"How on earth will I pick a Yoga Mat?"
An all too common phrase we hear. It's 2019, and there is more selection than ever when it comes to deciding which Yoga Mat is for you.
You ask yourself questions like how thick should it be, do I need alignment lines? What are alignment lines anyway? What material? What color?
OMG we feel overwhelmed already.
Ok lets take a moment and break things down for you.
First of all, think about your practice. Are you new to Yoga or are you a seasoned practitioner. What you will use your mat for? Will you use it to practice at home? If so - what is on the floor where you practice? Carpet, wood? It makes a difference.
Next up - you. Do you sweat much? I know, sure, you actually only glow. But some of us sweat (a lot!), especially if we go to hot yoga. It's relevant. Maybe even consider a yoga towel also if hot yoga is your thing - these stretch over your mat and hook in at the top. Pretty cool.
So when it comes to picking a yoga mat, first and foremost it must be functional, so it must not be slippery and remain stable. Secondly it must be comfortable and, last but not least, it must be easily transportable.
Think about these questions as we break down some of the essentials.
Main features of the best yoga mats
We recently bought a LOT of Yoga Mats which we tested for quality, and used as scenery in the background of our Intro to Yoga course. So we have had a chance to sample a lot of what is on the market.
Of course, although a lot depends on personal taste, there are basic standards that all mats must meet. We had a look at what the professional yogis had to say about the mats they were using. Also, lots of testing these mats in different conditions, such as studios with a lot of or little heating, on carpeted floors, on wooden floors. Of course we also used them during a typical yoga class.
Traction and stability of a Mat
After many hours of testing & chatting with different practitioners we determined that the balance between traction and stability is the most important factor in choosing a yoga mat. Imagine trying to perform even a simple down dog and having your hands slip. Or stepping back into warrior 2 and then having your feet move. Nightmare. The thickness of the mat will impact on stability - too thick and while nice and comfy on your knees, it will be a pain when you try and balance. Try and find a happy medium for you. The pattern and material will impact the traction and stickiness of the mat.
Size and thickness of a Yoga Mat
Unless you are very tall, the size of the mat is usually not a problem. Though personally, we prefer a larger size mat simply because we hate lying back and having our head over the top of the mat. How does that happen every time?
So basically, don't worry too much about size, unless you are a big six footer. If there is an option to get a bigger one though, consider it regardless.
Thickness is critical though. It is what will allow you to feel comfortable, but in turn, it should not be too thick to avoid interfering with your balance. Standard-thickness Yoga Mats are 3mm (1/8 inch), thicker mats can nice at 5 or 6mm (1/4 inch), while thin mats, touted for travel, can be as thin as 1.5mm (1/16th inch).
The thickness you prefer really depends on your personal preference. Some people prefer a very thick yoga mat, so you don't even feel the floor. Others, prefer the comfort of a thin and lightweight yoga mat, ideal for transporting in your city or even on vacation. I personally prefer a 3mm (1/4 inch) or a 5mm (just under 1/8 inch) mat. I like to feel the floor, and not get too comfortable. I put up with a bit of pain in my joints and knees as a compromise. It keeps me present and grounded.
Elements to consider when choosing a yoga mat
The material of the mat is very important because this is what determines its consistency, adherence, sponginess and eco-friendliness. Standard yoga mats are made mostly of PVC, the latest ecological options are in natural and recycled rubber, jute, cork, organic cotton or natural cotton. However, if you suffer from latex allergies, avoid natural rubber mats. The mats that last longer over time are those made from PVC. However, they also have the most impact on the environment. Our current favourite is either natural rubber or cork.
The stickiness of the mat depends on the texture and if it's slippy it is certainly going to hold you back.The least slippery are sadly the PVC mats, if instead you want to avoid this material and we suggest you to opt for natural rubber, cork, jute or cotton mats, but ones that have a bit of texture to give extra grip.
Color & Design
This is important of course, but less than you might think. Sure you want to love it, stand out, be unique. But ultimately, if the rest of the mix isn't right - you wont love it. We prefer to keep things simple, stay focused, and don't get distracted from your practice.
Yep, ideally pick a material that's ecologically sound. PVC isn't the best if you are worried both about the environment or potentially even your health.
Environmental concerns about PVC are real. You can't recycle it, and when you try to dispose of it through incineration or having it buried in a landfill, it releases dioxin — a cancer-causing chemical.
Production of PVC mats also emits chemicals, including chlorine gas, mercury and vinyl chloride, into the atmosphere.
Opt for natural rubber (which may smell at least initially) or cork.
The cork used in some yoga products is a 100% renewable and recyclable material that is obtained through one of the most environmentally friendly harvesting methods in the world. Not a single tree is cut down to harvest cork; rather, the bark is stripped by hand every 9 years. Additionally, no bark is wasted during the cork production process, and the residue is granulated to make other cork products and even cork dust is used for fuel.
Cork might be the way to go if you care about the environment. Natural rubber also cool though!
Material and design certainly affect price (as does brand of course!). In the lower price range there are PVC mats with an average thickness. Eco-friendly mats have a slightly higher price as materials aren't as cheap as pvc. Another factor that affects the price, besides the material, are the treatments and finishes of the mat.
Personally, we would opt for quality. And to get good quality you will have to pay a higher price.
On the upside, paying a bit more for something often means you end up appreciating it more. We love nice things!
6 final considerations, tips and key factors to help you choose the perfect yoga mat for you
As you could see throughout this article, there are many factors to consider before choosing a yoga mat. This fact is, it should be seen as an investment, so do try a number of yoga mats before making a final decision. Ask friends for a go on theirs, read reviews and get recommendations.
Invest in your practice, your safety and your health. The best choice is to go for a premium high quality mat instead of going for a cheaper product.
Try these infinity mats - we love them! Simple, but elegant. Really high quality. Great grip & made from natural rubber.