If you have already taken your first yoga class, the next step is getting your own mat. Or if you haven’t taken yoga yet, your mat could be your first step!
I think choosing a yoga mat is much like choosing yoga pants– everyone has preferences; capri, long, tight, loose, fold over at the top. We all have personal preferences and different things are important/not important to us. For example, I don’t care what brand my yoga clothes are, as long as they are flattering, comfortable and most importantly don’t give me that “muffin top” feeling/look. So, like pants, we can be just as particular with our yoga mat selection.
Once you’ve determined the basics, then you can get creative with patterns, colors, etc.
Here’s a general guide (with some help) from GAIAMlife to get you started:
Length: Choose a mat that is appropriate for the size of your body. If you are close to 6ft tall or taller, you’ll want a longer mat. The standard yoga mat length is 68″ inches long. Long mats are 72″ or 74″.
Thickness: The thickness of your yoga mat has a lot to do with how comfortable it is– too thin, and your knee may get banged up during crescent lunge. Select a yoga mat thick enough to help you avoid discomfort from practicing on hard surfaces. If you have injuries or joint issues, a thicker mat is helpful. The trade off for a thick yoga mat is that it can make it harder for you to feel a strong connection to the floor, making you more wobbly in Tree Pose, for example.
Standard mat: 1/8 inch thick (light weight, you’ll find this mat any where)
Some where in the middle: 3/16 inch thick (comfortable for most) – this is my fav!
Extra think: 1/4 inch (for extra support and cushion, good for injuries)
Super thin: 1/16 (light weight, good for travel, fold up and pack)
Material: The material of your yoga mat is going to determine how it wears over time. Texture, stickiness, eco-friendliness and sponginess, are all based on what your mat is made of. If you are allergic to latex, avoid yoga mats made of natural rubber or PVC. The upside of mats made of PVC, is that they can endure your use and abuse for more than a decade.
Texture: The texture of your yoga mat dictates how much traction and slipping and sliding you do. It provides physical barriers to sliding (this is especially important if you are a hot yoga lover). And because texture affects the way a yoga mat feels, it’s also a component of overall comfort. If you’re a yoga princess, any bumpy texture will likely aggravate you in savasana. In my opinion, a textured mat is the way to go. I can grip into poses with my hands and feet better with a textured mat.
Stickiness: Look for a mat with a decent amount of absorbency. It can be dangerous for sweat to accumulate in pools on your mat. If you find yourself slipping on your mat from sweaty palms or feet, bring a towel. There are a ton of yoga towel options out there like yogitoes and NamaSTAY.
Eco-Friendliness: If eco-friendliness is important to you, avoid yoga mats made of PVC. You can get a yoga mat that’s eco-friendly, has a thickness that meets your needs for comfort and portability, and has a texture and that prevents slippage. I love eco-friendly mats, not only because I’m a Mother Earth lover, but I have found that they are usually the perfect combination of texture, stickiness and come in a good middle ground thickness. I love this eco-friendly mat from kulae. We sell them at extendYoga and people love them!
A few more things to remember when choosing a mat:
Try a few before committing! At our studio, we have a couple different mats you can try in class and then purchase if you love them.
lululemon athletica Bethesda Row even gave us this mat for students to test drive before they grab one at their local lululemon store. The lululemon mat is actually ridiculously awesome! It’s non slip, durable, antimicrobial (helps prevent mold and mildew) and it miraculously soaks up sweat– seriously, sweat disappears on this thing!
And most importantly, don’t forget, you don’t need a fancy mat to be good at yoga. :) Use a mat that you are comfortable with and works best for you! Some of my favorite mats have been from Marshalls and Target! (Target actually has a Diane von Furstenberg mat out right now):