I remember myself starting yoga more than 10 years ago. That time I didn’t really know what the proper yoga apparel should look like if I needed any, and of course I didn’t have any idea about how important a good yoga mat was for my practice. Now – it may sound funny – but I carry my yoga mat with me wherever I go! Really, I consider it to be an important part of my everyday life. I started with simple and cheap mats, and then turned to be picky about them. Today I use a couple of them that I have chosen myself. So here I want to share my experience on yoga mats and how to choose them.
How to Buy the Right Yoga Mat
In order to find the right mat for you it is important to understand your goals and the specifics of your personal yoga practice. Depending on these factors the yoga mat could be: long, extra thick, anti-bacterial, with good stickiness, travel weight mat, and even Eco-friendly. We have so many choices today, but in the ancient times yogis practiced on simple straw mats or wool blankets. I tried both and from my experience, a straw mat is OK in general (but it may feel rough when you lie on it), but a wool blanket is not very convenient unless it is woven in a special way to prevent slipping of your feet.
What to Consider Before You Buy Anything
- The first thing is your budget: how much do you plan to spend on a yoga mat? Some people say that the budget is a huge factor on getting the right mat, but I don’t think so. Yes, if you are willing to pay more, you can get a better thing, but there are good mats at reasonable prices as well. Also you can think of it as making a long term investment, because normally the good and expensive mats will serve you pretty long, so they will actually save you money in the long term.
- Do you sweat a lot? In case of profuse dripping you will probably not only need a mat but also a towel or a cotton rug to cover your mat – it will absorb the extra moist to prevent slipping. So you can get a cheaper mat but have some spare money to buy a towel.
- Traveling. I have seen people underestimating this point. If you travel a lot, consider buying a lighter yoga mat; it is close to nightmare to carry around a heavy and thick mat – you will hate the bulky thing on the road. Light-weight, easy to pack mat – this is what you need for trips.
What Yoga Mat Should I Buy
We naturally tend to look at the external side of things, and there is nothing wrong with it. When you choose your yoga mat, get the one you like: color, design – you will spend many hours on it so there no sense buying something that has no pleasing look.
I want to give you a personal tip of mine: it is better if a mat has some layout – some lines that help you to align your body while doing asanas (yoga poses). This is not necessary but very helpful!
The next important thing to consider is the material of a yoga mat. The majority of mats are made with PVC or rubber, which provides you with a better grip. Often once you sweat the stickiness of the mat increases.
Some mats are coated with polyurethane giving you even a better grip. The problem with the both types of materials is that they are chemicals and toxic, so not ideal if you want to do yoga in a green environment. For that purpose you can choose mats from recycled materials (recycled rubber, for example), of jute mats, cotton mats and even bamboo mats! Of course not all of them provide the excellent grip, but look and feel healthier.
Texture of the mat is also something to be aware of. It is not a very big deal for me, but I know that some people like raised patterns or bumpiness to mats, while other prefer having a smooth ones for easy-gliding experience. Synthetic mats usually have no special texture since they provide good sticky properties, while Eco-friendly yoga mats may offer some raised texture to keep sliding at a minimum. Also keep in mind that PVC mats are naturally softer, and those made of natural materials have more roughness to them.
How Long Should A Yoga Mat Be?
It depends on how long you need it to be? The simple answer here is that the mat should be as long as your own height plus few extra inches. There is no need to get a really big yoga mat, since you will exhaust yourself carrying it around; just get the size around your own height and slightly longer.
How Thick Should A Yoga Mat Be?
This is another one among the personal preferences. I would say 5-7 mm is enough for the majority of people. Thin mats (3 mm) are good for traveling since they are small, but not suitable for slender people. Too thick mats are pretty comfortable but are difficult to carry them from one place to another. The simple way to test a mat is to do a headstand; or you can try doing ustrasana, paschimottanasana, navasana, sarvangasana – all these poses can help you determine if the mat is thick enough for you or not.
If you want some recommendations on which mats to look at, there are several models below (prices are at the moment of writing this post):
- Prana eco mat ($89)
- Jade Harmony Mat ($55)
- Manduka PROmat ($84)
- Lululemon ‘The Mat” ($68)
- Hugger mugger Earth Elements ($53)