What to look for when buying a yoga mat
How to find your perfect yoga mat
Yoga mats are everywhere! And, you know what, I love that. It tells me that people are doing yoga. And yoga does people good. Win-win.
Now, you guys know I’m biased, I love our yoga mat for many reasons, but I’m going to break it down for you in terms of all the different features of a mat which might make you choose one over the other. There are so many factors to consider and you’ll soon see why some yogis have more than one mat for different reasons. And it might mean you choose a mat that’s not MantraDog. That’s cool, just do yoga.
1. Lets start with thickness.
The average yoga mat is about 1/8 in thick or approximately 3mm. You’ll see it advertised either way. Some travel yoga mats are thinner at 1/16 in or 1.5mm and the more premium cushioned mats are 1/4 in thick or approx. 6mm thick.
Why does thickness matter?
You want enough cushion for when you are doing a pose like a down dog, so your joints are supported and the yoga mat is comfortable to be on. You also don’t want a yoga mat that is so cushy that it’s squishy and hard to balance on when you are working on a good tree pose.
A thicker mat may give you great support, but it is also heavier. Typically a 1/4 in mat is going to be 5 to 7 lbs where as a super thin 1/16 in mat may only be 2 lbs and great for travel, but will lack the cushion. Depending on your needs and your preference you may opt for a mat in the middle or go for two, one for travel and one for home and studio practice.
2. Next up – stickiness/texture
The second decision you’ll need to make in considering what yoga mat to purchase is the texture and stickiness you need. This starts to get into the material used to make your yoga mat but we’ll tackle that next.
There may be as many different textures of yoga mats as their are colors! Some yoga mats have texture because of their material, such as cork, jute, microfiber or a yoga rug. Many mats have texture created to help you grip the mat so you feel stable in your asanas or poses.
Yoga mats are textured with everything from “gripping dots”, to small ridges, to other patterns to help you get the grip and stick you need. No one wants to be feel like they are slipping during their class. It can lead to improper form and you could really injure yourself. The other aspect in making your sticky decision is to also consider the bottom of the mat. You also don’t want to be sliding all over the room with your mat when you move on it or jump. So you want a mat that has some thickness so it will stay put.
Many mats made from PVC, foam, or natural rubber have these grip features or can be made to be less textured. Give them a test run or borrow someone’s mat if you aren’t sure, this will help you get a better feel for what works for you.
3. Pick your material
Material is integral into the decision making for a yoga mat. The material effects texture, stickiness and it really effects the eco-friendliness of the mat.
Most department store yoga mats are made from PVC. PVC is inexpensive and is what most yogis start with. They often come in a variety of thicknesses so you can pick what works for you. PVC also tends to come in choices of textures as well. PVC tends to have the most ‘give’ when it comes to mat materials.
The downside to PVC is that it wears quickly, and can lose its stickiness easily. PVC also tends to have a strong odor when you first purchase. PVC or Polyvinyl Chloride, can also be toxic. I am not a chemical scientist, nor an expert, but please look up for yourself information on PVC and phthalates and correlation to cancers and estrogen concerns. Make an informed decision.
Similar to regular PVC in its qualities, it is supposed to be made with tighter controls on the process so it is more eco friendly. They are conscious of ensuring they aren’t putting chemicals into the environment during production.
This is a non-toxic closed cell foam that is used to make yoga mats and many yoga blocks. Sometimes called EVA Foam. This material often contains latex so steer clear if you have an allergy.
Short for Thermoplastic Elastomers, TPE is a mix of rubber and plastic. It is purported to not contain PVC, BPA and other toxic substances. Again – this is an unknown substance that is not 100% natural so do your research.
This is 100% natural and comes from a rubber tree plant’s sap. Natural rubber is not the same as latex, so ask if you have an allergy or sensitivity. Natural Rubber is also naturally anti-microbial. All around, natural rubber is amazing. It’s eco-friendly, has great grip, no slipping around, is very comfortable and can come in the thickness that works for you. It really makes a great mat.
Jute & Cotton Yoga Mats
Jute is a 100% natural resource that comes from a vegetable plant. It is extremely sustainable and a great environmentally friendly choice. Jute and cotton have the least “give” or sponginess to them.
Cork is a 100% natural and sustainable resource. Cork is also anti-microbial, and because of its natural properties it gets grippier when wet. Cork yoga mats are great for sweaty yoga, outdoor yoga or hot yoga. Cork has a smooth texture, but still gives a great non slip grip.
The material you choose will certainly effect the texture and the stickiness as well as the durability. One of the most important decisions about the material is the effect on the environment as well as your own health.
4. Lastly, what’s your style?
In terms of style, there are so many choices! Colors, pictures, alignment lines, and more, including personalization of your mantra.
We know that price can also be a factor when deciding on a yoga mat. Yoga mats made from PVC, foam or TPE tend to be easier to find in stores and can be more econimically priced. Premium mats that are more eco-friendly and with more consideration in their manufacturing and environmental impact tend to cost slightly more.
As you choose your yoga mat think about what is important to you, how you’ll use your mat, your favorite yoga practice, and what speaks to you. The most important thing is that you get out there and practice yoga. Your body will thank you!
Peace & Love,