By Puja Seth, Director, YogaOutlet.com
Yoga mats serve as the foundation (literally) of our practice. They help to keep us grounded, stable, and support us as we evolve our practice. A good mat can be critical.
“You’re going to fall in love with yoga, but if you go out and buy a mat of poor quality that doesn’t fit your needs, you’re not giving yoga a fair chance,” says Alejandro Ribas, YogaOutlet.com’s in-house instructor.
With so many varying brands, styles and purposes, choosing a mat can be overwhelming. Thankfully, there are four simple questions that will help you find the best fit for you.
The first question you should ask is, how often do you practice?
If you’re a yoga goddess, and practice very frequently (we’re talking daily), durability is key! Go for a performance mat that is fabricated with a heavier structure to withstand your practice.
If you’re a weekend warrior, or only hit the mat once or twice a week, eco-friendly mats are a great option. They obtain a strong grip, maintain a dense structure for stability, and will last through all of your weekend studio sessions.
If you only practice a few times a month when your friends get together in the park, you’re what we like to call a social yogi, and we’ve got a mat for you too—a standard 3mm or 5mm thick mat with a fun color or pattern!
“You have to commit to good quality,” says Ribas. “When you commit to a quality mat you’re committing yourself to practicing for 30 days and really finding yourself in the practice.”
Secondly, you can start the process of elimination by defining which type of yoga you practice:
Hot Yoga: A closed-cell grip mat will keep you from slipping and keep the mat hygienic and easy to clean when you’re practicing in that 108-degree room (and we suggest you buy a towel).
Flow/Power: Generally, these practices are fast moving, require stability and can work up a sweat– a heavier, denser, grip mat is a fantastic option.
Gentle/Restorative: Usually a thick mat feels best during these classes and supports you with enough cushion to enable full relaxation (you’ll be thanking us during that final savasana). Both an open-cell or closed-cell mat would work well for these types of classes. Take notice of how much your palms or chest perspire, and go from there.
Speaking of the perspiration from your palms and chest; do you sweat a lot during your class?
If your answer is, “a ton,” grip mats are made for you. Composed with a closed-cell, non-slip, hygenic texture, these mats are sure to stay in place when you’re sweating it up in the studio. The closed-cell structure wicks any liquid and maintains its grip. The moisture-wicking qualities not only keep the mat dry, but they also help keep you dry, too (which is always good, right?). These mats can get stinky, because, well let’s face it; if you’re working hard, you’re probably sweating even harder. Don’t you worry, the clean-up is super easy with closed-cell mats! Invest in some tea tree oil or mat wipes and wipe the mat down after every class to keep it fresh. If you find yourself getting a “healthy glow” but are not dripping in sweat, you will also be satisfied with a closed-cell structure mat.
If you’re lucky enough not to sweat, open-cell structure mats (or sticky mats) offer a tack that works with your skin’s dryness and keeps you grounded to the mat. Different from the grip mat, the sticky mat works well with the natural oils in your body and improves its tack with more use.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, do you have sensitive knees or slight injuries?
If you have sensitive knees or joints, using a more supportive mat that is 5mm+ thick (a standard mat is typically 3mm). It will absorb impact and cushion your joints while you practice. The trade-off with a thicker mat is you may not feel as strong of a connection to the ground, so if your joints are not sensitive, we suggest a thinner option, or a heavier/denser mat to deepen your poses and keep you stable.
The best mat is the kind of mat that you don’t even notice while you practice. The right fit will support your yoga effortlessly, while the wrong mat may distract you from your practice.
Puja Seth has been a celebrated yoga teacher for over a decade in Los Angeles and Rishikesh, India both in studios and private settings. She is now the Merchandise Director at YogaOutlet.com, which offers the largest variety of yoga and yoga-inspired products on the web.