All yoga practitioners know that a good yoga mat is a necessity not a luxury. Choosing the best yoga mat may seem like the least of your concerns when signing up for a yoga class. However, it’s important to know how to choose a yoga mat for your comfort. The wrong mat can ruin your yoga session.
Although social media has given the humble mat a whole new avatar, what you need in a yoga mat is much more than a style statement. While having your own personal style is important, there are other key points that you need to factor in.
The first thing you’re going to notice about the mat is its material. With the wide range of materials that are available, this is probably going to be your first stumbling block. Which one is right for you and how to choose a yoga mat from all that’s available? To pick the right mat you first need to know the types of materials that are out there.
- Mats made from PVC or vinyl are one of the most commonly used because of their high durability. They’re also easier to clean and can go the distance with no big issues. However, with the trend veering towards ‘green’ and eco-friendly materials these days, many yogis are ditching PVC.
- TPE mats are rising in the popularity rankings because they are more environmentally friendly. TPE is a combination of plastic and rubber and can even be recycled. While these mats provide better traction than PVC mats of the same length, they may not be as durable. A word of caution for someone allergic to latex is to avoid mats made from natural rubber.
- Padded mats are soft and comfortable but may not be the best choice. Made from foam and covered with cloth, these mats usually lack in grip. Another downside to these mats is that they cannot be washed thoroughly.
- As the name suggests, Eco-friendly mats are made from a wide range of natural materials such as jute, organic cotton or recycled rubber. While these mats provide momentum to your body and absorb sweat easily (not that you’re going to sweat much with yoga anyway), they’re not as durable as PVC. However, another plus point of these mats is that they are available in a wide range of thickness and are quite slick too. If you prefer natural materials, then these mats are your best bet.
Now that we’ve got the material out of the way, the next thing you need to focus on is the texture.
How to choose a yoga mat based on the right grip and texture
The reason why texture is important when choosing a yoga mat is because of the traction it provides. Smooth mats are not going to help much when you’re going through the poses. While they’re ideal for more strenuous forms of yoga, you don’t want to injure yourself by slipping on your mat. On the other hand, if you have sensitive skin, a mat that has too much texture, may not be the right choice. PVC mats generally have a softer feel but they’re more slippery than the rest. A good eco-friendly mat with a raised pattern will provide a good grip.
On the subject of good grip, a mat that sticks to the floor is a good option to have. Mats that tend to curl around the edges will not stay firm to the surface. The last thing you need when you’re engrossed in your poses is to have your mat slipping away.
While texture and grip are important when choosing a good yoga mat, the thickness of the mat matters the most.
Why the thickness is important
You’ll find that yoga mats differ in their thickness. While a standard yoga mat is 1/8 inches thick, you’ll find the thickness varying from 1/4 inch to even thinner mats. Some mats are extremely thin and lightweight and others are heavy with extra cushioning. The wafer thin mats are usually recommended for travelling as they’re easy to pack.
Since you’re going to be spending a lot of time on your yoga mat, make sure that it’s comfortable. A mat that is too thin may make you want to give up midway. On the other hand, one that is too thick may not give you a proper balance when going through certain poses.
When deciding on the thickness of the mat, apart from the level of comfort what you also need to keep in mind is the storage space. If you’re commuting to a studio to practice, consider something that is more lightweight. If space is an issue, make sure that you invest in a mat that folds up.
Apart from the general look and feel of the mat there are other factors that you need to consider when choosing a yoga mat.
The place where you practice
The reason why the venue determines how to choose a yoga mat is because of the portability and durability. As stated above, if you’re commuting to a studio, you’ll want something that is lightweight and easy to carry around. If you prefer doing yoga outdoors a mat that is more durable will suit your purpose. Most yoga mats come in a standard length but make sure it’s long enough for your height.
How much should you spend on a yoga mat
Once you’ve ticked off all the boxes to accommodate your needs, the next important thing to factor in is the price. This totally depends on how much you are willing to pay for a mat. Basic PVC mats will not cost much whereas the eco-friendly mats will have a higher price tag. The more-flashy and interesting the mat, the higher the price. Mats that have premium thickness and antimicrobial treatments may cost more.
For a beginner it would probably be a good idea to invest in something that is more affordable. If for some unfathomable reason you decide yoga is not for you, you won’t beat yourself up about how much you spent.
With any form of exercise it is always important to have the right gear. While it is not advisable to go overboard with the style and spending (if you can afford it why not!), don’t compromise on the quality. Pick a style that suits your needs and taste and fits into your budget. When you choose something you like, you can be sure that you’re going to enjoy going through the yoga routine.