Once upon a time, shopping for a yoga mat was simple. There was really only one type just over a decade ago, and the only decision you had to make was what color you wanted it to be. From a limited amount of color options, of course. If you wanted a thinner mat, you used a towel. If you wanted a thicker mat, you doubled up.
Today, we have a whirlwind of yoga mat options to choose from. While it can make the selection process more difficult, it can also allow you to select the perfect yoga mat for your needs and preferences. The following is a simple guide to choosing the best yoga mat for you.
If you have allergies:
You may want to go with something that’s made of natural cotton. Some vinyl yoga mats, and yoga mats made from various other synthetic materials, may have fragrances and may be coated in synthetic finishes. These fragrances and finishes can make sensitive individuals’ allergies flare up.
Even some natural cotton yoga mats may still have synthetic ingredients, so be sure to do your research. Organic cotton not treated with dyes or chemicals is likely your best bet.
If you’re looking for an environmentally friendly option:
If going green for the sake of the planet is important to you, you definitely don’t want to go with a vinyl option (or one made of any other type of new plastic, for that matter). Instead, look for yoga mats made of organic cotton, or those made of recycled materials. You may have to pay a bit more for these options, but you’ll be leaving a smaller carbon footprint.
If you’re looking to be closer to the ground:
For those that like to feel the earth (or floor) beneath their hands and feet while doing yoga, a thinner mat may be best. These types of mats will also likely be less wobbly, and they allow you the smallest barrier between you and the earth. For outdoor yoga, thin mats are ideal. Look for one between ⅛ 1/16 inches thick, depending on your preference.
To feel more stable and balanced:
A thin yoga mat is your best bet for making sure you stay balanced. You also want a mat with a high “sticky factor” — enough grip to make sure you don’t slide when you’re executing poses. A thin mat made of vinyl or grippy natural materials (feel before you buy if you can) is ideal.
If you have issues with sore knees and elbows:
You may want to go with a thick yoga mat. One that’s about ¼ inch thick can provide more suitable cushioning for achy knees and elbows than a thinner mat. Just beware that these mats are bulkier and harder to cart from place to place.
If you’re traveling:
A travel mat that is about 1/16 inch thick is light, and easy to roll up and carry with you. These obviously won’t provide much cushion, but on the go, they’re the most portable. If you need a thicker yoga mat when you travel, prepare to be minimal with other luggage items.
If texture is an issue:
Some people prefer smooth yoga mats, while others prefer ones with a bumpier surface for more traction. Some like their yoga mats soft, while others like theirs extra-firm. It’s all a matter of preference. If you’re shopping for your first yoga mat, it’s a good idea to go to a physical store instead of shopping online, so you can get a real feel of the texture you’ll be experiencing.
Do you have any other tips and suggestions for choosing the perfect yoga mat? Please share your wisdom!
— Meditation Daily