As I've started diving deeper into my own yoga practice the question "Which way should my mat lay?" has repeatedly come to mind. So I did what anyone would do- I Googled it.
There were many different reasons for why yogis and practitioners face their mat a certain direction. Some face their mat in whatever direction gives them room to move freely during physical practice. Others stood facing true north to welcome the sun, life, or connection to the universe to their practice. While a couple articles I read mentioning people who liked their mat to face East. This also welcomes the sun and Divine into their practice (whether meditative or physical).
Some directions seem to have similarities for why a mat or body faces a certain direction. Here is a review of my findings. For a deeper understanding and discussion on this topic click here to listen to this discussion on my latest podcast.
Mat or Body facing North: Pulls one in the right direction of life. Welcomes stability, one to be unshakable, keeps goals in mind, and open's self up to guidance from the universe or Divine.
Mat or Body facing East: Related to the mind - retention, memory, and meditation. It is also the direction the sun rises. So it welcomes sun light, guidance, and protection into one's life. For some it's the direction for prayer.
Mat or Body facing South: Looks inside one's self. This direction you want to leave things behind. It also relates to sleeping or physical death (of the body). It's going within the individual. Said to be good for meditation when you need physical relaxation.
Mat or Body facing West: Sun sets in the west. Leaving the day, fear, negativity, and other not so great happenings behind you. Find rest to refresh.
Some last considerations:
Don't get caught up if you can't physically have your mat facing a certain direction. Spacial considerations are something to keep in mind.
If you're in a class you're not going to want to cause a fuss if the teacher has their mat facing a certain direction. They're setting their mat in the best direction for participants to see and hear them.
When in your own space feel free to take a moment, get quiet, and come into awareness. This will allow you to feel which direction calls you to set up your mat.
Finally, breathe and open your mind and body to the world around you as you dive deep into your practice.