Last week, one of my Facebook friends linked to a new marketing campaign featuring a Fairly Prominent Yoga Teacher (for purposes of this blog, now called FPYT. Rhymes with muppet?) This teacher is endorsing a new yoga mat, which apparently is wider than your average mat, and made of impeccable materials. Now I am always ready to entertain a new, better mat- I like mats made by several companies (including Jade, Lululemon and Manduka, for those who care), but I can’t say I’ve found the “perfect” mat for me yet. And the Amazon reviews on this mat are so far a very mixed bag.
I choose not to call out this particular FPYT by name, but it’s not hard to find out. Some other yoga blogs are doing so, if you care…
To be clear, I think it’s fine that FPYTs of all stripes endorse products they believe in. Many teachers who I consider heroes and mentors endorse clothing and foods and other stuff, and I’m fine with that. Hell, if someone were willing to give me four figures or more to put my support behind products I use and think well of (hello, Omega juicers? Hyde pants?), I’d do it in a minute. And I happen to thing very highly of a lot of the work this particular FPYT has done; they’ve done a lot to advance a clear, strong, safe asana practice, and contextualize it in a philosophical framework within a long, deep yoga lineage. I admire, and occasionally co-opt, their work. But here I call foul.
This particular FPYT crossed a line. S/he says in the ad “this mat will bring you closer to your heart.” Really? I mean, REALLY? You’re telling me that a %$#&@^n piece of rubber can open ana hata, can somehow make me a better human being? Please…
A meaningful practice, be it asana, or breathing, or meditation, or a poem or a song or a prayer can certainly bring you closer to your heart. So can a child, a rose, a dance. But a mat, just because it has your brand name on it? I’m not buying it. We’re not talking about a mala blessed by a saint, or a mantra. We’re talking about a piece of rubber, that happens to be a few inches wider than what you get at Target. And a lot more expensive, I might add.
I feel like we’ve reached a place in American yoga where seekers to say, often, “cut the s#%t” when we smell a rat. And I (and several others, judging by my RSS feed) smell a rat here. No mat, no pair of pants, no set of mala beads, no incense will bring you “closer to your heart” if you’re not doing the heart work already. If I am sincere and dedicated in my practice, I can get closer to my heart on a cheap rug from Walmart, or on a dirt road. And so can you. I don’t need your $90 mat to do that.
If for some strange reason a clothier or retailer I use decides to endorse me, I will heartily recommend their products to anyone who cares, and sell the items on their merits. But at no point (I pray) will I pretend that somehow because I use that mat, or wear those clothes, that will somehow advance my students’ practices or improve their lives. That’s just not how it goes. And shame on FYPT for saying otherwise.