Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years on many different surfaces. You can practice on a hardwood floor, tile, stone, grass, your living room rug or even on the beach. But for beginners—and also those who have been doing yoga for years—a good yoga mat that fits your needs can become an essential part of your practice. The important thing when choosing a yoga mat is to find one that gives you reliable stability when doing any pose.
Choosing a Yoga Mat
Before running out and buying the most expensive yoga mat on the market, ask yourself these questions and do your homework by asking friends and your yoga instructors what they prefer.
How Thick? Yoga mats range in thickness from 1/16th of an inch to 1/4th of an inch. The average is 1/8th of an inch. This usually provides sufficient cushion while not sacrificing stability. Thinner mats are good for frequent travelers or yogis who do not have a lot of space for storage. A thicker, premium mat may cushion your knees or behind in some poses, but can also feel a bit unstable in standing poses where a strong connection to the floor is essential.
What is it made out of? Many sticky mats, which grip the floor and assist with stability, are made from PVC that can smell funky and outgas the chemicals used to make them. Some yogis want more eco-friendly alternatives made out of natural rubber, cotton, jute or recycled fibers. PVC based sticky mats stand up to heavy wear for a long time, while natural choices may give out earlier and not provide as much stickiness. Ask your instructor and fellow yogis what they recommend and make the best choice for you.
Stickiness and Texture? Stability is crucial during yoga. Some yoga styles and classes can produce a lot of sweat, making some mats slippery. PVC mats are the stickiest as long as you keep them clean (wash and hang dry whenever you feel it losing its stick). Natural fiber mats that have a tactile, raised pattern also provide a good grip.
Again, talk with your yoga instructor about your options and choose the one that best fits your needs.