Achieving balance with wool, amongst other natural fibres.
Wool is a complete fibre that offers all the qualities sought by practitioners in addition to the holistic and energetic pure flow, belonging to nature's ways.
Wool certainly deserves more than a fleeting consideration when it comes to its ability to be part of the yogic props portfolio. It is a complete fibre that has served humans well for clothing and protection for the last 8,000 years. It comes with built in moisture and odour management due to its lanolin coating of the fibres, it is cushioning and light, an effective temperature regulator, naturally antibacterial and fire resistant. It biodegrades when we are done with it, feeding the earth with its organic matter. Wool protects sheep in winters and summers, across broad temperature ranges and has found its way into high performance technical sports gear applications due to its properties in modern times. Wool has many answers to the problems we’re trying to solve with new synthetic materials, it’s up to us to consider them carefully and fold them into our arsenal of solutions for a growing yoga industry.
Knowing that the sheep that produced the wool have been treated humanely and ethically and that the wool is traceable, makes the solution complete, unique and sustainable.
Pausing here to re-check in with the fundamental yogic principles of non harm and oneness with the planet and worth acknowledging that wool comes with concerns around farming intensification side effects and going back to the starting point of that aforementioned hellish destination.
While a broad and measured consideration is to be given to the general economics for it, there are already sheep being raised whose wool ends up wasted because of the substitution with synthetics puts it at a disadvantage cost wise. As a direct consequence of these dynamics, figures in sheep stock and wool harvest volumes have been declining for years across the continents. In an ever growing world of sophisticated and demanding consumers, we have see that gap being filled with alternatives (like the ones discussed earlier, PVC, latex) which do not hold the answer to enabling yogis to practice without leaving the planet in a worse place.
With wool, just like with any other resource produced for a high value-add application, there is the risk of its supply chain being abused.
This concerns can be mitigated with good controls in place, like wool traceability programs from responsible farmers who treat their sheep humanely and ethically. Part of that treatment is that sheep would suffer if not shorn regularly, so might as well, when all these bases are covered, use their shorn fleece for something purposeful, like a yoga practice mat. Meanwhile, through usage and demand, we will keep advancing into a space where performance is about the holistic total, rather than just about the pose to be held on a sticky mat.