What yoga mat should I buy?

Buy a yoga mat. During the last couple of years, yoga has grown to be a popular way to get your body in shape, to reduce stress and to enjoy a good health. One of the most attractive aspects of yoga is that you don't have to invest a fortune in expensive equipment and outfits to start training. Basically, you only need some comfortable, loose garments and a yoga mat. Both the garments and yoga mats are available in many different shapes, sizes and colours.

If you decide to take yoga classes or to practice yoga at home, it is important to consider buying a yoga mat of your own. A good yoga mat can make the difference in succeeding or failing to complete an exercise. Even though there is an abundance of yoga mats available, in a variety of dimensions, colour, materials and prices, it may be difficult to choose the right yoga mat for you. It is important to choose a yoga mat that suits your needs. Hence, it is essential to be informed well before buying a yoga mat. Over the course of time, you will form a bond with your yoga mat. You do not want to slip while doing a difficult exercise. You need to have confidence that the yoga mat possesses enough grip so that you may do your asanas* without worries.

In the old days, yogi's practiced and did their asanas on tiger hides, grass mats or simply on the hard and dirty ground. The basis for the first yoga mat was formed around 1960. This was the so-called sticky mat, which provided more grip and attenuation. Since those days, yoga mats have become more sustainable and have improved to become the current range with different materials and depths. All with the same goal to offer a comfortable surface to do your yoga exercises on without the chance of slipping.

When it comes to the decision what yoga mat suits you best, it is useful to understand the different kinds of mats available; what they look like and what they are used for. Besides that, it is important to know what your goal for the yoga mat is.

What are important questions you need to ask yourself before choosing a mat?

  • How much money do I want to spend on a yoga mat?
  • What form of yoga will I practice?
  • Do I have a preference for a certain colour of yoga mat?
  • How often will I use the yoga mat?
  • Will I travel a lot with the yoga mat?
  • What is my height? Do I need an extra long or extra broad mat?
  • Do I sweat a lot or do I sweat barely?
  • Am I allergic to certain materials, for example latex?
  • Is the environment important to me and do I want a 100% biodegradable mat?
  • *Asanas: postures to stretch the body.

Sticky yoga mat:

This is one of the most used yoga mats, since it has a sticky structure to prevent slipping. This mat generally has a depth in between 0.25 cm and 0.4 cm and has a low attenuation. This mat is regularly used in tandem with a cotton yoga towel for extra comfort. These mats are a good choice for people that are just starting off with yoga and do not want to spend a lot of money. The sticky mat is also suitable for Power and Ashtanga Yoga, as you are required to stretch and bend a lot. The sticky mat is also easy to take along because they are thin and don't weigh a lot.

Sticky mats also have some disadvantages. For example, they get slippery faster. Hence, they are less suitable for yoga forms that make you sweat heavily. Sticky mats are also less suitable for forms that require you to meditate a lot, since they are less comfortable. Moreover, sticky mats are generally made of synthetic polymers, Polyvinylchloride (PVC) and phthalates (hazardous chemical substances). From an environmental and medical viewpoint, these mats are not the best option. These days, however, there are brands and suppliers who supply these mats without PVC and phthalates (for example Yoga-Mad and Manduka).

These sticky mats are available in the price range from 15 to 40 euros.

Extra thick yoga mat:

The extra thick yoga mat is a variant on the sticky mat. The depths of these mats are doubled when compared to the standard sticky mat, which makes them exceptionally more comfortable. They are available with depths of 0.5 cm and 0.8 cm. These mats are suitable for people that require more comfort and extra support while doing challenging exercises.

One of the disadvantages of this kind of mat is that it is substantially thicker and heavier, hence more difficult to transport. Another disadvantage is that you may feel that you have less contact with the floor, since the mat is much softer. This makes you get off balance more quickly.

The extra thick yoga mat is available in the price range from 20 to 100 euros.

Rubber yoga mat:

Natural rubber mats are available in various depths and provide for a lot of grip at all forms and styles of yoga. Rubber mats were one of first mats in the fields of yoga. These mats were introduced by environmentally aware yogi's. These natural rubber do not contain any toxic substances. Natural rubber yoga mats are generally made of biodegradable and recyclable materials. They provide an exceptional grip, which makes them extraordinarily suitable for intensive yoga styles. Because of the natural materials, the mat also provides for an excellent attenuation, comfort and sustainability. This makes the mat very suitable for environmentalist yoga lovers who require a lot of grip and comfort.

A disadvantage of these rubber mats is that they usually smell strongly of rubber. This is one of the reasons for some people not to buy these mats. A rubber mat is generally also not an option for people suffering from a latex allergy. Yet another disadvantage is that the mats are heavy and hence less handy if you are looking for a mat to transport regularly.

These natural rubber mats are available in the price range from 45 to 125 euros.

TPE Eco yoga mat (ThermoPlastic Elastomer):

There have been a lot of developments on the field of yoga mats. The TPE yoga mat is an excellent example of the innovation in this area. TPE is a relatively new material, essentially consisting of synthetic rubber. These mats are environmentally friendly and healthy to use, since they do not contain PVC, latex and other toxic substances. A TPE mat offers sufficient grip and is easy to clean due to it absorbing barely any sweat and water. With a TPE mat, you won't be bothered by the smell of rubber, while still attaining a similar comfort and sustainability to that of a natural rubber mat. Another advantage is that a TPE mat is less expensive than a rubber mat.

Since this material is relatively new on the market, no real disadvantages are known.

These TPE mats are available in the price range from 30 to 60 euros.

Cotton yoga mat or rug:

Cotton mats and rugs have an good attenuation because they are made of a soft fabric. They provide for a good grip and absorb sweat easily. Another advantage is that they are easy to clean. After using the mat you can easily wash it, do mind the care label though. A cotton mat or rug is especially suitable for practicing Bikram, Power or Ashtanga Yoga.

A disadvantage of this mat is that cotton fibres break more easily as a consequence of wear and tear, hence they are less sustainable. Another disadvantage is that a cotton mat or rug shall slip more quickly on a slick underground. It may be worth contemplating placing a thin sticky mat or travel mat underneath the cotton mat or rug to prevent it from slipping.

These cotton mats/rugs are available in the price range from 25 to 60 euros.

Burlap yoga mat:

The world keeps getting greener and more and more yoga practitioners are moving in that same direction. The burlap mat is considered to be one of the most environmentally friendly yoga mats in existence because they are made of natural materials and are 100% biodegradable. A burlap mat is suitable for all forms and styles of yoga. Burlap is a versatile with many qualities, such as comfort, strength, sustainability, exceptional grip and it has antistatic properties.

These mats are, however, relatively hard to acquire and are often produced in combination with other materials. Moreover, the burlap fibres may let go after heavy and intensive use.

These burlap mats or combinations with burlap are available in the price range from 30 to 45 euros.

Travel yoga mat:

If you travel or go on holidays often and you want to do your yoga exercises to keep yourself healthy and fit, then it is useful to use a travel yoga mat. This mat is relatively thin and hence easy to roll up or fold and to take along in your luggage. You can also choose to take it with you in a nice yoga mat bag. A huge advantage of these mats is that they are light, have a good grip and are easy to transport.
They do have less comfort, since they are quite thin. You do have to account for the fact that these mats were designed to use on travels, not for daily use. An alternative is to combine your travel mat with a yoga towel or a cotton mat/rug. These are also light and provide for extra comfort, while still being easy to take along in your luggage.

These travel mats are available in the price range from 20 to 50 euros.

The ascent of newer and improved materials make the designs of yoga mats more and more efficient, sustainable, environmentally friendly and stronger. These days, there is a wide range of yoga mats available that suits every lifestyle. Choose the yoga mat or combination that suits your wishes and goals best.