The Yoga Mat Guide
Never before have we had so many choices in mats. Selecting the right mat for your practice can make your Yoga experience not only more comfortable, but also safer. Depending on the style of Yoga asana (pose based practice) you prefer to engage in your mat selection can enhance your experience and help you get the most out of your practice.
Here are some functional considerations for selecting a Yoga mat you are going to love.
1. Consider your sweat factor.
If you like a hot, sweaty vinyasa practice - or, perhaps you are someone who naturally sweats a lot regardless of the temperature of the room - you are going to want a yoga mat that can withstand the moisture. Sweat that pools up gets slippery which becomes a safety hazard. And a mat that allows sweat to sink in deep can get stinky. What you want to look for is a material that is both sweat-wicking and antimicrobial. Manufactured rubber material and natural rubber materials tend to be the best for this. Though some skin is sensitive to natural rubber, which is why we opted for a synthetic rubber material for our mats.
2. Get Grippy
When you are moving a lot on your mat you don't want your hands or feet to slip. A top material that is ultra grippy is going to give you a more comfortable practice. The plastic or PVC based yoga mats - which are very common at low price points - are most often not going to offer the grip required for a solid practice.
3. Skip the 'Slip n Slide'
In the same way you want your hands and feet to easily grip the mat, you also want the mat itself to remain still. Lightweight mats very often also mean you're in for a lot of sliding around. Heavier mats more easily weight down to the floor, and premium mats should also have an underside that is scored to create traction ensuring that the mat and the floor stay put while you flow.
A mat should be an investment that can withstand daily use. A high quality mat shouldn't end up in a landfill, but rather should be a staple piece of equipment that you can enjoy for years to come. Look for a mat that is 3MM - 5MM and made of dense materials. Thick foam fitness mats may be great for floor work but they wear out and often tear from flow, and thin plastic mats are easy to tote around but they fall apart quickly once they are met with heat, sweaty and regular use.
5. Cushioned but Firm
Just like a mattress a Yoga mat should care for your joints. Squishy foam is not dense enough to offer stability. Conversely, thin single-layer mats may not have enough give to support the joints. Some single-later mats made of premium material fit the bill. But often it is the double layer mats that perform best. The bottom layer is intended to grip to the floor and offer padding. The top later is designed to be grippy for the hands and firm enough to support the body as it moves.
While are partial to The Practice Mat we also are inspired by mat products made by Manduka and Jade. Bottom line a Yoga mat should be an investment. While cost is a factor for everyone, we often find that a cheap mat ends up costing way more simply because the person using it ends up having to replace it over and over and over again because they fall apart fast. Upgrade to a mat that is going to last you years of regular use.