5 Yoga Mat Alternatives: What to Use Instead of a Yoga Mat

A yoga mat appears to be an integral piece of equipment required for yoga practice. However, yoga mats as we know them are a relatively recent invention.

The ancient discipline of yoga predates the invention of the yoga mat by centuries. That’s right; yoga mats did not become an essential part of the practice until the late 20th century. The invention of the modern “sticky mat” is credited to yoga teacher Angela Farmer, who pioneered the early form of a yoga mat in 1982.

Before yoga mats became the new standard, yogis used a variety of alternatives in their practice. Depending on the type of practice and the support required, it is possible to practice asanas and meditation without a dedicated yoga mat.

Why Use An Alternative

You might be thinking, why wouldn’t you use a yoga mat? After all, yoga mats of all shapes and sizes are readily available!

However, there are plenty of reasons why practitioners may seek out a yoga mat alternative.

  • Temporary measure. A yoga mat only lasts so long. There might be a temporary period when your old yoga mat is no longer suitable for practice, and your new mat is yet to be purchased. Or perhaps you’re away from home without your yoga mat at hand. Using an alternative allows you to continue your yoga journey during that transition.
  • Minimalism. The minimalist lifestyle is slowly gaining popularity. If you want to move away from materialistic values and own fewer items, a yoga mat would not exactly be a priority. Instead, you might opt for an alternative that performs several functions, as well as serving as yoga equipment.
  • Environmental impact. Most standard yoga mats are made using some form of plastic or rubber, notorious for their less-than-perfect manufacturing practices and slow decomposition rate. Ironically, yoga practice often encourages us to look at our actions from an ethical standpoint. An environmentally-minded yogi may opt for an alternative made from a natural material, allowing them to practice without compromising their carbon footprint.
  • Storage. Lack of storage space is a valid reason why you might opt for a yoga mat alternative. A towel, for example, can be folded or rolled to fit into a small space. It can also be hung up or perform an alternative function when you’re not doing yoga.
  • Commute. If you commute to a yoga studio or travel often, a yoga mat is not the most travel-friendly item. Using a lightweight, less bulky alternative could make a huge difference to your practice.
  • Cost. A good yoga mat does not come cheap. On the one hand, it is a worthy investment. On the other hand, you can save some money by using an alternative. And so long as you have a productive and fulfilling practice, there is no sense in spending money when you could be using a household object you already own.
  • Sensitivity. As previously mentioned, yoga mats are usually manufactured using elastic materials such as rubber or PVC plastic. Even the mats with a cork or hessian surface tend to have a rubber underside. If you have a skin sensitivity or allergy triggered by these materials, you should seek a yoga mat alternative. Don’t give up on yoga!

Related: Why Do I Need a Yoga Mat? (Hint: You Don’t!)

Yoga Mat Alternatives

Whatever your reason for ditching the traditional yoga mat is, there are plenty of alternatives.

In fact, you might already have one (or more) of these options. Try them out and choose your favorite!

Mexican Blanket

Mexican blanket

Mexican blankets, also known as sarape or falsa blankets, are woven blankets featuring characteristic designs from the Mexico and Guatemala regions. They are usually decorated using stripes and angular shapes of contrasting colors. Inspired by traditional ponchos worn by the working class people of Central America, sarape is often framed with a fringe along its edge.

Historically, these blankets were made of natural fibers like wool, cotton, and agave. That’s what makes them such a great alternative to yoga mats! Mexican blankets’ slightly coarse, woven texture creates adequate friction and moisture absorption for a more demanding yoga practice. At the same time, it can provide the necessary cushioning to support one’s joints or provide comfort during meditation.

Furthermore, if you have several Mexican blankets, you can have a well-rounded yoga practice. As well as acting as a yoga mat, a sarape blanket can be used in place of other props. And as your body cools down in Savasana, one of these blankets can keep you cozy until the end of your practice!

Rug

yoga on rug

If you look at ancient illustrations of the yoga practice, the practitioners are often depicted on a deer skin or tiger skin rug. These rugs are even mentioned in sacred yogic texts of Shrimad Bhagavad Gita and Shvetashvatara Upanishad.

Of course, back then, yogis had fewer options. Nowadays, practicing yoga on a skin rug would not be practical or cost-effective. If you wanted to use a rug as a yoga mat alternative, you would more likely opt for natural, non-elastic material. Cotton, hemp, or hessian rugs are a great option for anyone who wants to practice asanas without a yoga mat.

A rug has the added benefit of being more environmentally friendly than a traditional yoga mat. Materials made with natural fibers are durable enough to last a long time. On the other hand, when it’s time to retire your practice rug, you’ll be able to get rid of it in a way that doesn’t harm the planet.

Beach Towel

yoga on beach towel

Beach towels are a great alternative to a yoga mat. They are lightweight, easily portable, and pleasant to touch. Beach towels are generally larger than a standard bath towel since they are designed to accommodate an average-sized adult in a fully reclined position. However, they are not thick and bulky like the standard towels. As a result, you can take advantage of the moisture-wicking feature without sacrificing space.

One of the greatest advantages of using a beach towel for your yoga practice is that it doesn’t have to sit idle the rest of the time! You can still take your towel to the beach or lounge by the pool. Make sure to fully dry your beach towel before and after every yoga practice to prevent mildew. Additionally, a beach towel is much easier to clean than a standard yoga mat or a rug. All you have to do is throw it into a washing machine.

Carpet

yoga on carpet

If your home has fitted carpet floors or carpet rugs, you are in luck! Carpet is one of the most accessible and affordable alternatives to a yoga mat. Carpet provides the necessary cushioning for your knees, wrists, and even your seat. You can take advantage of a carpeted surface for an asana practice or a meditation session.

However, long-fiber carpets are unsuitable for more vigorous types of yoga. Additionally, you should be mindful of carpet burns if you practice with large portions of your skin exposed.

Bare Ground

yoga on bare ground

The most versatile alternative to a yoga mat is the absence of one.

In ancient times, yoga was practiced on kusha grass or hard ground without cover. This extends to your lawn, a stretch of sand, or a wooden floor. In fact, research suggests that having direct contact with the earth, especially in the outdoor practice scenario, has many cognitive benefits!

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