In early 1986, Iyengar teacher Mary Dunn taught a weekend workshop in Salt Lake City. Mary was the daughter of Mary Palmer, one of Iyengar’s very early American students. Iyengar was Dunn’s only yoga teacher throughout her life.
As an Iyengar teacher, Mary needed to have props on site at the workshop. The workshop sponsors Cita Mason Riley and David Riley cobbled together what passed for props in those days—straps (neckties from a secondhand store) and “blankets” (samples of outdated carpet from a local carpet store). There were no yoga mats, blocks or bolsters.
Still, Mary made do with the existing props (or lack thereof) with grace. One student who had traveled to Salt Lake City from Idaho brought with her a belt she’d bought from L.L. Bean—a 1.5-inch wide cotton strap from L.L. Bean. Time and again, throughout the workshop, Mary asked to use this belt for demonstrations. She liked the fact that it was wider than traditional 1-inch yoga straps. She felt that a wider strap had less potential to “cut” into someone’s skin in certain uses.
The following Monday, one of the workshop participants, Sara Chambers, showed up at her evening yoga class with a replica of the Idaho student’s “strap”, and an innovatively designed pair of gym shorts. These shorts had bands around the thighs to keep them in place no matter what pose she practiced. The shorts and the strap were immediate hits in the class. Soon she was taking orders for both from classmates and teachers.
Soon after, the Salt Lake Iyengar community became aware of the latest innovation in yoga mats—nonskid carpet underlay from Europe that Angela Farmer had been importing. Sara found out how to obtain these and they, too, became an instant hit.
A woodworker by trade, Sara began manufacturing beautifully finished solid wood blocks, to the specifications of those used at the Iyengar Institute in Pune.
By now, Sara’s business was so brisk that the basement of her small bungalow could no longer contain it. She moved to a house with a larger basement and began to extend her tentacles out into the larger yoga community. Again, the care and craftsmanship of her products caught on, and soon she moved the business out of her house altogether.
After a few years of selling imported carpet underlay as nonskid yoga mats, Sara heard from yogis that the surface of the mats tended to crumble after a while. She began to seek alternatives—mats that would perform the same nonskid function, but would be more durable. After much research, she found a U.S.-based company that was willing to explore branching out into yoga mats. In 1990, Sara began selling Tapas mats through her catalogs. As the very first made-for-yoga nonskid mats, they took the yoga world by storm. Hugger Mugger’s Tapas and Tapas Ultra mats are still made by the same domestic manufacturer.
Why Hugger Mugger?
People sometimes ask where the name “Hugger Mugger Yoga Products” comes from. Because of the popularity of her shorts with the thigh-hugging bands, Sara decided to name the company for them. The term “hugger mugger” is a colloquial word meaning “to conceal,” which is what her Hugger Mugger shorts were designed to do. Nearly everyone in the national Iyengar community wore those shorts for decades—many still do.
Now 30 years later, Hugger Mugger continues to expand and innovate. The company now sells ten different types of mats in many different colors, four different sizes and shapes of handmade yoga bolsters, straps of three lengths and two different materials, yoga blocks and wedges, eye pillows, meditation cushions, blankets, towels, practice rugs, and more.
Hugger Mugger has always been at the forefront of innovation. In the past 20 years, we’ve committed not only to adding more sustainable options, but also to making our tried-and-true products even more eco-friendly. We’re committed to continuing to find sustainable solutions for the tools we create for practice.
We hope to continue to ride the yoga wave with all of you, and to provide the tools that enhance and deepen your practice for years to come.