Tired of the unpleasant whiff from the borrowed class mats, or planning to practice at home? You’ll be needing a yoga mat.It isn’t a big investment, but it protects you from borrowed-mat germs and lets you practice anywhere; at home, on holidays or in the gym.The choice of mats has come a long way from just blue or purple. Yoga mats now vary in grip and thickness and function, and there is a difference if you use it for yoga or Pilates. So here’s our guide to choosing the right one for you.
- Mats for general use: Sticky or non-slip mats are the most common type of mat available. They offer the grip you need for standing postures and particularly downward dog, where your hands need grip to push into the mat and get the correct curve on your back. Your hands and feet should sink lightly into the surface, then stay firm without slipping. These mats aren’t very thick – usually 4mm – and are probably the first mat you’ll
- Mats for hot classes: If you sweat a little more than the next person (there is no judgement in yoga) non-slip towels can be used on top on of a sticky mat, absorbing your sweat and continuing to give you a solid base to practice on. You’ve probably also seen teachers switch mats during an energetic class like Ashtanga, when the first one gets too sweaty to continue working on.
In a hot yoga like Bikram, you need special hot mats that absorb sweat and moisture but won’t let you slip. You should expect the mat to have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal functions, and also be machine washable.
- Mats for portability: Mats often come with a strap or carry bag for easy portability to and from class. And, let’s face it, for nonchalantly strolling around with it slung over your shoulder like all these celebrities.
If you’re traveling, you can pick up an ultra-light mat that will fold into your suitcase. Less than a kilo in weight, these can be used in a hotel room for grip on top of carpet or rug, or placed on top of a class mat for extra hygiene.
- Thicker mats for Pilates: If you’re hopping between downward dog and lunges, mat thickness won’t be a big concern and you’ll be fine with a 4mm mat. However, mat thickness is more important when if you’re holding poses that put extended pressure on your elbows and knees, or if you are more sensitive to the pressure (from injury or age). In that case, a 6mm mat or even thicker would be good.
In Pilates, mats are thick and padding is important because in much of the class you’ll be rolling on your back, lying on your side and putting pressure on your lower spine and knees. The trade-off is that thicker mats make balance difficult for standing poses like Tree Pose.
- Mats for Eco-friendliness: Non-biodegradable PVC isn’t always a good look for yoga bunnies, and eco-warriors have plenty of choice these days. Some mats are made from natural tree-based rubber and cotton mesh so they’re degradable, and considered natural and sustainable. If you’re just starting out, the best general use mat you can afford will be fine. After all, the most valuable investment you can make to yoga is a commitment to do it regularly.