When I began my practice several years ago, I knew there were two things I needed to buy: the best yoga pants and the best yoga mat. Yoga pants are easy. You find a pair that look good and feel good, and voila! You’re done! By now I shamelessly own about 100 pairs of yoga pants and at least half of them are black. (Okay, I’m exaggerating, but I really do own A LOT of yoga pants.)
I also own more than the average number of mats. I have four, but each has a different purpose.
Unlike yoga pants, you can’t exactly try on a mat before you buy it. Seriously…I got yelled for unrolling a yoga mat at a sporting goods store, and I didn’t even step onto it (although that was my intention)! Naïve, 2012 me didn’t really concern herself about the germs yoga mats can carry. Imagine if someone tries out a mat with bare feet prior to actually buying it. If she doesn’t like it, she puts it back on the shelf and the next barefoot person tries it out. Ew. So many germs.
For those of you trying to find your perfect mat without all the germs, here are some qualities to look out for:
The Restorative Yogi
You enjoy a slower paced practice; holding postures for several minutes and breathing deeply. You spend virtually all of your practice seated or lying down, so you want a comfortable place to relax.
For a cozy, restorative practice, a thicker mat is the best yoga mat for you! Don’t limit your search to just “yoga mats.” Instead, take a look at Pilates mats. Pilates mats tend to be thicker than most yoga mats, ranging from 6 to 15 mm. Because there isn’t much grip on thicker mats, you won’t get that uncomfortable sticky feeling as you transition from one Yin posture to the next.
The Posture-Focused Yogi
You love learning new postures! You spend much of your practice focusing on and perfecting one posture before moving onto the next. You’re a go-getter, and you expect your mat to hold up to your trial-and-error, posture-focused practice.
For a mat that readily has your back, look for a thickness between 3 to 5.5 mm. Thinner mats will provide more stability for balance postures, however if you really love standing on your head, a thicker mat will take some of the pressure off your neck. Look for mats with mild grip; enough to provide a little extra hold as you balance, but won’t painfully pull your skin when you fall over (let’s be honest; no one sticks the perfect pose ALL the time).
Also consider a mat with alignment marks. These lines will help you figure out where your hands and feet need to be, taking you one step closer to perfecting your latest posture!
The Heated Yogi
Your practice generally consists of at least an hour of Bikram or Vinyasa Flow Yoga. Your face glistens and your hands and feet are drenched in sweat. The last thing you want is to be slipping and sliding on your mat or constantly having to pause to dry off. You want a mat that will stand up to the heat!
Look for a mat with moisture wicking properties. Instead of soaking up all your sweat, it simply wicks it away as you practice. A thinner mat, between 2.5 and 5.5 mm, will be the best yoga mat for you. Thinner mats provide more stability, allowing the surface to be felt beneath you, and prevents accidentally rolling a wrist or ankle as you flow quickly between postures. Choose a mat with lots of grip. There are even mats that become “grippier” as the heat rises!
The Traveling Yogi
Today you’re in Australia, and tomorrow you’re in Zimbabwe. You are constantly on the go, so you need a mat that goes where you go without weighing you down.
Try a travel mat! Yes, there is such a thing. Travel mats are between 1 and 2.5 mm and coming in various lengths and shapes. They are easy to fold, roll, and carry and weigh less than an average mat for when you need to hop on a plane or climb up a mountain.
The Earthy Yogi
You prefer all-natural products, including your Yoga mat. Look for mats made from natural rubber, organic cotton, or jute! Natural rubber mats come in various thicknesses, whereas organic cotton and jute mats tend to be thinner.
The Technology-Loving Yogi
Lucky for gadget lovers like myself, some Yoga mats now come as handy pieces of technology! More expensive than an average mat, these contain sensors that assist your alignment and weight distribution. There are mats with LED lights that guide your practice, mats with attached Wifi/data capable screens, and mats that connect via Bluetooth to any of your devices!