Well… whether you’re new to the yoga party or have been at it for years, you would benefit from having your own mat.
Yoga mats provide comfort, cushioning hips, elbows, and knees from the floor. The mat also creates a boundary for personal space (ahem!). Many yoga studios, gyms and community centres provide yoga mats, but check before you rock up to class.
There’s a plethora of yoga mats to choose from – standard plastic (PVC, otherwise known as vinyl), cork, jute, recycled rubber, organic cotton or natural cotton mats. They can be wide, long, designer, eco, light for travel, colourful, printed, you may also want a carry strap, or mat bag.
You could use a folded blanket (if on carpet), or a thin towel, but if you are on a hardwood or concrete floor, a towel will be way too thin, and a blanket too slippery to flow through poses. A skidless towel can also be used – handy to take to a class to use on top of one of their studio mats, once home, just pop it in the wash.
If your search is about to start for your own yoga mat – one that suits your practice, priorities, lifestyle, and budget – there are also a few other things to consider:
1. Thickness: Some people prefer thinner mats because they are more portable. However, there are also other people (like me), who prefer thicker mats because it gets painful when I’m doing poses that cause my elbows, knees or spine to dig into the ground – a decent mat thickness is 4mm, cushy is 6mm.
2. Grip: By this we mean the grip between you and the mat, and between the mat and floor too. You wouldn’t want to be sliding about or getting distracted trying not to slip during your sun salutation or funky warrior sequence! Consider also the texture of the mat and the surface you will be exercising on – some complement each other better than others!
3. Eco-friendliness: After disposing of a PVC mat it does not biodegrade – it remains in the environment, in the sea or in landfill. More sustainable options include mats made of natural rubber, traditional straw tatami mats, cotton or cork mats. Each have their advantages and some are more suitable that others depending on your need – portability/durability etc.
4. Can I try the mat first? It’s great to feel the thickness and texture of the yoga mat. Of course some yoga mats are only sold online, but unless you are absolutely sure that the yoga mat you are planning to buy is good (either from your own research, or word-of-mouth), touch-try before you buy.
5. Style: Once you’ve narrowed your choices down by thickness, material, texture, stickiness, grip, eco-friendliness and price, there’s only one factor left: style!
Original Yogis practiced standing postures on bare floor or cotton rugs, and floor poses on blankets, but that was before a multi-billion pound industry sprung up to serve your every imagined need!
So if it’s a brand you are after you can check out: Manduka, Lululemon, Sweaty Betty, Jade Yoga, Agoy, PrAna, and Gaiam. There are stockists such as Yoga Mad, Yogamatters, John Lewis, Sports Direct, and even TKMaxx. You pay more for patterns, designs or logos, premium thickness, or antimicrobial treatments.
The choice is yours and seemingly endless – happy shopping… or simply reach for the woolly blanket in your cupboard, or the Mexican rug in your loft!
Above all – remember that slipping can cause serious injuries; so always practice mindfully and with awareness!