12 Reasons To Start Using a Mysore Rug (Updated 2017) – Ekaminhale
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12 Reasons To Start Using a Mysore Rug (Updated 2017)


You might not have ever heard of a Mysore yoga rug. 

No doubt you have heard of a yoga mat or a yoga towel but unless you practice Ashtanga then there is a good chance the yoga rug remains a mystery. 

Well at least that used to be the case. I've started to notice that even some Ashtangis are unaware of the need of a Mysore rug in our practice. 

In this post I'm going to explain how the trend away from the yoga rug to the yoga towel and sticky mat has unintended negative affects to both the yoga practitioner and our even more importantly our planet. (Make sure you read point 12)

Using a rug for yoga isn't something new. It's not the next best thing.

It's the old best thing. It's how it used to be done. When I say used to I mean up until 1980 but that is whole another story which I wrote about here.  

Have you heard of Krishnamacharya? He's likely the reason you practice yoga. 



"Tirumalai Krishnamacharya" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

 

Krishnamacharya is known as the teacher of teachers since he taught five teachers who basically taught the west about yoga. He taught Sri K Pattahbi Jois,  B.K.S. Inyengar, Indra Devi, AG Mohan and his own son T.K.V. Desikachar.

According to AG Mohan's book the way Krishnamacharya would teach since there were no yoga mats back then was to use the bare floor for standing postures and then for seated you would use a rug or blanket. [1]

Fast forward to today and we are using a plastic sticky mat?

I've been to India a couple times now and I never saw a plastic sticky floor. 

Here's what I'm suggesting - Suggesting....

A wise man once told me. "People should just do what works best for them"

Try this and see if it works for you. 

Ditch the sticky mat prop. Move over to the rug. 

Here's 12 reasons to start putting a rug on top of your yoga mat

But first. 

You might be thinking.

"You're just saying use a Mysore Rug because you sell them."

Ekaminhale Organic Yoga Rugs

It's the other way around. I sell them because I use them.

I have used a Mysore Rug for the last 13 years in my own daily practice and what I'm going to share with you all comes from my own experience.

I'm writing this from what I've learned by doing the one thing that matters most. Practicing. Which is what makes Ekaminhale different from most other companies. Practice has always come first otherwise I wouldn't be able to write this post. 

 

12 Reasons to Start Using A Mysore Rug

1. Yoga is not fitness. It is a Spiritual practice.  

"This yoga is not for exercise. It is for looking at the soul. That is all" Sri K Pattahbi Jois

Hopefully we've all agreed that this is a spiritual practice and not "fitness". It's not a "sport". I could probably write 100 blog posts on this topic but I'll leave it for now. 

When you practice in India at the shala it looks like this.

And not like this. 

It's not all yoga. Some of it's just exercise that they call yoga.

In yoga you take your shoes off and there are no bouncy balls.

In yoga we are using the body but the aim of the practice is spiritual. For this reason the rug to me is closer to a prayer towel than a piece of fitness equipment.

The surface I do my spiritual practice on needs to be clean, natural and functional.  

I'm also happier knowing that my rug was handmade in a peaceful setting by craftsmen and not made in factories. The rugs we sell are all made by hand on looms in small villages in India which we went there to see it for ourselves.

You can see how it's all done in the post - The prana is there.

2. Cotton is Closer to Nature

Plastic or cotton? There is really no contest here. I can't even do downward dog on my bare yoga mat anymore. Other than the fact it doesn't work (get to that in a minute) it's the synthetic feeling and smell of plastic rather than a natural material that when given the choice I would rather avoid.

It's a general principle I live by of always choosing nature over technology which I have to say is working out pretty good. I teach about in this email series - click here

What feels better on your skin? A comfy cotton t - shirt or a plastic windbreaker? With a rug you have the texture of cotton on your skin. I can't do it justice with writing. It's something you have to feel. I'm sure you know what I mean. It's like man made material vs natural. 

Using a natural material is even more crucial when it comes to reducing our environmental impact which I explain in point 12. It's shocking. 

3. Krishnamacharya never used a sticky mat

As I said above nobody did until the mats were invented in the 80's. Don't believe me? Read here. Yogi's practiced for years just fine without a sticky mat. How did they do it? 

According to Sharath Jois and Mark Darby they used the rugs. I've asked both of them and if you Google some of the older videos of our teachers practicing like these one below you will see just that.  They started on the rugs.

Does it matter? You bet it does. Refer to point 5.

4. Easier to Jump Back and Jump Through

Watch this video here from one of the best teachers I know. David Robson. 

See how in the beginning you have to kind of scoot your feet along to get them through? You think a grippy surface is going to be better for this or a cotton one? Especially as you get to the point where you have to start sliding your feet through. The point in the learning process just before you are jumping back.  

You know how I figured this out? I have a long legs so my feet would drag the first two years I was learning jump throughs and jump backs. I would have cuts on the tops of my feet from my mat. Until I got the rug. My feet thanked me. 

5. Practicing on a rug forces you to get stronger legs and feet (that's the point)

A sticky mat is a prop. The stickiness of the mat stops your feet from sliding out and lets you rest into the outer edges of your feet as well as not have to use your inner legs.

I learned that because I wasn't building the natural leg and foot strength in standing postures (as well as in my lifestyle). As a result I wasn't strong enough later in the series to "relax" when the postures became more difficult. 

The sticky mat was invented by a person who had a medical condition where she didn't sweat so her feet were super slippery. If you don't have this condition then you most likely don't need this prop. It's going to be harder at first to keep your legs together using a rug but that's the point. You are building the natural strength of your legs and feet and not relying on technology to do the work.

I wrote another post about how I use a rug to build that natural strength in my feet and legs. I had to figure this all out when I lost the ability to do full practice because of debilitating back pain. To read the post -

How To Get Stronger In Yoga by Removing Extra Grip [Version 1.0] Click Here

6. Rugs look better

I'm a guy and tend to think more about the "function" rather than the "appeal" of something. For example when I first started doing the Yantra shirts I thought people were buying them for what they meant. Some people were but most it turns out were just because they like how they looked. Same with the rugs. Some people want the function and then others are into the aesthetic or the beauty. For my girlfriend every morning before practice, she sets the stage by lighting a candle at the Puja, making sure the floor is clean and laying out a fresh rug on her mat.  Its part of the ritual for her.

7. Mats get stinky and then no one will practice next to you. 

My teacher Sharath mentioned that having a clean rug is part of Sauca. One of the Niyamas that refers to cleanliness. 

I sweat a lot when I practice. After awhile the mat gets lets say a "not too pleasant odor". The rug will as well but at least you can wash it. You wash your yoga clothes right? A mat is almost impossible to wash.

Rather than buying three mats you can buy 3 rugs then just rotate them. This way you can wash your rugs often and keep that sweat from settling in.

It's like sheets for your bed. You don't wash the bed. You wash the sheets. 

You might be thinking that a Microfiber towel will do the same job. In some ways it can but it's the washing of them that is turning out to be an environmental issue. (point 12)

8. Rugs Are Mandatory In Mysore

If you are going to KPJAYI in Mysore to practice it's required to have a cotton rug and cotton towel for the simple reason is that when you start sweating everything around you get's too slippery. This makes it dangerous for you and your teacher helping you. Especially in dropbacks.

This wasn't as big of an issue when the shala had carpet floors but now there is new modern flooring so it's a requirement. 

9. You can slide your feet in the upward dog transition

If you don't know what I mean by this watch David's feet at 5:04 as he goes into Up dog. See how they press through?

 

I remember the first time I tried to press through my feet on a sticky mat after using a rug for years. I forgot my rug and had to use just the bare mat. I couldn't press through my feet and "slide" them to go into upward dog. So I ended up super far forward with my shoulders way over my wrists. It just felt bad. Off. Since the mat was so sticky I actually had to just pick up my feet and place them flat for up dog for that practice. Years ago when I didn't have a rug this is what my mat looked like.

10. Rugs are heavier so they stay in place better than towel. 

I've tried yoga towels in my practice and they can work but personally I find them too light. They slip around easier as I do my practice and always bunch up even if they have that sticky stuff made of who knows what on the bottom. It's just not necessary. Rugs are thicker and heavier so they are more likely to stay put.

Occasionally if I catch my feet on the rug it will flip up but it doesn't slide all over the place like a yoga towel. 

The size of our Mysore rugs fit slightly longer than the Manduka Pro mat. When I use them together I almost never flip up my rug. It stays perfectly in place. 

11. Save some money 

A Manduka mat at the time of me writing this post is $108.00 to $129.00 bucks. Good news. You will only have to make this mat purchase once when you start using rugs. You just won't wear the mat out. I've had the same mat now for 3 years and it looks like new.

Yes you'll have to buy rugs but when taken care of these are going to last. So in the long run you save time, you save money and there isn't so much garbage in the world. 

12. Microfiber Is Polluting Our Oceans 

Ever wonder why there is no such thing as an Organic Yoga Towel?

Probably not.

I have wondered and when I looked into it here is what I found out.

99% of Yoga Towels are made from Microfiber. But what is Microfiber?

"They are made from petrochemicals. The polyester and polyamide fabric strands are 100 times finer than human hair. That's what makes them so good at lifting dirt, grease and dust without cleaning chemicals. Problem is, they are made from a nonrenewable resource and do not biodegrade. And only those made from polypropylene are recyclable." David Suzuki

Unfortunately it gets worse. 

"New studies indicate that the fibers in our clothes could be poisoning our waterways and food chain on a massive scale. Microfibers – tiny threads shed from fabric – have been found in abundance on shorelines where waste water is released....

Synthetic microfibers are particularly dangerous because they have the potential to poison the food chain. The fibers’ size also allows them to be readily consumed by fish and other wildlife. These plastic fibers have the potential to bioaccumulate, concentrating toxins in the bodies of larger animals, higher up the food chain." - The Guardian

Pretty ugly right? Some new studies have come out just recently that suggest the more you wash the synthetic materials the more plastic goes into the ocean. 

I go into this a lot more in the free Slow Fashion Email series or read the post 

5 Actionable Steps Yoga Practitioners Can Take To Stop Microfiber Pollution 

If you are thinking about getting a rug it is important which rug you buy and why Ekaminhale Organic rugs are the most environmentally friendly rugs you can find.

This isn't just Greenwashing here. 

I've taken the steps to make sure these rugs are the best. These step include:

Our rugs are made of 100% Organic Cotton, they are GOTS Certified (Global Organics Textiles Standards) to ensure enviromentally safe dyes and working conditions, they are made by hand in small villages in India, we give 10% to a Mysore charity, why does any of this matter?

I explain it all in the Slow Fashion Series which you can sign up for on the Mysore Rugs Product Page. 

Click here to see the Ekaminhale Mysore Rugs

Keep Practicing

Clint "Start With Your Rug" Griffiths 

 

References

[1] AG Mohan's Book Krishnamacharya: His Life and Teachings


10 comments


  • Clint

    Good points Tim. The amount of sweat plays a huge factor and will depend on each person as well as the climate and studio. The other thing to consider is when to use the rug and the strength of the practitioner. I wrote about all of this and what to do if it’s too slippery in the Mysore Rug FAQ https://ekaminhale.com/pages/mysore-yoga-rug-faq


  • TIm

    In India, sweat comes quickly in the practice making a rug both useful and necessary. The sweat facilitates traction. Whereas in air conditioned studios in the west, or in cooler climates, sweat may not come at all, making traction on a rug difficult.
    Also, floors in traditional village homes such as Krishnamacharia’s were often made of conpressed cow dung. Doing a sweaty practice on such floors was probably not too practical, thus the rug.


  • DAni

    Thank you for sharing this insight. I had not used a rug bc it is so much harder. I’ve tried with a blanket before, but this all makes perfect sense. I know that being stronger will help every aspect of my existence… The more you know ?✌??


  • Clint

    Hi Svenja. Yes the rug works perfect for travelling since it folds up smaller and lighter than a regular mat. I personally use a mat under my rug most of the time because I never know if the floor will be too slippery for it to stay in place and for postures like Garbha Pindasana it’s softer on my body. The first season in Mysore I used the Manduka Travel Mat then put my rug over top and that worked well too. The practice surface was harder but it was ok. At that time their were rugs for floors in the Shala but now the floors are more modern and slippery. Sharath tells everyone to have a mat and a couple rugs plus a towel for wiping up sweat. Hope that helps and feel free to email me at clint@ekaminhale.com or post here if you have any other questions.


  • Svenja

    Hey! Thanks for pointing things out. I am very much in favor of trying a rug, since I already use the thinnest possible mat for similar reasons. However, another reason for me to do so is lower weight and handling (foldable to backpack size). I wonder why would you use / recommend using a mat underneath the rug?


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