Those looking to invest their time into the practice of yoga might be curious as to what that investment entails. Typically, those who dive into yoga do so by attending classes, procuring yoga pants, and pricey yoga mats. However, some might pause when investing in a mat, unsure as to whether it is necessary to have one or not.\n\n\n\nDo I need a yoga mat? No. You do not need a mat to practice Yoga. However, yoga mats are designed specifically for the art and do provide a more comfortable and enjoyable yoga experience as they prevent slippage and help to prevent inflammation in poses that require sensitive joints to rest on the ground for prolonged periods of time.\n\n\n\nThe decision to invest in a yoga mat is a personal choice. Some yogis prefer to practice without. There is no right or wrong, though there are different theories for why to or not to use the western invention of the yoga mat. But before we answer the question in detail, we first need to give you a brief yoga history lesson.\n\n\n\nA Brief History of Yoga\n\n\n\nThe earliest writings of Yoga were transcribed on palm leaves and can be traced back to over 5,000 years ago (though some anthropologists think Yoga may even be 10,000 years old.) Yoga is a Sanskrit word. It is traditionally a Hindu practice or rather a practice of \u201cSanatan Dharma.\u201d\n\n\n\nPre-classical Yoga, dating back 5,000 years ago, was developed by the Indus-Sarasvati in Northern India. It is mentioned in the oldest sacred texts of the Rig Veda. The Vedas are a collection of texts comprised of songs, chants, and ritual practices. The Bhagavad-G\u00eet\u00e2, created around 500 B.C.E., is the most legendary of the Yogic scriptures. Yoga was initially taught to instill a form of ritual sacrifice (sacrificing the ego, as it were.)\n\n\n\nClassical Yoga brought a more systematic form of Yoga, referred to at the time as Raja Yoga. Patanjali practiced a version of Yoga called the \u2018eight-limbed path,\u2019 which strove toward achieving enlightenment. This style of Yoga heavily influenced what would become modern types of Yoga. From the 4th century onward, yoga masters aimed to invigorate the body and extend the lifespan. Around this time, Tantra Yoga emerged, using techniques to help cleanse the body and develop a keen mind-body connection. This would become what western societies know as Hatha Yoga.\n\n\n\nThese styles of Yoga focused more on meditation and breathing techniques\u2014grounding oneself through ritual movements. There was no need for mats.\n\n\n\nFast forward to the 18th and 19th centuries, where more challenging physical poses (asanas) grew in popularity. It was then that yoga practitioners began to see the need for softer surfaces. \n\n\n\nWhy is This History Important to Know?\n\n\n\nThe history of Yoga is important to understand for several reasons, especially if one is a practitioner. But in our case, it\u2019s important to note because yoga mats were not needed in much of Yoga\u2019s history. A yoga mat is a modern invention that is used as a tool to assist you in your yoga practice. It is not a mandate. \n\n\n\nHistorically speaking, you can guarantee the religious practitioners of Yoga that existed 5,000 years ago did not have a comfy-cozy mat to aid their practice. At most, they would have performed Yoga on hard earth or animal furs or skins. The traditional yoga mats we see today didn\u2019t become popular until after the 1990s.\n\n\n\nWhy Use a Yoga Mat Then?\n\n\n\nThe yoga mat was manufactured for the specific purpose of practicing Yoga. There are many reasons why people argue mats are useful and necessary.\n\n\n\nComfort\n\n\n\nAlthough it might seem wimpy to talk about wanting to be comfortable, there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel comfortable while engaging in stretches and poses that aren\u2019t natural. \n\n\n\nSafety\n\n\n\nYoga mats are made of a distinct semi-sticky texture that allows the ability to press the palms of your hands and souls of your feet into a stretch without fear of slipping. Slipping out of a challenging pose very suddenly could result in minor to serious injuries (like pulled muscles or busted noses.)\n\n\n\nEnergetic and Spiritual Reasons\n\n\n\nSome yogis believe practicing Yoga on the hard ground will permit your body heat and energy to pour into the earth, leaving your body cold and zapping you of energy. Since Yoga is meant to heat your body up, one would suppose allowing that heat to dissipate would not be good practice. \n\n\n\nSanitary Reasons\n\n\n\nThe use of your own personal yoga mat can protect you from germs, especially when practicing in a yoga studio, where fellow yogi\u2019s sweat. You don\u2019t want your bare feet or hands touching sweaty, unsanitary floors. You can also use a yoga mat cleaner to keep your mat fresh.\n\n\n\nMy Top Recommended Yoga Mats\n\n\n\nIUGA Pro Non Slip Yoga Mat- This eco-friendly yoga mat is great for everyday yoga, hot yoga, and everything in between. Odorless and lightweight materials designed by yogis for yogis.\n\n\n\nClever Yoga Mat - This 'BetterGrip' non-slip yoga mat is designed to give you the most comfort by providing sufficient padding. Great for beginners!\n\n\n\nAffordable Yoga Mat\u00a0- This non-slip yoga mat is perfect if you are just starting your yoga journey and on a budget. Lightweight and Reversible.\n\n\n\nLululemon Yoga Mat - This yoga mat will last you years and years and works with any and all yoga practices. The perfect all-in-one yoga mat.\n\n\n\nHot Yoga Towel - This microfiber yoga towel is non-slip and can be used by itself or overtop of your yoga mat during hot yoga. Great for travel.\n\n\n\nWhy Some People Don\u2019t Use Yoga Mats\n\n\n\nSome people opt out of buying mats for several reasons:\n\n\n\nYoga Mats can Be Expensive \u2013 Practicing Yoga on your carpet at home is free. Purchasing a yoga mat from bourgie manufacturers like Lululemon can cost you upwards of $50+.Desire to Connect to the Earth \u2013 Some yogis want to connect with the earth, feel the hard earth between their toes, and feel closer to those O.G yogis from 5,000 years ago who didn\u2019t use Lululemon yoga mats.One More Thing to Remember \u2013 Some people cut out the mat all together because life is a lot, and they don\u2019t need yet another piece of gym equipment to have to remember. Can\u2019t say we blame them\u2026\n\n\n\nAlternatives to Yoga Mats\n\n\n\nIf you don\u2019t have a yoga mat but want to practice Yoga, there are a myriad of different alternatives to aid you in your practice (beyond just practicing on the hard earth.)\n\n\n\nCarpet or Rug \u2013 Rugs and carpets are excellent surfaces for practicing Yoga since they are soft and should inhibit slippage more so than hard-floor surfaces. The downside, of course, is that rugs and carpets can be dirty since they receive high foot traffic. Therefore, be sure to vacuum and\/or clean your carpets and rugs regularly if you plan to do child\u2019s pose and bury your face into their fibers.Towel \u2013 use a good old-fashioned towel! Toss it on the ground and voila: makeshift yoga mat. Downside to the towel? It may slip and slide if it is not laid upon a carpet or rug. On hardwood or tile floors, a towel is liable to slip when transitioning from pose to pose, which could cause potential injury. Or you can use a Yoga Towel.Bathmats \u2013 Superior even to a towel, most bathmats have grips on the bottom, which will prevent slippage during your practice. The downside of bathmats, however, is that most bathmats are rather small and do not accommodate one\u2019s entire body. You could always use more than one, if you have them on hand!Hardwood Floors \u2013 This option is not going to be as comfortable as the others. However, a hardwood floor will not slide out from under you like a towel will. The downside is doing any kind of pose that requires your knees or elbows rest for longer periods on the ground will cause pain and inflammation \u2013 not ideal when practicing Yoga.Yogi Gloves & Socks \u2013 If you have slippery surfaces, you can always invest in some yogi gloves and socks that have grips on the bottoms. Of course, if you\u2019re going to invest in gloves and socks, we might argue you go ahead and invest in a yoga mat.\n\n\n\nThe Key Take Away?\n\n\n\nWhile the yoga mat has become an extremely popular accessory in western culture, to the point where we feel we need one to even practice Yoga, it is not necessary (especially for gentle practices). In fact, some people prefer practicing Yoga without a mat, feeling it frees up their practice.Ancient yogis who developed the physical ritual most certainly did not have yoga mats. Therefore, we know that a yoga mat is not essential. While yoga mats are great tools on hand, the lack of one should not prevent you from continuing your yoga practice.\n\n\n\nIf you do decide to purchase a yoga mat, we suggest one of the following:\u00a0IUGA Pro Non Slip Yoga Mat,\u00a0Clever Yoga Mat, or the Affordable Yoga Mat.\u00a0You won\u2019t be disappointed!