Yoga is a popular practice and continues to grow as a means to involve yourself in a low-intensity workout, build strength, and condition the body both physically and mentally. Because it is commonly practiced on solid, durable surfaces, a yoga mat of some type is highly recommended for comfort and balance.
Even if you are not new to Yoga, knowing about the different types of yoga mats available to you is well worth exploring. Advances in technology have expanded these selections to include a wide variety of colors, shapes, thicknesses, and sizes. Below we explain the details you may want to consider to help you find the best type of yoga mat to meet your specific needs.
How is a Yoga Mat Used?
These cushioned mats are used for both balance and comfort while holding poses during a yoga session. They allow you to grip a surface without slipping and also keep your joints from painfully resting upon the hard surface of a studio, or home, floor. This is especially important if you take advantage of helpful products, such as a foam roller to provide added protection against hard surfaces.
They also provide a sense of personal space, and many people like the metaphor of this to represent the private creation of room to work within. This is especially true when you practice in a crowded studio or are removing yourself from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The mat becomes symbolic of a new space for you to center yourself within.
Yoga mats are not required to practice yoga, but most people find it a comforting tool for both physical and mental stimulation.
Types of Yoga Mats
If you are wondering what is the best kind of yoga mat, look no further. Exploring the various types of mats is the best way to determine what type is the best for you. Not only do they come in various shapes and sizes, but they also can be chosen based on aesthetic design, weights, and grip. The following explains the details you may want to consider before choosing the best mat for you.
Everything from ‘sticky’ surfaces for added grip to natural fibers is incorporated into these mat options. Natural materials, synthetic materials, and various blends are all available for you to choose from.
Basic Sticky Mat
Sticky mats aren’t actually ‘sticky’ but they do provide an improved, textured grip to avoid slipping on the floor, as well as allowing you to hold steady during poses. They are great for those who sweat or are concerned with balance.
Cotton and/or Hemp Mats
These thick fabric mats absorb sweat well and are easy to wash, plus they provide great cushioning. They don’t always have the best traction, however, and may slip on hard, solid surfaces.
Plastic Elastomer Mat
Plastic elastomer is gaining ground as the most popular choice due to advances in technology. These are eco-friendly options and provide excellent traction, plus they are a great choice for those with sensitive skin. They can breakdown if not properly cared for, however.
Natural Rubber and Rubber/Cork Mats
Rubber mats were one of the first types of yoga mat materials every introduced and are still a popular choice. These are non-toxic and environmentally friendly. Cork is also used on these to increase grip.
Jute is an all-natural option. It is durable, sticky, and very eco-friendly. They are a popular choice if you are not interested in synthetic material options.
Mats come in a few various sizes to meet the needs of your own height and reach while in a pose. Most standards or traditional sizes are designed for people who stand 5’8” or less. These are 68 by 24 inches and are generally large enough to provide youth space you need for any pose.
However, for those who are taller, have a wider reach, or simply want more room can choose from extra large options that measure up to 84 inches in length and 30 inches in width.
There also are small options designed for those of short stature, or for children who would like their very own mat. These are generally 60 inches or less. Travel sizes also fall into this category and are specifically created as a smaller, lighter choice so you can more easily pack it or carry it when you travel.
The average mat is typically between 4 and 5mm thick, but thicker options exist for high impact yoga to help with the protection of joints, palms, and feet against a hard, underlying surface. Children’s mats are also often a bit thicker to help protect them if balance is lost during their practice.
Extra thin options are available as well for when you are working on a softer surface. These are typically under 4mm thick and also weightless for easier travel.
Traditional mats are rectangular in shape, but round, oval, square, and even hourglass-shaped mats exist for specific needs or purposes. Rounded choices often have a thicker center and are desi
gned for centered poses, sitting, and meditation. Square options are often large enough for two people and can be convenient for teaching young children.
Other Types of Details
There are many other details you should consider when making your yoga mat purchase. These options are often specific to your own personal needs or preferences. These may not be as important as thickness or size but are still worth making note of.
Colors and Patterns
It used to be you had a very limited range of colors to choose from when picking out a mat, but much has changed with advances in technology and how mats are made. Not only do you have a wide range of colors and hues to pick from, but you also can pick from prints and patterns that help reflect who you are, and what you are comfortable with. Customization is also available and allows you to choose from a wide variety of pre-made options, or even have your own design or favorite used.
Reversible mats may be a popular choice for you if you like to practice various types of yoga. Occasionally these require a differently textured surface or you may find yourself more comfortable with a different material for certain poses.
Types of Yoga and Preferred Mat Types
Yoga is not a one size fits all experience and there are many styles of yoga that you can incorporate into your life. Many people find they prefer one type over another, or like to embrace a few different practices to help round out their workout and for physical and mental stimulation.
Some mats work better than others for these different styles and the following provides some suggestions pertaining to what mat you might want based on what you practice. Our own tops picks are reflected in these styles for your considerations.
Hatha yoga is a traditional style of yoga that is commonly practiced in studios and at home. This is a gentle practice that most people start out with before exploring other styles. Its focus is on breathing and proper posture so a comfortable, padded mat is all you really need.
This is a more advanced form of the classic Hatha Yoga that is a study in how each posture flows into the next. This practice is called the Universal Principle of Alignment and is a common next step for those interested in those wanting to know more about yoga. A durable, standard mat is good for this.
This is a fast-paced practice that ends each pose after five breaths and a half sun salutation. You want a mat that offers good stability and grip due to the number of quick movements and balance shifting you will be taking part in.
Bikram or Hot Yoga
Bikram yoga is a very strict practice that follows 26 poses in a room heated between 95 and 104 degrees. If it varies from the common method of poses it may also be called hot yoga. Most people sweat quite a bit during this and so a good non-slip mat is a must.
This is a style of yoga defined by a careful execution of each pose. It is done in a focused manner and so does not include quick pose changes. Sometimes props are used as well. A thin, grippy mat is preferred.
Jivamukti combines poses with chanting to help with breathing techniques. Because of its eco-friendly philosophy, choose a mat that is eco-friendly as well. Also, one that is comfortable for seated chanting and meditation is preferred.
This is a physical and mental challenge and is considered quite intense overall. It combines moving through repetitive poses with chanting and meditation breaks. They are high impact sessions and require a thick mat for durability. Rubber is an excellent option.
Focus on strength and flexibility is behind prenatal classes to help with a mother’s changing body. Mats that provide stability and a good grip are a must to help with balance and center of gravity.
Restorative or Yin Yoga
Both of these styles are gentle and are used for recovery and balance. Although they do differ from one another slightly, thicker or wider mats are often preferred for these practices.
Timed breathing, concentration, and a fluid movement between poses is the center of Vinyasa Yoga. Many people who use this style also work with others and so a good reversible mat may be preferred.
Yoga Mat Alternatives
A yoga mat is not a requirement to practice but is a popular tool for both comfort and mental spacing. If you are looking for an alternative you can use a variety of other options to help soften a hard surface or provide protection when needed. Towels, woven mats, Thick woven fabrics, ribbed gloves and/or socks for traction, carpet squares, or even bath mats are all commonly used in home practice.
There are actually special towels made for practice and there are a few differences of a yoga towel vs mat you may want to consider- especially since they are popular for hot yoga styles. Some people like to use an exercise mat in place of a traditional yoga mat, so be sure to check out the differences between an exercise mat vs yoga mat.
Yoga Mat Care
Yoga mats do help keep you off well-used studio floors and high traffic carpets so they do get dirty easily. Plus, your own sweat and body oils get on it which means you need to keep it clean. Wiping it down after each use is good practice, with a deeper clean every so often helps keep. Special yoga mat cleansers or simple mild soap and water will do the trick.
Hopefully, this article has explained your many options when it comes to deciding which yoga mat might be best for you. Everything from size and thickness, color and shape, can be decided upon. Always remember to consider your own size and needs for what you are practicing before making a final decision.
If you have any questions or comments, please let us know below. And, as always, please share!