Obamacise Your Yoga Mat?

Many are finding the words of our newest national leader inspiring and motivational, and now a company in California has found a way to bring this inspiration to your yoga mat. Yogamatic.com, a custom yoga mat company, has created a limited edition “Words of Hope” Inaugural Speech Mat. The company specializes in full color mat-sized reproductions of unique designs to personalize and “inspire” your hatha yoga practice.

The Hatha Yoga Pradipka states that "The Yogi should practice Hatha Yoga in a small room, situated in a solitary place and free from stones, fire, water, and disturbances of all kinds…" I’m just not sure that these ancient instructions in call for a bold statement of individuality on our mats. Don’t get me wrong, some of these mats are incredibly cool. Gorgeous, unobtrusive pictures and words of inspiration, and others are more elaborate and quite possibly distracting to the practitioner and others sharing the space. Everyone has their own individual experience of the practice, and these custom designed mats speak to that fact. But, I can’t help but wonder if these mats of art and nostalgia are less of an expression of our individual experience, and more of an expression of our desire to be noticed individually.

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When the inherent lessons of this practice guide us to serve outwardly but seek inwardly, does our need to make a statement in asana class align with the deeper work of the practice? We make our mark in yoga not by the graphics on our mat, or our trendy clothes, or our cool mala beads, but in our attentiveness to the practice. And we make our mark as yogis by the way we live our lives in the world.

Sure, it’s a whole lot easier just to go design a mat with Sutra 1:2 on it. But are we missing the point? We can wear beautiful shirts with faint images of Gandhi emblazoned on the chest, but do we move through our lives selflessly in service to others? The most vibrant, shining students in yoga classes are the ones whose inner light shines more brightly than any artwork on their mats or pictures on their shirts. And you know what students I’m talking about.

The one who completely envelops themselves in the experience, of asana, of breath, of the mini-death at the end of each practice. Maybe their “OM” is not the loudest in the class, and maybe they are wearing asana pants from a discount store, but their commitment and understanding of the bigger picture of the practice of yoga outshines their superficial expressions. Those are the students I long to emulate. The ones who roll up their mats, whatever they may look like, and walk out of the studio and into the world to live the intention of their practice.

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