There are many different types of yoga mats, but there are only 8 factors you need to consider when choosing a yoga mat. Let’s delve into each factor, one at a time, to help you decide which type of yoga mat you need.
Your yoga mat should be convenient to use. Depending on where you practice yoga, certain types of yoga mats may suit you better than others. More specifically, if you practice yoga away from home, a thin lightweight travel mat will be convenient for you to pack up and take with you to the gym. At home, you can conveniently store any kind of yoga mat.
2. Skill Level
When you’re just getting started, there’s no shame in buying a cheap yoga mat. But if you have the budget, a high quality cork yoga mat will last you much longer than most, and it will make your early training easier. If you do begin your training with a cheap mat, however, consider buying a non-slip top layer, since cheap mats tend to be a little slippery.
Intermediate and advanced yogis will definitely want to spend good money on their equipment, since they’ll be using it more often, and for more intense exercise. Once again, cork is a great option, but if your skill level is high enough, you may be able to practice without a mat. Sometimes all you need is a towel on top of solid ground.
The texture of a yoga mat determines how easy it is to grip. In the yoga community, the term “sticky” refers to an easy-to-grip yoga mat, whereas the term “slippery” denotes a mat that is hard-to-grip.
Typically, people prefer stickier mats, since their coarse textures prevent your hands, arms, and feet from sliding across the mat’s surface and ruining your form. However, the amount of stickiness that people prefer varies. Some people find rough textures uncomfortable to touch, and prefer slightly smoother mats. This is important too, because yoga is mental exercise (as well as physical), and discomfort can distract you from reaching your full potential.
The sponginess of a yoga mat can be the make-or-break factor for many people. It’s the first thing you notice when trying out a new mat. What’s important to note about sponginess, or a mat’s adherence to applied pressure, is that it can greatly benefit you or immediately deter you depending on where you practice with it.
If you practice on carpet, a spongy yoga mat will be ineffective. This is because the carpet is already spongy, so placing a spongy mat on top of it will not provide you any stability. A spongy yoga mat is better suited for hard surfaces. The type of yoga mat you need to practice on carpet is more firm (less spongy).
A popular spongy yoga mat material is PVC. A more firm option is cork.
Thickness correlates with comfort, which can vary from person to person.
Most yogis seem to prefer thicker 1/4 inch yoga mats over 1/8 or 1/16 inch mats, since they provide plenty of cushion for your knees and hands during lunges. The downside to using a relatively thick mat is that you don’t feel as connected with the floor below you. This can actually be disorienting for some, and cause them to lose balance. Try entering Tree Pose on your mat to test its thickness. You may find yourself wanting something more thin, or thick, as a result.
Thin mats are great for travel! They can be easily rolled up and carried in a yoga mat bag to and from the gym. Even if you don’t have a dedicated bag, a thin yoga mat will fit into just about any kind of bag or suitcase once you fold it. They’re also super lightweight, and you can store them anywhere in your home.
When choosing between a thick and thin yoga mat, you’re essentially choosing between comfort and portability. If storage isn’t an issue for you, you’ll likely prefer a ¼” thick yoga mat. But if you value the convenience of being able to store your mat anywhere, or in anything, you should get a 1/8” or 1/16” mat. The 1/8” thick mat may be the perfect middle-ground option for you if you don’t want to skimp on either comfort or portability.
6. Environmental Impact
It’s no secret that the yoga community cares about saving the planet. Recent trends in yoga equipment have reflected their goal, and we’re proud to say that we have too.
Eco-friendly yoga mats, made from organic ingredients like cork, jute, and cotton, have been heralded as equivalents (sometimes even superiors) to traditional PVC and foam mats, which harm our environment. So, if you too want to help save the Earth, read on about our organic cork yoga mats, and how they compare to other types of yoga mats in terms of their environmental footprint.
Cork yoga mats are from tree bark, specifically that of the Quercus Suber (known as “cork oak”). Conversely, foam yoga mats are made from petroleum, a non-biodegradable ingredient that is refined to create gasoline. Petroleum is non-biodegradable and cannot be efficiently recycled. Plus, it creates pollution when burned. Therefore, foam yoga blocks are environmentally unsafe.
The bottom line is – if saving the environment is your goal, choose a cork yoga mat, or another type of yoga mat that’s made with organic ingredients.
We all have our own budgets for yoga equipment, and it’s never set in stone. If you’re a beginner, you may want to buy a cheap mat to try it out, but like most products, you get what you pay for.
Plain 1/8 inch PVC mats are usually inexpensive and easy to find. They do their job well enough, so don’t feel discouraged from starting your yoga journey with something simple. Moving up the ladder towards more premium options, you get into 1/4 inch thick yoga mats made from materials like cork, jute, and cotton. These tend to be more durable, so if you have the money, we recommend choosing a premium yoga mat. It will last far longer than a cheap PVC mat.
We saved the least important factor for last! The appearance of your yoga mat should never be its selling point, not until you’ve examined it for all the previous factors. That said, it’s fun to choose a yoga mat for its style! So, once you’ve found the best type of yoga mat for your needs, look for a design that suits your personality.