Now that you know how to find the right yoga mat, you’ll need to know when it’s time to retire your current mat or expand on your mat collection. I recently purchased a new mat because the signs were clear: after six months of using a cheap, ⅛ inch mat two to four times a week, the mat was no longer sticky, the mat straps that were supposed to hold the mat together to and from the studio were both broken, the already thin mat had slowly been worn and pressed down to where it was almost paper-thin, and the open cell design allowed for tiny plastic chunks to be dug out of it with my toenails and fingernails every time I did a Chaturanga. After a few months, my pink zebra print yoga mat no longer provided ample support, was not conducive to heavy practice, and worse, looked like something my dog slept on. Although the signs were clear to me, it may not easy for everyone to realize when it’s time for a new mat, so here’s a quick list of tell-tale signs you need to replace your yoga mat or buy a supplementary mat:

  • Some asanas will put strain on certain joints like your knees, ankles, elbows, and wrists. If you have to sit any poses out because your mat is too thin and does not support your body in certain areas, you need to buy a thicker mat.
  • If a certain part of your body is constantly sore the day after practicing yoga, for example, if your wrists hurt like crazy the morning after a night full of sun salutations, you might need to buy a thicker mat.
  • If your mat smells bad, and you can’t shake the smell after using a yoga mat cleaner or deep cleaning your mat by scrubbing it and hanging it to dry, you need to buy a new mat. Look for one with a closed-cell design.
  • If you travel a lot and need a foldable mat, or if you have a heavy-duty performance mat and need something lighter and easy to carry around, try adding a “lite” mat or foldable travel mat to your collection.
  • Check for “bald spots” and pieces of the mat around the area where you practice. Open cell mats made from PVC are susceptible to damage from fingers and toes, and older plastic mats will shed -- necessitating a new yoga mat.
  • Look at your yoga mat from the side. Does it look squished down in the front of back (where your hands and feet are usually placed in downward dog)? If so, continuation of use on this mat may lead to joint damage and you need to look for a replacement.
  • If you do Bikram or hot yoga often and find yourself struggling with sweat and slipping, you might want to invest in an extra absorbent microfiber yoga mat towel to place over your existing mat.

If you’ve grown somewhat attached to your yoga mat and would feel bad throwing it in the trash, don’t worry! You don’t have to toss it just yet. Here are a few creative ideas on how to upcycle and repurpose old yoga mats. Place it under a carpet to keep the carpet in place, or cut it up and use as a jar opener or drawer liners in the kitchen. I threw my pink zebra mat in the trunk of my car and have been using it under my beach towel for added cushioning while sunbathing and in case of yoga emergencies as a back up mat.

Can you think of a fun way to recycle an old yoga mat? Leave us a comment below, we want to hear your ideas!