Times are changing and Yoga is become very popular in the west. People are becoming more health-conscious, trying to save themselves from misery by engaging in various “green” and “organic” trends and activities. While most of these trends are a passing fad (supplements, pills, powders, juices, etc.) Yoga is a proven science, thousands years old, with an established lineage of experienced schools and teachers. Many people are taking up yoga because it is safe, effective and does not require any significant effort, unlike pilates or more intensive programs. Yoga works on the body as much as it does on the mind, and its subtle effects are felt immediately.
Before actively engaging in the practice of Yoga, consider investing into a good mat – Yoga’s only required accessory that could make a significant difference in your progress. A good mat will provide with additional support, stability and comfort and make practice very enjoyable. On the contrary, a less than adequate mat could turn your class into a nightmare. Read on to find out how to find that perfect mat – Yoga practitioner’s best friend.
The following factors will play the most important roles in determining your needs:
Your skill level Beginners are advised against investing into own yoga mats. Many people quit after only a few classes and throw their mats away eventually. A good mat could easily cost up to a $100 but will biodegrade rapidly because of its natural materials, a cheaper PVC mat will take many years to decompose. Think about how many people give up yoga and throw their mats away every year. That’s not good mat yoga.
If you are just getting started, use a mat provided by your studio – they are clean, decent and thick enough for everyone. Once you practice for a while and begin to feel the effects, it may be time to consider purchasing your own mat.
Your budget Mat prices range from $10 to $100 depending on quality of the material. All-natural rubber mats are usually more expensive, but offer superior durability, cushioning, and comfort. Cheaper, PVC and PER (less harmful to the environment than PVC) mats for yoga sometimes feature similar characteristics but cost a lot less. Generally, the more advanced and dedicated you are, the more you should spend on your mat, as the investment will pay off in the future. The price-quality relationship with yoga mats is almost direct.
Once you are confident in determining your skill level and your budget, it is time to pick your mat – Yoga will never be the same (just kidding).
Consider the following features of a good mat Yoga, and pick one that fits you best:
Material Best mats are made of natural, biodegradable rubber (latex) or advanced polymers that are also earth friendly. I suggest natural rubber, if you don’t mind its smell, if you do – consider jute, earth-friendly polymers, or a mix of both. PVC mats are usually the cheapest, but they do offer pretty good stability, grip and cu (more on these later). If you are buying a PVC mat, it shouldn’t cost you more than $20, unless if you are paying extra for the appearance.
Size Mats range in length (60-75″) and width (20-24″), and bigger mats are usually more comfortable. Keep in mind that larger mats are heavier and bulkier, and much more difficult to carry to class. Mat yoga is about balance, so the best idea is to have one large mat for home practice, one light and thin mat (or a towel) for travel, and one regular mat (and bag) for carrying to class.
Thickness Beginner students usually prepare thicker mats (around ¼”). Practicing on a thicker mat is easier at first, but once you get more advanced, too much depth may become a distraction. Thickness is more of a personal preference that a requirement. Most generic PVC studio mats are between 1/8″ and ¼”.
Stickiness 99% of yoga mats fail to grip when excessively wet. Keep this in mind, and don’t complain when you start to slip and slide during your Hot yoga practice, get a special yoga towel and cover your mat with it. Premium mats handle wetness better, but they are not perfect. Test your mat’s grip when dry. Ideally, a good mat should not be excessively sticky, as this will not help during position changes. Natural materials, like rubber and jute tend to have superior grip, though cheaper PVC mats may work just as well.