About two decades ago, the only choice you had when buying a yoga mat was between a blue or a purple PVC mat. But today, with seemingly endless options, you can be as picky about choosing the best yoga mat for your practice as you can be when ordering your coffee from the barista. But more options can also make your search more challenging. Where does a yogi begin?
There are myriad factors to consider when purchasing the best yoga mat for you, including the type of yoga you practice and your material and style preferences. For example, unlike 20 years ago, now we have environmentally friendly options rather than only the once ubiquitous PVC.
You’ll also want to consider the “slip factor,” i.e., how good a “grip” you’re able to get on your mat. Slipping and sliding can be pretty frustrating (though some people like the added challenge of a slippery mat)! In your search for the best yoga mat for you it’s a good idea to try it before you buy it—come into a downward facing dog or a standing pose or two on the mat and see how it feels.
You’ll also need to decide whether you want a thick yoga mat for added comfort or a thinner travel yoga mat for ease of transport and storage. You’ll even want to consider the way a mat smells! (Some mats have a pretty strong smell—particularly when they’re new—and if you’re sensitive to odors, that may be an important factor to ponder as well.)
Remember, the best yoga mat is the mat that’s going to best serve you—one that you’ll actually want to practice on.
(For another comprehensive resource, check out our 45-minute podcast entirely dedicated to the discussion of yoga mats!)
Yoga mats come in all kinds of colors and patterns. Some people find that an eye-catching yoga mat can be an added incentive to roll it out for practice (just like how having workout clothes you like can inspire you to go to the gym)! You can even custom-order mats with words and images that are meaningful to you, and you can find mats with markings intended to help you find your ideal alignment.
Beyond the look of your mat, there are other considerations that are important as well when you are choosing the best yoga mat for you.
Mat Thickness and Length
One of the first things you should think about in your search for the best yoga mat is thickness. In general, thick yoga mats provide cushioning, which is important if you want extra padding for your joints. Many beginners prefer thick yoga mats for comfort, but keep in mind that the more cushioning between you and the floor the less stable you may feel, making balancing postures more challenging. And if your mat is too thick, and more squishy than firm (like some exercise mats), you’re more likely to sink into your wrists in poses like tabletop, plank, and downward facing dog, which can exacerbate wrist discomfort. This is why it’s important to make sure that the mat you choose is intended for yoga practice.
Thicker yoga mats also weigh more, which may be a factor if you’re going to be carrying it around with you, as opposed to using it just for your home practice. It may also take longer for thicker mats to dry once they have been cleaned.
Length is another variable in your search for the best yoga mat. The average mat is about 68 inches long and 24 inches wide, so if you are taller than 5’8”, you may prefer an extra-long mat (typically between 70 and 85 inches long).
Mats are made of a variety of materials, including eco-friendly options like jute, cork, and natural and organic rubber.
When searching for your ideal mat, you may also want to inquire about closed-cell construction vs. open-cell construction. Closed-cell mats have an impermeable texture, are waterproof, and are some of the best yoga mats for durability. Their impermeability also makes them easier to clean. Open-cell mats are porous, allowing them to absorb moisture and in effect maintain their traction, but they are more difficult to clean and are thus a better choice for your own personal mat rather than the mat of choice with which to stock your studio. While closed-cell mats are easier to clean and thereby the more sanitary option for studios, their drawback is that they may become slippery with use.
Travel Yoga Mats
If your job has you constantly on the road, the best yoga mat for you may be one designed specifically for travel. Travel yoga mats are lightweight, and most are foldable, allowing you to pack them in your luggage. The downside is that the thinness means a reduction in cushioning.
Caring for Your Yoga Mat
To keep your mat in its best condition so that it lasts as long as possible, it’s important for you to take good care of it. After every use, you should wipe your mat down with a recommended cleaning solution (you can purchase a cleaning solution or make one yourself).
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