The yoga mat is the single most important yoga accessory. It is more than just something to sit on. It has become a symbol of modern yoga. It defines your space during the practice and gives you good grip during the difficult poses. Finding the right mat can be overwhelming. Below mentioned are a few factors you should consider while buying a new yoga mat, or replacing your old one.
Material: The texture of the mat, it’s stickiness, sponginess, longevity, everything depends on the material. 20 years back, there were very few options available, but as of today, we have material options to suit everyone’s preferences.
PVC: If you want a mat that will last for years, this is your material of choice. It is smooth in texture and has a soft feel to it. Also, mats made of PVC are relatively cheaper than most other options. Coming to its’s cons, they tend to be slippery. Also, they are very bad for the environment. They do not breakdown easily and are very expensive to recycle. A handful of researches have linked phthalates present in PVC to various health hazards.
Natural Rubber: They are one of the oldest ones in the market. They’re non-toxic, eco-friendly and have a good grip. They also have a good shelf-life, but not as much as the immortal PVC ones. A word of caution, these mats have a latex component in them, and not recommended for people with latex allergy.
Jute, cotton, and hemp: These newer fabrics are plant-based and renewable. They have a natural roughness and thereby have a good grip. Cotton and hemp are also one of the easiest to clean. You can simply put them in your washing machine. Coming to the cons bit, these are not smooth and do not have the cushion-like feel, jute being the roughest of all. Also, given their plant-origin, they have a limited lifespan and get frayed over time.
Thickness: The next factor to consider after the material is thickness. Standard yoga mats are generally 1/8th inches thick. Extra-padding is required for people who are susceptible to sore joints and want to ease the pressure on their joints. Thicker mats are generally 1/4th inches thick. One downside to the padded mats is, that they do not provide good stability during standing poses which need balancing. A third variant, the extra-thin mats or travel yoga mats are barely 1/16 inches thick and easily portable. Just like a towel, they can simply be folded and kept in your bag. Irrespective of the material, these are too thin and hardly provide any cushioning.
Price range: The PVC mats are the cheapest of all, whereas the newer eco-friendly versions fall on the higher side of the spectrum. Depending on your priorities and preferences you can choose the right yoga mat. If you plan to pursue yoga as a long term activity, yoga mat is the right place to splurge.
Patterns and designs: Back in the 1990’s there were just a few colors to choose from. We have come a long way since then, and now have a wide range of designs available. The newest addition to the Yoga mat family is the alignment mats. These have markings on them which guide you in placing the body properly and attaining correct postures.
Type of Yoga practice: Imagine being in a hot yoga session, with a puddle of sweat underneath your palm. For scenarios like these, you need a mat with the best grip possible. Now, instead of the hot yoga session, imagine yourself doing Vajrasan every morning. In this case, a good mat with minimal grip will do the job. So, it is advisable that you first decide your choice of practice and then go for mat shopping.
There are several opinions regarding what mat is the best for the practice. Nevertheless, there is no one size fits all mat, so your perfect mat can be completely different than your friend’s. Start shopping for your perfect mat here.