Written by Ingrid Edwards, Founder, Eco Yoga Store
So you're thinking it's time for a new yoga mat but thinking is as far as you get because choosing one is, to say the least, daunting! Who would have thought there needs to be so much choice?
Well there doesn't but hey that's the world we live in. So much choice it overwhelms and distresses us. So let me see if I can simplify the matter for you a little. I've been importing and selling yoga mats for over a decade now and I've tried and tested loads of different types, and researched the materials used to produce them, so I'm kind of qualified to comment on this. I wouldn't say I'm a guru on the subject but I am well informed and used to teach yoga so know what qualities in a mat matter. Unfortunately there is no one mat that suits everyone because all of you amazing yogis out there have different types of skin, practice different styles of yoga in varying climates either once or twice a week or with military precision as much as seven days a week.
Here's my Top 9 Yoga Mat Qualities (in no particular order) to consider when choosing a mat:
GRIP - You want your hands and feet to stay firmly in place in a down dog right? There is nothing worse than feeling like you are going to face plant or snap something due to slipping in a pose! (Hot tip we have a new product called Get A Grip Powder - check it out!)
STABILITY - In a standing pose do you wobble a lot? If so, a more dense, stable mat, not a soft spongy one is going to be better for you.
COMFORT - Do you need a good level of comfort or 'sponginess' under your joints or bones when putting pressure into the mat? Age or injury can factor here. Will you practice on wooden floors, tiles or carpet. The softer the flooring the less thick your mat needs to be.
WEIGHT OF THE MAT - Do you have to carry your mat a reasonable distance to class, travel often or ride a bike? The weight is going to matter to you so try to choose a mat under 2kg to make transporting it as easy as possible. Note, rubber is a much heavier substance than plastic, so while we at Eco Yoga Store love natural rubber mats they may not always be the best choice if you travel often. If you do want to go rubber for all it's benefits then check the weight!
STAYS FLAT - Will your mat stay in place and flat on the floor? You don't want to be thinking about what your mat is doing while you practice right. It should not bunch up around your hands and feet or be so flimsy you drag it with you when moving between poses.
SMELL - Let's face it your face is going to be plastered to your mat at some point in a yoga class so you don't want a mat that has either a smell you don't like or fumes coming off it that give you a headache.
DURABILITY - If you practice once a week your mat is going to last a long time so it's not so important what material it is made of. If you practice often or with lots of vigour then you will need a hard wearing mat or you'll be buying a new one far too often!
ECOLOGY - For those who really care about the environment you are going to want to consider what material your mat is made of. What distance the raw materials travelled to the factory, how much water, waste and carbon was used or generated during production and then what distance the mat travelled to you. Will it biodegrade at the end of its life or can it at least be recycled? This is a big topic so I won't go into it all here.
HYGIENE - If you sweat a lot directly on your mat then it is going to need to be cleaned often and effectively. Plastic mats (PVC, TPE, PER, PU) are generally speaking easiest to clean. Rubber, cork and microfibre towel mats should not have lots of water applied to them and are sensitive to chemical products. TRIBE Eco Clean is an all natural mat cleaner that is biodegradable and can be used on any type of yoga mat.
CARRY BAG OR SLING - Do yourself a favour and get a sling or mat bag to carry your mat in as this will stop it unrolling all the time and keep it in better condition, as well as making carrying it so much easier!
Not an exhaustive list, but some of the key things to think about to help you make an informed choice.
Still unsure, or would like some more help - why not fill out our "Find the Right Mat" questionnaire, and we'll get back to you with our recommendation