How to Choose The Right Yoga Mat
If you’re making a commitment to yoga, or even just giving it a fair chance, there’s one piece of equipment you really need, and that’s a yoga mat. You don’t have to buy special clothes; you can wear your pajama pants and t- shirt if that’s comfortable. You don’t even need special yoga blocks or straps. But you will thank yourself for getting a mat.
Why? The right yoga mat ensures that your feet don’t slide out of position (which can be dangerous) and that you have an appropriate amount of cushion for your joints. It also helps you get into the right mindset for your session.
Like many things in life, choosing a yoga mat has only gotten harder. More options means more time spent deliberating over what the right decision is. And although taking your time is not necessarily a bad thing, certain tasks shouldn’t be using up your most valuable resource–like choosing a yoga mat.
That’s why this article quickly guides you through the most important aspects of yoga mats so you can choose the right one without spending days researching different choices.
Does yoga mat price make a difference?
Yoga mats come in a huge range of prices, from ten dollars all the way to a hundred dollars. So does more expensive equal better? In this case, not really. Different materials, patterns, and mat thicknesses may affect the price, but all of these are simply preferences. That doesn’t mean you should get the cheapest. It means you should be aware of which features are most important to you.
In general, the least expensive mat option is vinyl, also called PVC. PVC is also the most common type of yoga mat. It’s flexible and easy to roll up, easy to clean, and provides good grip for bare feet. The drawback is that it’s less environmentally friendly than other types of yoga mats, though it lasts ten years or more. If you really like PVC mats but are concerned about their impact on the environment, you can repurpose your mats after they’re too worn for yoga.
Yoga mat qualities
As you peruse the various yoga mats available to you, you’ll find that there are four primary materials that mats are made of. Those are PVC, natural rubber, cotton, and jute. Each material has properties unique to it, with PVC and rubber being similar to one another, and cotton and jute being similar to one another.
Comfort and stability for poses
The ability to keep your feet (or head, or any body part) in place is probably the most important feature of a yoga mat. The good news is that pretty much all yoga mats are designed to do this, albeit in different ways. Here are the comfort and stability factors to look for in a yoga mat.
Most people like their yoga mat to depress a bit when they put their weight on it. PVC is so popular in part because it provides both support and comfortable cushioning at the same time. However yoga mats manufactured from PVC leave a heavy footprint on the environment and may contain harmful phthalates, chemicals added during the manufacturing process to make the mat soft and spongy. A natural rubber yoga mat is another option for getting support with comfortable give, and it is better for the environment than PVC. Of course, you shouldn’t use a rubber mat if you are allergic to latex.
Cotton and jute mats do not provide much in the way of cushioning or give. Jute feels rougher than cotton. It is tough, though, offering a long-lasting sustainable option. Many who practice yoga prefer to use cotton or jute on top of a mat that has more cushioning, rather than solely using these thinner mats. Using these sustainable, natural mats on top of PVC or rubber will also extend the life of the mat below them.
Thickness is another factor that determines comfort and stability of a yoga mat. What thickness is comfortable for you depends on your preferences. For some, a mat that is too thick makes it more difficult to balance, especially if it sinks in a lot. A mat that is too thin, however, may be harder on joints and less comfortable for poses that put you on the floor. And if you want to take your yoga mat with you when travelling, a thin yoga mat that is lightweight and takes up very little space in your suitcase may be ideal for you. Yoga mats are available in 1/4 inch (6mm), 1/8 inch (3mm) and 1/16 inch (2mm) thicknesses.
Another point to consider when determining the thickness of your yoga mat is the type of floor you will be practising on. A 1/4 inch mat may be ideal for practising yoga on a hard floor like concrete or tiles, while a 3mm mat may be fine on a softer floor like wood or carpet.
PVC and natural rubber mats have a sticky grip. Some of them have textured patterns to help with gripping your feet and hands during poses and to stop the mat from slipping on the floor. Cotton and jute mats can be excellent for foot and hand grip, especially if you dislike the sticky feel of PVC or rubber. Cotton is the softer of the two natural materials and its grip increases when you sweat. In addition to affecting comfort and stability, the surface texture of a mat determines how it can be cleaned.
Yoga mats come in different sizes with extra length and width for larger people. The standard mat is 68 inches long and this will suit most people of average build who are under 6ft. Longer mats come in 72 or 74 inches in length. The general rule is that if you are close to 6ft or taller you will want a longer mat.
The bottom line is that there is no one right yoga mat for everyone. It depends which factors you prefer. Any mat designed for yoga should help you get into and maintain poses by increasing foot grip (provided that you are barefoot or wearing grippy socks). So don’t fret too much. Look at the material, the thickness, the texture and the size. Once you’ve got the right type of mat for you, select one in a color and pattern than makes you feel ready to conquer Crane Pose.
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