Let me make something clear. I don’t want anybody reading this and thinking they need to go out and buy a bunch of equipment. When I started doing yoga, I didn’t have any equipment (including a mat). I took free online classes in the middle of the carpet in my living room. And guess what? I still got the amazing effects from doing yoga. Don’t let equipment stand in the way of you and your health.
However, IF you decide to get equipment, it does take your practice to the next level. When you think of “equipment”, the first thing that probably comes to mind is most likely a yoga mat. Going back to when I was doing yoga on the carpet in my living room- as I progressed in my practice and started doing more complex poses I found that I started to “slip”. Once I added a yoga mat, the slipping went away. Yoga mats will allow better traction and additional cushion for your joints as you progress in your practice. Not only do mats help physically, but personally I find that stepping onto my mat serves as a cue for me to be more mindful of my body during my practice.
Obviously yoga mats come in all sorts of different colors and patterns. And let me be clear..this matters! Find a mat that you like! Stepping onto a mat with a pattern that energizes you or a color that relaxes you helps promote a healthy mindset while you complete your practice. However, there are other things to consider when choosing a mat other than the look.
Let’s start with the thickness of your mat:
- 1/16 inch thickness: These mats are often called travel yoga mats as they’re portable to take with you as you travel. Although slim, it will provide you with the traction you need to keep you from slipping during your practice. But keep in mind what you gain in portability you lose in cushion. This may be an excellent mat for people who have less than ideal balance or travel often, but I do not recommended this for people with painful joints.
- 1/8 inch thickness: I’d say this is the most common type of mat to find. These mats are a good balance (no pun intended) between comfort on your joints and not too “cushion-y” for balancing poses.
- 1/4 inch thickness: Luxury. Thick and cushion-y. This mat will really test your balance and is excellent for people with joint pain. However, if your balance is less-than ideal, this mat may lead to frustration and extra wobbles.
In addition to thickness and style, here are some other things to consider when picking out your yoga mat:
How tall are you? The length of your yoga mat is important for ensuring you have enough space during your yoga practice. Generally speaking, individuals have a tendency to compromise their form if their mat is shorter than required for their height. Mats range from 68 inches (5 ft + 6 in.) to over 7 ft in length. The most common length of yoga mats I see available on the market are 68 inches long. This length tends to work well for individuals who are 5’ 8” or shorter. To determine your ideal mat length, do plank or downward dog pose (with good form!) to see how long your mat would need to be to provide you with enough length for your hands and feet to be on the mat. This would be the minimum length of what I would recommend for you.
How wide of a mat do you want? Standard mats are 24 inches (2 feet) wide. This generally works well for the average person. However, if you want a little more space you may want to look for a wider mat. I’ve seen mats on the market for as wide as 36 inches (3 feet)! As I stated earlier, my mat is 26 inches wide to give me a little more “wiggle room”.
Where do you plan on practicing yoga? If you plan on staying home for your practice then portability of your mat may not be as big of a priority. However, if you travel often or take classes then you may want to consider a thinner/more portable mat to make transporting it easier.
How much storage do you have? Thicker mats will obviously take more space to store, while travel mats (1/16 in) take very little space to store. Commonly, individuals will store their rolled-up mats in a bag or with a strap around the mat to help with storage.
Personally, I love my Elenture yoga bag. This is not an advertisement, not sponsored, and I receive no profits from this recommendation. I just like to share what I’ve had success using! I have been using this yoga bag for years to store my mat (my mat is 1/8 inch in thickness). The pockets allow plenty of space for my mat, strap, mat cleaner, yoga paws gloves, and plan for teaching my classes.
Find it on Amazon here
What type of material are you looking for? The majority of mats are made out of PVC. The stereotypical sticky yoga mat with raised bumps that most people picture when you say “yoga mat” is most often made out of PVC. In my experience, these mats made out of PVC tend to be a more affordable option. However, if using a mat made out of organic materials is a priority for you, they are becoming increasingly more popular. And increasing number of mats made out of jute, cork, cotton, and recycled materials are becoming more and more available.