Yoga mats are the most important piece of equipment for practicing yoga and it should be your first investment when you decide to begin your yoga journey. There are a few things that you need to consider before buying your first yoga mat and below we have outlined the most important questions to ask below.
How easy is the mat to transport?
Once life gets back to normal and in-person classes are a thing. You will need to think about how easy your mat will be to transport. Will you be bringing the mat with you when you travel or will this mat solely be for home use through online classes and your own practice.
If you will need to transport the mat you should be looking at a lightweight option. These lightweight mats are typically thinner than every day and more heavyweight mats. For these mats, you should be looking at thicknesses between 2-4mm. Although this will mean that there will be less cushion in your mat, the trade-off is necessary for the mat to be a bit more transportable.
If the mat is mainly for home use then you should be looking at mats that are thicker and longer. These mats are typically 6mm in thickness and in and around 80 inches in length. This mat will provide a great cushion of comfort for your practice.
Environmental impact of the mat?
If the mat is made of PVC there is the potential that the mats contain and emit a number of toxic chemicals through gas, which is bad for the environment and people.
If the mat being environmentally friendly is an important element to you then there are a good few options for you. Cork mats are the obvious choice being that they are produced with a natural ingredient. Cork is naturally antibacterial so they are relatively easy to clean and you don’t need to worry about the mat if it gets a little wet. Jute is also a great option as well as Natural rubber so, there are a good few options out there is sustainability is a priority for you.
Why buy a yoga mat?
There’s nothing worse than arriving at a yoga class and having to use a damp yoga mat that was freshly used from the yoga class before. So investing in your own yoga mat is well worth it from a hygiene standpoint.
Having a certain thickness that aligns to your comfort level is an important decision when choosing a mat. If you like a lot of padding as you’re doing your runners lunge then the yoga mats provided by the studio won’t cut it. Obviously you can always just pad your knee with a towel or by flipping your mat onto itself, but the convenience of a comfortable mat is a great benefit.
Once you have taken a few classes and feel comfortable with alignment and form. Then you are essentially off to the races in regard to where and when you can practice. Yoga is great because all you really need is a mat and you can practice anywhere. Whether it’s out in the elements or in your living room. Owning a yoga mat will mean you can practice whenever you want. No pricey membership needed to practice.
For beginners using the mat for correct alignment can be a really helpful cue, so having consistency and using the same mat each time your practice is a really beneficial thing. You tend to develop body awareness based on the position you are on the mat. As you progress from beginner to intermediate you will probably not really be on those alignment cues as much, but for beginners using the same mat is a plus.
What material is the mat made out of?
Choosing the right material is vital to choosing the yoga mat for you. The main materials that are used for yoga mats are PVC, cork, natural/recycled rubber, and jute. PVC is definitely the most common type of material used for mats.
Definitely, the most popular and widespread option for yoga mats these mats are durable, long-lasting, provide a really solid grip, and are very good value for money. So why not buy one you ask? Although the benefits are strong there is an environmental impact on these mats, so if that is an important aspect to you then PVC may not be the choice for you.
- Extremely durable
- Great grip
- Good value as they are long-lasting
- Can literally last a lifetime
- There is an environmental impact through the toxins released from this material and the inability to destroy these mats
- When PVC mats get wet they can lose a little bit of grip
Cork is a great material in general. Environmentally friendly, anti-bacterial, and durable this material is a great option for yoga mats. Although you may not think it would have a decent grip. Grip from a smooth to touch the material you say? Surely not? but cork yoga mats are actually pretty good in terms of the grip it provides. It’s more than enough for any of the poses that are required in a yoga class.
- Long-lasting material
- Good grip
- Antibacterial, so it’s somewhat self-cleaning. When you do need to clean it, it is also very easy to wipe down as there is a little less grip compared to a PVC.
- PVC mats can be a little bit uncomfortable when you’re transitioning from the upward dog back to downward dog, but with cork yoga mats due to their softness, you will have no abrasion on your feet.
- Cork doesn’t have that overly processed rubber smell
- A little bit on the pricier side, but consider the durability worth the investment
- Cork is a porous material, so unlike PVC, it is not waterproof, only water-resistant.
Being a natural material, Jute is another great option for yogis that puts sustainability as a high priority. Although we wouldn’t consider these mats to be the best all-rounder it’s still a solid option if you want a lightweight mat that provides good grip and is environmentally friendly.
- Jute mats typically rise with a textured material. So, they do provide a comfortable cushion which is nice padding for the knees when in weight-bearing poses
- Its an environmentally friendly material
- The grip on Jute mats is pretty good. They’re better than cork mats but you won’t get as much traction as a PVC mat
- These mats are generally a little lighter than PVC and Cork mats
- They contain little pellets, similar to the pellets that you find in astroturf fields. On occasion, these fibers can come off the mat, which is a little annoying
- Sometimes users of Jute mats can find that the material is too abrasive and can irritate the skin
Natural Rubber Mat
Made from the Ficus elastica which is more commonly known as the rubber tree, this natural resource is a great eco-conscious choice. By using the Although you may use some grip compared to PVC mats, the level of grip provided is still pretty good.
- Although natural rubber is most closely aligned to PVC mats. Rubber mats don’t generally have a strong smell which is one of the biggest disadvantages of PVC
- Rubber is the heaviest of all of the materials we have covered. So it may not be the best option if you’ll be lugging the mat to from practice in a studio
So which is the best mat for me?
After using all of the types of mats that are available we have found PVC mats are the best performance mats from a pure performance standpoint. If you’re looking to couple performance with sustainability we suggest going with a recycled PVC mat that is available in a lot of outlets.