Today we’ll be going over how to select the right Yoga Mat for your needs. Fifteen years ago, there was only one basic type of yoga mat — made of PVC and noted for its stickiness — and your only choice was whether to buy purple or blue. Now, there’s a yoga mat to suit every priority and preference.
Use this guide to help you find a yoga mat you can be blissfully happy with — one that suits your practice, priorities, lifestyle, values, and budget.
Beyond just the colour and the pattern that suits your personal style, your yoga mat needs to keep you stable in your poses; it needs to be storable and portable, yet comfy and cushy. You may also want your mat to be environmentally friendly!
These aspects of your mat’s personality are all affected by how the mat is made: how thick it is, what it’s made of and its surface texture.
Yoga Mat Material
Why it’s important: The material your yoga mat is made of dictates its texture, stickiness, eco-friendliness, and sponginess (how much it yields to pressure), and how it wears over time.
So what options are out there? Well, most standard yoga mats are made of PVC, otherwise known as vinyl.
Newer, more earth-friendly options include natural and recycled rubber, jute, and organic cotton or natural cotton (which means the fabric is not treated with synthetic finishes during manufacturing).
Basic buying guidelines: If you’re allergic to latex, avoid yoga mats made of natural rubber. If you want to stick with the tried and true sticky mat, choose a yoga mat made out of PVC, which can endure your use and abuse for more than a decade. Sponginess can vary widely with different blends of materials, but in general, PVC has the most “give” of any yoga mat material; jute and cotton have the least. The sponginess of your mat is more of a personal preference for the type of yoga that you’re doing, so being able to test one out isnt a bad idea before purchasing.
Beyond these fundamentals, read on and let your other priorities — texture, stickiness, and eco-friendliness — be your guides.
Yoga Mat Thickness
So what’s so important about the thickness of your yoga mat? It’s just a mat to stand on right? Well, the thickness of your yoga mat has a lot to do with how comfortable it is — too thin, and your knee may get banged up during crescent lunge. The tradeoff is that thick yoga mats (some as thick as 1/4 inch) can make it harder for you to feel a strong connection to the floor, making you more wobbly in Tree Pose, for example. So understanding the types of asanas that you’ll be doing can be a factor in how thick you might want a mat.
The options: A standard yoga mat is about 1/8 inch thick, while the thickest is about 1/4 inch. There are also wafer-thin yoga mats, often billed as “travel yoga mats,” that are a mere 1/16 inch thick. They fold easily and don’t weigh much, making them a cinch to fit in a suitcase.
What else should you consider when buying a yoga mat? Consider how much room you have to stow your yoga mat, how important portability is, and where your sweet spot is on comfort versus being able to feel a direct connection to the floor. If you’re short on storage space, have a long schlep to the studio, and like the feel of just a little padding, opt for a standard-depth mat, in the 1/8 inch range.
If you don’t mind carrying and storing a little more heft for the sake of more cushioning, consider a premium yoga mat that’s about 1/4 inch thick. And if you absolutely must be able to pack your yoga mat in a suitcase or carry-on, get yourself a foldable travel yoga mat in the 1/16 inch range.
Yoga Mat Stickiness
Why it’s important: A sticky yoga mat keeps you from sliding all over the place and helps you maintain your alignment as you move from one pose to another, as well as when you hold poses for several seconds. Holding an intricate pose and then slipping on a smooth wooden floor can cause some serious injuries if not careful.
So, things you should consider include whether you need help staying put in your poses but you bristle at the thought of practising on a yoga mat with a raised texture, a PVC yoga mat is probably your best bet.
Just remember that these yoga mats are only sticky when they are clean, so make sure you care for your yoga mat properly. If you buy a PVC yoga mat, wash it before you use it and use a yoga wash cleaner whenever you notice your hands sliding forward in downward dog. You can also purchase some sprays that add a tacky spray to the surface, helping with grip.
Yoga Mat Eco-Friendliness
What’s so important about being eco-friendly? The straight forward answer is being good to the earth is a good thing to do! As yogis, we hold dear the tenet of ahimsa or non-violence. That makes practising on a yoga mat that will ultimately end up clogging a landfill for decades to come troublesome.
So what are your options? Well, Earth-friendly yoga mats are typically made from natural or recycled rubber. These yoga mats may also include natural materials, such as jute or organic cotton, so if you’re looking to be really serious about being eco-friendly, try one of those.
Basic buying guide: If eco-friendliness is important to you, avoid yoga mats made of PVC (the traditional sticky mat), which does not break down in landfills and is difficult and costly to recycle. Rubber, jute and, cotton yoga mats, while available in a range of thicknesses, tend to be thicker and slicker than PVC mats. You can get a yoga mat that’s eco-friendly, has a thickness that meets your needs for comfort and portability, and has a texture (such as a raised geometric pattern) that prevents slippage. If you do end up with a classic PVC yoga mat, just make sure that you take good care of it, and you’ll get tons of years of use out of it, to hopefully offset some of its environmental impacts.
Yoga Mat Price Range
Typically, a basic 1/8 inch thick, plain solid-colour PVC sticky yoga mat will skew towards the low end of the price range. From there you may pay more for patterns, designs or logos; premium thickness; antimicrobial treatments; and cool textures, especially raised tactile patterns. Eco-friendly yoga mats tend to be toward the high end of the price range.
Yoga Mat Styles
Once you’ve narrowed your choices down by thickness, material, texture, stickiness, eco-friendliness, and price, there’s only one factor left: style! So go ahead and pick your favourite colour, pattern, or print. After all, you’ll be seeing a lot of it in downward dog. Happy shopping!
Yoga Mat Textures
Mat textures are really important; the texture of your yoga mat dictates how much traction it provides. Like stickiness, texture affects how much slipping and sliding you do. It provides physical barriers to sliding (whereas stickiness relies on suction). And because texture affects the way a yoga mat feels, it’s also a component of overall comfort.
If you’re a Princess-and-the-Pea type, any bumpy texture will likely aggravate you in savasana. Texture can be either man-made (a pattern of raised bumps, for example) or dictated by the materials — jute yoga mats have an organic roughness to them, while PVC yoga mats, though slightly textured, have a softer feel.
Options: There’s a yoga mat texture to suit every whim — from completely smooth to downright rough, so it doesn’t hurt to know what kind you like before ordering from online.
Basic buying guidelines: If you’re looking for a yoga mat that prevents slipping and you’d like to avoid PVC mats (the traditional sticky yoga mats), look for a rubber, jute, or cotton yoga mat that has a raised, tactile pattern. The added grip the raised texture provides can help you stay put no matter how sweaty or vigorous your practise gets.
If smoothness is of prime importance to you, a PVC yoga mat is the way to go. And if you relish stickiness but are curious about the newer, more earth-friendly options, test drive a few before you buy. Some eco-friendly yoga mats may surprise you with how much traction they provide even though they don’t have the traditional “sticky” feel.