There’s a reason why yoga mats are referred to as “sacred ground.” They can help you get the most out of your practice, whether that means building muscle, losing weight or just having fun. But with so many choices out there, how do you know which one is right for you?
Whether you’re new to yoga or looking to improve your current practice, it’s important to find a mat that works for you. Here’s what to consider when shopping for yoga mats.
If you’ve never used a yoga mat before, you may be wondering about thickness. If you practice only on hardwood floors and don’t have any concerns about slipping, then you can go with a thicker mat (usually around 5 mm).
Thicker mats make sense if you need to wear socks while practicing. Some people like the feel of the extra padding underfoot. Others prefer the flexibility of thinner mats. Either way, you should look at the thickness of the yoga mat in terms of inches instead of millimeters. For example, a 6-inch thick mat will usually have a width of 18 inches, but a 2-inch thick mat will have a width of 12 inches.
Other factors to consider
There are other things to consider when buying a yoga mat, such as the material, durability and color.
Most mats today are made from polyurethane foam. Polyurethane has good bounce back and grip, which makes it great for beginners who need some guidance through their poses. It also tends to keep its shape over time, which is ideal for long-term use. You might even hear some yogis refer to it as “temporary foam,” since it doesn’t last forever.
Polyurethane foam mats tend to come in either blue or black. The main difference between them is the amount of cushioning they offer — some say blue offers more cushion than others, whereas others think that black is softer — but both types are generally considered pretty comfortable.
Another type of mat is bamboo, which comes in various colors and patterns and is often associated with sustainable practices. Bamboo mats typically provide less cushioning than regular foam mats, but they absorb moisture well, making them perfect for sweaty classes where you’ll want to remove excess sweat quickly. Bamboo is also more flexible than foam, which can be helpful if you’re practicing a new pose.
The final option is natural fiber, such as hemp, jute, cotton or organic soy. These mats are considered eco-friendly because they’re made from plants, not chemicals. In fact, some people believe that using natural fibers offers a better workout experience, since they’re more breathable and soft. And because these mats are made from plant fibers, they can be recycled after use.
While buying a yoga mat by itself isn’t complicated, finding a mat that fits perfectly into your home can certainly be tricky. There are two major considerations here: size and storage. Ideally, you’d like to find a mat that will fit comfortably into your room without taking up too much space. If you have a small place, you may want to opt for a smaller mat; likewise, if you have an expansive living room, you may want to upgrade to a larger mat.
You won’t find a standard yoga mat size anywhere on the market, so you have to measure your own space. A common rule of thumb is to buy a mat that’s one-and-a-half times the length of your yoga mat plus three feet. So, if you have a mat that’s 36 inches long, you can expect to purchase a mat that’s 72 inches long.
Once you know the size of your mat, you can move onto the next step: figuring out how to store it.
You can simply put your yoga mat down on the floor, but if you want to protect it, you probably want to put it away somewhere else. One option is to fold it neatly and store it in a designated area of your home. Another option is to invest in a dedicated yoga mat protector, which is made to protect your mat from all sorts of damage and keep it clean and dust free.
Some yoga studios give customers a choice between folding and rolling mats. When folded, your mat becomes compact, so it takes up less room. However, when rolled, your mat takes up less square footage and is easier to move around if needed. While this is a little more convenient, it’s worth noting that you still need to store your mat. This could be a challenge depending on where you live and how many people share your house.
Types of yoga mats
Now that you’ve got everything squared away, you might want to start thinking about exactly what kind of yoga mat you want. There are several different types of yoga mats available, including ones that are thicker and ones that are thinner, as well as mats that are designed to be reusable.
Thick mats are designed for heavier weights (think power lifting) or those who need extra support. As we mentioned earlier, these mats tend to be made from polyurethane foam, but they can also be made from plastic, rubber or vinyl. Generally speaking, a thick mat will cost more money, but it should last longer and offer greater cushioning.
Thinner mats are great if you’re new to yoga and need a little bit of assistance with balance and control. They’re also popular among women who want to tone their thighs and buttocks. Many of these mats are made from cotton, which helps absorb sweat and moisture. Because they’re thin, they’re more likely to tear easily, however.
Reusable mats are designed to be washed and reused, though some claim that they can actually become dirty if you aren’t careful. These mats tend to be made from bamboo and are generally softer than traditional yoga mats.
Finally, you should consider a pad. Pads are similar to mats in that they’re made from foam, but they’re thicker, with the goal of offering additional comfort. You can choose between standard pads (which are rectangular and offer no padding), innerspring (these are designed for postures that require extra focus on alignment) and foot-stretching pads (they’re meant to stretch your muscles and increase circulation).
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