Having practiced yoga for the past decade, I have gone through my share of yoga mats. Your yoga mat is like your partner, and is the starting point for developing a good practice. You are going to 'trust' your mat to support you in your pose and help you ground yourself: one of the biggest reasons why many go to yoga in the first place. Clearly, it is essential that you do your research before buying one. Thankfully, there are so many choices available today that are eco-and-budget friendly, and I thought I would list out the ones that are my personal favorites, as well as those that my teachers and students prefer.
But first here are the main factors to look for when buying a yoga mat:
- Material from which it is made: You want to look for non-toxic substances such as natural rubber, jute, or burlap. PER Eco Safe and Oeko-Tex-certified mats are good. AVOID mats with Phthalates, Latex and Silicone.
- Grip/Sticky factor in the mat, depending on the kind of yoga you practice: You want the mat to 'grip' you and vice-versa especially in poses like Downward Dog and Plank. I have injured my elbow joints because of slippery mats that led me to put more pressure on the hands. Those who do hot yoga will definitely want a mat with high sticky levels or use a special gripping towel on top of the mat.
- Cost: It is important to note that expensive doesn't necessarily equate to quality. You want something that will last you a long time. There is no point in spending a lot of money on eco-mats if you are going to throw them away every 6-12 months. if you are a newbie, buy something in the $20-$30 range to get you started. There are plenty of good options (see my choices below). You can even rent mats from the studio where you will practice, that way you get to try your options for a low cost of $1 to $2. Once you are a regular, you can upgrade if you want to.
My recommendations on yoga mats. I am listing it by the style and level of yoga because I believe that every style and stage has its own requisites. Please bear in mind that this is just my personal observation and opinion.
For the Beginner:
When I started doing yoga, I went to the local sporting goods store and picked up a $20 Gaiam Sticky Mat. It's a regular size mat (68"x24"), and mine even has beautiful artwork. I continue to use this mat till today! Some users have complained about a strong smell because of the PVC material used, but the smell goes away in a few days. I would probably not buy a PVC based mat today because of it's not as eco-friendly, but back then there were not too many eco-mats available; Plus I wasn't sure how long I would last with yoga! Buying an eco-mat just to throw away this one doesnt make sense now because then I will add to the waste.
Since then, Gaiam has added a lot more reasonably priced eco-mats that are worth a look. For the price point they offer, I recommend their mats for the beginner who need not invest a fortune in a mat right away. (FYI, I have tried their other mats and have not been too happy about it. I found this one, which is 3 mm thin and supposed to be sticky, and this Premium 5 mm mat, which cushions the knees a lot more but is quite slippery, despite regular use, and in non-heated classes. So I keep going back to the first one.)
Other good mats for Beginners and Regular Vinyasa Practice:
Jade Harmony Mat ($75). I have seen many teachers and practitioners use this mat. Its one of the 'greener' mats, made with non-toxic materials and natural rubber. I believe it works well even in heated classes.
Aurore Eco-friendly Mats are also very popular with yoga practitioners. Again, I have not used it personally, but know friends who have, and they loved it. Apparently, it's quite popular with the yoga community because of its durable, non-toxic materials, and great price ($35 and up)
For the Intermediate Yoga Practitioner:
Once I started going to class on a regular basis, and after many years of using my Gaiam, I made the switch to the Manduka Pro. This mat is a favorite, and for good reason. It is sturdy, durable and slip-resistant, giving you full support even in hot, sweaty classes! Also, the material is Oeko-Tex certified, making it an eco-friendly choice. Yes, it is a bit pricey at $108, but if you end up using it for 3-5 years, it is completely worth it. I have used mine in hot yoga and regular yoga classes and it works fine. I just find it heavier to lug around, but that is why I use my burlap yoga mat bag that you see here ;)
Also, the Manduka ProLite is a good alternative and has many of the same features as the Pro. The mat is also much lighter at 4 lbs, compared to the Pro's 7 lbs.
Lululemon's The Mat is also a good option for hot and sweaty yoga sessions because it is slip-resistant. I have never used it, but know students who have been pleased with it. Again, its on the pricier side at $68, but the durability factor cannot be beat.
For more types of mats, such as burlap, and travel mats, I recommend these links:
Hope this helps with your search of the perfect partner mat. Remember to buy a mat that suits your needs as opposed to what is popular in the market. It has to be mat that grips you and lets you move on it without fear.
Have you used any mats that you love and are not mentioned here? Please feel free to leave a comment below to let me know. I can include it in my next round :)
Happy Yoga :)