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How to Choose a Yoga Mat
So you finally tried yoga and now you’re hooked? Great! You’re on your way to a stronger, more flexible, more relaxed body and mind.
Now you’ll need your own mat, since no one wants to practice on a used gym mat. A personal yoga mat also enables you to use something specifically suited to your preferences and purposes. For instance, will you be doing hot yoga? Do you have sensitive joints? Will you be using it daily, or just every so often?
Choosing a mat used to be quite simple, when only a few variations of colors and materials existed. As yoga becomes more popular, options continue to expand from your standard-size $10 PVC mat for beginners to $130 eco-friendly hot yoga mats (that’s commitment!)
So many choices can be overwhelming, which is why I am here to walk you through some key factors that will help you choose the best yoga mat for you.
Yoga mats come in various density levels, from so thin you’re basically on the floor, to so thick you can slightly sink in. Each has their purpose, but thickness will contribute to your comfort level and ability to maintain stability. The thinner the mat, the more you can connect with the floor and maintain balance. The thicker the mat, the more cushion you’ll have for knees, elbows, and spine. The tradeoff for comfort, however, can be less stability, which is crucial in many yoga poses.
Only you know your personal goals and the needs of your body and the density you require. If you just want to improve fitness but need lots of cushion, thicker may be better. If your goal is to improve balance quickly and learn more advanced poses, a thinner mat is more ideal. Yoga pros typically use thinner mats for this reason.
Most mats range from 1/8-inch (3mm) thick to 1/2-inch (15mm). Extra-thick mats can also be used for Pilates due to the extra back support during floor work.
(One additional bonus of thicker mats is that they can also be used as a general exercise mat at home, the office, or outdoors for stretching, core workouts, and floor exercises.)
The type of material you choose will depend on your preference of weight, ability to retain its shape, type of yoga you’ll be doing, and your values (eco-friendly or not). Lightweight mats are easier to carry, shape is important for durability, and a mat’s ability to resist water will affect the safety and hygiene of your mat, particularly for users who tend to sweat more or have a passion for hot yoga.
PVC mats are the most common and least expensive. They hold their shape well, making them durable and dependable. They are “sticky”, which helps them stay in place on the floor, and provide a non-slip grip to prevent sliding during poses. They are also lightweight, making them great for travel. PVC yoga mats are not typically as eco-friendly as other materials, though many are made more earth-friendly by eliminating toxic phthalates, dioxins, furans, and heavy metals. These are good for beginner or advanced users, and versatile for everyday use.
NBR is a type of synthetic rubber that is water-resistant and tends to be thicker, and therefore less stable in standing poses. Its high-density nature makes it the most comfortable in terms of padding and giving cushion between you and the floor. It may stretch slightly during some poses, or leave imprints temporarily, but goes back to its shape afterwards. NBR is what ProSource uses to make its non-slip, extra thick mats, which are great for use on hard floors and users who need a low-maintenance mat.
TPE is a more earth-friendly rubber because it is a recyclable material. Closed-cell TPE is waterproof, making it easy to clean and more durable than open cell, which absorbs water and sweat. Closed-cell TPE mats are not ideal for hot yoga due to their recyclable nature, but they can be covered by a moisture-absorbing mat towel. Our dual-layered, closed-cell TPE mats are textured for a non-slip grip, making them great for any other form of yoga.
3. Texture & Grip
A secure, non-slip grip is of great importance in any yoga class, whether hot yoga, Hatha, Ashtanga, or any other type you love. Many yoga styles and poses require balance, resisting gravity, and seamless flow between movements, so a raised or bumpy texture is common on most mats. This enables your hands and feet to have solid placement on your mat for safety as you hold your downward-facing dog, tree pose, or warrior II. After all, yoga is supposed to help you relax and destress, right? Not create anxiety as you struggle to stay in place!
For these reasons, you’ll want to be most particular when choosing a mat for hot yoga. A good mat towel can also make a big difference.
A mat should also have some degree of stickiness that will help it adhere to hard studio floors, or even the carpet in your home. PVC are typically the stickiest, but if bumpy textures bother you, try a more eco-conscious TPE or NBR mat.
Standard yoga mats are about 68-inches long by 24-inches wide, which works for most people and are great for beginners. However, taller users may find this length slightly uncomfortable for savasana or poses that require a longer stretch. Longer mats can be found up to 84 inches, and some as wide as 36 inches. Many extra-large large mats are often thick as well, making them more comfortable for some users, but difficult to roll up and store.
This choice will be largely dependent on your height, weight, and need for cushioning. If you want some extra length and surface area without the extra width or thickness, you can also use a slightly longer mat while employing accessories like yoga gloves to provide that sticky grip to the floor when poses require you to extend off the mat in either direction.
Many people love to express themselves through their clothes, accessories, and even yoga mats. Working out on a standard blue yoga mat might even make yoga feel boring to these individuals, whereas if you have a designed mat that looks unique, it will brighten up your day and make you look forward to each yoga class.
However, a middle-aged man won’t carry a purple mat with a floral design to save his life, and may search high and low for a plain gray or black mat. More often than not, users with more basic requirements can find solid colors or simple designs which will meet your expectations for performance. But for users who desire a bit more flourish, finding a unique and beautiful mat may help you stick to your yoga routine.