Choosing a yoga mat
It's easy to be overwhelmed by the huge selection of yoga mats available.
The best place to start is to decide what you want out of your yoga mat and
how you plan to use it. Yogis who want a highly durable mat that will hold
up to daily use may want to start by looking at plastic mats, as long as
they aren't concerned about the health and environmental implications of
polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and phthalates. Eco-friendly yoga mats made of alternatives
like thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) or natural ingredients like rubber and
dried grass are also widely available. However, while they are much kinder
to the environment, these products are not as durable as traditional plastic
Most yoga mats will work for a variety of yoga styles, but hot yoga practitioners
may need to invest in a separate yoga towel. Yoga towels absorb sweat and
some have a sticky underside that grips the yoga mat to prevent slipping
and bunching. Most yogis will find yoga towels too thin to use on their own,
so they must be layered over an existing yoga mat. However, reviews indicate
that the best yoga towels are well worth the extra cost.
Experts also recommend keeping the following in mind when shopping for a
- Choose the right size. The most common size is 68 inches long by
24 inches wide, although bigger yoga mats are available. Most people
will do fine on mats of this size, although individuals over 5 feet 8 inches
tall will want to look for longer mats. Many popular yoga mats, including
the top-rated Manduka Black Mat Pro, come in extended lengths of up to
85 inches. Those who like to stretch out can find wider yoga mats up to
30 inches, including the Prana Revolution yoga mat.
- Thicknesses range from 1/8 to 1/4
inches. Most yoga mats have thicknesses around 1/5 inch -- which is
recommended if practicing on a hard surface -- but premium mats closer
to 1/4 inch and super-thin yoga mats and towels around 1/20 inch thick
are also offered. Some practitioners prefer thinner mats, which allow them
to feel more stable on the ground.
- Yoga style matters. For instance,
people who practice vigorous Ashtanga or Bikram yoga -- more intensive
styles that generate a good amount of sweat -- should look for mats with
a solid non-slip surface or invest in a yoga towel. Some heavy sweaters
prefer open-celled yoga mats, which absorb sweat and prevent slips, but
they can be less hygienic and much harder to clean than closed-cell mats.
- Some mats
smell. Rubber and plastic mats, in particular, are notorious for their
strong odors, which can take several weeks to subside. To combat this
problem, experts recommend washing your yoga mat with warm water and mild
soap or vinegar and letting it air out for several days. If you're extra
sensitive to smells, consider a mat made with more mild materials like
dried grass, cork or jute.
- Steer clear of direct sunlight. Yoga mats, especially eco-friendly
ones, can break down and weaken faster when exposed to direct sunlight
for prolonged periods of time. To extend the life of your mat, take care
and store it appropriately. You should also avoid storing your yoga mat
in a hot car.
- Some mats can pull double duty. Many
yoga mats can also be used for mat Pilates. For this purpose, experts
suggest a firm and supportive yoga mat that has a thickness of at least
1/4 inch. This extra support is important since this form of exercise requires
a good deal of hip and spine work. However, experts warn against using
a Pilates mat for yoga, since Pilates mats usually don't have surfaces
that grip to prevent injury.