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Choosing a yoga mat

By Catalogs Editorial Staff

Choosing a yoga mat that is right for you is the base of your practice

Choosing a yoga mat that is right for you is the base of your practice

Yoga is a wonderful form of exercise, and a powerful tool for reducing stress. But a good yoga practice requires several decisions.

What style of yoga works best for you? What should you wear to yoga class? And what kind of mat will you use? And that last question can have a huge impact on your experience in any yoga class.

That’s why before you sign up for your very first yoga class, you need to spend time choosing a yoga mat that’s right for you. Here are some factors to consider to help you find the right yoga mat for you.

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1) Size

A yoga mat is a standard size, right?  Not at all. Yes, the low-cost discount store yoga mats tend to be a one-size-fits-all design. But quality yoga gear shops know that people of different heights need different length mats. A 6’5″ guy will need a longer, and possibly wider, mat than a 5’3″ woman.

And this isn’t something that’s only for advanced yoga practioners. Even basic poses like Down Facing Dog need a mat large enough for hands and feet to remain on the mat, while being far enough apart. (Not sure what I mean? Try doing Down Dog on a single sheet of newspaper, keeping hands and feet on the paper.  Now you get it!!)

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2) Thickness

Even the most gentle forms of yoga can be hard on wrists and ankles. That’s why the thickness of a yoga mat is so important.

Look for a mat that is not so thin that it provides no cushioning in wrist and ankle poses. But you also don’t want a mat that’s too thick — that extra give can make it hard to maintain balance in some positions.

Choose a medium thickness mat for the best overall class experience, or layer two thinner mats to get the thickness you want.

(Note: Even the best mat can make it difficult to do balancing poses, so don’t feel bad if you need to step off the mat and onto the hard floor to balance well.)

3) Stickiness

The last thing you want is a yoga mat that acts like a sled as soon as you put it down on the gym floor.

Stability while doing yoga is more than just a pretty plus … it’s critical to getting the benefits of the asanas and avoiding injury, too.

As with size, cheap mats may be quite slick on the top, bottom or both. Before you use a new yoga mat, make sure it grips the floor of your studio or gym. No stick has no place in yoga!

4) Materials

Yoga mats can be made from a variety of materials. Most commercial mats are made of PVC, a synthetic material that’s sturdy, easy to wash off, and rather cushiony. But if vinyl concerns you, there are also mats made from hemp, jute, and untreated cotton.

PVC yoga mats have the advantage of being durable and easy to clean. They’re also easy to toss in the trunk. But some people have concerns about the eco-impact of the vinyl material.

Hemp or jute maps are far more natural, with a lower impact on the environment. But they may not always provide the traction or softness of PVC mats. Cotton mats are usally soft and easy to clearn, but may be too slippery for some surfaces.

Cost

I hate to say it, but it’s true. It’s entirely possible that you won’t be able to get your dream yoga mat right away. Now that you know that choosing a yoga mat isn’t about whether the color matches your workout bag, you can pick and choose which elements are most critical to you.

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Keep your dream list so you’re ready when an upgrade is possible. Then find the best yoga mat for the price, and keep your dream alive for a “someday” shoe.

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