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Yes Dad, I love my yoga mat and Zuda Yoga

“I love my new yoga mat,” said I to my parents, attempting a more personal dinner conversation. “You can’t love a yoga mat,” corrected my father authoritatively. “It’s an object and you can’t love an object.”

Aged nearly half a century, I still felt the child in this exchange. I can and I do love my yoga mat, I wanted to retaliate, yet withheld to keep the peace. Still, it made me defensive, but I’ll get back to that.

In the mean time, my mat is the Manduka, the legendary Black Mat Pro, formerly known as, the Black Mat. Somewhere along the line, the mat became professional. Like many of our decisions, we make them because people of influence made them.

“It’s the Cadillac of yoga mats,” Anne Marie Kramer (AMK) told me when I asked her which mat I should purchase. A budding yogini, I was enchanted and asked for the best.

Well, there you go. If the mat’s good enough for my teacher and our planet (it’s also eco-friendly), it must be good enough for me. I bought the mat. It wasn’t cheap, but then again, neither is “unparalleled comfort and cushioning with a superior non-slip finish, and a simple yet elegant design.” It promised to revolutionize my practice. Lord, I might be revolutionized and who can put a dollar figure on that?

Like any new relationship, there is an exciting yet awkward adjustment, or break-in period. We want to show off our best while hiding the warts until a more secure connection has been established. In yoga terms, we want to soar through the Asana knowing that our feet and hands are secure beneath us. A firm base is prerequisite to flying.

At first, I wasn’t sure which side was up, front, or back. But the mat promised to give me the comfort and support from which to “springboard my sleek and simple beauty,” despite my lack of yoga- designer- wear. Furthermore, I could sweat all over and not slip. For a woman with her foot constantly in her mouth, that was a decided plus.

You won’t believe me, but it’s true, the mat smells good. Sparing you too much information, I think you understand why this is important. Yoga and love sometimes put us in some tight and cumbersomely revealing positions.

Speaking of tight, the mid-town Zuda yoga studio has become so popular, that many would-be-practitioners are turned away at the door. If you want to practice, you get there early and claim your space. You match the edges of your mat to the corners that have been taped on the floor to maximize number of mats that fit in the room. It doesn’t matter, by the way, if your mat is Manduka or from Target. All mats are created equal at Zuda and so I get there early to claim my 71” x 26” x ¼” space.

It’s amazing how much space a six feet by two feet surface creates. In doing the movements and postures that our off-the-mat life does not call for, we begin to get a sense of freedom in our bodies. Free the body and the mind will surely follow. I’m hoping for that kind of spaciousness.

“We do yoga,” AMK teaches in my 9:30 A.M. Sunday class, “so that we can become strong enough to be fragile.” She seems to like these contradictions, like how we see the world upright while being upside down. Maybe it takes strength to admit, “I give up,” and that’s okay. Anyway, at any point we can wave the white flag and take care of our self. We do this by taking a time-out in Child’s pose. Here, we come back to the safety of home, although at Zuda we call it “Om”.

Like yours, my life has had tremendous ups and downs. My mat is stable. It is the grounding force between the earth and the sky; my contraction and expansion. I press into my mat and it presses back. Between the tensions, I find balance. I press into life and life presses back. Like a reflection and through my interactions, I see and know myself.

I love and I hate my mat. It treats me the same either way. The mat’s objectivity teaches me about my subjectivity.

I’m doing my best not to topple over in Dancer pose. I am not a dancer, by the way. Even so, my entire existence lies in the precarious balance of my left foot. As if managing that wasn’t enough, AMK tells us to close our eyes. We need to get out of our comfort zone in order to know ourselves in a new way. It is a balance between playing it safe and taking risks; defensiveness and being open.

“Putting yourself in positions that are outside of your comfort zone, promote growth,” AMK urges, adding that “your curiosity and your willingness to explore are vital to learning and falling is part of the process.” I topple at the mere suggestion.

“Come on,” she beckons. Enchanted, I follow into unfamiliar territory. Now I’m lost, and I strain for balance. We are never closer to life than when we stand at death’s door. Jockeying on the mat between physical, mental and emotional extremes, helps us practice handling these extremes off the mat.

I experience myself on my mat through my yoga practice. It reflects the way I react to life. In as much as I experience love while I do yoga, yes Dad, I love my yoga mat.


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