Beverley Nolan

Mat Love Stories #1 - Beverley Nolan

Once upon a time, my yoga mat was a piece of carpet underlay sliced by my yoga teacher from a big roll of umpteen metres. There were three colour choices: white, pale green, and something that would fall into the peach palette. That was it. They were called ‘sticky’ mats and helped stabilise our practice on cold or carpeted church halls and community centres.

This was pre-studio days back in the early 80s, when my teacher also sourced chipfoam sheets from an upholsterer who cut them into blocks, my dad fashioned some wooden bricks out of timber offcuts and, before I had a Pune-belt (the narrow, white d-ring kind), I improvised with an old tie (thanks again, dad) or a soft leather buckled belt; blankets were quite literally from the airing cupboard.

My first mat lasted a good 10 years of practice and several overseas trips; it wore thin and took on a permanent shine that became too slippery to practice on. This was now the mid-90s, and purpose-created yoga mats were rolling out of factories in a growing choice of colours. I bought a box of pinks, purples and plums to sell on to my own students and kept two for me: one to take to classes, one at home, pristine clean, free of playgroup glitter and crumbs. I still have them both. This stuff doesn’t wear out! And, of course, studios now generously provide everything I need to practice and to teach so the longevity of my home mats has increased and with it the sense of nostalgia for all the past practices.

Beverley Nolan

I tend to practice with my two mats doubled up or side by side. The first way because my practice space at home is on a tiled floor and on colder mornings my body likes that extra insulation before my blood starts warming my tissues. The second way because I like to move beyond the confines of the traditional mat shape. The pathway of my practice tends to meander and spiral in different directions, and I enjoy the not knowing of whether I will begin and end in the same place, even though as TS Eliot says: “We shall not cease from exploration / and the end of all our exploring / will be to arrive where we started / and know the place for the first time.”

As I reflect now, the thing I love about my mat is that out of all the props I might use, it is the one constant and I recognise it as perhaps the single most unifying artefact across lineages, methods and schools: we each unroll a mat to do our practice, alone or in community, and then roll it up again. The mat is the container, and these actions bookend the content that we each define to be our practice. I want to say, show me your mat and I will show you mine and, in the sharing, we will honour all the footprints of every practice we made.

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