How to choose a Yoga Mat and the things to consider:

For many of us Yoga is a part of a wider wellness and environmentally conscious culture. This is reflected in the range of eco-friendly Yoga mat materials to choose from, such as linen, cork and natural rubber, as well as offering a non-slip design for sweaty hands and those ideal for travel.

Although, for many of us the main factors to consider will be how much we can afford to spend, whether there are any special features and how often we practice.

Rubber Mats

Natural and Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE) Rubber have it all; comfort, grip, and the ability to biodegrade. Mats made from rubber are perfect for yoga because they have excellent grip and cushioning. The traction given by rubber will also help with the confidence of the practitioner to hold a challenging asana.

It may be wise to check whether the rubber mat (or any mat) is latex-free, if you have an allergy to this material or prefer to avoid it, as TPE will often be free from latex but natural rubber may not be.

Nitrile butadiene rubber (NBR) foam is non-toxic and free from PVC, phthalates, and latex, making it another choice for a Yoga mat. Its closed-cell structure locks out moisture, dirt and germs for hygienic reassurance, and its high density provides a firm base. Generally, being heat and water resistant, they’re also ideal for sweaty Hot Yoga and other dynamic Yoga classes.

Cork Mats

Another option for your Yoga mat is cork, which is warm under foot during early morning winter practice, but in the summer will regulate heat to keep you cool. These  mats are also durable and can be repaired, if they are damaged. They naturally tend to repel dust, hair and other unhygienic surface particles, whilst becoming gripper the sweatier you get.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is another popular mat material, as it is known to create a stickier surface which can make a big difference when it comes to grip. However, PVC is not the best choice for the environment because it is a form of plastic, which releases chemicals at each point of the production cycle. It will also have to be thrown away, not recycled at the end of its life, so overall, may not align with many yogis’ values. Although do think of others uses, e.g. a mat for the pets, or underlay for a rug. The options are only limited by your imagination.

Fibre Mats

Microfibre, polyester and linen are several fabric-based mats to consider, some of which will be stitched atop another material as an upper layer, and others that are more of a yoga towel, to be used either alone or as a cover for your main mat.

Microfibre is a soft, absorbent fabric used to make such yoga towels, with a texture that repels dirt, dust and sweat. However, microfibre is synthetic and it won’t be able to biodegrade. Polyester yarn, is another resilient, sweat-wicking material often used to make mats and towels. But, once again, it often requires heavy processing and is not biodegradable. On the other hand, linen is a superior choice for comfort, wear, and the environment. Linen is a textile made from the fibres of the flax plant, which leaves no waste footprint during its manufacture, and is itself biodegradable and recyclable.

The Mat Thickness and Dimensions

A super thick mat can be great if you practice in a cold environment, or if you want a multi-purpose mat to use for other activities such as Pilates or fitness.  However, a thick mat can make it more difficult to feel a connection to the floor which can set you off balance in poses such as tree. But, a mat that’s too thin could end up feeling uncomfortable in postures where you are close to the floor, especially if your joints are sensitive.

For reference, a thickness of 3 to 5 mm is considered average. It’s also helpful to note the dimensions of the mat, especially if you’re tall or like to have a lot of space to move. Tailor this to your practice needs as you see fit, taking into account that a standard mat is usually around 180-185 cm long, with a width of 66-68 cm.

Grip and Markings

A key aspect of yoga is maintaining and improving your alignment, so it’s crucial that your mat provides good grip against the surface you place it on. Look for mats with textured dots that are turned upwards to stop your towel slipping (if you use a mat and a towel), or downwards to grip to the floor. You can also keep an eye out for mats which are described as having a grippy, non-slip, or sticky side.

Design or colour scheme is more of a personal preference, but a good one to think about nonetheless, as you will hopefully be using the same mat for many years. From a practical view point, a darker mat will show less wear and tear (dirt) than a lighter coloured mat. Although off course you will be cleaning your mat with a mild biodegradable detergent, and spraying with a lavender mist, regularly. Many brands now incorporate markings, to help with alignment. Alternatively, make you own markings, which can be a considerably much cheaper option!

Think of the Yoga Mat as an investing into yourself

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