The practice of yoga has been gifted to the West from India with its history of thousands of years of spiritual traditions that are practiced for better health and disease prevention led by severe self-discipline. The practice of yoga is unlike that of any other physical endeavor with its complex layers of benefits to health as well as spirtual connection between the mind-body. With the transition of yoga being adopted into American health culture we have also adopted the yoga mat as the main tool to practice on. While it might appear that this health kick that has swept the United States in increasing population there has been a lack of sufficiency in the sustainability of the mat that these health and spiritual regimes are practiced over which(National). Throughout the transition of origin that yoga has made becoming westernaulizated, the entirety of its practice has been tainted by western culture as well with the market skyrocketing in yoga mat purchases that truly misconstrue the entire concept to begin with. When the yoga mat is rolled out onto American soil it is not to cover the roots of spiritual connection that India has worshiped within this practice for thousands of years, for it is the mat that we have adopted and seem to carelessly forget the international practice purpose throughout its commercialization.
A Short History
The power of yoga was greatly led in India by Tirumalai Krishnamacharya and brought to western civilization for the first time by a young woman in the 1950’s, Indra Devi who opened the first yoga studio in Hollywood, California(Hammond). Not only was Indra Devi the first woman admitted into Krishnamacharya’s school of yoga in 1937 but she then brought in to America to open a school and educate generations of American’s the practice of yoga which eventually led to the westernization which we now refer to too often as Modern Yoga(Smith). The yoga boom began during the “flower power” rise of the 1960’s where hippies began to approach health in a groovy flow they found from eastern philosophers. Also during 1961, Richard Hittleman began pioneering yoga on television which he continued for decades influencing hundreds of Americans through a mainstream health platform from his spiritual learning background of yoga(Singleton). This was the beginning of the spread of yoga in the west which boomed along the west and east coast, eventually reaching an impact on today's more than 20 million Americans who practice yoga(Cramer). The 1980’s and 1990’s were the predominant growth period of yoga schools and institutions that were fueled in marketing demands by leaders like Ram Dass who’s spiritual quest of life opened a third eye for a new generation that rooted into spirituality. It was not until the 1990’s that the commercialization of the yoga mat began to sweep the nation as well despite the priceless health benefits that one receives from practicing yoga, the true expense to this practice lies in the mat that puts zero investment towards the longevity of our planet.
Lens 1 - Environmental Ethics
Yoga mats were created in the 1990’s, a breakthrough marketing opportunity that became fashioned from all ranges of high-end to cheap, with traces of plastic The popularity of yoga peaking in the nineties paired the promotion of health and became America’s mainstream workout routine and cure all that seemingly has no down side. The true down side was surely the underside that we learned to stand over. The fashion industry is partially to blame for the lack of sustainable efforts behind the yoga mat, but to no efforts did the product ever need to be withheld in the past. Prior to the creation of a yoga mat, the practice was done in connection with nature which was often in grass, sand, wooden floors, rugs or towels(Jain). There is growing research that shows practice holds higher health benefits for mental and emotional health, sleep and balance, and stress management when your body is grounded to the Earth. By adding a yoga mat to separate the connection of the body and the soil, with a non nature material, is breaking the connection of the practice with a tamper on the cultural history of this westernization of yoga. Studios quickly began to open across the nation and with the price of the membership there is a cost to the accessories and a yoga mat is a must in the idea of sanitation and bringing your own is generally expected. That is only part of what has become so modern about yoga in the west, its own culture began to evolve in high expenses not because of the health but due to the location of the venue and the mat that’s made of plastic and PVC, a known human carcinogen(Webb). The ethics of our environment are used as a reflection of how much deeper we must look within the garbage of our globe, how the toxicity of fast fashion yoga speeds past the point of self-actualization(Robbins). America has begun to accept that the yoga mat is the most “ubiquitous symbol” of itself.
Lens 2 - Markets and Commodities
Mindfulness and awareness are core elements to the scarcity of yoga, maintaining intentions of practice for the connection you seek to receive from yoga. For Peter Stereios, Manduka creator and San Luis Obispo yoga icon, his mission when creating one of the now leading yoga mats is sustainability with his “Made for Good” campaign mat line(Manduka). Manduka mats are manufactured without toxic emissions and with the intention and goals to encourage their consumers to honor the legacy, think big, strengthen the community, go green, and integrity above all. This brand is particularly a beautiful example in the town that I live in but also provides community on a global aspect to anyone using these mats or connecting through their online practices. Manduka is a brand that I found has curbed the bridge of traditional yoga and modern yoga by adapting with the evolution of westernization and allowing yoga to grow into its sustainability and become a green light of love for our planet. Although the price of their mats are still alternatively higher, the webpage offers free web-streamed yoga classes that connect the community through an interface of worlds. The values that this brand leads the yoga industry in believing not only enhances the health of humans practicing this exercise but also the health of the Earth and connection to the spirituality that has been culturalized with yoga for thousands of years. The demand for yoga has been marketized from so many different approaches that the investment in the health benefits of yoga is essentially free. It is the cost of commodities that consumers have been guilted into purchasing which roots back to the main goal of yoga, maintaining intention and remaining aware(Robbins). By keeping these two aspects close in the practice of business behind yoga, Manduka has been a role leading exempt of how sustainable motive are good moves for yourself, your community, and your planet.
My take on the exploitation of yoga mats is that this is the magic carpet ride into sustainable health awareness that America needs, especially in the state of the world today. With indoor workouts and low equipment being the new normal and stress relief, sleep and mental health all being trapped closer between doors that are seemingly shut for longer, the modernization of yoga is potentially the savior for the globe. To be connected to the Earth and move the body in the form of power, spiritual or not, allows health and intention into the body and the mind is more care that the entire globe needs. In my opinion, yoga is the most advantage athletic in our economy and one that depends essentially on humans and the planet, the state of our world could use this exercise as a mend to our humanity, together the planet and living beings must sustain together or sustain nothing. From the research I have explored the rolling of the mats have already been spread far and wide, what we must do now is depend upon less than that of the modernization and more on the gratitude of the adoption of this health promotion. The true concern of the world is the intention, the creation of yoga mats is not intended to harm the Earth but rather engage connections back to human groundedness. To see evil in all, is in that only of the eye of evil. It is what one can sustain within themselves and their own practice that they can sustain within this world and all that endures their own world.
Cramer Holger, Ward Lesley, Steel Amie, Lauche Romy, Dobos Gustav, Zhang Yan. Prevalence, Patterns, and Predictors of Yoga Use: Results of a U.S. Nationally Representative Survey. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Volume 50, Issue 2. (2016) Pages 230-235. ISSN 0749-3797. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749379715004481
Hammond, Holly. Yoga Journal. The timeline and history of yoga in america. (2007). Retrieved from: https://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/yogas-trip-america/
Jain, Andrea R. The Washington Post. Opinions. Five myths about yoga. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/five-myths-about-yoga/2015/08/14/2b4c8638-41ce-11e5-846d-02792f854297_story.html
Manduka. Our Practice, About Us. (2020). Retrieved from: https://www.manduka.com/pages/about-us
National Center for Complementary and Inegrative Health, U.S. Department of Helath and Human Services. (2019). Yoga: what you need to know. Retrieved from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga-what-you-need-to-know
Robbins, Paul, et al. Environment and Society : A Critical Introduction, John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/humboldt/detail.action?docID=1582846.
Scientific Research Open Access. Open Journal of Preventive Medicine. Grounding the human body during yoga exercise with a grounded yoga mat reduces blood viscosity. (2015). Volume 05, Number 04, Article ID: 55445. Retrived from: https://www.scirp.org/html/2-1340431_55445.htm
Singleton, Mark. Yoga Body: The origins of modern posture practice. (2010) Oxford University Press. New York, NY. Google books. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=tUgBIrn5REwC&oi=fnd&pg=PR5&dq=yoga+boom+in+western+society&ots=QYmMl6R6LZ&sig=d8qhxgYAse3PVBrd9CeYUXxbcn8#v=onepage&q&f=false
Smith, Helen Kitti. Yoga Journal. Peek into the life of indra devi, an inspirational global yogi. (2007). Retrieved from: https://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-influencers/indra-devi/
Webb, Irina. I read labels for you, helping you live healthy. A guide to non-toxic yoga mat options. (2019) Retreived from: https://ireadlabelsforyou.com/non-toxic-yoga-mat-guide/