I just stood in the doorway looking at the bellman.
Great. It’s a ShamWow. Only longer.
“Thank you so much,” I smiled brightly, trying hard to mask my concern. What did I expect, really? This was a hotel, not a yoga studio. I checked myself, and decided to embrace the situation with a spirit of gratitude that the front desk had located one at all. I hadn’t practiced in days leading up to this DC-to-California trip, and with a full roster of conference activities ahead of me, I needed to get my head right. That meant yoga, which was going down by whatever means necessary, flimsy or otherwise.
Well, that “flimsy” kitchen sponge of a mat totally rocked my hotel room practice.
And made me feel like a bit of an ass.
I’d paid good money over the years for high end, professional-grade yoga mats that could withstand the physical demands of frequent power yoga use. (After years of trial and error I even wound up with one mat strictly for heated yoga at a studio, and another mat for unheated yoga at home.) That’s not why I was mad, though. They were of excellent quality, gave me my money’s worth and solved for a number of support and other wonky issues I’d previously experienced with other brands.
I was mad because I failed to recognize that on some days, a cheap spongey mat is exactly what you need. Like after you’ve been trapped in a window seat on a 6-hour flight following a 4-hour layover, which you spent roaming the terminals bleary-eyed in search of available power outlets, hoisting 50 extra pounds of gear on your back and shoulders instead of rolling it effortlessly along. (Don’t ask. The backstory involves an ill-conceived, avoid-baggage-fees-at-all-costs scheme to pass off an overstuffed piece of wheeled luggage as a “carry-on”, and a hefty weekend bag as my “personal item-slash-purse.” All in addition to an actual purse the size of a rucksack, which of course wound up also overstuffed from the inevitable weight redistribution scramble at the agent ticket counter. Let’s just say my plan backfired, and leave it at that.) Or after your eyes pop open at 3am the next morning with your mind screaming “Let’s go, let’s go, LET’S GO! because as far as the body it’s attached to is concerned, it’s 6AM and you’ve already overslept your alarm by an hour.
If my hands and feet could talk as they sunk into Downward Dog on that SpongeMat, leaving a freakishly deep imprint, that’s what they would have said. At that point, I gave not two whits about the toll such a soft and yielding surface might take on my balance in eagle or tree pose. I simply made up new facts to suit the present circumstances, and lowered my expectations. WAY down.
Today, I am a tree in a Class 5 Hurricane, fighting valiantly to stay rooted, I affirmed, as I fell out of the pose repeatedly.
(There. Problem solved.)
Later I moved into Savasana pose and, judging from the amount of chin drool, stayed there for at least a good 15 minutes or more, pretending to meditate but really just basking in the way SpongeMat sunk under the weight of my shoulders and hips.
Oh, SpongeMat, I love you. Will you come home with me?
No, sorry. I’m seeing other people. At the hotel fitness center. I thought you understood this was just a one-day stand. Now get off me.
Could I – would I – practice on a mat like this every single day? No. I’m no ergonomics or anatomy expert, but I’d be willing to guess that subjecting my achey-flakey wrists to that lack of firm support would not bode well over the long term. Power yoga is a very physical, active practice that requires as much as it gives, and a firm foundation is key.
Once in a while, though, after a particularly stressful period… a spongey mat hits the spot. Which, to me, makes it the perfect mat for travel and the occasional restorative use.
So it’s settled. I’m no longer a yoga mat snob. There’s a time and place for every type of mat under the sun, I suppose.
Because there will be more long flights. More days getting over jet lag or a cold or an allergy attack. More days without, unfortunately, adequate sleep. And on those days, I’ll approach my practice willingly but gingerly, grateful for a softer-than-usual place to land. Just that once.
So, there you have it. The great lesson of the ShamWow Mat in Room 1502.
Where, when not on my spongey mat, I spent the rest of my hotel stay pondering why on earth anyone would need a wall phone within arm’s reach while on the toilet:
Adaptation taken too far, me thinks. (Statistically, are there greater numbers of people in Silicon Valley who regularly fall off, can’t get up, and need to ring for help? Not to mention, if you’re in there for that long, perhaps phone access is not your biggest problem.) And yet another sign that in this always-on-24-7 society, we maybe need to start asking some very different questions of ourselves where the whole multitasking myth – and it IS a myth – is concerned. But that’s a post for another day.
For now, keep flowing. On whatever mat does your body good. Ciao!
P.S. Special thanks to the staff at San Jose’s The Fairmont Hotel, who came through like a boss at this weary traveler’s 11pm check-in. The yoga mat they supplied was the EcoWise Fitness Yoga Mat, available for $27 on Amazon. Grip is OK, but I wouldn’t use it without first powdering up with some of Aurorae’s Anti-Slip Rosin. For more DIY Yoga Toolkit tips be sure to check my previous post on how to create a mobile yoga studio at home or anywhere life takes you.