“Concentrate on your breath. Inhale. And exhale.“
That’s what I have been listening to every morning for three weeks now, during my daily yoga practice here, in Rishikesh in India. And I love it! I have learned so much about yoga and about myself, finding my internal balance. And through each “Aum” I feel like helping the world to reach the state of peace and harmony…
The class goes on, we stretch, we breathe, we relax and everybody is happy and peaceful at the end. Suddenly, in this blissful moment, an image of a yoga mat appears in my mind. Maybe because today is Earth Day, I start to think how eco friendly the colorful mats are. Are we conscious and coherent in our actions we, the peace and harmony seekers? What are we thinking of when we unfold our yoga mats? Definitely not of what they are made from and what impact this has on the environment. We just want to practice ‘our yoga’ as comfortably as we can. Sure, to concentrate on the asanas we need a support for our hands and feets. So the yoga mats are an inevitable accessory for us and our training. Or are they? Really? And if yes, what is the impact of satisfying our need on the environment?
I have been practicing yoga for three years, on and off. Very irregularly, but without a mat. It was never an issue for me, on the grass, on the floor, wherever I felt like. Sometimes a carpet or a towel helped. Now, in Rishikesh, I suddenly felt I need to have a yoga mat of my own, as a sign of a membership to this yoga community: „Hello fellow!“ thinking whenever I see someone passing by with a rolled mat over their shoulder.
The point also is, do I really need it or is it just that I want it? I have been trying to simplify my life and learn detachment, so buying something new is always a question of ethics for me. And I am trying to make coherent decisions. (Sure it doesn’t always work out, the progress is slow, but steady ;)) That’s why I have been asking myself what are the yoga mats made of. And you know, they wear out pretty fast, don’t they? So you end up buying a new one every few months and who knows what happens with them afterwards. I just discovered that they are from a very complicater and toxic material, PVC. As I read in a very nice article by Laura Cornell (http://theyogalunchbox.co.nz/the-ecology-of-yoga-mats-whats-a-green-solution/) this material is almost everlasting in the environment and if you want to get rid of it by burning it releases a huge amount of toxins. The typical yoga mat is also a huge water consumer, for each of them it is necessary to use about 925 litres of water! (From article by Pablo Paster http://www.treehugger.com/green-food/ask-pablo-what-is-the-best-environmental-choice-for-yoga-mats.html).
How can we, people from the yoga community, think about balance, peace or harmony, if we are not balancing our ideas with our actions? Maybe it would be too harsh to call this hypocrisy, but at least it is an incoherence. So, let’s think about it and change it. I think that small conscious actions can bring a real change into our lives and into the world. I know that not everyone is able to afford some super fancy bio-eco mat. I don’t think it is necessary. You can easily practice your asanas directly on the floor or on the carpet, in case you need to make yourself more comfortable you can reach for a towel. Those who really cannot do without their mat there are some new solutions like natural rubber, yute and new non-toxic and more eco-friendly materials. However, the most important is to see the connections and use our common sense applying little changes in our everyday life and get closer to our inner peace and harmony.
So maybe the next time you sit on your yoga mat in a peaceful meditation, try to think how was it made and from what, what happens to it when you are done with it, where does it go and how does it influence the ecosystem and what can we do with it. Then maybe you decide to change it or maybe not. But at least, you are aware now and you can decide according to your own consciousness. Then it is only your responsibility what will you do.