So, you've gotten serious about your yoga practice. Now that you have dedicated yourself to this lifestyle of strengthening and opening your body, improving mental clarity, and reducing stress, it's also important to have all the right elements to continue on this yoga path. One of the main things you need in a yoga practice, of course, is a good yoga mat.
You may have started with an off-brand standard mat that you purchased at a sporting goods store. It probably only cost you $10-$20, was made of vinyl, and got you through your classes well enough. And over time, you saw the wear and tear of your mat from regular use. And just like an old pair of running shoes, it was time to purchase a new one. But now you're in search of the perfect high quality yoga mat that fits the style of practice you enjoy the most. Let's take a look at different styles, materials, lengths, and sizes so you can choose the right mat for you.
We are beginning to see more organic materials used to make yoga mats these days. A very popular one today is the cork yoga mat. It is made with all natural materials. One side is made of raw cork and the other side is made with natural rubber. The cork provides a non-slip surface which is perfect for those hot yoga and power vinyasa classes. The last thing you want to do is slip on your yoga mat. In fact, as the cork becomes wet from sweat or humidity, your grip actually improves due to the micro-holes in the cork that prevents moisture from pooling on your mat.
These are denser mats: about 2mm of cork and about 4mm of rubber. And because you have a thicker mat, your body is well supported throughout your practice. It features a nice balance between firmness and softness so that you feel stable and strong in all your poses. Another benefit of these soft yet durable yoga mats is that they are naturally antimicrobial. That means they do not hold odors like other mats. And they are easy to clean. Simply use an organic cleansing solution to wipe down your mat after a sweaty yoga workout.
These high quality mats can range anywhere from $80 to $100. This sounds pricey, but you're gaining a product that will last a long time and suitable for just about any style of yoga you practice.
Another high quality yoga mat that you can purchase is one made entirely of natural rubber. These are well produced mats: they are made from highly sustainable products with no plastics or other synthetic materials. Some people are allergic to vinyl or other synthetic products, so purchasing a rubber or cork yoga mat can be quite beneficial. These mats, too, can be in the high priced range: $80 to $100. But again, you're paying for a premium product.
The standard size of the typical yoga mat is 68in long and 24in wide. This is great for the average-sized yogi. However, if you're 6' tall (or taller), this size may prove to be too short for your frame. Fortunately, yoga mats come longer: 72, 74, and even 84 inches long. (And you can even buy much shorter mats for smaller frames and kid-sized mats: 14" x 36".)
And what about the width of the yoga mat? For a larger framed or broader shouldered individual, yoga mats have been customed made to fit the upper body more comfortably. You can find a yoga mat that is up to 36in wide and 84in long! (Just know, that you may be taking up a little more space in the yoga studio with a larger mat. Be mindful of your yoga neighbor.)
Thickness (3mm vs 5mm)
A 3mm thick mat is the standard thickness of a yoga mat. Some yogis prefer the thinner surface of a yoga mat. It is designed to be light padding that sticks to the floor so you can move with ease through your practice. They are also nice because they roll up well, are light in weight, and you can travel with them easily. If you're on the road for business or pleasure and like to take your own yoga mat with you to classes, then a thinner mat is ideal. Another practical thing about a thinner sticky yoga mat is that they are very easy to clean. Some are durable enough to be tossed into a front-loading washing machine! However, simply wiping them down with a natural solution will do the trick, too.
A side note about traveling with your yoga mat. You typically roll up your mats and store them in a yoga bag with your other gear. For air travel, though, this may be too much equipment to take with you, but you insist on having your own yoga mat. You can now find thin 3mm yoga mats that actually fold into a square! They are the perfect travel mat since they can be packed into a suitcase with your folded clothes.
A thicker mat, however, might be good for you if you have some sensitivity in your joints; particularly in your ankles and wrists. When in positions, like Downward Facing Dog or Plank Pose, for example, it can place a lot of pressure on your wrists. The slightly thicker 5mm mats can provide support in these areas of the body so you can continue to have a strong practice without any risk of injury.
But there is a flip-side to a thicker yoga mat, too. A mat that is 5mm or more can make it a challenge to balance on one foot, like in Tree Pose, for example. The softer surface creates a slightly less stable foundation. Your foot doesn't have a solid contact with the floor, thereby making poses like this a bit harder to sustain. Further, a mat this size may be slightly heavier and carries more bulk when you carry it around. So, choose wisely when you're considering the thickness of your mat.
If your yoga practice involves more sitting or lying down, like Mindfulness Meditation, Restorative Yoga, Yin Yoga, or Kundalini, having a thicker yoga mat will provide overall body support during your class.
As you can see, there are several things to consider when choosing the best yoga mat for you. You certainly want something that is long-lasting and will support the style of yoga you practice (i.e. hot yoga, restorative yoga). You also want something that will fit your body, so a longer mat may be ideal for you to choose. And don't forget your lifestyle: are you a traveler, like to attend different styles of classes, or practice at different studios? You'll want to have a mat that is versatile and is easy to travel with. Overall, you want to find a premium yoga mat. Make the investment in a high quality yoga mat - they are worth it, and so are you.