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Yoga Mats as Status Symbols: What Does Yours Say About You?

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Scorpio? Libra? Who needs a sign to make unfounded snap judgments about strangers? The zodiac is sooo 70's! According to the NY Times, the new thing is to judge a girl by her yoga mat. (Because yoga is soooo, uh, '70's?) Actually the article is mainly about whether to use a sticky mat or go commando on the bare floor (for all you hygiene enthusiasts, apparently the floor gets cleaned a lot more than your mat*), but anyone who has been to a yoga studio knows that your yoga mat says a lot about who you are and how you live your life. So what does mine say about me? That I'm cheap and that I love my lady bits!

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See? The NY Times was right -- he's so cool he doesn't even need a mat!

There I was the other day, blissfully inhaling and exhaling through a nice down dog, when I looked through my perfectly star-fished hands to stare at all the pretty lotus flowers etched on my mat. Lotus flowers a la Georgia O'Keefe, that is. At that zen moment I realized my yoga mat is covered with a repeating pattern of -- oh yes -- the female genitalia. Which explains why I got it for 10 bucks at TJ Maxx.

I was not as bothered by this as one might think -- there is something oddly fitting about being in a class all about body awareness whilst sitting on replicas of my, ahem, awareness. Although anyone who asks to see my yoga mat from here on out has to buy me dinner first.

So what does your yoga mat say about you? Let's break it down:

Color: Yoga classes are usually pretty subdued and yogis are generally conforming. (You may think you're being an individual by binding when the rest of us are extending, but unless you go totally rogue then we're all doing the same flow -- even our breathing is synced. Baaa.) So neon or rainbow sparkles shows that you are different! And also, that you don't mind glitter stuck in your awareness.

Pattern: Are you a tigress? Or a pansy? Unless you are like me and shop at a store so steeply discounted that they only carry one pattern (hey at least I didn't buy my "lotus flowers" in pink!), then you must have chosen the adornment upon which you like to stand. Personally I find this baby panda creepy but maybe you just need a big hug when you're lying face down in Sivasana?

Thickness: Yoga mats come in every size from paper thin -- you might as well just buy one that looks like wood planks -- to super plush. The fluffier your mat, the kinder it is to your knees, back, head and elbows. Unfortunately it is also that much harder to roll up. I've seen people so devoted to their comfort that they give up on rolling up their mats and just walk around looking like they're carrying a piece of dry wall (with leopard spots). Also, in case you missed all the "breathing through the pain" admonishments, yoginis are not supposed to be wusses so unless you're pregnant then I'd better see headstands on the hardwood, people.

Material: Ever wondered what the "sticky" in sticky yoga mats is? Most likely it's some toxic combination of plastic and carcinogen that will not only sicken you from inhaling the delicious plastic-y fumes but will live forever in our landfills. You're a junkie and a polluter! (Of course this is the kind I have. Cheap, remember?) If you are environmentally aware however, you can buy all natural rubber mats or at least synthetic ones that don't have that new-car smell. You're green and rich!

Shape: Think rectangle is your only option? The one time I visited a high-end yoga studio I was shocked to find all the mats were large cushy ovals. Corners harsh your mellow, I guess. Also available are circles, squares and "yoga sheets" -- mats large enough that no matter which way you come crashing out of your inversion, you'll still land on the mat. Although you should know that the larger your mat, the more territorial you appear. Floor space is at a premium; are you a good sharer?

Bag: While creativity is limited with the actual mats, options abound for the bag you carry it in. (Of course you need a mat bag! Always practice safe yoga, that's my motto.) Is your mat bag a simple, austere strap? (Do you also tie back your pony tail with a string you bit off the frayed cotton hem of your tank top?) Or do you robe your mat in bright flowers or polka dots? I'll admit it: mine is the grand dame of mat bags. Fed up with carrying a gym purse, a diaper bag and a yoga mat that unrolls at inconvenient moments, I finally got this baby:

Owner: This is probably the most telling aspect of your mat. Do you own your own mat or borrow one from the gym? Sure remembering your mat in the trunk of your car is hard but getting impetigo from putting your child's pose where someone else put their open-sore cobbler is much worse.

Do you use a mat in group fit classes, when you stretch or do yoga? Do you bring your own mat or use the gym's? Anyone else ever end up accidentally seeing va-jay-jays in something innocuous? Tell us what kind of mat you use and we'll make random authoritative judgments about your morals in the comments!

*One of the best yoga tips I ever got (and heaven help me I can't remember which one of you taught me this on your blog so if it was you know that a) I love you! and b) feel free to name check yourself and post a link!) was to fold your yoga mat in half -- short edge to short edge - before you roll it up. That way the patterned side that you rest your face on never touches the floor side. Try it!

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