One of the first things people do when they decide to start practicing yoga is buy a yoga mat. A good mat will provide grip to help you balance and hold poses. It will also provide cushioning support to protect your knees. If only it was that simple though – add in cost, size, sustainability, design, material and it can all be a bit confusing. We look at how to find the best yoga mat in this article.
Luckily we’re here to give you our recommendations for the best types of yoga mats, depending on your circumstances. Before choosing your yoga mat, it’s worth considering what you’ll be using your mat for. If you’re planning to carry it to a class or take it on holiday then it will need to be lightweight. Also your budget, you can spend a little or a lot on your mat, but expensive doesn’t mean the best. Read on to find out how to find the best yoga mat!
There are plenty of brands who charge over £100 (around $135) for a yoga mat, or you can pick one up at a local sports store for under £10 (around $14). If you want a particular design or brand then you’ll likely have to pay a bit more. If cost is important, a good rule of thumb is to aim to pay around £30-£40 ($40-$54). We’ve found that this price gives a good balance of quality, durability and cost.
Thin vs. Thick
The thickness of your mat will depend on what you’ll find most beneficial for your practice. A thinner mat (3mm or less) will be lighter and provide a better base for balancing. This is good if your mat will be on top of a carpet. A thicker mat (5mm or above) will provide more cushioning for your knees and joints but tends to be heavier and less stable for balancing. A slower practice such as restorative yoga or Yin yoga where you’ll spend less time standing will suit a thicker mat.
While you might think a thinner mat is better if you need a lighter mat for carrying around, the material of your mat will also affect this. You don’t necessarily need to compromise on cushioning just to get a mat that’s travel friendly (see materials below). We’ve found the best compromise is a 4mm or 5mm thickness, which gives stability and cushioning. If you know you fall further towards cushioning or more stability, then consider one of the other options.
Yoga mats can be made from a range of different materials, all with different benefits. Once you’ve decided on your budget and the thickness you need, the next consideration is what your mat is going to be used for.
A more dynamic practice will require good grip to prevent injury and allow you to focus on your pose, rather than whether your hands or feet are slipping. This is especially important if you may be sweating during your practice. The best material for grip is rubber, but tends to be heavier (2.5kg or above) and is not suitable if you’re allergic to latex.
If you’re going to be carrying your yoga mat around with you either to a class or taking it on holiday, consider a lighter material. A PVC (Poly-Vinyl Chloride) or TPE (Thermal Plastic Elastomer) mat will tend to be lighter (1.9kg – 2.5kg).
We couldn’t write a blog about yoga mats without also mentioning sustainability. More and more eco-friendly yoga mats are now available, and we always try to choose the most sustainable option. The challenge is finding one that is both sustainable, within your budget, and meets your requirements. A PVC mat is the least eco-friendly mat so we recommend avoiding this type if you can. A rubber mat is best for the environment although it is going to be heavier. A TPE mat is better for the environment than a PVC mat, but not as good as a rubber one. It does have the advantage of being lighter though.
It’s worth noting there are more and more materials becoming available such as cork mats, so it’s worth researching what other options there are to meet your needs and protect the environment.
You should now have a good understanding of the key things to think about when considering how to find the best yoga mat for you. If you know yoga is a long term commitment, you might decide to buy two that meet different needs. Whatever you decide, be sure to shop around, and let us know in the comments if you find any that you would recommend.