Yoga With Or Without The Mat

The weekend is over.

The food has been eaten and your waistband feels a tad tighter.

But it’s Monday morning and work beckons with no time to get in a little exercise to mitigate the overindulgence of the weekend festivities! Hold on before you sink into that blue mood! Grab a cup of coffee, get on with the duties at hand, and plan on doing a few yoga poses at day’s end.

One of the best things about practicing yoga is that you can do it from the comfort of your own home as long as you have a yoga mat, or better yet— a hardwood floor!

The New York Times recently reported that many yoga studios are actually ditching the mats and turning instead to bare hardwood floors. This is especially common during hot yoga, where bacteria from sweat can become ingrained into the yoga mat or in a carpeted studio’s floor.

In addition to being more sanitary and less wasteful, some say that hardwood floors actually meet the ultimate goals of the practice, arguing that rubber mats  get in the way, especially if your practice doesn’t require you to remain stationary on your mat. In addition, when strengthening key muscles, practicing on a hardwood floor eliminates the tendency to “cheat” by gripping a mat or carpet with your fingers or toes, as opposed to developing the necessary strength to support your poses.

Easy to clean, wood flooring can simply be mopped and dries quickly. It’s also a very stable surface for most yoga poses. When I talked to Liz Fox (Shree Yoga Taos’ Manager), recently, the subject of Shree’s floor came up, inspiring this post.

“In thinking about how we are better than other yoga studios in Taos, one thing stands out for me.” Liz said. “Our floor.”

“We have an awesome floor.” She explained.  “ I used to practice at other studios with concrete or Pergo floors, and when I came to Shree, the first time I hopped forward from Downward Dog to forward fold, I was blown away.  The floor has bounce, give, so it even felt safer. “  

My daughter Genevieve Oswald and her partner at Shree Suki Dalury, often practice on the floor without mats. In fact when Genevieve teaches classes, she never uses one to demonstrate poses. But we already have established that these two women are Yoga Goddesses. So how does a mere mortal get started practicing anywhere?  Still think you need a mat? You might imagine you do when your protruding ankle bones say ouch as you take a seat,  but eventually the hardwood floor will begin to soften as you learn to breathe deeper and move with more awareness.

It is certainly helpful to be able to practice yoga with a full arsenal of props on hand, but to what degree is all that “stuff” actually necessary to practice? Your yoga mat and accoutrements have become synonymous with “doing yoga”, but what happens when you’re traveling, or outside in nature?

Unlike other forms of physical activity like bike riding, lifting weights, or even running, yoga requires nothing other than your body and breath, which luckily, you always have with you! It’s easy to forget this, but it’s the truth. You can practice anywhere. Even on that hardwood floor, regardless of whether or not you actually have a yoga mat. Several postures can be done anywhere, at anytime, and will help you connect to your body, breath, and the present moment. They may even help with that lingering indigestion from too much turkey and all the fixings!

It may look like you’re just standing there, but in Mountain Pose, your whole body is alert, awake, relaxed, and in it’s optimal posture. Tree Pose is a foundational balancing pose that can be done anywhere, and allows you to connect to your body, breath, and present moment.

Downward-Facing Dog is perhaps one of the most common yoga poses, and for good reason as it offers lots of benefits. Taking a Forward Fold is one pose you can practice even with only  a few minutes to spare, or even include it into your daily rounds. Try it when you’re bending over to tie your shoes, picking up your kids’ toys, or petting your dog.

Once you’ve experienced Mountain Pose and Downward-Facing Dog, you’ve got the beginnings of a simple flow; a Half Sun Salute simply incorporates flowing movements to feel greater connection to your breath and how energy moves through you.

At the end of the day, put your feet up! Traditionally performed where the floor meets the wall, one of the best ways to do this pose is in bed against your headboard. If you also get an early night, chances are you’ll feel totally back to normal tomorrow morning with time for an actual class before work, or at lunchtime.

“We have this totally awesome space; historic with ancient vigas, old thick adobe walls along with the great wood floor.” Liz reminded me. “Truly nothing compares to Shree’s space, and not a week goes by that some visitor to Taos does not remark that it is the most amazing space they have practiced in.”

And even better, especially during this busy time of year, is the studio’s convenient downtown location, making it perfect for a spontaneous drop-in at lunch time or any time for that matter!

For more on Shree Yoga Taos, their schedule and everything they offer, please visit the site linked below.






All images thanks to Shree Yoga Taos