Sometimes you just get the urge to have a morning stretch, but don’t have a mat handy. Whether you’re away from home on a work trip or sunning yourself on holidays. The urge can take you at any time. Don’t worry if you don’t have a mat with you there are some great alternatives that will allow you to get a session in.
You can also cater your practice to make the most of your session. Even if you struggle to find some of the alternatives that we talk through you can even get away with practicing entirely without a mat.
Things to think about
Pick the right kind of surface
Depending on the style of routine that you are doing there are a number of surfaces that will naturally offer a decent level of traction without irritating the skin as you flow through a practice.
Whether it’s hardwood or carpet it’s best to use a towel to add a layer between you can the ground. By using a towel to pad your knees in lunging poses or any pose that puts weight on them you can do a wide range of poses in a comfortable manner. Wood can be a little slippy, so take it slow in poses such as downward dog and avoid any balancing, but you should be able to do a wider range of poses to get a solid practice in. The focus should be on more standing and seated poses.
Generally, try and avoid practicing on the carpet if you don’t have a towel handy. This can irate your skin when you’re moving and you don’t want to be sweating on the carpets either. If carpet is your only option then go for a similar routine to that of practicing on the hardwood. The focus should be on standing and seated poses, but overall we wouldn’t recommend practicing on the carpet.
If you’re practicing outside, the grass is definitely your best option. Generally soft so there will be a natural cushion. It’s a comfortable surface to be able to hold poses on. We recommend that you practice on a towel for this. As the towel can provide an extra bit of traction. Although the towel can move as you transition between, so try to avoid jumping.
Unlike wood and carpet, the whole range of poses is available to you. So, the grass is definitely the most robust surface if it’s available to you. There is also something really nice about practicing Yoga in the outdoors in such a natural environment. Ideally, if you can find a place with a view it will elevate your practice.
Adjust your practice for the surface your using
Yoga is a very customizable form of exercise, so we would highly recommend that you adjust your practice based on the type of surface you are practicing on. If you’re using carpet lunging poses can irritate the knees as you transition, so it’s probably best to remove these poses from the routine.
If you’re practicing on hardwood or concrete any poses on the floor will be tough to integrate as the floor can be cold and unclean. These are just a few of the scenarios that you can encounter. So before getting into practice, think through what adjustments you will need to make and what the flow of the session will look like.
Benefits of not using a mat
A Lot of the surfaces we talked about above will make practicing Yoga without a mat a more intense experience. Your muscles need to work harder in order to hold the poses. This is due to the lack of grip from the surface you are practicing on.
The great thing about most yoga mats is that they help to root your body to the floor as you bend, stretch and balance your way through practice. So removing this element will make you engage your muscles more intently to hold your poses.
Practice anywhere and anytime
Sometimes we as Yogis can be tied to the mat and we think that without a mat we couldn’t possibly practice, but this results in missing out on the opportunity to practice in some really unique places. Think about the last time you were away from home on holidays or in a place in a beautifully scenic spot.
I’m sure you could have found a lovely patch of grass or sand that would have been the perfect spot to practice in, but because you didn’t have your mat with you you may have not even have thought about it, because you didn’t have your mat handy. Embrace the uncomfortable, practice when that feeling strikes, no matter what the location.
Benefits of using a mat
A number of poses, especially when you’re on your hands and knees are benefited by the cushion of the mat. As you’re putting most of your body weight on specific area’s the cushion can make a pose a lot more comfortable, which will help you to maintain the pose for longer. There is a remedy around this with the use of simple household items such as a cushion or towel. So no matter where you are getting hold of these items is usually handy enough.
If you have ever used a mat that’s had a little too much love you’ll know how difficult it can be to hold your poses. Mats provide great traction which makes holding poses for long periods of time easier. This will aid your progression as a Yogi. This grip is also important as it reduces the risk of slipping when you’re in poses.
At the early stages of your Yoga journey when you’re learning about alignment and posture, having a mat with high levels of grip can help to maintain the correct posture when your muscles aren’t as developed as an experienced Yogi. So, all in all, the grip is important.
Positioning and alignment
Mats provide a good reference point for your position on the mat. So, if you’re looking for the perfect position to place your leading foot in a triangle pose, a mat is a great pointer to understand where to place your foot. Some Yogi’s may find it a little difficult to get used to practicing off the mat without this prompt, but like everything with a bit of practice, things will come back to you.
Helps keep you warm
The coldest part of a room is the floor. You will definitely notice the temperature of the floor if you’re practicing hardwood or concrete. As you do Yoga on your bare feet using a mat can surprisingly provide you with some warmth as you flow through a practice. If you ever walked into a yoga studio in your bare feet you know what we mean. So, having a mat will help you warm up quicker and keep warm as you practice.
Protects against injury
This is especially pertinent if you’re practicing on a slippery surface. The risk is that you can lose your grip while in a pose and injury yourself when you don’t use a mat. Mats provide great stability and will help you hold poses for longer.
If a mat is available to you then we strongly recommend that you use it. There are ways around it if there isn’t a mat available to you. You should never be in a position where you don’t feel like you can’t practice without a mat. Use the tips and tricks we outlined to practice whenever the urge takes you. The one thing we have learned over the years is that you will never regret a Yoga practice.