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Yoga MATters - Choosing the best yoga mat
Sophie Kalinauckas, Yoga professional
The art and heart of yoga is based on the yogic path, a path which disposes of physical and mental stresses and arrives at spiritual peace. Yoga does not require any special apparatus other than a yoga mat. Choosing your mat can be a confusing task, they come in many shapes, sizes and colours, just like us. Deciding on your yoga mat is a journey of philosophical discovery in itself.
Whether you are just starting out with your practice, you plan to participate on occasion or are a more experienced yoga-goer, you might be struggling to decide which yoga mat you should choose. The process is similar to the quest of finding a life partner or owning a car, it comes down to your personality and desires. All of us practicing yoga want to find that yoga mat which will accommodate us best. There are several things that you need to evaluate on your search to find the best mat to support your yoga practice. So, before reluctantly surrendering into Downward Dog, know that there are many different mats which are designed to suit varying lifestyles, practice styles, levels of confidence and degrees of comfort.
The amount of time you spend on your mat has influence on your decision in which mat you should purchase. If you are a yoga beginner or practice on occasion there are basic mats available made from PVC, suitable if you are looking for something for a short period Agoy Earth Mat Deluxe. If you regularly practice yoga it is advisable to select a mat which is resilient, tough and will have a long lifespan. A mat which is built to last as an example is the Jade Harmony Professional or the Manduka Black Mat Pro available in black or each season in a limited edition colour.
Are you a sweaty betty?
Some yoga styles are heated and others are non- heated. Certain types of yoga such as Bikram and hot Vinyasa flow result in a lot of sweating. This might be the case for you anyway in other forms of non-heated yoga, if you are prone to sweating easily. If sweat is a factor for you, then you need a yoga mat that can cope with getting wet. Sweat can be a hop, skip and jump away from causing injury. Your mat must maintain stability so you do not slip, slide or misplace steps and you are able to hold Asana poses for long periods of time. The best yoga mat designed to handle such conditions is the Halfmoon Studio Yoga Mat Deluxe. Some mats also have grip zones and rubber cushions to help with sweaty hands and feet. You can also invest in towels to prevent skidding and sliding Dusky Leaf Zeroslip Yoga Towel.
Thick or thin?
The thickness of your yoga mat determines how well you can stabilise your poses whilst simultaneously maintain a level of comfort. You need to decide which you consider to be more important, as this will influence the dimensions of your mat. A thinner mat around 2-4mm such as the Jade Yoga Travel Mat, Agoy Earth Mat Classic, and Halfmoon Natural Rubber Mat, provides a ground-like stability as many yogis like to have a strong connection to the floor, these mats are also referred to as travel mats. However, a thinner surface can be tough on your joints like in the Camel Pose. A thicker mat around 4-6mm such as the Jade Yoga Saffron Mat Limited Edition (My all-time personal favorite yoga mat!) and the Halfmoon Radical Rubber Mat provides more comfort, however, it can make balancing postures slightly more difficult such as the Big Toe Pose. Whether you prioritise stability or comfort, the thickness of your mat is an important factor to consider.
Tall as a tree or short as shrub?
If you are tall you may prefer a longer mat for extra space Barefoot Performance Grip Mat at 182cm.If you are shorter, then a small mat at 170cm might be more agreeable for you Studio Mat Classic by Agoy. A good guide is to buy a mat around 10% longer than your standing height (head to toe).
Long yoga commute or yoga-homie?
Yoga mats also wrap up as small as 1.5mm, these are known as travel yoga mats, my favorites are the Luxury Yoga Travel Mat by Agoy and the Jade Yoga Travel Mat. If you are short on storage space and have a long yoga commute then a thinner option is probably best for you. You need a mat which is portable and practical. Some yoga mats weigh as little as 2kg which also compress into small, portable shapes. Others fold up into tiny squares, which is super for storage and handy to be hidden in your Mary Poppin’s bag of life. In both these cases I still recommend the Agoy Luxury Travel Mat. Some private yogis like to practice at home and so can go for heavier mats with longer durability. Home practice mats can come with lifetime guarantees, the most popular mat for this is Manduka Eko Lite Yoga.
Rough and ready or sticky and spongy?
You’ll also want to deliberate over the material of your mat. The material determines the texture which can vary from rough surfaces to sticky surfaces. The texture dictates how much traction there is. This has a big impact on slipping and sliding, especially with those sticky palms or annoying sliding towels. Basics mats are made from PVC, which are the traditional sticky yoga mats, they have a sponginess feel and provide a smoothness. If instead you want to avoid a smooth texture, you can opt for a sturdier material such as the Barefoot Yoga Natural Jute PER. If you have a latex allergy you must avoid mats made of natural rubber. It is possible to find textures to fit every preference such as rubber mats, cotton mats and even bamboo-made.
With the continual concerns about our environment it is refreshing to know that some yoga mats are now environmentally friendly. They are typically made from natural and recycled rubber, jute and organic cotton and natural cotton. These mats are not synthetically finished such as the Halfmoon Deluxe Eco Yoga Mat. Although these mats don’t tend to have the traditional sticky feel, they do yield traction more than you might think. What’s even better is that eco-friendly mats do not emit toxins. If you want to show some Karma (compassion) by thinking about the health of the earth then the eco-friendly mats are a great purchase.
Pick the perfect price?
The basic PVC sticky yoga mats will be the lower end of the price range. Deciding on pattern, colour, size, material, thickness and design will see variation in price. Environmentally-friendly yoga mats tend to be the most expensive. Figure out your budget and go from there. If you want a mat which is great value but also hardwearing then the Studio Mat Deluxe by Agoy is a popular choice.
It is also important to be aware that you will grow and develop in your yoga practice. You might find that as your yoga skills flourish your mat preferences will change.
Dally in designs?
Once you have the many of the elements of your yoga mat sorted then fun can then begin! You can decide on plain, solid colour yoga mats or go wild and choose to customize yoga mats with more detailed designs. Some mats also come with additional accessories like bags, blocks, straps and DVDs so you have all the tools to get started. The more you invest in a yoga mat, generally the better quality it will be.
Finding the right yoga mat to suit you will help you on your way to Ananda (bliss). Deciding on the best yoga mat goes beyond colour and pattern, you want it to keep you grounded in your yoga poses, you also want it to be storable and portable and at the same time comfy and cushy! Just like finding the perfect partner for you, your yoga mat’s personality has got to mould with yours. If it clashes, there is going to be no peace and harmony. It might be useful to ask your yoga instructor and fellow yogis for their recommendations. Make sure you look after your mat well by cleaning after practice and storing safely. With the range of yoga mats designed for a variety of priorities and preferences you’ll be practicing the Happy-Baby Position in no time.