Does the type of yoga mat you use make a difference? The short answer is, yes! There are however numerous factors to consider when deciding which is the best yoga mat for you. Use these tips for finding the best yoga mat before your next downward facing dog!
Why is it Important to Choose the Best Yoga Mat?
If you are practicing yoga on a hard floor, it is highly recommended that you stand on something. Yoga mats are ideal for this but you can also use a towel, rug or blanket. A proper yoga mat however provides you the ability to press your palms and feet down into a great stretch without distressing about slipping.
One slip and you could easily hurt your face, break your teeth, bust your nose….…the possible injuries are numerous. In other words, one layer of towel probably is not going to do the trick! Finding the best yoga mat can help prevent injuries – who knew?
In addition to helping prevent you from slipping, there should also be a cushiony layer between your feet and the floor. One of the reasons for this is because proper yoga practice involves clearing the mind as you move your body and having your feet planted on a cold, hard surface will draw your attention to your feet and not to your Zen during your practice.
In addition, certain sitting and standing positions can be very uncomfortable if there is nothing separating your body from a hard surface. Even worse, it can lead to discomfort unrelated to the muscle building and stretching, again potentially distracting you from you flow of Zen. Many people use a yoga mat because of the comfort and safety factor so finding the best yoga mat is important.
In addition, another important consideration, especially if you are going to a class outside your home, using a mat can help protect you from germs if practicing in a yoga studio, gym or a school. If you do not want your bare feet touching the possible dirty or germy (think other people’s sweat – ick!) ground that countless other pairs of feet have stepped on, having that yoga mat is perhaps a definite plus. This means it is also a good idea to keep your yoga mat clean and sanitized as well. This is my favorite cleaner:
Is there a Difference in Yoga Mats?
When looking for a yoga mat, look for ones that provide good grip, hence the name “sticky mat”. This will give you a high-grip surface so you can feel secure in your postures. Of course, the thickness and style are considerations as well. Because the higher end mats tend to be thicker, they offer more cushiony goodness and are built to endure heat, but they can be heavier in weight.
Therefore, if you know you will be carrying a mat with you or traveling with your mat, you will want to consider having more than one. For example, I keep a yoga mat at my work where I do yoga and one at home. I also have a thinner lighter weight mat that I am able to fold and put into my luggage when I am traveling. Finding the best yoga mat for all these situations was important to me.
The price of yoga mats varies greatly and is mostly dependent on what they are made out of. The less expensive mats tend to be made of polyvinyl chloride foam (PVC), a more toxic product that is difficult to recycle and can also be slippery when you are practicing. The more expensive mats, $100+ and up, tend to be made with more eco-friendly materials but always check the label beforehand to be sure you know what you are buying.
What to Look for in a Yoga Mat
The material your yoga mat is made from will determine its texture, stickiness, eco-friendliness, and cushioning and how it wears over the long term. Most regular yoga mats in today’s market are made of PVC, otherwise known as vinyl.
Newer, more earth-friendly options include natural and recycled rubber, vegetable fibres, and organic cotton or natural cotton.
- If you are allergic to latex, it is a no brainer to avoid yoga mats made of natural rubber.
- If you want to stick with the tried and true sticky mat, choose a yoga mat made out of PVC, which can endure your use and abuse for more than a decade.
- Sponginess can vary widely with different blends of materials, but in general, PVC has the most “give” of any yoga mat material; jute and cotton have the least.
Another consideration in finding the best yoga mat is the texture of your yoga mat. Texture dictates how much grip it will provide you. In other words, texture affects how much slipping and sliding you will do especially if you are practicing Vinyasa and trying to flow the sequences. Mat texture actually provides physical barriers to sliding (whereas stickiness relies on suction). Moreover, because texture influences the way a yoga mat actually feels, it is an important part of how comfortable it will be for you.
The texture of the mat can be either fabricated (a pattern of raised bumps, for example) or naturally made depending on the material. For example jute yoga mats, which are made from vegetable fibers, have a natural roughness to them, while PVC yoga mats, even slightly textured, have a softer feel. At the end of the day, texture is a very personal thing. You need to decide what feels best for you.
If you are looking for a yoga mat that prevents slipping and you would like to go more eco-friendly, look for a rubber, jute, or cotton yoga mat that has a raised, tactile pattern. The added grip the raised texture will keep you in place no matter how sweaty or spirited your yoga class gets. Good for hot yoga sessions as well.
If you do not like the idea of “bumps” or roughness, then a smooth PVC yoga mat is the way for you to go. In addition, if you still want some stickiness and are curious about the newer, more earth-friendly options, try them out as well.
If you need help staying put in your poses and appreciate a good sun salutation but you do not like the idea of practicing on a yoga mat with an elevated texture, a PVC yoga mat is probably your best bet.
Remember however that yoga mats are only sticky when they are clean, so make sure you care for your yoga mat on a regular basis. If you buy a PVC yoga mat, wash it before you use it and use a handy yoga wash cleaner whenever you notice that you are no longer “sticking” to your poses, as you should be.
If eco-friendliness is essential to you, avoid yoga mats made of vinyl, which does not break down in landfills and is difficult and costly to recycle. Yoga mats made out of rubber, jute and, cotton are more eco-friendly, have a range of thickness that can meet your needs for comfort and portability, and have a texture (such as a raised symmetrical pattern) that as mentioned, prevents your hands from slipping and sliding during a downward dog.
- Price range
Typically, a basic 1/8 inch thick, plain solid-color PVC sticky yoga mat will be toward the low end of the price range. From there you may pay more for patterns, designs or logos; premium thickness; antimicrobial treatments; and cool textures, especially raised tactile patterns. Eco-friendly yoga mats tend to be toward the high end of the price range. The better the quality, the more likely it will have a longer life as well.
Mats come in different thicknesses an a standard yoga mat is about 1/8 inch thick, while the thickest are about 1/4 inch. The trade-off for considering thickness is that thick yoga mats (some as thick as 1/4 inch) can make it harder for you to feel a strong connection to the floor, making you more wobbly in Tree Pose, for example. Choice of thickness when choosing a yoga mat is definitely left to personal preferences.
Once you have narrow ed your choices down by thickness, material, texture, stickiness, eco-friendliness, and price, there is only one factor left: style! So go ahead and pick your favorite color, pattern, or print. After all, you will be seeing a lot of it in downward dog.
Is it Worth it to Choose a More Expensive Yoga Mat?
When in the search for finding the best yoga mat, some people will tell you no, there is no reason to spend more money on a better quality Yoga mat. I beg to differ, here are five reasons the answer should be yes!
- You will save money: When buying a pricier mat, it will cost you more money upfront, but it is often because they are thicker, longer lasting, and made from better-quality materials. A cheaper mat, by comparison, may begin to flake after less than a year of using it. In the end, you will actually save money since you will not have to purchase a new mat as often.
- Better for you and the planet: Since mats that are more expensive tend to be made with higher-quality materials that last longer, it means buying one mat instead of five — or more! Not only are fewer mats ending up in landfills, but yoga mats made out of rubber, jute and, cotton are more eco-friendly and easier to recycle.
- Ooh, the feel: When you come into your first Downward Dog on a pricier mat, you will notice the difference in smoothness, stickiness, and how it is denser. All of these factors contribute to fewer distractions from your Zen and a safer, more relaxed practice.
- It May Motivate You: Investing in a more expensive mat can inspire you to practice more, because not only does it feel more luxurious, but also to get your money’s worth. It would be a shame to have a $70 mat sitting in your closet gathering dust bunnies right?
- It’s Worth the Splurge: Yoga is a pretty inexpensive activity so besides buying a mat, there really isn’t much else to spend you money on (aside from the perfect pair of yoga pants). Therefore, you might as well splurge a bit, especially if it will last you longer.
If you have taken all the above into consideration and as you lie on your mat in the Savasana pose, you should feel the blissful state of relaxation or meditation that happens at the end of class. Leave your palms facing up to receive energy and blessings from the universe and know you have chosen well!
Anything Else I Should Consider for my Yoga Practice?
There are also yoga gloves and yoga socks that many use — especially when traveling because they are much easier to pack. They are rubberized gloves or socks that give you traction …so you do not slip and fall flat on your face. Happy shopping!
Yoga Mats Worth the Splurge on Amazon
(I buy my yoga mats and yoga gear on Amazon because the selection in unbeatable! I can find exactly what I want for the best price.)
The Manduka PRO Yoga Mat, like yoga itself, is an exercise in patience and a labor of love. It’s definitely not for everyone, but if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to break it in, the PRO may be the last yoga mat you ever buy—and that’s definitely worth the price $120 price tag.
Jade Harmony Professional Yoga Mat weighs 4.5 pounds, is 3/16-inches thick, and is made completely of natural rubber (no PVCs, but it has a strong rubber smell). This mat won’t last as long as the some other mats, but it’s completely biodegradable. They have a travel version as well.
Liforme Original Yoga Mat – If you find yourself practicing more at home than in a studio, this mat will be a substitute instructor of sorts. It comes with alignment lines to help you with your posture. Yes, it’s pricey, but if you’re serious about perfecting your technique, this might be a good investment.