Have you ever wondered when the yoga sticky mat made its way to the forefront of the yoga scene? The yoga mat is a modern phenomenon, as you might have guessed, given that you don’t see colorful rubber mats under the feet of ancient yogis meditating and doing their prostrations along the banks of the Ganges in India. Nor do you see old photos of the more modern yogis like B.K.S. Iyengar moving through his own amazing yoga sequences with a hot pink sticky mat beneath his strong, stocky legs.
Before the sticky mat came to the fore, yoga practitioners practiced on rugs, the earth, and on wooden floors – but not any more. The modern-day yoga mat is indeed a Western invention that’s since become an invaluable tool for yogis in all corners of the world. So, how did it come to be? Well, there’s a yoga teacher named Angela Farmer whom you may have seen gracing the pages of "Yoga Journal" magazine. She and her husband have a yoga retreat center set up on the Greek island of Lesvos. She’s been teaching yoga for decades and continues to age gracefully because of her yoga lifestyle.
Back in 1967, when British-born Angela was teaching yoga in Munich, Germany, she happened upon a piece of material – an "underlay" that was placed beneath carpets to keep them from slipping. She started doing her yoga on this underlay and eventually all her students wanted to do the same. The ease of not slipping and sliding during practice was a dream come true for Angela and with time, her own father, who lived in the English countryside, decided to start the very first yoga mat business. The materials came from the company in Germany who invented that carpet underlay Angela had stumbled upon and, as they say, the rest is history.
Yoga prop startups in the U.S. asked Angela’s father for his yoga mat and the new product became a near instant success as it was such an invaluable tool for yogis – especially those in the West who had no lengthy history of practicing on rugs or wooden floors, or grassy expanses of earth. The yoga mat made sense and it also made good business sense. We can all thank the beloved Angela Farmer for her contribution of the yoga mat to the ever-growing world of yoga. (Now you may be wondering, "Which yoga mat should I buy?")