Whether your yoga practice is just beginning or you've been practicing for a while, you might be in the market for a new yoga mat. Since you'll hopefully be spending a great deal of time on your mat, you'll want to choose one that supports your practice.
Just like our bodies, minds, and spirits are unique, our yoga mat needs are too. Your best friend might rave about her mat being the best one there is, but that doesn't mean it's the right fit for you. Read on for several things to consider before buying your next (or first) yoga mat.
I am listing weight as the first consideration and the first item in your checklist for buying a yoga mat because I learned this one the hard way myself. I spent fifty dollars on a mid-range mat that weighed nine pounds.
That didn't seem like a lot when I read it online, but it was much too heavy. I grew to dread carrying it in and out of classes. Eventually, it ended up in the trash.
If you're going to be taking your mat to a class outside of your home, weight is very important. My current mat weighs about four pounds. If you'll use it at home and don't plan to ever roll it up, weight is less important. Finally, if you plan to travel with your mat, err on the side of a lighter mat meant for travel.
The surface of the mat is next in importance of my list of factors. What's worse than feeling your back foot sliding away from you in Warrior Two? Not much! For those of you buying a mat online, read reviews carefully. If reviewers say that the mat is slippery, it probably is.
Look for a non-skid, gripping surface. If you practice hot yoga or any other fast-paced and sweaty style of yoga asana, the surface of the mat is especially important.
My current mat is 68" long and 24" wide. I'm five feet, seven inches tall and of average weight. This size mat works fine for me but there are extra-long and extra-wide mats available on the market. If you are very tall or have a rounder body, you might wish to invest in a longer or wider mat.
Ideally, you'll feel the comfort of the mat beneath your body when resting in Savasana. Some yoga mats even come in supersized or round options. Remember, these might be great for home practice but likely aren't the best option if you'll be bringing your mat to a crowded studio.
The average yoga mat is 1/4" thick. However, you can purchase thinner or thicker mats depending on what you need and/or prefer. You might want a thinner mat if you plan to travel with it, especially if you'll be traveling by plane (a lot of thin mats can be folded to fit into your suitcase) and prefer to carry-on.
Have sensitive joints? A thicker mat might be in order. Some students prefer that extra cushion. Remember though, what you gain in comfort you'll sacrifice in stability (think balancing in Tree pose on a very thick mat). If you're not sure about thickness, start with a 1/4" mat.
Ahimsa is the yogic belief that we should practice non-harm in our relationships and our environment. That's one of the reasons that many yoga mat companies make an effort to produce socially responsible and environmentally sustainable mats.
For example, Jade yoga mats are made of recycled material and Jade plants one tree for every mat sold. Yoloha cork yoga mats are another example of an eco-friendly mat. If you want to do good while you do yoga, consider a mat that does the least amount of harm.
Last but not least, many yogis also factor in the aesthetics and appearance of their yoga mat. Is there a certain color or image that you want to see when you look down at your mat? I know yogis who will only practice on an all-black mat, and some mats can even be personalized with your favorite mantra.
If you're looking to balance a specific chakra, perhaps you'll want to choose a mat in that color. Some mats even have lines and markings to help you practice proper alignment. For some students, these are a great option. For others, they could be a distraction. Everyone has different mat needs; decide what serves your practice.
Ideally, you'll have the option to try out a mat before you make your final decision. However, this isn't always feasible. If you can't test out your new mat, read reviews carefully and make sure there's a generous return policy in case your mat isn't the right fit for you.
Since you'll probably be spending a lot of time together, set your standards high and aim to fall in love with your next yoga mat.