How to choose a Yoga mat
Yoga Gear: How to Choose
Long hailed for its positive effects on the mind and body, yoga helps build strength and flexibility, can help relieve stress and can improve overall mental and physical wellness.
Compared to other fitness activities, yoga requires minimal gear to get started. While most studios provide everything a beginner needs, investing in your own personal mat, yoga-specific clothes and a few other items can make your experience with yoga even more enjoyable.
Wherever you practice, a proper yoga mat is essential. Working on a rug, slippery towel or overly-soft gym cushion can lead to injury and frustration. While most studios and gyms offer mats for public use, owning your own can be a more hygienic alternative.
While there are many options available, the vast majority of yoga mats work perfectly well for any style of yoga. That said, understanding the differences will help you select a mat that fits your personal needs.
Yoga Mat Thickness and Weight
Yoga mats range from super thin and compact travel styles that weigh a mere 2 lbs. to cushy quarter-inch beasts that weigh up to 7 lbs. If you’re not sure where to start, choose a mat that’s about 1/8-in. thick (0.125 in.), a pretty standard thickness.
These mats are excellent for those with a strong, flowing practice. They allow solid contact with the floor, which helps with stability during a variety of poses. Compared to thicker mats, they are also less likely to catch and get in your way when you flow from pose to pose.
If your yoga plans include air travel, look for a travel mat that’s specifically designed for portability. Travel mats are very thin and light and pack down smaller than traditional mats, so they’re easy to take along in your luggage. Keep in mind that you will sacrifice some cushioning with a travel mat.
Thicker mats provide extra cushioning and are best for more restorative or therapeutic practices. While more comfortable for forearm and kneeling poses, thicker mats can be more difficult to balance on during standing poses.
Yoga Mat Materials and Durability
Generally, thicker mats last longer than thinner mats. That said, mat durability is also related to the material the mat is made from.
PVC is a plastic-based material that is highly durable, easy to clean and offers excellent floor grip. However, PVC mats are non-absorbent and can become slippery when you sweat heavily. PVC is latex-free, a benefit to those with latex allergies, however, it is not biodegradable or as environmentally friendly as other options.
TPE (thermoplastic elastomer) is a man-made blend, usually of plastic and rubber polymers. TPE mats may be more environmentally friendly than PVC, and some are fully recyclable. TPE mats are generally less durable than PVC mats of the same thickness, but still deliver good traction.
Eco / naturalmats come from a variety of sources, including natural rubber, organic cotton, and jute. Compared to other options, eco mats are slightly less grippy on the floor, but their natural texture provides traction for your body. Eco mats lack the decade-long durability of PVC, yet they top the list if sustainability is your priority.