When I first started doing yoga, I had no idea how important it was to buy a superb, high-quality yoga mat. I had never heard of brands like Gaiam, and thought lululemon was some type fancy salon, not a yoga apparel company. I invested a measly 10 bucks on a cheap, sticky PVC mat that wasn’t padded, nor was it eco-friendly. Once I started generating more sound from my feet and hands sticking to the grimy mat than I did from pranayama breathing, I knew I had to put more effort into finding an excellent yoga mat. With so many options for yogis now, there are some basic essentials you should look for when making your own purchase!
1. MATERIAL: Mats are most commonly made with PVC or rubber, to give you a better grip whether you’re chilling out in Child’s Pose or wavering through Warrior II. The sticky nature of these makes it ideal for yogis who are prone to sweating or take up hot yoga. Lots of ultimate mats are coated with polyurethane (not ideal for someone trying to avoid chemicals or a smelly mat), BUT they do provide an unstoppable grip during the sweatiest of vinyasas. More natural mats like ones made of Jute or organic, recycled materials are generally comfier, especially for seated positions and less vigorous forms of practice.
2. THICKNESS: Headstand is the perfect way to test out your mat’s thickness. Table and Downward Dog don’t need much cushioning, but put all your weight on the crown of your head and you’re going to want some padding! Someone who’s into inversions may do best with a mat ¼ inch thick, while a travel yogi who practices impromptu lunges on the beach or outdoors may be fine with one that’s only 1/16 inch thick. A decent amount of cushion helps maintain better balance so you can really sink into flows comfortably.
3. TEXTURE: Any raised patterns or bumpiness to mats may be great for some, and not suitable for others. Some like a smooth, easy-gliding experience, while others want some extra grip. PVC, rubber and polyurethane mats are usually free of added texture, while Jute and cotton mats naturally have a bit more texture to them that give added traction. Mats with tactile patterns may need to be cleaned more often and thoroughly since dirt, grime and sweaty can take hold in any grooves or crevices.
4. COLOR/DESIGN: Experienced yogis usually have work-out wardrobes that are as balanced as their Tree pose. Wearing what makes you comfortable is important, but so is having fun and making a statement with all your yoga essentials. Unique designs, cool colors and different patterns all add to your individual practice and contribute to the overall experience. Have some fun and add some creativity to your yoga sessions!