Originally published by our elephriends over at Recovering Yogi on November 9, 2011.
File this under “over-the-top yoga marketing that makes you go hmmmm.”
By Mary Beth Ray
I saw this news headline the other day:
Manduka and John Friend Unveil
“The John Friend Collection by Manduka“
I have a Manduka mat, and I thought “Oh jeez, is this Anusara ‘inner body bright’ bug going to infect Manduka, too?!?”
The press release begins: “Yoga industry pioneers partner to create innovative line of yoga accessories, inspired by 40 years of practice.” Bleck. My left eyebrow raised as I read on.
Some key points I want to highlight from the press release (in case you don’t have the time or inclination to read it yourself):
- The mats will be 6 inches wider, which “allows for a deeper expression of movement and a better connection between body, mat and heart.”
- “Available in the rich, purple hue Magic that is embraced by John Friend’s 600,000 students for its spiritual energy, the John Friend PROlite is a heartfelt expression of beauty and purpose.”
- And John Friend says, “I am honored to collaborate with such an authentic company to bring an amazing new line of gear to the yoga community, deepening the connection between heart and mat, and inspiring students of any level to enjoy more energetic freedom during their practice.”
Oh, and they also released a video.
Did you watch it? “Everything about this mat will lead to the very essence of your heart…” Uh, reeeally? One of the comments below the video echoed my thoughts: “People. It’s just a yoga mat…and really, are you going to be the one who shows up for a packed class with a gigantic mat, bigger than everyone else’s?”
As I roll my eyes I think: yeah, well, with a potential market of 600,000 students (who apparently are enamored with the color purple) it makes sense that Manduka (and Mr. “let’s serve people” John Friend) would do this (at $95 a pop). And I can certainly understand how a good mat makes your practice more stable; that’s why I do love Manduka, but I don’t think I need 6 extra inches to “allow for a deeper expression of movement” — or maybe I’m wrong and size does matter here, which, if you’re broad shouldered, sure, makes sense you might want a wider mat to move at all, let alone deeper. They already make extra long mats for tall folks, so maybe extra width is a design alternative whose time has come. But in this context, with the flowery Anusara language wrapped around it, it’s just very funny to me (well, honestly it’s rather annoying, and, well, rather American to super-size your yoga class real estate).
I guess that’s just marketing fluff though, written to appeal to a certain (Anusara) demographic. Manduka mats are supposed to last a lifetime, and I already own a wonderful, regular ol’ 24” wide ProLite Manduka that I do love. (Hmmm, perhaps there is some validity to this connection between heart and mat?) Personally I’m not going to be in the market for a new mat anytime soon. I’m assuming, then, that all this marketing is meant to lure all those “other” mat users over to the Anusara Koolaid…err I mean Kula, away from Gaiam, Hugger Mugger, Tapas, Barefoot, Jade, and Prana.
Hold on a sec, John Friend must be on a personal mission to transform the universal size of all mats (which apparently makes them “better”) one company at a time ‘cuz uh, yeah, he already designed “the best mat ever”… with Prana, two years ago. It is called the “Revolution”. Check it out here. The Revolution is apparently great for that all important “personal space” (or my all-time favorite “partner work” …ugh).
So now if you read the Manduka press release again, it seems all the more inauthentic with phrases like: “This is the first time…” and “This mat is a revolution in…” Whoa. <snap>
Yeah, okay, whatever, I really do think it’s great that everyone has the freedom to choose the mat that works best for their body (or one that they can afford, frankly). And I’m glad I invested in my virtually indestructible Manduka a few years ago (which, alas, is just plain purple, not officially “Magic” :-<) but I suppose if we all had 30-inch mats in a packed class then we could have them touching (or even overlapping) and honestly still have plenty of “personal space” to practice (unless when teachers insist on making you do that Wild Thing pose). Hey, on that note, why not just design a room-size mat that is custom-fit to each yoga room so everyone can really “enjoy more energetic freedom” and not worry about their pinky fingers falling off the mat in cobra?
PS Stay tuned: “The John Friend Collection by Manduka will expand in 2012 to include towels, bags and other innovative gear.”
About Mary Beth Ray
MB gets up before the crack of dawn to practice in a sweaty Mysore room in San Francisco, loving every moment of it, even when she hates it. She then trots off to earn a living by the good fortune of having a regular 9-5 corporate job, where she knows a thing or two about the business of book publishing. By night (and some weekends), she spreads the gospel of yoga one firmly grounded asana at a time to “all levels,” whatever that means. www.mbryoga.com.