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The True Goal of Yoga (Part 2): On or Off the Mat?

6 June 2019

Practitioners commonly refer to Yoga as on or off the mat. But the Yoga mat is a relatively new creation, usually made of some sort of synthetic rubber or plastic material. Too many people today accept the false notion that using such a mat is suitable for all Yoga practice.

Since the use of a Yoga mat is primarily for asanas, its invention has led to further distortion of the nature of true Yoga. Through the mastery of asana, we lessen the natural tendency for restlessness. We are then increasingly able to meditate on the infinite. Facilitating mindfulness and focus helps us reach the greater goal of our physical practice – higher consciousness in the individual.

Off the yoga mat

In addition to the recent references to Yoga on the mat, there has also been subsequent references to Yoga off the mat. This suggests another form of Yoga, resulting in students now recognizing some other important Yoga practices. A Google search now reveals over 3,000,000 results for the keywords “Yoga off the mat.”

Too often the expression “Yoga off the mat” mistakenly implies that real Yoga is always on some sort of synthetic mat. Here the ancient tradition of authentic Yoga is set aside for the sake of promoting a modern and limited (mostly physical) form of Yoga. Sadly, many of the Yoga business channels and so-called Yoga communities share in this error.

Big business, big confusion

Most businesses currently using the name Yoga grow and become popular in short order. They prompt such great commercial success that the Yoga industry has even become a business category. Googling the keywords "Yoga industry" reveals over 316,000,000 results.

The latest survey (2016) conducted by Yoga Journal (USA) reports the following:

  • It is a $16.8 billion dollar per year industry
  • Over 37 million people in US are regular practitioners of Yoga
  • About 80 million more are interested in Yoga or likely to try it

Modern commercialized Yoga and the use of oxymorons for promotion frequently go hand-in hand. Whereas real Yoga is an inner experience of the union between the individual self and the Universal Self. Therefore "Yoga studio" and "Yoga class" fall into the category of an oxymoron.

Stay tuned, coming up next; “Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 3)”

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