on the mat, there have been subsequent references to Yoga off the mat. This suggests another form of Yoga, resulting in students now recognizing other important Yoga practices. A Google search now reveals over 3 million results for the keywords “Yoga off the mat.”

Authentic or synthetic yoga practices?

Too often the expression “Yoga off the mat” mistakenly implies that real Yoga is always on some sort of synthetic mat. Here the ancient tradition of authentic Yoga is set aside for the sake of promoting a modern and limited (mostly physical) form of Yoga. Sadly, many of the Yoga business channels and so-called Yoga communities share in this error.

Most businesses using the name Yoga grow and become popular in short order. They have achieved such commercial success that the Yoga industry has become a business category. Googling the keywords “Yoga industry” reveals over 316 million results.

The latest survey (2016) conducted by Yoga Journal reports that Yoga:

  • Is a $16.8 billion per-year industry
  • Counts over 37 million people in the U.S. as regular practitioners
  • Estimates 80 million more are interested or likely to try it

Modern, commercialized Yoga and the use of oxymorons for promotion frequently go hand in hand. Real Yoga is an inner experience of the union between the individual self and the Universal Self. Therefore, “Yoga studio” and “Yoga class” fall into the category of oxymorons.