While you may think that any old yoga mat will do, it is a mistake to think that these colorful mats are anything less than your most important piece of yoga equipment. Trying to find the right yoga mat that will suit your needs and abilities has the potential to turn into quite the hassle, especially for people who are new to yoga and are not sure why choosing a mat is so important. In order to obtain all of the benefits that come from practicing yoga, one must find a worry-free mat: super sticky so that hands won’t slip and slide around, and padded enough to make floor exercises comfortable. While these are some of the basic concerns, there are some additional factors that should be taken into consideration when trying to find your perfect mat.
The first thing to look for is ample cushioning. Look for yoga mats that are a full quarter inch or thicker, as these will provide more support throughout your yoga routine. Be warned, though: many mat manufacturers advertise their mats as quarter inch thick when they are really only 3/16”. Anything over a quarter inch may be too thick, and standing and balancing asanas (like tree pose) can become compromised. If your yoga mat is too thin, you are going to be uncomfortable holding any pose in which your hands, feet, knees, or any other body part touch the ground. This discomfort is very distracting and will take the mind off of the intended meditation. Finding the ideal balance between a too thin or too thick mat will ensure a more pleasurable and comfortable practice.
Size is another very important matter and is another place where many manufacturers tend to skimp in an effort to save on costs. A too short or too narrow mat can end in inability to perform full-length poses properly, as you will need to have your hands and toes on the yoga mat at the same time. You should look for a mat that is 74 inches or longer, and wide enough that you can put your hands shoulder-width apart comfortably. Some manufacturers make yoga mats that are extra wide and extra long for bigger people.
Storage space may be an issue as well. A thinner yoga mat made from inexpensive material would make for easier storage. Thicker mats are bulkier and heavier, yes, but this is not always bad news -- when considering material, the heavier the better. While it may be appealing to carry a lightweight mat to and from class, keep in mind that the higher quality materials used to make yoga mats weigh more, because the materials are more dense. If you are concerned about the environment, you may want to opt for an eco-friendly mat that is made of all-natural jute and tree rubber. This type of mat is much more biodegradable than standard PVC.
Texture may also be considered as well, as some mats are stickier and grippier than others, aiding meditation and balance. If you are not concerned about going green, then a cheaper PVC mat may be sufficient for your practice. Just find out which material and texture is most agreeable to you and ''stick'' with it!
Cost may be the deciding factor if you are watching your wallet. A standard ⅛ inch thick, plain solid color yoga mat, without fancy logos, is going to be much less expensive than a thicker, eco-friendly, super-trendy, high-performance mat. Be careful, though, to select a safe mat. Injury can be avoided if a little bit more money is spent on a decent, quality mat. And, investing a little bit extra in a quality yoga mat will yield a more enjoyable experience every time you step into the studio.
Performance, and genre of yoga, should be taken into consideration when choosing a mat. High-performance mats are those which are super durable and can stand up to years of heavy usage and vinyasa-style (fast-paced) yoga. Most high performance mats, like Dragonfly, come with a lifetime guarantee. If you are practicing lighter styles of yoga like hatha, you do not necessarily need a performance mat, and a standard ¼ inch mat might be sufficient. If you are unfamiliar with the several genres of yoga styles and the differences between both, you can visit our yoga videos page and watch a short video describing and demonstrating a few major genres of yoga. If you are a nomadic yogi, travelling often or packing your weekends full of road trips, you might want to get a travel mat (also known as a ‘lite’ mat): one that is lightweight enough to fold and pack in your suitcase yet provides ample joint support and cushioning.
Now that you are a little more familiar with some of the factors to consider when purchasing in a yoga mat, you can start shopping! And what more zen shopping setting can be found than your own living room? Better yet, you will be saving the planet one click at a time by skipping the car ride to your local retailer. Check out our wide selection at YOGAaccessories.com; we even have friendly yogis waiting by the phone to assist you with any purchasing needs you may have.