Selecting The Right Yoga Mat

A Guide to Selecting the Right Yoga Mat

A Guide to Selecting the Right Yoga Mat

In the early 2000s, there was only one basic type of yoga mat – made of PVC and known for its stickiness – and purple or blue was the only color available. Now, there is a yoga mat to suit every need and preference.

In addition to a color and pattern that suits your style, your yoga mat should keep you stable in your poses; it should be storable and portable, yet comfortable and cushy. Your mat may also need to be environmentally friendly. This aspect of your mat’s personality is all determined by how it’s made: how thick it is, what it’s made of, and how it feels.

Using this guide, you can find a yoga mat that suits your practice, priorities, lifestyle, values, and budget. Regardless of what the stores tell you, that’s the best yoga mat for you!

1. Thickness

The thickness of the yoga mat has a lot to do with how comfortable it is – too thin, and your knee may get banged up while doing crescent lunge. Yoga mats that are too thick (some are as thick as 1/4 inch) can make it hard to feel a strong connection to the floor, making you more wobbly in Tree Pose, for example.

A standard yoga mat is about 1/8 inch thick, while the thickest are about 1/4 inch thick. Wafer-thin yoga mats, marketed as “travel yoga mats,” are also available. They are only 1/16 inch thick. They fold easily and don’t weigh much, which makes them easy to pack.

When shopping for a yoga mat, consider your storage space, how important portability is, and where your sweet spot lies between comfort and being able to feel a direct connection to the floor. Choose a mat in the 1/8-inch range if you have little storage space, a long schlep to the studio, and like the feel of just a little padding.

Consider a 1/4-inch thick yoga mat if you don’t mind carrying and storing a little more weight for more cushioning. You can also get a foldable travel yoga mat in the 1/16-inch range if you have to carry your mat in your suitcase or carry-on.

2. Material

This matters because the type of material your yoga mat is made of dictates its texture, stickiness, eco-friendliness, sponginess (how much it yields to pressure), and how it wears over time.

The most common yoga mats are made of PVC, or vinyl. In addition to these natural and recycled materials, there are also new, environmentally friendly options, such as jute, organic cotton, and natural cotton (fabricated without a synthetic finish).

When buying yoga mats, be aware of your allergies to latex and natural rubber. You can choose a yoga mat made of PVC that can withstand your use and abuse for more than a decade if you want to stick with the tried and true sticky mat. While different blends of materials have varying degrees of ‘give,’ in general, jute and cotton have the most ‘give’ of any yoga mat.

Beyond these fundamentals, read on and let your other priorities – texture, stickiness, and environmental responsibility – guide you.

3. Texture

A yoga mat’s texture determines how much traction it provides. The texture of the surface affects how slippery it is. Physical barriers prevent sliding (whereas stickiness relies on suction). The texture of a yoga mat affects how it feels, which contributes to overall comfort.

In savasana, any bumpy texture will likely aggravate you if you’re a Princess-and-the-Pea type. Often, textures are either man-made (a pattern of raised bumps, for example) or dictated by the materials themselves – jute yoga mats have an organic roughness to them, while PVC yoga mats, though slightly textured, are softer.

Yoga mat textures range from completely smooth to downright rough.

When purchasing a yoga mat, ensure it has a raised, tactile pattern. If you want to avoid traditional sticky yoga mats (PVC), choose rubber, jute, or cotton. With the raised texture, you can stay in place even when you’re sweating or exercising vigorously.

The PVC yoga mat is the best choice if smoothness is of the utmost importance to you. Test drive some of the newer, earth-friendly options before you buy if you love stickiness but are curious about the newer alternatives. Despite not having a traditional “sticky” feel, some eco-friendly yoga mats provide surprisingly good traction.

4. Stickiness

When you hold poses for several seconds as well as transition from one pose to another, a sticky yoga mat helps you maintain alignment and keep you from slipping.

The most sticky mats are made of PVC.

The PVC yoga mat is probably your best option if you need help staying in your poses and you dislike the idea of practicing on a yoga mat with a raised texture. Be sure to properly care for your yoga mat so that it remains sticky. Whenever you notice your hands sliding forward in downward dog, wash your PVC yoga mat before using it and use a handy yoga wash cleaner.

5. Eco – Friendliness

It’s important because as yogis, we emphasize non-violence, or ahimsa. Therefore, yoga mats that eventually end up in landfills for decades to come makes no sense to practice on.

Natural or recycled rubber yoga mats are usually made from earth-friendly materials. Besides the natural materials listed above, these yoga mats may also include organic cotton and jute.

If eco-friendliness is important to you, avoid yoga mats made from PVC (the traditional sticky mat), which does not break down in landfills and is difficult to recycle. Yoga mats made from rubber, jute, and cotton come in a variety of thicknesses, but they tend to be thicker and slicker than PVC mats. A yoga mat can be eco-friendly, have a thickness that meets your needs for comfort and portability, and have a texture (like a raised geometric pattern) that prevents slipping.

6. Price Range

A basic, 1/8 inch thick, plain solid-color PVC sticky yoga mat will normally be at the low end of the price range. Then you can pay more for patterns, designs, and logos; premium thickness; antimicrobial treatments; and cool textures, especially raised tactile patterns. A yoga mat that is eco-friendly tends to be more expensive.

7. Style

Having narrowed your choices down by thickness, material, texture, stickiness, eco-friendliness, and price, the only thing left is style! Decide on your favorite color, print, or pattern. It’s exactly what’s going to be seen a lot in downward dog. Enjoy your shopping!

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Sphie Ross

Sophie Ross has written, edited, and produced beauty and fashion content for more than 3 years. She works full-time in the fashion and beauty categories as a copywriter, but she is passionate about all things related to beauty.