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How to Buy the Right Yoga Mat
Whether a dabbler in down-dog or a daily yogi, investing in a good yoga mat is essential. That trusty mat provides comfort between the body and floor, cushioning hips, elbows, and knees when flowing through the poses. The mat also creates a boundary for personal space. (Do not enter, person next to me in half-moon!). So forget rentals, which can be a hot spot for germs, and learn what to look for when in the market for a solid mat.
Mat Mania — Your Action Plan
Photo by Jordan Shakeshaft
Material. Most mats are made with a type of plastic called PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, which keeps slippage at a minimum and tends to be the most affordable. Alas, PVC is also considered a toxic plastic that’s difficult (and costly) to recycle. So for the environmentally conscious, go the green route when in tree pose and choose a material like recycled rubber, jute, cotton, or even bamboo!
Thickness. The standard mat is 1/8 inches thick, offering support to the body, but still allowing the user to feel connected to the ground. Travel mats (a lighter weight option) are usually about 1/16 inch thick, making them a suitcase’s best friend. For those who want some extra cushion (whether sporting bad knees or always falling out of crow pose) a thicker mat — closer to 1/4 inch — may be the best bet.
Length. A typical yoga mat is 68 inches long, though they do make super-stretched mats for the Johnny Long Legs out there. (Don’t want those palms on the hard floor in down-dog!)
Stickiness. A sticky yoga mat is key to prevent slippin’ and sliding when making moves. (Now that’s a sticky situation.) PVC mats are usually super sticky, and some are even made with a fabric-like surface on top and a patterned bottom to help hands (and the mat itself) stay put. But many eco-friendly mats often add a raised texture to keep sliding at a minimum, too, or are made with naturally slip-resistant rubber. A yoga mat’s texture will also determine how much slippage occurs. PVC mats are naturally softer (extra-long savasana, anyone?), while other materials (like jute!) have a roughness to them.
Price. A no-frills, 1/8 inch thick PVC mat will often be cheapest option. The price tags increase when design, brand name, thickness, and eco-materials are part of the purchasing process. (Some mats come in at more than $100!) Just remember not to fall for the cheap stuff (that $10 mat may not be the best choice). Investing in a reliable mat is important, but that savings account surely shouldn’t be sacrificed!
Test it out. If still unsure what mat is best for the body, no need to splurge right away. Go the “measure twice, cut once” route and test out some high-quality mats at various studios or do some research before buying.
Extra, Extra! It may be worth investing in a no-slip towel that lays right on top of the mat (especially for hot yoga!). Mats with straps and harnesses are also great to help make transportation a breeze. And definitely don’t forget to keep the mat clean, too. (Gross!) A good sign the mat needs a wipe-down is if it loses its stickiness or if that nose is not happy in child’s pose. Purchase some cleaning spray or go the DIY route for a squeaky-clean yoga experience.