Choosing the Right Yoga Mat

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The  National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) claims yoga is the most used mind and body practice with 21 million Americans (9.5 percent) who practiced yoga in 2012 — a big increase from the 6.1 percent in 2007. This comes as no surprise since yoga is considered a healthy exercise.

An important part of yoga is your mat and shopping for a mat. And, whether it’s a replacement one or your first-time mat, it can be overwhelming. There are so many thicknesses, materials and sizes, how do you know which one is right for you?

Below you’ll learn the best yoga mat you should use, its benefits and cons so you can find a mat that’s exactly what you need.

The Preferred Yoga Mat

Ideally, the best yoga mat would be one that suits your lifestyle, practice, comfort and budget. The material and thickness is a good place to start.

Material

The differences in materials may not seem like a big deal at first, but they have a significant impact on how you practice yoga. Your mat is your domain and sanctuary; where you can feel at peace and balanced while you practice. So you want to be comfortable and secure while on it. There are numerous types of material that make up yoga mats. Some types include:

  • PVC: Many of your entry-level mats are made with PVC or polyvinyl chloride. PVC offers comfort, durability and stickiness. The drawback, however, is it’s also a known carcinogen that contains too many toxins, making it not a good choice if you want to go “green” and you can’t recycle it.
  • Rubber: Rubber is a popular choice for many people who are looking for an eco-friendly mat. It’s a good alternative to PVC mats. The drawback is rubber mats are made with latex which you should avoid if you’re allergic to latex.
  • Foam: Another eco-friendly PVC mat alternative, a foam mat provides you with the same characteristics in terms of performance, but without the un-friendly side effects for the environment. The drawback is that foam mats also contain latex so you can forget about them if you have latex allergies.
  • Cotton: These are eco-friendly and thin and if you tend to get sweaty while practicing, they absorb sweat well. The drawback is by themselves, they don’t provide much support, therefore, you’ll probably want to place them on top of another mat.

Textures

Non-slip mats or sticky mats allow you to get into various positions easily. They add stick and grip so you’re secure when practicing rigorous types of yoga. The drawback is they have a rough texture which could irritate your skin.

Thickness

How thick your yoga mat is will determine how comfortable it is. If your mat is too thin, while you’re performing certain positions like the crescent lunge, your knee could get beat up and bruised.

The drawback to thick mats is they make it hard for you to keep your balance and maintain a strong connection to the floor while practicing poses like the Tree Pose.

Types of Yoga

Another important factor when you’re deciding on the right yoga mat for you is how you’ll be practicing yoga. There are various yoga styles that call for various types of mats. For instance, if you practice more active yoga, you may want to get a textured mat to hold you in place when you’re sliding, stretching and bending. PVC mats aren’t that great if you sweat a lot since they won’t stay sticky. And restorative yoga of lower-intensity would call for mats with more comfort since you’ll be doing a lot of lying down. Foam and PVC mats would be ideal for this type of yoga.

Other Considerations

There are other things to consider such as:

  • Size
  • Weight
  • Price
  • Style
  • Storage
  • Performance
  • Your experience level

As you can see, choosing the right yoga mat isn’t necessarily about buying the most expensive mat or the best-looking one. Instead, it’s taking into account some or all of the above factors to find one that enables you to practice yoga properly, safely and comfortably.

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