Want to practice yoga but don’t have a mat? Don’t worry! In this article, we’re going to talk about what to use instead of a yoga mat so that you can start your yogic journey right away.
Having a yoga mat is not a prerequisite to becoming a yogi. The Indians didn’t have yoga mats when they started practicing some 5,000 years ago. Before the invention of sticky mats made of different materials such as cork, rubber, and plastic, ancient yogis used animal skins, particularly tiger and deerskin.
Yes, you read that right. But, don’t panic. Ancient yogis practice Ahimsa or non-violence. So, they didn’t kill those animals to use the skin as a cushion. Ancient yogis only used the skin of deer and tigers that died naturally.
Why Tiger and Deer Skin, You Ask?
Buddhists believe that using deerskin is appropriate as a meditation seat because deer are gentle and soft. They think that by using the deer’s skin, the meditation practitioner will channel that energy into his life. The same goes for using the skin of a tiger.
Tigers are known for their might and willpower. By using the tiger’s skin during your yoga practice, they believe you will be able to channel these characteristics as well.
While using the skin of tigers and deer may help you channel your spirit animal, acquiring animal skin is not convenient. So, instead of using these animal skins, here are some yoga mat alternatives that I have personally tried in the last eight years that should work for you as well.
7 Yoga Mat Alternatives
Carpets are soft and thick. They provide comfort and extra cushioning on your hands and knees, especially when you’re doing poses that require you to kneel, such as Anjaneyasana, Cat, and Cow. The good thing about carpets, too, is that you don’t have to roll and unroll them every time you practice yoga. Just make sure the carpet is clean.
Rolled-up beach towels are some of my favorite props to use in my yoga practice in place of blocks. But you can also use them as an alternative to a yoga mat. Beach towels are thick enough to provide a cushion for your wrists and joints, especially when you’re doing poses such as Upward-Facing Dog.
You can also find beach towels easily, as you usually have one at home. When you’re traveling, hotels typically provide it. Beach towels are also big enough for you to lay down on when doing supine poses.
You have to be careful when using a beach towel, though, because it can be slippery, and you might have to adjust it a couple of times.
What’s more convenient than doing yoga in your bed? Nothing! We usually wake up with tight muscles after sleeping for a few hours (most likely in the same position.) Being able to move and stretch your tight muscles without getting up is such a joy.
Also, doing yoga is always a great way to start the day. You have to be careful with practicing yoga in bed, though. If your bed is too soft, it won’t provide you with a stable surface for standing poses, as well as inversions. If you have to do these poses, get out of bed and use the floor instead.
You can practice without a mat directly on the floor. You can do pretty much all yoga postures, especially Standing Poses and Inversions. But if you’re going to practice gentle movements that require you to kneel, the hard floor can be rough on the knees. If you’re using the floor, make sure it is clean and there are no objects you might step on.
Many seniors practice yoga on a chair. But anyone who doesn’t have access to a yoga mat can also use it. The chair is also a great prop in yoga, even when you have a yoga mat. Check out the Lotus Pose below that you can do on a chair.
When yogis in ancient India started practicing yoga, they didn’t care where they practiced. They adapt their practice to wherever they are—under the trees, hard soil, and grassy lawns. A grassy lawn provides a great cushion.
It’s also not too rough for your hands and knees. You can also get more benefits from your yoga practice when you do it barefoot on the grass.
Grounding or earthing is the practice of walking in nature without any footgear. This practice allows the feet to contact nature, which stabilizes the natural circadian rhythms in the body. Practicing yoga barefoot on a grassy lawn will help you get the benefits of yoga and the benefits of earthing.
Does practicing Ocean Breath in the ocean sound good to you? If you don’t have a yoga mat and you’re near a beach, take advantage of it. The sand is gentle on the joints, so practicing low lunge and poses that require you to kneel, such as Camel Pose, wouldn’t be too difficult.
The beach is also an excellent background for IG-worthy photos.
Which of These Yoga Mat Alternatives Should You Use?
As you can see, you can practice yoga wherever you are, whether you have a yoga mat or not. No matter which of these yoga mats alternatives you choose, remember to practice with caution. Always check if the surface you are practicing on is clean and clear of any objects that might hurt you, such as shattered glass and even small toys.
Moreover, if the surface is too slippery and unstable to provide you with proper grip and balance, stick with seated or supine poses. Do not take a chance on doing balancing poses, as you might hurt yourself.
Should You Still Get a Yoga Mat?
Definitely yes. If you’re serious about practicing yoga regularly, you need a yoga mat that will give you safety and comfort. If and when you are ready to buy a yoga mat, there are a number of things that you should consider to pick the right one for your yoga journey.
Things to Consider When Picking a Yoga Mat
Yoga mats have different thicknesses. One and ⅙-inch yoga mats are ideal for balancing postures. One and ¼-inch yoga mats are perfect when the foundation of the poses are your bones and joints. If you practice different yoga styles, it’s better to get the happy medium, which is a one and ⅛-inch thick mat.
Yoga mats are made of different materials. Some mats like the Liforme mat and Jade mat are made of natural rubber. Some mats are also made of cork. If you’re looking to get an eco-friendly yoga mat, get a cork yoga mat or one made of rubber. If budget is the issue, most PVC yoga mats are cheap.
When in a yoga session, you will be moving around your mat. You don’t want your mat sliding all over the floor as you move from one pose to another. Find a sticky mat that will hold you in place even when it gets sweaty.
How much traction a yoga mat provides is seen in its texture. The texture affects the grip of the mat on the floor, as well as the stickiness. It keeps the mat from sliding on the floor and yourself from slipping.
The texture also affects the feel. If bumps in your mat bother you during Savasana, you will not be able to relax fully. So, better get a mat with a texture that you like.
Ancient yogis survived without yoga mats because they adapted. You can also adjust by using any of these yoga mat alternatives. A yoga mat is helpful, but it is not necessary.