How to Buy the Right Yoga Mat
Whether a dabbler in down-dog or a daily yogi, investing in a good yoga mat is essential. That trusty mat provides comfort between the body and floor, cushioning hips, elbows, and knees when flowing through the poses. The mat also creates a boundary for personal space. (Do not enter, person next to me in half-moon!). So forget rentals, which can be a hot spot for germs, and learn what to look for when in the market for a solid mat.
Mat Mania — Your Action Plan
Photo by Jordan Shakeshaft
Material. Most mats are made with a type of plastic called PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, which keeps slippage at a minimum and tends to be the most affordable. Alas, PVC is also considered a toxic plastic that’s difficult (and costly) to recycle. So for the environmentally conscious, go the green route when in tree pose and choose a material like recycled rubber, jute, cotton, or even bamboo!
- Thickness. The standard mat is 1/8 inches thick, offering support to the body, but still allowing the user to feel connected to the ground. Travel mats (a lighter weight option) are usually about 1/16 inch thick, making them a suitcase’s best friend. For those who want some extra cushion (whether sporting bad knees or always falling out of crow pose) a thicker mat — closer to 1/4 inch — may be the best bet.
- Length. A typical yoga mat is 68 inches long, though they do make super-stretched mats for the Johnny Long Legs out there. (Don’t want those palms on the hard floor in down-dog!)
- Stickiness. A sticky yoga mat is key to prevent slippin’ and sliding when making moves. (Now that’s a sticky situation.) PVC mats are usually super sticky, and some are even made with a fabric-like surface on top and a patterned bottom to help hands (and the mat itself) stay put. But many eco-friendly mats often add a raised texture to keep sliding at a minimum, too, or are made with naturally slip-resistant rubber. A yoga mat’s texture will also determine how much slippage occurs. PVC mats are naturally softer (extra-long savasana, anyone?), while other materials (like jute!) have a roughness to them.
- Price. A no-frills, 1/8 inch thick PVC mat will often be cheapest option. The price tags increase when design, brand name, thickness, and eco-materials are part of the purchasing process. (Some mats come in at more than $100!) Just remember not to fall for the cheap stuff (that $10 mat may not be the best choice). Investing in a reliable mat is important, but that savings account surely shouldn’t be sacrificed!
- Test it out. If still unsure what mat is best for the body, no need to splurge right away. Go the “measure twice, cut once” route and test out some high-quality mats at various studios or do some research before buying.
- Extra, Extra! It may be worth investing in a no-slip towel that lays right on top of the mat (especially for hot yoga!). Mats with straps and harnesses are also great to help make transportation a breeze. And definitely don’t forget to keep the mat clean, too. (Gross!) A good sign the mat needs a wipe-down is if it loses its stickiness or if that nose is not happy in child’s pose. Purchase some cleaning spray or go the DIY route for a squeaky-clean yoga experience.
What's your go-to yoga mat? Do you have a favorite? Tell us below!
Comments Leave a comment
My favorite mat is the Jade Harmony. Super thin and portable, very grippy. I also have a super thick mat that I use for my home practice. I don't like to tote it around because it is rather unwieldy but it feels great on my knees. Note that thicker mats can make things like standing balance poses harder!
@yogidance Totally true! I haven't used the Jade Harmony mat yet, but I've heard amazing things. Curious — if thicker mats were available at a studio, would you use it or stick to a thinner one?
@lschwech I think It would depend. Sometimes I double up on mats if my knees or wrists are bothering me. Other times I really want to feel very grounded and like working with a thinner mat (even at home). It also depends on the kind of class. If its something more restorative, I'd definitely go for that thicker mat.
I've found the Jade mat amazing for Hatha and other unheated classes but I've heard it absorbs sweat quite a bit. I'm a big fan of the Manduka Eco Mat. While a little pricey, it's super sturdy and light enough to haul from class to class. It doesn't hurt that Mandukas are super eco friendly and come with a lifetime guarantee. My hands sweat all the time (they're clamming up as I type!) so I use a non-slip towel most of the time as well. They sell them at Winners for around $15 and they do the trick just as well as the more expensive ones you might find at Lululemon. Speaking of Lululemon, their mats are quite efficient as well. The "Align" Mat is a great mat for beginners as it offers a ton of cushioning and general guidelines for where to put your hands and feet but you may find yourself slipping all over it in a hot class. "The Mat" offered at all Lululemon locations, however, is double sided and great for both a heated and non-heated room, even without a nifty towel. All of these brands offer a wide variety of colours so it's really a matter of testing them out and finding the one you love in order to personalize and enhance your practice.
@cattattack Super, super interesting! Thank you for all the tips — especially where to find an affordable non-slip towel. I've been meaning to get one but they can be pretty pricey. I definitely want to check out "The Mat" too...I'm starting to do more hot yoga and the double-sided feature sounds awesome.
Great insight and suggestion.. I am a big fan of the manduka eco mat. I dont think price is a top priority when considering health products. And yoga mats are no different. I do yoga at home in my garage and post tips at http://getpaid2train.com and a good yoga mat is definitely one of them.
@Tripp Manduka eco mat is definitely a killer option among mats! And I think you're right — there are definitely ways to stay healthy and fit without going for the most expensive option. I also think investment is super important....a yoga mat may be worth $40 or $50 if you know it'll last a long time!
I'm fairly new to yoga and love my BALANCE mat from Aspen Yoga Mats. Perfect length & thickness - and not to sound too girlie, but I love the colors!
I bought a mat recently that is the worst mat ever, hard like a rock, thin, and my hands slide everywhere...and it was $30! So now I put it on top of my told mat and use both...it is good for my wrists at least.
Thanks so much for sharing such a helpful blog! I've just bought a yoga mat from http://www.yogaunited.co.uk/ And it's fantastic, I bought it mainly because of it's thickness and I was a bit apprehensive about it having that chemical smell, but it's completley odour free!
How can I roll up the mat so that the dirty bottom side does not touch the cleaner top side??? Is this even possible?
@runningwild One trick that's worked for me is to lay a towel down on top of the yoga mat and then roll it up normally-- this way, the dirty bottom touches the towel instead of the mat itself. Just wash the towel on a regular basis and you should be good to go. A slightly more time-intensive solution is to buy a cleaning spray and wipe down both sides of the mat before rolling it up each time (though it's best to let the mat air-dry for a bit after spraying so it's not damp when it's rolled up). Hope this helps!
I'm joining this so late - I wonder if anyone will even read this comment. I just wanted to make mention of the mat that I am using - a KharmaKhare mat (www.kharmakhare.com). They weren't even around when this article was written, but I think they deserve to be on your radar screen. Their mats are made 100% of recycled rubber tires. Thick, durable, awesome grip (even when I sweat through Ashtanga)!