What the best yoga mat has

  • 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 nonslip 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 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, 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. To extend the life of your mat, you also should 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.

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