Yoga is an inherently minimalist activity, or at least it’s supposed to be. And while some modern yoga lovers choose to use colorful rubber mats for their enhanced resistance, all you really need to start practicing yoga is an open space and yourself.
An ancient Indian practice, yoga focuses on the relationship between mind and body. The ultimate goal is to find harmony between the two and increase consciousness. However, as yoga practice becomes increasingly westernized and trendy, some yogis believe its commercialization has disrupted the true meaning of the practice.
And that was before Baller Yoga, an LA-based yoga company, started producing a yoga mat made from the same leather used to make NFL footballs.
Fine leather goods are often handmade by artisans with 20 to 30 years of experience, which makes them expensive. Niche-market leather products like this are even more so. The price tag of this particular leather item? A whopping $1,000.
“It certainly would not align with our philosophy,” said Cassie Jackson, a yoga teacher at the Iyengar Yoga Institute in San Francisco, told The Guardian. “I mean — most of us are vegan.”
Cedric Yau, the founder of Baller Yoga, is a data consultant for a New York Hedge Fund. While on a yoga retreat in Bali, he said that he became frustrated with the “cheap slippery mats” that he was using.
Upon his return, he planned on reviewing yoga mats online to help yogis find the best mat, one that wouldn’t slide but was also resistant to sticking: like a football. He then decided to source meat byproduct leather from the same company that sources leather for NFL footballs and NBA basketballs.
The tagline for the product is: “For athletes who have everything and desire nothing.”
As yoga is being used increasingly as an athletic performance enhancing method by athletes from all sports, including football, the company aims to provide a mat that meets an athlete’s standards.
“We are not really looking at the vegetarian, vegan angle,” said Yau, admitting that the company has received significant backlash from militant vegans.
Not only that, but yoga originated in India, where cows are considered holy.
“For the most part it’s something we knew we would take fire for…[but] there are a lot of people who look at yoga as a form of exercise and totally ignore the spiritual aspects. You could call this the secular yoga community.”
Jackson is still skeptical of Baller Yoga’s intentions, as the old yogis didn’t use mats at all — they practiced in caves.
B K S Iyengar, the founder of Iyengar yoga, once said, “When yoga is only outward-facing, exhibitive, and self-gratifying, it is not yoga at all.”
“This is part of capitalism, in my opinion,” said Jackson.