File this under “over-the-top yoga marketing that makes you go hmmmm”

Published on November 9, 2011 by      Print
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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.

But wait…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.


Filed under: Shady Gurus and Tagged:


  1. Chang says:

    Oh, my lack of god.

    • Leah Howe says:

      OY VEY, I thought things couldn’t get more capitalspiritualisticly ridiculous. Maybe soon though some celebrity yogi will come out with an Occupy Mat, what a revolution that would be. Maybe they already have.
      thanks for writing this.

      • Mary Beth says:

        You’re welcome Leah. And an Occupy Mat eh? Well, any mat WITHOUT celebrity endorsement ought to qualify – Viva la 99%! :-]

      • Warriorsaint says:

        To riff on the Occupy mat: it would be the Occupy (more) Mat”. After all, we are the 99%.

  2. Chrissy says:

    See? This is the type of bullshit that sizzles my ass! Let’s be real….’getting ones heart closer to the mat’ ? Puleeze! I am all for quality, however what in the name of DuPont do they put in that sucker to make it warrant 95 of my dollars? A promise to have my heart in the right place? I can have that on my 12 dollar mat….

  3. Vision_Quest2 says:

    I refuse to call myself a “yogini” anymore in this current climate … and yet I still practice yoga regularly … on a slightly longer than average mat but without the celebrity endorsement …

    Formerly known as Yogini5

  4. Sam says:

    I’d like to echo the sentiment, “People – it’s just a yoga mat.” I’m with Chrissy… I can be just as zen on my $12 mat. And as for Chang’s comment? Thanks for making me laugh.

    • Chrissy says:

      My personal peeve…why is everything “THE BEST (insert well, basically everything that you come across on an hourly basis here) EVER” according to some of the more rabid yoga folks…it is almost as if they dont realize how disingenuous they sound….I am a hugely positive thinker..however, honesty is part of my fabric…if something sucks, guess what? That’s ok! I kind of think that a 7 foot yoga mat for 95 bucks sucks…

      • Ann says:

        I’m right there with you. Call it like it is. I know Anusara people stick their nose up at Bikram, but Bikram is outlandishly hilarious in the commercialization of his brand. He pretends to be nothing else but, exactly and unashamed of who he is. And I like that. Yoga is big business and there is money to be made, but if your entire platform is supposedly starchly against this, and this is what you’re doing…

  5. roseanne says:

    i’m glad you pointed out the repetition in marketing language between the prana revolution mat and the manduka mat! lacks imagination *and* integrity.

    • Mary Beth says:

      Roseanne – I was actually kind of shocked that he used the same phrase for both videos “If I could build the best mat ever….” and then all he did was make each one wider and piggybacked on the Prana mat construction and Manduka mat construction. Wider works for his body but imho it ain’t “better” because of it.

  6. amelia says:

    Well, at first look I thought it was a mat that was PRINTED with that image of John Friend meditating right on it. So you can do perpetual partner yoga with John. You can sit your sweet kula right on his face, and nestle into his loving agnistambhasana as you prepare for deep relaxation. Just sayin, maybe that is the wave of the yoga mat future: to have them printed with life-sized photos of our favorite teacher. I would by stock in the Seane Corn and Bryan Kest editions. Those will fly off the shelves.

    Ultimately I guess it’s only a couple of inches, granted to you by Shiva. What about these for personal space?

    • Mary Beth says:

      Amelia – that is hysterical! (It would be my worst nightmare though – “perpetual partner yoga with John” ) …you can choose who you want to print on your mat already at yogamatic: (the epitome of “to each his own”)

      • amelia says:

        Holy cow, Mary Beth. I had no idea that existed. Now it’s tempting. I like how it says “from your own image” because it makes me think that people would print yoga mats with photos of THEMSELVES on there. How’s that for your mat being a mirror?! No one would steal it from you anyway. As if anyone would steal a yoga mat, pssht. What bad karma.

    • kiwi says:

      omg i thought the same thing….too funny

  7. Ann says:

    Ha! Ha! The previous two comments are too funny. Maybe the mat is so big to make room for your expanding heart – because you know Anusara, I heard does that. I can’t wait for the yoga studio backlash when the ROI starts plummeting because they can only fit half as many students into the room as they use to. I can already see big signs at the studio – “Absolutely no over-sized mats in the over-crowded evening classes, unless you wish to be charged double.”

    • Mary Beth says:

      Ann…so true!

    • Vision_Quest2 says:

      Just the opposite had happened with step aerobics (at any studi;o “No Personal Stepbenches Allowed” – really, they WERE slightly less challenging to use — due to their SMALLER than regulation size) …

      It’s not a question of fitting enough people in or not fitting enough people in … more a symptom of a fad jumping its own shark …

  8. Laura says:

    am i the only one who feels like puking? I am quite allergic to marketing, but when yoga and marketing meet that’s when i really need a bucket!

  9. Matthew says:

    I guess even ‘enlightened’ men are still concerned over the difference of a few inches.

  10. sachie says:

    Great article!

    Matthew and Chang – brilliant!

  11. Hannah says:

    I just came from a weekend workshop with John Friend. While I love the principle of alignment, Mr. Friend has an ego that doesn’t fit on this mat and pardoxicaly talks of not even needing a mat for his own practice.

    Would you consider posting this to elephant journal? It would be a great article for it!

    • Mary Beth says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience with the paradox himself. (oh, and according to my sources, I think this will be posted to elephant journal in a few days)

    • Jo says:

      I had a similar experience at a recent JF workshop. During dharma circles, his response to almost every question was all about how wonderful he is. Love the practice, love the principles, but the EGO is troubling.

  12. linda says:

    I guess size DOES matter, even with the yoga dudes…..

  13. Kerac says:

  14. Don says:

    What a great article! He should have called it the Hummer of yoga mats, guaranteed to take up too much space and annoy the crap out of everyone else in the room.

  15. Becky says:

    Old news. Move on children.

    • Matthew says:

      Aw, man! What a buzzkill!
      We were having so much fun here, until a boring, old, condescending grown-up chided us all. I guess we’ve all got a lot of growing up to do, kids.

      • Chrissy says:

        I am clearly both uninformed AND a child…..this old news is sort of new to me…I am ok with being both..I would rather be a child than have a stick up my ass….( no offense to anyone…just having some fun)!

        • Herman says:

          Chrissy, you just gave me a boner with your mind. You are so smart.

          • Chrissy says:

            :) Herman don’t know if you are serious or not, but I’ll take the mind boner….imagine…my brain having the power if Cialis….awesome…also awesome? Have not heard the word “boner” in a really long ( hahaha) time. Just remember, if you have a mind boner for more than four hours, this condition is called priapism and should be taken seriously. Please report to your local emergency room ( luckily I am not working there…yet)….or you will risk serious injury!

    • Mary Beth says:

      oh Becky… we’re just havin’ a little fun here.

  16. kiwi says:

    Holly shit!!! ” a better connection between body, mat and heart” really …. WTF

  17. TAH says:

    $95 in the USA, but about £86 in the UK, which = $136.97 via today’s exchange rate.

    Seriously… It’s. just. a. mat.

    (really funny article, Mary Beth Ray!)

  18. Prajna says:

    I’m all for the high-quality mats. As a teacher, I feel sad when I see big students squeezing to fit a standard size mat, or sliding around on a cheap PVC mat, which eventually break down and I end up sweeping up chunks of it after class. I think a good quality mat is a wise investment for people with a regular practice and there are lots of good ones nowadays. I like the Mandukas, the Jades, the Lululemon “The Mat” and some others. But I realize that not everyone can afford a premium mat or will want one. No big deal! What makes me laugh, though, is putting out two products in two years from two different companies and claiming the same amazingness for each one. Really, he did the “best mat ever” thing already, he checked that off the list. This is overkill. Why couldn’t Manduka team up with some other yogalebrity to make a new mat? “Everything about this mat will lead to the very essence of your heart…” Really? You could have a mat in pave diamonds and it wouldn’t lead you to the very essence of your heart—that comes from steady, sincere practice, humility, self-effort, good instruction, and ultimately grace. No mat, no $100 pair of pants or fancy rudraksha malas can give you what it takes to progress in yoga.

    • TAH says:

      When I first moved to London, I lived across the road from a warehouse that housed nothing but rolls of pvc and latex for wholesale. Being a big & tall gal, I also saw the need for a wider, longer, sturdier mat. So I took the chance and banged on the window and asked if I could buy some off cuts that they were just going to chuck out back in the skip. The guy let me take what I wanted for the price of a pint and, when I got home, I cut myself a mat. I asked him whom they sold to and looked up the price of one of that company’s mat’s — for what I got for £3 and some effort, they were selling to the public for £53. I agree in making a profit and running a succesful business (even a damned successful biz!), but there simply is no need for that kind of greed. And to top it off with the “this mat will lead to the very essence of your heart” tripe just makes my blood boil…. yoga mats have become too expensive and elitist and it’s just stupid.

    • Chrissy says:

      Well said!

    • Mary Beth says:

      yes well said Prajna and TAH!

  19. Lauri Lumby says:

    Really? All I want is a yoga mat that I don’t fall all over when I’m trying to do Down Dog. Next thing they will be guaranteeing is a toe-curling orgasm with every yoga practice performed on this mat. Sheesh!!!!

  20. Jade Doherty says:

    I feel really sorry for people who lived in that barbaric time before magic yoga mats. Imagine the hardships they must have faced.

  21. ari says:

    I would just like to take a page out of Thomas the Train on this one. I watch it everyday with my son. Why does it have to be “the BEST mat.” Why can’t it just be a “really useful” mat? And for that matter, isn’t every mat, 95$ or 12$, a really useful mat to the person who uses it? Is a mat going to give you enlightenment, or suddenly get you into side crow? No. All a mat needs to be, is really useful. And what ever happend to the idea that “the world is my yoga mat,” aka yoga is a practice that is everyday and everywhere. I am so sad about where this whole industry has gone. Scratch that. I am so sad that yoga has turned into an industry.

    • Mary Beth says:

      Hi ari, I couldn’t agree more. I think it would have been fine if he created it to fit larger body types, period. But he had to go beyond into the ether with his Anusara-”essence of being” -speak . And I’m also disappointed with Manduka that they were complicit in creating this inane promotion.

    • TAH says:

      Side note, ari — do they really call it “Thomas the Train” in the USA? It’s “Thomas the Tank Engine” here in the UK. I’ve always wondered what the US series calls “The Fat Controller,” as I know it would be very un-PC to call him that over there, lol

  22. Barns says:

    John is laughing with you all the way to the bank and all you guys got is a lousy blog post. Oh the injustice of it all!

    • Mary Beth says:

      Hi Barns – yeah, well, I get a sticker too! :-]

    • TAH says:

      Yes, Barns. He’s laughing all the way to the bank. He’ll make a fortune out of it. And, sadly, for far too many, that is what yoga is about anymore. So I thank goodness for this blog post and the chance to poke fun at it all, because last time I checked simply talking a load of shite and filling your bank account wasn’t ‘the point’.

  23. word says:

    In light to the similarity between these mats and the prana ones it is interesting to note that John announced he added several former prana employees to the Anusara staff a few years ago. Wonder if that is a big reason why the mats are the same.

    NOBODY needs to spend this kind of money on a mat. It is nothing more than a cheap slab of rubber marketed as a magic carpet (or air guitar) capable of changing you fundamentally as a human being. It’s sad and pathetic. You want to change the world? Spend that money helping a person in need and practice yoga on what ever piece of ground is in front of you. Show the yoga world you are tired of this direction and DONT BUY THIS GARBAGE. Seems like Integrity is not in the Anusara vocabulary to me.

    When you couple this bizarre mat promotion, with the recent video they put out announcing a center where they try to ride the backs of other great yoga masters and make claims of the site being “magic”, you have to really wonder what is going on in Anusara land. Again, you can practice yoga anywhere.. a prison cell is no less sacred then this space. Nothing special about it at all. Sure, great it’s by the beach yeah. All the better to run out after class and hula hoop right. Do they really believe the nonsense they say about these products/spaces or are they just trying to milk every dime they can from adoring followers.

    Guess the teachers that recently left Anusara were the smart ones. A few of them have made it pretty clear they plan on stepping away from all the flowery nonsense and away from forcing people to pay to use their name as they develop a new yoga school.

  24. Soma says:

    It’s only a yoga mat! Yoga people pretty seem pretty shallow if this is what gets your panties in a knot.

  25. Laura Neal says:

    I wrote a Recovering Yogi post awhile ago titled “Your Yoga Mat Does Not Exist.” Still believe it.

  26. Jo says:

    Mary Beth, Great article and hysterical comments. Made me smile.

  27. Cookie says:

    This completely shameless example of “Everything is God, which means that I AM GOD and MONEY IS GOD!!” marketing is what we can expect from this character. I am not one bit surprised, this coming from a a guy who thinks it makes him look cool to get up on stage with a real band (which already has a drummer!) and PRETEND to play the drums. OR who tells a workshop crowd how a group of Asian students showed their reverence for him by lining up and bowing to him upon his arrival, as if that were the correct way to greet him. (But, hey, the alignment is great, gotta hand that to him!)

  28. Tomasz Goetel says:

    Now, it’s just my ego talkin’ , but like mine grandfather used to say: “DON’T INSULT MY INTELLIGENCE!!!” :) ))

  29. Laura Miller says:

    When I first spied this article on elephant I seriously thought it was a parody/satire because the language and imagery was so over the top. right down to John’s Tartuffe-l-salat expression in the still shot. Then I watched the video, and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry or gag. I wish John had at least one person around him just to tell him when something is in bad taste or just TACKY. John used to say that Anusara was not about his ego-personality so he resisted putting his image all over things; I guess that’s not the case any more. :(

    • Word says:

      I don’t think he keeps people around him that are critical of anything he does. He also says a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean he lives them.

  30. Yogic Magickal Thinking | RecoveringYogi says:

    [...] Manduka (who makes my very favorite mat, and some of my least favorite tweets) laid it out, suckas! Forget [...]

  31. Serena says:

    Wow, all I can say is WOW! That video is so totally over the top crazy! I just can’t imagine he believes that drivel! This makes me think things have gotten way more commercialized even just in the last 5 years?

  32. Joy says:

    So a mat that lasts a lifetime sells for $95, huh? Wonder if it really would last that long. Sure hope it would. I agree that the wider hand placement of completely beneficial and anatomically advantageous but I just have my pinkies off the mat and that’s all good for me. Don’t really think the wider mats would be a huge deal in studios though.

  33. bendybyatch says:

    This was hilarious! In particular, I thank you for pointing out some of the ridiculous things “gurus” say. Sometimes I illegally download a John-Friend -teaching -yoga -video just cause I need a good laugh.

    Though sometimes he scares the bejeesus outta me. In this case, it was gangbusters in the funny department.
    many thanks.

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