Details are important. Some of yoga’s main goals are to improve your confidence and make you more relaxed.
While a yoga mat is one of the optional yoga accessories, a lot of people swear by using them because not only is it more comfortable, it also separates you physically from the rest of the world. If you use a mat that isn’t for yoga, a mat that’s the wrong size, or just a mat that doesn’t make you feel like doing yoga, it’s quite likely that you’ll find it difficult to let go and get started with yoga.
Why Practise Yoga?
If you're new to yoga, you mightn't be aware that it's a discipline that’s been around for centuries and originated in India. If you want to know more about the philosopy of yoga you can watch a yoga documentary.
- It can help you reduce stress and become more in-tune with your body.
- It can help you gain self-confidence
- It can help you lose weight and improve your physical condition.
- It can help you sleep better.
- It can improve your chances of conceiving a child.
- Yoga, through the physical and breathing exercises, can help us reconnect our body to our spirit.
What Types of Yoga Mat Are There?
3 Things to Avoid when Choosing Your Yoga Mat
It won’t take several hours to find a yoga mat for beginners or for those who’ve just started practising yoga. Since no two mats are the same, what’s right for one person may not be right for another.
Sleeping pad (for camping)
There are a couple reasons you shouldn’t get one of these: It won’t be non-slip. This won’t be comfortable and it can be rather dangerous. As you can get quite sweaty when doing yoga, the wrong type of mat can become very slippery.
What’s worse, it’ll keep rolling back up once you’ve put it down. Yoga requires a lot of concentration and meditation and you won’t be able to do this with a sleeping pad. If you have one in your cupboards and think it’ll be good for yoga, you’re wrong!
While a better option, this mat is usually thicker than a yoga mat. This is because it’s for pilates, a mix of dancing and yoga which, while you may be interested in doing this, is done principally while lying down. This is why the mat has more cushioning than a typical yoga mat.
For yoga, which alternates between standing, sitting, and lying, it’s better to get a thinner mat. If you're doing both yoga and pilates, you should probably look at getting two different mats.
PVC Yoga Mat
Another mistake. While there are some very PVC mats, PVC has been found to be toxic. Once you know this, it can be quite difficult to relax. Even if it’s just for your peace of mind, you should choose a mat that you’ll be happy with.
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The first yogis didn’t use mats despite the risks of damaging their joints, especially their knees.
Of course, you can practise yoga without a mat, since you mightn’t always have your mat to hand. However, there are two good reasons for getting a mat:
- Comfort, which can also reduce the risk of injury.
- A “ritual” effect
This effect can work wonders for many people. Since yoga is still somewhat foreign to our culture, people are living in increasingly smaller spaces, both in cities and the country.
A yoga mat can help make each session for ritual, helping you separate your routine from the rest of your day. Once the mat goes down, you know it’s time to disconnect from the rest of the world.
Scheduled yoga classes are also a good way to enforce that disconnect!
3 Criteria to Consider when Choosing the Best Yoga Mat
This will affect your comfort, more so when sitting than standing, as well as the grip. The mats with the most grip are often made from PVC, but, as you know, we’re going to be avoiding those ones. When practising yoga, you can find a lot of mats which have been made from natural or recycled eco-friendly materials (natural rubber, hessian, or TPE) and have a lot of grip. Stability, traction, and comfort are what you're after.
For a really thin mat (between 1 and 2), you should choose a mat with an anti-slip material on both sides, since it’s important that the mat doesn’t slip on the floor and you don’t slip on the mat.
Slipping when doing a complex asana can result in injury so don't take the risk, get a grippy mat.
In terms of materials, there are sticky yoga mats, natural rubber mats, plastic elastomer yoga mats, cotton and hemp yoga mats, jute mats, and travel yoga mats. Of course, the stickiness, durability, and texture of each of these types of mat mats are different and some can even be harmful to the environment. That said, you can always get an eco-friendly yoga mat made from recyclable materials.
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Mats can vary between 1mm and 15mm thick, from extremely thin to thicker mats which are commonly used for pilates.
The thinnest are often lightweight travel mats, which you can take with you anywhere. A travel yoga mat is easy to transport and often will come with straps to make this even easier. Yogis often use these as their secondary mat when they’re travelling.
There are two thicknesses of yoga mat which are very common.
A standard 4mm mat
This is the most common thickness. It will absorb impacts and protect your joints. It tends not to slip and can be used for all types of yoga.
A thick yoga mat at 6mm
Similar to the standard thickness, this mat is useful for more dynamic and intensive styles of yoga, offers more comfort, and is great for lying positions, though it can still be used for gentler yoga sessions. However, as it’s a little too big to carry around, the only place you can use it outside will be your garden. This is the yoga mat that’ll stay at home.
Mats over 6mm are too thick for yoga. Once you go beyond this thickness, the mats won’t be stable enough to do standing and sitting poses. You need to choose your yoga mat based on how and where you do your yoga: indoors or outdoors, gentle or dynamic? Once you know the criteria, it’s easier to make a decision.
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Price is a criterion for anything you’re going to buy. Is it important when it comes to yoga? Not really.
In fact, you can find good yoga mats for £50 and excellent ones for around £20. If you prefer doing yoga on your living room rug, then do it! However, once you start doing more challenging yoga routines, you might find you want a little more cushioning than your rug provides. Additionally, you can't take your living room rug to yoga classes.
While there are plenty of advantages to yoga mats, the most important thing is your well-being and your taste. Like Suzanne Bryant-Cunha, a yoga teacher in San Francisco says:
“You have to want to spend time with your yoga mat”
Given how much time you’re going to spend with your mat doing sun salutations, stretches, and muscle toning, the price is one of the least important criteria, since you’ll rarely be spending much more than around £50. Even if you do spend the upper limit, it’ll be a very low price for the amount of use you’ll get out of it.
While the cheaper mats might seem like a good idea, they mightn’t last as long as the others. However, they can be a good idea for those who’ve just taken up yoga. You can find a good mat for between £15 and £20. On the other hand, a good mat made from natural or recycled yoga mat material can cost between £30 and £50.
Don’t forget that the size of your mat is also very important. If you're tall, you might need an extra long mat. You don't want to be doing your downward dog and find that both your hands and feet are sliding because they're not on the mat.
If you're a beginner and not sold on the restorative properties of yoga yet, then you probably don't want to be stretching your budget by paying a fortune for a really durable yoga mat like they have in professional yoga studios if you're barely going to use it.
I did a search for yoga classes near me and found a Superprof yogi who gave me advice on choosing the right mat!
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The Best Yoga Mat Brands and Shops
The Best Yoga Shops
If you’re just getting started, you’ll probably be really enthusiastic and looking at some of the best yoga mats around.
It’s a good idea to check out big sports shops like Decathlon that have a lot of yoga gear.
Of course, in these places, you probably won’t find as many mats made of natural or recycled materials. For these, you need to start looking at specialised yoga shops.
While there aren’t as many of these around, you can find plenty of them on the internet as well as through large online marketplaces like Amazon.
The Best Yoga Brands
Depending on what you’re looking for and what you need (straps, patterns, material, etc.), here are a few brands you should check out:
- Chin Mudra. This is one of the cheaper brands and is very good value for money. You’ll pay around £20 for a comfortable non-toxic mat. This is a great option for beginners.
Gaiam. Similarly, this is a great band for beginners. They also come in some nice patterns. These are available for between £15 and £30.
- Sports brands like Reebok, Nike, etc. These can be quite expensive and don’t last as long. I’d avoid getting one of these.
- Lululemon. This is a successful brand. There are heavy options (around 3kg) meaning that they’re best being used at home. They’re comfortable and non-porous meaning they won’t get as dirty. They cost around £50.
- Manduka. This is some of the top-of-the-range yoga mats. You’ll pay upwards of £50 for these large mats which have a very good lifespan. They also have mats for two people.
- Hugger Mugger: This brand does a huge variety of fitness equipment and yoga mats. The mats start at around £20 and they also do recycled foam blocks, yoga props, and bolsters.
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If you know of any other good brands, tell us about them in the comments.
Have you got your mat? Now you just have to work on your exercises and your mediation. In addition to yoga mats, you might want to get a yoga block or two, a yoga mat bag or a strap if you're going to be travelling with it, yoga towels, and cushions for meditation. As always, ask your instructor what you're going to need and what they recommend.
To wash your mat, just use a cloth or yoga towel to wipe off the sweat after each yoga class or routine. You can also use between 5 and 10 drops of essential oils. Some can be put in the washing machine, too.
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Forget about sleeping pads or pilates mats, there are plenty of other mats for yoga. You should also take into account the size and thickness of yoga mats since this will vary depending on the type of yoga you’re doing. If you’re just starting out, there are affordable yoga mats for beginners.
Avoid PVC mats since there are plenty of natural options available.
If you've hired your own private yogi, you should ask them which mat they prefer for the type of yoga they teach (Vinyasa yoga, Ashtanga yoga, etc.), whether you'll need a cushion for meditating, yoga blocks for a certain posture, and whether they prefer that you get environmentally friendly equipment or an eco yoga mat.
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