|I get much better traction without a mat in this pose.|
Getting rid of your yoga mat can enhance your practice.
Personally, I have hung up all 25 or so of my yoga mats.
Why I have so many yoga mats is another story. Most are donations from students and I have only ever bought one mat myself. It is 20 years old and the best mat I have although I don't use it anymore.
Going matless is not like walking around naked in a public place, although you might not realise how attached to your yoga mat you are until someone suggests you take it away.
Going matless enhanced my practice for the main reasons listed below.
Reason #1: Be aligned to yourself
It helped me align myself to myself rather than spend too much time aligning myself to my yoga mat.
If you are a mat user you might not realise how you are subconsciously aligning yourself to your mat throughout the practice.
When you don't have a mat you do not have to worry whether you are at the top of the mat at the end of your suriya namaskar. You don't have to worry if your feet are off the mat in downward dog.
Basically you don't have to spend time adjusting yourself to your mat and getting back on your mat if you have to step off it when you could be spending time in your pose.
You really notice people's alignment-to-their-mat obsession when you are a teacher and people line up their mats facing to the front of the room rather than to the teacher.
Take away the person's mat and they will automatically stand facing the teacher whereas give a person a mat and they will point themselves to the front of the room and spend half of the class twisting their neck to see the teacher because they are aligning themselves to the mat.
My word of recommendation in class is if you must use a mat, then make sure you point it towards the teacher, not the front wall.
Reason #2: Get connected to the ground
Without a mat you can somehow grip the ground much better. You feel a better connection to the ground.
This goes for feet and hands.
For me it is sort of like the difference between wearing sneakers and walking around barefoot.
Running shoes companies are now spending a lot of time and money convincing people to spend money to buy barefoot shoes.
I believe this is because of a lot of research demonstrating that cushioning in shoes distorts the bodies sensory systems so that there are small but significant delays in the foot adapting to striking the ground.
My option is free. That is, you don't need to buy anything. In fact, you could possibly make money selling your old yoga mat.
Reason #3: Less baggage
Without a mat to carry around you are much lighter. This goes for lugging that mat in the car, on your bike, and overseas.
Reason #4: Save money
Mats are pretty expensive these days. If you don't buy a mat you will therefore save money.
You also can save on mat paraphernalia such as mat bags, mat cleaners, mat straps etc. etc.
Reason #5: Wind can't blow it away if it is not there
This mostly applies to people who practice outdoors.
Wind is very annoying when you have a yoga mat that keeps blowing away and hitting you in the shins.
People who practice indoors with mats that refuse to straighten and have that curly up bit at the end will also appreciate how annoying some mats can be.
Having no mat frees you from these little annoyances.
But what about the dirt? What about padding?
I hear you.
Some places are pretty dirty and I do not want to practice barefoot.
In such cases I pull out a trusty towel. It is small, cheap, and convenient. It protects from dirt and also gives a bit of padding as needed.
My towel usually comes out if I am on cement to be used for things like headstand, shoulderstand and pinchamayurasana, mainly because I have a bit of a bony spine in some places and sometimes my elbows feel a bit knobbly.
My towel is good for wet grass as well.
I hope I have at least given you some food for thought and you might consider going matless for one class or even part of a class at least.
Be naked and feel free!
Yoga mats are getting more expensive and more technical all of the time. I am not sure they are really and truly necessary. I am pretty sure they are making some companies a lot of money and a bit of a waste of the earth's resources.
Of course, you may have good reasons to use your mat and that is perfectly ok too! Do not worry, I am not going to be ripping your mats from you as you come into class. I know a lot of people want and require them!
Happy and safe practicing.