Figuring out how to choose a yoga mat? If you’re serious about your yoga practice, investing in your own mat is certainly a step in the right direction. But as you’ll soon find that as you search for yoga mats in stores and online, it seems that not all mats are created equal.
When you’re spoiled for choice and clueless about the different types of mats and how they can suit your unique needs, it might seem easier to just sweat it out on the ones your local studio offers. Don’t limit yourself. Read this guide and learn more about the perks of having your own mat and some sensible tips on how to choose and maintain it.
Why Invest In Your Own Yoga Mat?
Whether you’re new to yoga and are still testing the waters commitment-wise, or you’re a seasoned yogini, the importance of a personal mat can’t be ignored. With your own mat, you can:
- Practice yoga in the comfort of your own home and at your own convenience. This may help you deepen your practice and feel the results much quicker even if you’re busy (especially if you’re traveling and use a travel yoga mat).
- Potentially practice yoga in a more affordable way, since you won’t have to pay for studio fees and classes if you practice at home.
- Have a safe surface for any other stretching, calisthenics, or even meditation you do at home.
- Stay safe by avoiding the potentially harmful bacteria from other people’s sweat that public-use mats at your studio may be harboring.1
Clearly, a yoga mat can give you much more than just a basic non-slip surface. Whether you want peace of mind or to cut some costs, buying your own yoga mat is a good move to make.
Know Your Mat’s Material
The material your mat is made of may dictate your comfort and safety during your yoga session. Getting a good grip despite sweating and the heat (especially if you do hot yoga), being able to lie or sit comfortably as you listen to your yoga instructor, and feeling stable enough to hold or execute poses largely depends on your yoga mat’s material and consequent thickness, grip, and durability.2
A majority of yoga mats are made of polyvinyl chloride. PVC is a man-made, mass-produced type of rubber popular for its firmness and durability. This makes it a solid choice for yoga mat manufacturers.3 It can provide solid traction or good grip — always a plus when practicing yoga.
PVC yoga mats are inexpensive and easy to come by, but concerns about its potential environmental impact abound. PVC isn’t a biodegradable or recyclable material, and the chemical processes involved in its production does have harmful effects on the environment.4
If you’re trying to live a more environmentally-conscious lifestyle, you can opt for mats made of eco-friendly materials, such as natural or recycled rubber. Now, this type of mat may have an off-putting smell and a heavier weight than other manufactured mats, so keep that in mind as you’re choosing. Other choices for more eco-friendly yoga mats include jute or cork, or a blend of these materials.5
One newer option that seems to be a hybrid of PVC and more natural materials is TPE. Thermoplastic elastomer mats can provide the same solid grip as PVC, making them a good enough non-slip yoga mats. But in contrast to PVC, TPE is considered biodegradable and generally better for the environment. TPE yoga mats’ popularity is currently on the rise as manufacturers work on perfecting their durability.6
Pick A Mat Beneficial To Your Type Of Yoga
As previously mentioned, the thickness and texture of your yoga mat’s material affects your practice and performance. If you practice more dynamic forms like Ashtanga yoga, a thicker natural rubber mat may help give you the grip you need without slipping and sliding.7
Rubber mats are also good at wicking sweat, meaning you’ll be able to practice slip-free when doing hot yoga.8 You’ll probably be okay with thinner or smoother mats (like TPE or jute) when doing gentler forms of restorative yoga, or you can try a yoga towel that can increase comfort and grip should you need it.
Take Thickness And Length Into Consideration
Average yoga mats are about 68 inches long. If your feet go past the bottom, it may be difficult to relax in your corpse pose or other reclined positions.9
If you find yourself uncomfortable or unsupported by a thinner mat, it’s possible to choose a thicker one (about ¼ inch instead of the usual ⅛ inch). You may have sensitive joints that need a little more cushioning or want more support as you sweat your way through a hot yoga session. But do bear in mind that a thicker mat may be harder to grip with your feet and maintain balance on. Thicker mats are also generally heavier and harder to roll up neatly and compactly (definitely a consideration when choosing a travel yoga mat).10
Maintaining Your Yoga Mat
The more you use your yoga mat, you’ll find the texture and traction will improve. While breaking your new mat in, you may want to use a yoga towel to help get a more solid grip.11
In terms of keeping things hygienic, here’s your yoga mat maintenance plan:
- Wipe down your mat with a wet rag soaked in a non-greasy soap once a week and then air dry it.
- Spray non-corrosive cleaning agents, or better yet, essential oil sprays with natural disinfecting properties on the mat’s surface after each use.
- Sprinkle baby powder on the mat’s surface to help improve the durability of its sticky surface and to improve the scent, too.12
A good yoga practice begins with a good mat. Choose the best one for you, given your eco-conscious leanings, type of practice, and personal physical needs and preferences.