If you’ve recently taken up yoga, or even if you’ve been practising for years, it’s useful to know how to choose a good yoga mat. Here are a few helpful tips:
Get a grip!
You don’t want to be sliding around all over the place while trying to master a yoga pose. Grip is an essential feature in a yoga mat. It might seem embarrassing, but try out the mat at the store. If you find your palms or feet are sliding quite a bit, or if the mat itself is moving around too much, it’s probably not a good investment. If you’ve already bought a mat that’s turned out to be slippery, try chalking it up to improve the grip.
Especially if you’re a newbie to yoga, this is important. You can end up hurting yourself if your yoga mat doesn’t have enough padding and you’re using it on a hard surface. A mat that is sufficiently padded will be easier on your joints and muscles, particularly when you’re doing things like Pigeon or a headstand. Don’t go too far with the padding, though. A foamy mat isn’t ideal, either. You don’t want to be fighting for balance, because your mat is forcing you to squish around or constantly sink into it.
Think of it as an investment
If all you’re finding within your budget is thin, flimsy yoga mats, we’d advise that you reconsider your budget. There’s no point wasting money in something that will end up being discarded, because after a few uses, you realise that it’s doing a number on your joints and is, ultimately, unworkable. Pay a little extra for a mat that feels right on the first try. It’ll be worth the investment.
Try out a variety of poses for a better assessment
To avoid disappointment later, try to strike a few different standing, seated, balancing and inverted poses, on the mats that you’ve shortlisted. It’s worth the embarrassment to know for sure that the mat that you’re going home with is comfortable in different poses.
Say no to PVCs
Lastly, keep in mind that many yoga mats—especially cheaper ones—are full of PVCs. PVCs are a toxic plastic that contain carcinogens. When shopping, look for PVC-free mats. Why expose yourself to a harmful toxin on a regular basis? If you want a mat made from natural plant-based materials, you can try rubber, jute, cork or cotton. But, remember, each of these has its own drawbacks—rubber mats can smell; jute and cork ones wear out quickly; and cotton ones have less of a grip.