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How to Choose a Yoga Mat

by Marianne Navada

A good yoga mat not only helps advance your practice, but it can also prevent injuries. Part of the problem in choosing a yoga mat is the lack of a trial period. Usually, we go by word of mouth, social media recommendations, or what is available for sale in yoga studios. But not all mats are created equal. Google the word “yoga mat” and you’re presented with choices ranging from $6 mats to more than a hundred dollars, some colorful, others with striking graphics. But what exactly are the important features to look for? 

  1. Thickness: A good yoga mat protects the knees, wrists, and joints and provides stability, but it should not feel squishy. Check for thickness level. Most high quality yoga mats are 4mm thick and above. A word of caution, thicker than 4mm doesn’t always mean it provides better support, but based on our research, 4mm seems to be the magic number.
  2. Material: Cheek on the mat, chin, forehead, let’s face it—you’re practically kissing your mat in yoga class, and the last thing you want is constant contact with harmful materials. Choosing safer materials is not only good for you, but for the environment. Yoga mats are usually made from manufactured rubber, and plastic composites such as PVC, or more organic options such as natural rubber, jute, and cork. Just because it’s from natural materials, it doesn’t mean it’s not toxic. Remember that chemicals and dyes can be added to the finished products. The best way to check for materials is online, from the company website. Manufacturers that use quality materials will usually list features for buyers doing their due diligence.
  3. Grip: It’s never fun to be slipping all over your mat, so a strong grip not only allows you to focus on the pose, but also prevents injuries.
  4. Weight: For yogis who travel, you want a mat that provides the luxury of thickness, eco-friendly materials, and grip, without weighing a ton. Good new is that there are light-weight and travel mats for the yogi on the go.
  5. Recyclable: Because doesn’t it feel good to know that your old mat is not just going to end up in a landfill for centuries? There are now recyclable and biodegradable mats and rubber mats that are sustainably sourced.
  6. Durability: Quality mats can get expensive, so you want one that will last.
  7. Length and Width: Need more room? Make sure you check the width and length before you purchase. 

Bottom line, it’s better to invest in a quality mat that will last for years, than repeatedly buying mats for less than $10, but fail to provide the support you need and are made from toxic materials.

My Story

I’ve tried about 5 brands of yoga mats in my yoga practice (started in 2001), and so far, my favorite is Manduka. It’s the one I’m currently using and it has lasted for 6 years and counting. It has a reliable grip, right amount of cushion, and no odd permanent sweat spots. It’s also eco-friendly. Some mats have a very strong smell when you first use them and I didn’t have that experience with Manduka. I don’t use a towel to cover my mat, even in hot yoga and I haven’t had any problems slipping.

If you have a favorite yoga mat or yoga mat brand, please let us know by participating in the poll below.

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