Whether this is your first time trying yoga, or if you’ve practiced for years and just need a new mat, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind!
Nothing is worse than having your hands slide during your downward dog, okay? It’s actually a little scary. So, as much as you’re able, test out the grip of a mat before you buy it, and make sure your hands grip naturally and you’re not left trying to cling for dear life.
If you’ve already invested in a mat that seems too slick, you can try using chalk or even rolling it around on concrete to “scuff up” the surface finish a little.
If you’re new to yoga, or if you have problems with your wrists or knees, making sure you have a thicker mat can be really beneficial while you work to build up strength in your joints and muscles.
Also, keep in mind the surfaces on which you intend to practice. If you’re practicing at home on a carpeted floor, a thicker mat might not be necessary. It could also create added difficulty in balance poses. But if you’re practicing on hard surfaces (wood, tile, concrete, etc), a more thickly padded mat will go a long way to helping to prevent pain and injury in your joints.
Just a note: I’d definitely recommend a thick, sticky YOGA mat over a foam gym mat. There’s a difference! Make sure you read the labels, and ensure you’re getting exactly what you need.
Some mats are made with PVCs, a toxic, carcinogenic plastic. If that doesn’t sound exciting, and something you don’t want to lay face down onto, then definitely keep this in mind with shopping for a mat. Look for mats made of natural rubber (or even cork!) are definitely preferred.
If you plan to carry your mat around from class to class, or if you intend to do much traveling with it, getting a lightweight, travel mat could be a good choice.
Some mats, especially thicker ones, can be pretty heavy, and that’s not always fun to lug around all the time. Finding a good balance between the best thickness for you, and the weight of your mat, is essential.
Don’t be afraid to spend a few extra dollars. It’s not a bad idea to grab a cheap mat from a Five Below or Walmart while you’re exploring what yoga could be for you, but these mats can wear out quickly.
Once you’re ready to take your practice more seriously, practicing daily, it’s worth it to invest a little bit into a good, high quality mat. Some reputable and reliable brands (such as Jade, Manduka, or Liforme) have mats ranging from $60-$140, and their mats are durable enough to withstand a daily practice for upwards of a year or two.
Aesthetics can be important. As practical as all the other tips are, it’s just as important, I think, to have a mat you like to look at. Find one in your favorite color, with a design that you find beautiful, or even with a positive and inspiring mantra printed on it.
What are some things you look for in a yoga mat? Do you have a favorite brand?