Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Mat & Me

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
First let me begin this post by acknowledging that some of my readers will be convinced that I have gone off the deep end. But I'm counting on the few I know that have some yoga experience to understand what I'm talking about.

My yoga mat, even though this one is brand new, is my own personal clubhouse.

And I am the only member of the club.

I'm the only one that steps on my mat and I have a entry ritual too, just like any other club might have for its' members.

I unroll my mat green side up. It doesn't have a top and bottom per se. It is actually intentionally reversible. The bottom is a light blue and has a different texture to it. But when I unrolled it for the very first time last week I knew immediately that the green side was the "up" side. This is a permanent decision now, because when I washed it I draped it over the shower rod in the bathroom and later when I pulled it down the blue side got a snag from the shower curtain rings. I felt slightly sad when that happened but not a lot. It was sort of like when you get a new car and get that first scratch in it. It's over then. No more worrying about the first scratch.

So I unroll my mat by flipping it out and then I straighten it. If I'm fortunate enough to be on a surface that has no lines then the straightening is pretty simple. But on surfaces where there are lines, like edges of linoleum or wood or some other flooring material, I have to straighten the mat so that it lines up with those lines.

I never, ever step on my mat with shoes on. So I remove my shoes and lay them aside and put my red shawl and my strap within arm's reach. I also put my socks there in case I need them during svasana.

When I step on my mat, the world around me dims. It's kind of like bokeh in a photograph. A good photographer will adjust their aperture to put the subject in focus and then blur out distractions in the subject's background. Really cool bokeh, really strong bokeh, will cause the background to have very little definition...sometimes you can't really even see what the items in the back are. It's like that when I step on my mat.

The amount of dimming is controlled by me. If I am interested in the other students, I'll tune in my ears and open my eyes to what is going on around me. If I'm not, I will tune in only to the teacher's voice or the music playing. Much of the time I will go a step further and close my eyes.

When I'm on the mat it's just me and the asanas or pranayama. I work out my body and think about how grateful I am that it serves me so well. Sometimes I get frustrated with it. The Foot of Doom really caused endless trouble not just with my body but also with my mind and spirit as I struggled to do asanas and fought through pain and frustration. All of that happened on my old mat. I find it interesting that the pain left right as the new mat arrived. It's like a whole new practice right now.

Yesterday I wrote about using Yogi Liz's mat for a while. Her mat has affirmations and signatures on it from various teacher training things she has gone to. As I used the mat I would read these writings and feel affirmed myself, even though I knew they were intended for her. It was sort of like staying at friend's house while they are out of town and then rifling through their correspondence. A little weird.

I do not always practice with a mat. Especially at home. But when I use a mat, I use my own. It is like my own special home. I succeed and fail on it. I am happy and joyful and sad and frustrated and angry on my mat. It is my clubhouse.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

(Re)New(ed) Feet on a New Mat

Feet on Mat
Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
So you've all been listening to my ENDLESS whining about my "foot of doom," as my jazzerbuddy Terri calls it. No? Then you must not be reading me on Facebook.

Lucky you. I'm a champeen whiner!


First I broke (a stress fracture) the 3rd metatarsal on my left foot. In the process of having that taken care of, the "ultra-fashionable" boot they had me wear caused my somewhat dormant Plantar Fasciitis to come roaring on with a vengeance.

Well, I think I'm close to declaring myself HEALED!

How did this happen? Well, the treatment ranged from Earth shoes (x2), Super Feet insoles, distance Reiki healing, prayer, laying on of hands, acupressure massage by my massage therapist, athletic tape, very old Birkenstock sandals, icing and...a thicker yoga mat for those times when one MUST be!

Yogi Liz graciously allowed me to borrow her personal Jade Harmony mat for a bit to see if the thicker mat would benefit. You'll see in my next post why I felt particularly touched that she would allow me to borrow her mat. Mats are very personal, somewhat intimate items and to loan it to someone else...well, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't let just any old tom, dick or harry use mine.

But the thicker mat really helped keep me in yoga during the last couple of very painful weeks.

The Jade Harmony is a rubber mat. Quite thick and quite heavy. And the rubber smell never really goes away. To wash one is a major commitment as they can take days and days to dry.

So I decided to order a thicker mat of my own. While I like the Jade mat, Liz was able to order me a Kulae (pronounced coo-lie--long 'i') wholesale. So I was able to get an $80+ mat for about $36. The Kulae is made of TPE or Thermo Plastic Elastomer. It is a composite material that is 100% biodegradable and recyclable, and is 100% free from PVC, Chlorides, Dioxins, Latex and Rubber (free from allergens). It's a resilient, highly elastic material that is composed primarily of styrene-butadiene-styrene block copolymers. (this whole last bit was stolen directly off the Kulae website. I'm pretty sure they won't care.) I bought the Kulae Ultra, which is almost 1/2-inch thick. Pretty spongy.

So now I'm breaking in a new mat. The hardest part is getting it to be not slippery. I've washed it once already and will probably have to do that again another time or two.

But my feet don't care. They are HAPPY!