Go back just over a decade and yoga mats weren’t anything fancy: a slab of PVC that came in blue, pink or purple. These days, not only do you have a wider colour choice, but the science that goes into a yoga mat has made them more comfortable, non-slip and even environmentally friendly. Now all you have to do is work out which one suits your body and yoga style the best.
Here’s a checklist to help you on your shopping expedition. Remember, choosing a mat is a personal decision, so try not to be swayed by over-zealous salespeople wanting to sell you the latest Mercedes-type version. The mat you decide upon, after weighing up your needs, will be the right one for you…
What’s it made of?
As mentioned, all yoga mats used to be made from PVC (vinyl). Now the popular material of choice is natural or recycled rubber, sometimes mixed with jute and/or cotton for texture and grip, although PVC is still available. Rubber is a more natural alternative and is also more comfortable for the user, unless you are allergic to latex, of course. In this case, you’ll want to opt for PVC. It’s also worth mentioning that PVC lasts a lot longer than rubber.
How thick and long is it?
The thinner you are, the less cushioning you’ll have around your knees, hips and spine, therefore a thicker mat may be a more comfy choice. The same goes if you have joint issues and require extra cushioning. Don’t go all out and buy the thickest mat you can find, though, or you might find that it is so well-cushioned that you get the wobbles while trying to hold your tree pose. Thicker mats are also heavier and harder to travel with. If you’re a tall person, then a longer mat is the way to go; you will want to be able to position both feet on the mat while you’re in a wide stance.
What’s the slip factor?
How slippery a yoga mat may be is a very important point to consider when purchasing. If you’re doing hot yoga, then the moisture can quickly pile up on your mat causing it to become a slip-and-slide hazard – your warrior pose could turn into a display of the splits or you might face plant while doing a downward dog! The same goes if you’re naturally sweaty or doing a class in hot weather. Mukti Mats makes a reversible yoga mat that has a super non-slip side so you can practise sweaty vinyasa, plus a softer side for more nurturing restorative practice. If you opt for a pure PVC mat, be sure to keep it clean so you have the best chance of ‘sticking’ to the surface during balancing poses.
Is it eco-friendly?
Given that yoga is a centring of your body with the earth, it’s great to see many more yoga mats entering the market that are made using materials which are kind to the environment. Yogis also hold close to their hearts the tenet of Ahimsā, which means ‘not to injure’, making many shun the idea of using PVC which will end up in landfill and, therefore, injure the land. LoveEarth Yoga Mats makes its mats from natural rubber and jute (you can actually cut it up and use it for compost), but it goes one step further and provides a list of how you can repurpose any worn yoga mat. See the list here.
Is it in my price range?
Just because a yoga mat has a fancy price tag, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best one for you. PVC mats are generally less expensive than rubber mats. Other factors that can ramp up the price are raised patterns and textures, designs and logos, extra thickness, antimicrobial treatments, and whether or not it is eco-friendly. You can expect to pay anywhere from $15 to $90 for a yoga mat in Australia – but you can get a pretty good one for around the $50 mark.
Does it look and feel good?
Now that you’ve made sure you have the ‘right’ mat for your needs, feel free to go all out on choosing the style and colours you like – from basic black to Mediterranean aqua. Note the texture, too – some mats are quite lumpy (to provide traction) which may or may not bother you. PVC mats tend to be smoother and softer.
The choice is yours! Namaste.
Do you have any tips you’d like to add for buying a yoga mat? Let us know in the comments below.