Yoga mats are the kind of accessory that you want to have if you’re serious about practicing yoga. But since not all yoga mats are constructed the same, you’re going to have to learn the differences between them if you want to figure out which type of mat best suits your needs.
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Tips on What to Look for in a Yoga Mat
You might think that choosing something as trivial as a yoga mat doesn’t take too much knowledge, but you’d be surprised at how easy it is to buy the wrong item. As always, buying the right type of product starts with identifying your personal needs and knowing where to go from there.
Step One: Identifying your needs
- A yoga mat designed to be great for starters is different than one for an expert. With that in mind, it’s important to pinpoint what type of yogi you are, and it all starts with considering your body type and your personal needs. For example, if you know that you get sore joints easily, you will benefit from a mat with extra padding. However, a thick mat might cause you to lose balance when practicing yoga if you’re a beginner.
- First thing’s first: choose a mat size that’s proportionate to your body’s height. If you’re tall, you want to select a mat that’s long (the standard length for a yoga mat is 68 inches, but you want something longer than that).
- How much is a yoga mat? The type of yoga that you practice will also have a say in how you pick the right mat. Beginners should generally avoid spending hundreds of dollars on a new expensive mat until they can figure out more about their body’s needs and responses when it comes to practicing yoga.
- If you attend flow yoga classes, then your pool of movements is more complex, which means that you should look for a mat with really good traction. This means that even when you try on more difficult poses, your arms and legs will stay fixed on the surface of the mat. But, if you opt for yin classes, you will need a mat with more cushioning, as most of your practice will require sitting on the ground. Those of you that need a mat to practice hot yoga will require a product that was designed with this specific purpose in mind.
- The place where you practice yoga will also have a say in which type of mat is best suited for you. For example, those of you that practice yoga at home don’t require a lightweight travel mat. Those of you that practice yoga directly on a cold floor will require a thick mat with good insulation.
Step Two: Knowing your materials
- What are yoga mats made of? They’re made from different materials and, as you’d expect, that means they have different advantages and drawbacks that you should know about before choosing to buy one for yourself. How are yoga mats made? In a factory where all the materials and resins are bonded together in a mixture and then poured in sheets.
- PVC mats are basically made from plastic. They are the most affordable type of yoga mats out there, and the ones that offer a good grip. However, there are plenty of concerns that plastic mats might not be the best idea, health-wise. Furthermore, even if they are more durable in the long run, PVC yoga mats are harmful to the environment, which is why you might want to look for a more eco-friendly solution if protecting nature is something you’re interested in.
- Rubber mats are a much better choice. For example, you can consider mats made from thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) which is a blend made from plastic and rubber polymers. Even if these mats are more eco-friendly compared to those made entirely from PVC, they aren’t the most reliable ones. Some of them might be fully recyclable, but they aren’t as durable as PVC mats.
- If your budget allows it, you should consider buying natural mats. These are made with fibers derived from organic cotton, jute, and even rubber. These eco mats aren’t as grippy on the floor but they do provide plenty of body and surface grip thanks to their texture. They are sustainable products with a shorter lifespan compared to PVC. They also have tons of great colors to choose from.
Step Three: Choosing the right thickness
- How thick should a yoga mat be? The thickness of the mat is a very important buying consideration. For example, those of you that are looking for portability don’t want a mat that’s very thick, as this will add to the total weight of the product.
- The standard thickness for a yoga mat is ⅛ inches (which is around 0.125 inches). If you have no clue what thickness to choose, might as well opt for this one. These mats will do just fine if you are a person with plenty of flow during yoga practice.
- The advantage of choosing a yoga mat that’s thin lies in the fact that you will get more contact with the floor, making it easier for you to maintain balance throughout a variety of different poses. If the mat were too thick, you might lose balance and get frustrated because of that. However…
- A thicker mat means more cushioning and, in some cases, they might be a better choice. For example, if you have some sort of medical condition (like arthritis) or your muscles and joints easily start to feel sore, you want a mat with more cushioning. However, you need to keep in mind that thicker mats might cause some difficulties in your maintaining certain poses, but they are a preferred alternative to risking an injury.
Step Four: Other buying considerations
While the information above roughly covers everything you should know before buying a mat for yoga, there are still a few things that we have to get out of the way:
- If you’re short on space, you want to look for a mat that’s easy to roll up and store. Naturally, if your mat is super thick, you might have trouble doing so. However, there are mats with secure straps that can hold the mat rolled up in storage.
- Speaking of straps, they’re something you want to have if you want a mat you can take with you to a yoga class or on your travels. You should be able to find yoga mat models that come with adjustable Velcro straps that allow you to throw it on your shoulder and be on your way.
- Establish and budget and try to stick to it, because a mat can cost anything between $10 to hundreds of dollars. Naturally, a $10 mat is probably made of plastic, has no cushioning, and emits a strange chemical-like smell. Rubber mats are more expensive, but they’re also eco-friendly and safe for you to use.
Choosing the right yoga mat is a process that depends on a variety of different factors. Buying one because someone else told you they use it and it’s good doesn’t really mean much if your body has completely different needs or if the type of yoga that you practice is different. You will first have to establish what features to prioritize in a yoga mat and determine what your body needs from a product of this kind before you move onto making any type of purchase.