A yoga mat is like a companion in any yoga journey. Having a suitable yoga mat can motivate and give you confidence in your yoga practice. What are some of the considerations when you are choosing your yoga mat? For me, I consider the design, texture, and weight of the yoga mat. The type of yoga classes that you intend to embark on will also need to be considered.
Some things to look out for when selecting a yoga mat for your yoga journey:
Thickness & Density
Choosing a yoga mat is not all about the price. Investing in a suitable yoga mat will benefit you in your yoga journey - giving you the confidence, protecting you from potential injuries, motivating you to go for your practice, and perhaps even satisfying your aesthetic needs.
Thickness & Density
Why does the thickness and density of a yoga mat matters? Depending on your practice, the thickness of your yoga mat can provide you with the support that you need. Notice that most studios provide yoga mats of about 5-6mm as these are generally comfortable for everyone. Studio mats are usually denser, which means that they are more durable although they can be heavy to be carried around. For me, I am using a mat of similar quality as the studio at home because I do not have to carry it around and it provides me with sufficient comfort.
6mm and above These mats are more for gentle yoga classes, such as deep stretching or yin yoga. It is suitable for beginners, and practitioners with existing injuries on their knees. However, working on inversions or balancing poses could be a challenge if the mat is too soft.
4.5mm to 6mm These mats generally provide you with sufficient comfort for your regular yoga practice. However, the density of the mats makes a difference here. Getting a 4.5mm yoga mat with low density might not give you enough support if you intend to move into yoga poses which require you to be on your knees - Cat Pose / Cow Pose. However, getting a 5mm high-density yoga mat can be quite heavy to carry around, and you might find it too hard for your knees. It is recommended to try the mat before your purchase to be sure that it is comfortable enough for your yoga practice.
3mm to 4.5mm If you do not need too much support, these mats are lighter and can be carried around without having to struggle with the weight. Again, it is good to take a closer look at the density of these mats if you are intending to get one because ideally, you want to invest in a mat that gives you enough support and comfort during your practice.
1.5mm to 3mm These are usually the travel yoga mats that are easy-to-carry around or yoga towels. They are usually light, and some can even be folded and stored in your bags! However, these mats do not provide much support so do not expect any softness from these mats. If you are practicing yoga in studios, you can consider laying the mat on top of the studio mat for hygiene.
The most common material used for yoga mats is polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Why? Because it generally provides a good grip, and it is well known for its durability. However, if you are mindful of the environment, you might want to consider other options. Take time to think about your other intentions for your yoga journey (not just the physical and spiritual aspects). Considering your situation, choose a material that you will feel good with. For me, I am using a sustainable mat made from harvested tree rubber.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) This material is most commonly used because of its durability and it is economical. Depending on the density, it is usually comfortable for many and provides a good grip. However, it is man-made and the process of manufacturing is harmful to the environment. It is not too popular nowadays as sustainable yoga mats are getting affordable.
Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPE) This material is man-made, however, it is biodegradable. It provides a softer surface (suitable for practitioners looking for more cushion) and it is lightweight which makes it handy to carry around. However, it is not as durable as yoga mats made from PVC or natural rubber.
Natural Rubber These mats are made with natural rubber tapped from rubber trees. It is usually dense, which means that it has a hard surface. Although these mats provide a good grip, it can be heavy to carry around. For people allergic to latex, you can consider using TPE or PVC mats. Other natural materials you may come across are jute and cork.
Depending on the type of yoga class, the texture of a yoga mat can make a difference. Most importantly, you want to feel confident during the practice as you place your palms on the mat.
Grip Most of the time, a yoga mat with a non-slip grip is preferred. Unlike exercise mats, yoga mats should provide you with stability and allow you to gracefully flow through a series of balancing poses without having to feel uncomfortable. For example, you would not want your palms slipping forward when you are in Downward Dog. Some mats get really slippery after perspiration.
Smoothness Try placing your palms onto the mat that you intend to purchase. Mats which good-grip do not need to be rough. Depending on your preference, you should choose a mat that is comfortable for your palms to slide across.
Do you intend to carry your yoga mat around from places to places? You might want to avoid getting a heavy yoga mat if you are going to carry it with you very often. It gets inconvenient at times (during your commute or even just heading out with it), and it might affect your motivation to go for class.
Heavy Duty These mats are more suited to be placed at a fixed location or within the same premise. If you are looking for a durable yoga mat to place at home for your regular practice, this is the type of mats you should consider! Heavier mats are usually denser, giving you more support and cushion for your practice. For me, I have such a mat placed in my bedroom and I lay it out whenever i feel like practicing yoga.
Normal These mats can be carried around comfortably if you prefer and would perhaps give you sufficient comfort for your yoga practice. Although you cannot keep these mats into your bag, you would not find it a struggle to keep or lay out the mat.
Lightweight These mats can be easily carried around, some can even fit into your bags. However, they might not provide you with sufficient comfort as it is really thin (trade-off for the weight).
Not too much of a consideration for some, but .. for me, absolutely! Yoga mats are fanciful nowadays. It comes in a variety of colours and even prints. Mats that are of a standard black colour tend to give off a professional or serious setting. Mats that have bright and cheerful colours might make you feel happier during your practice. Recently, there are mats printed with an alignment guide to help you with your practice too. Take time to think about your style and choose a mat that you makes you feel confident and positive at the same time.
The price of a yoga mat varies greatly. It really depends on the quality and the brand you are going for. Some mats are multi-purpose and can be used for both exercise and perhaps gentle yoga. These mats generally cost about SGD$25 to SGD$40 depending on the brand. Mats that are specifically made for yoga would cost about SGD$30 to SGD$60 depending on the type and quality. You might actually be paying a higher price for more popular brands as well. For yoga mats ranging from SGD$60 to SGD$100, these could be good quality mats and/or carry a popular branding. Depending on the thickness as well, the price of a yoga mat differs. Do you know that some mats have anti-microbial treatments while some do not? Before you invest in a yoga mat, think about how often you are going to use it and the level of maintenance you are willing to provide for your mat.