Finding the yoga mat that fits your needs isn’t easy when you first start out. Get it wrong and you are less likely to want to practice regularly.
My first yoga mat purchase was a total failure because I didn’t do my research. I bought it online based on looks and price and very little else. It turned out to be too heavy, too bulky and it refused to lie flat when I unrolled it. I hated using it and pretty soon I didn’t! That experience definitely stalled my at-home yoga journey for a while.
My second mat is the one I still use today. It’s 5 years old and looks as good as new. It has just the right amount of grip to prevent slipping, a nice texture that feels good under my feet and it rolls out flat every time.
Here are the things to consider when choosing a yoga mat.
A standard size yoga mat is 68 inches long x 24 inches wide and suits most people.
If you are above average height you may prefer a longer mat. The general rule is to make sure the mat is at least 6 inches longer than your height. This ensures your head and/or feet won’t spill over the edge when lying in Savasana pose.
If you have broad shoulders and think you might prefer some additional width, look for an extra wide mat.
The degree of thickness (or cushioning) of the mat varies and is a personal preference based on your needs. What you choose should depend on the level of comfort you’re after, the amount of room you have for storage and whether you need portability.
|1/4 inch or 6mm yoga mats
|The most popular thickness and the one I use.
Pros: Ideal for at-home yoga as it provides good support and is durable.
Cons: Can be a little heavy and bulky if you plan on taking it outside the home.
|1/8 inch or 3mm yoga mats
|A thinner mat that is most often used in public classes.
Pros: Lightweight and compact when rolled up. Easy to carry. Inexpensive. Easy to store.
Cons: Not as durable as thicker mats and less cushioning for your joints.
|1/16 inch or 2mm yoga mats
|These super thin mats are designed for travelling.
Pros: Super lightweight and often foldable for easy transport. Great for taking on holidays.
Cons: Very thin and hard on your knees. You will likely need some additional padding for certain poses.
|1/2 inch or 12mm yoga mats
|The thickest yoga mat with the most cushioning.
Pros: Best for people with joint problems especially when doing low to the ground poses.
Cons: Very heavy and bulky. Difficult to roll up & store. May be too squishy for standing and balancing poses.
Generally, the thicker the mat the more it weighs.
I have a 6mm thick mat and even though it’s a bit bulky when rolled, it is still light enough for me to carry easily. I will often take it with me when I go on a road trip.
If I’m planning to fly however, I take my thinner travel mat. It’s super lightweight and folds up for easy packing.
What your yoga mat is made of determines its texture, grip and stickiness. It will also indicate if it’s eco-friendly (good for the environment) and how durable it’s likely to be.
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) is a man-made material and the most commonly used in yoga mat construction. It provides good grip and stickiness despite its smooth texture. PVC mats are the most durable of all the materials but also the least eco-friendly. This material is known to contain phthalates which are linked to harmful environmental emissions. PVC mats are also non-biodegradable. The advantage of these mats is that they are very robust, can handle any conditions and will last for many years with basic maintenance.
Rubber mats are made from a natural resource and are biodegradable which is a big selling feature for many yogis. They have better grip than PVC especially during sweaty workouts because they absorb moisture. Conversely they tend to be on the heavy side, not as spongy underfoot and the texture can be a little hard and rough compared to PVC. They also require regular deep cleaning to avoid harboring bacteria.
TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer) is fairly new to the yoga mat market. It is another man-made product but importantly is non-toxic and biodegradable. It is very lightweight, grippy, soft underfoot and a great alternative to PVC for the environmentally conscious buyers. The down side is that TPE mats are less robust then PVC and not as durable. This is countered however by the fact they are 100% recyclable.
Closed Cell v Open Cell
The difference between open and closed cell yoga mats is their ability to absorb moisture.
Most PVC and TPE mats are made with closed cell technology which means they repel moisture. This makes them perfect for gentle to moderate yoga but if you happen to enjoy a sweaty Bikram practice then they can get very slippery. Closed cell mats are denser than open cell, much easier to keep clean and more resistant to wear and tear.
If you have a tendency to sweat a lot, or love doing hot yoga then I recommend you invest in an open cell yoga mat. Some rubber mats (but not all) have an open cell style. They absorb moisture and give better traction. Just remember though that this type of mat will retain everything you throw at it. It will need deep cleaning regularly to stay nice and fresh. It will also have a shorter shelf life.
Yoga mats that are toxin free, containing no known carcinogens and able to be recycled when you’re finished with them are becoming much sought after by the yoga community.
TPE and natural rubber yoga mats are the most common of the eco-friendly variety but there are other materials that also qualify. Jute fiber, organic cotton, and cork are increasingly being used by mat manufacturers.
How good is it that we can be kind to the planet and get fit at the same time!
If you plan to take your mat on holidays or to a yoga class, you will want an easy way to transport it. Check to see if a bag or strap is included in the sale price or else you may need to purchase one separately.
Like everything, if you use it regularly you need to clean it often.
For a closed cell mat a simple wipe down with a damp cloth after use is sufficient. Once a month give it a good clean on both sides with a mat cleaner (or make your own).
For open cell yoga mats be prepared to also do a deep clean monthly (or sooner if it starts to smell unpleasant). Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for this. They may recommend soaking the mat in a bathtub or sink and allowing to air dry.
With so many yoga mats flooding the yoga market it is always wise to stick with proven brand names to ensure you’re getting a quality mat. Some of the top brands include Gaiam, Manduka, HeathYoga, JadeYoga, Liforme and Lululemon.
From my experience a sweet spot for quality yoga mats is between $40 – $100. If you are committing to a regular at-home practice, spending a few more dollars to get the features you want is absolutely worth it.
Style is the final selling point but still important.
Once you’ve narrowed your selection to include all the features you’re looking for, decide on a color and perhaps a pattern that will inspire you to roll out that mat. A reversible design that gives you a different look on each side is also a great option.
Happy shopping yogis.