Having a good quality yoga mat is no different than having good quality running shoes. Yoga mats are sold just about everywhere, but they’re not all alike. Some are squishy, others extra sticky, while others are mostly just for decoration. The type of yoga mat best suited for your practice depends on the style of yoga you’re interested in. If you’re practicing at a hot yoga studio, there will be lots of sweat! Sweaty practices require extra sticky mats or using a yoga towel on top of your mat to catch the sweat and to provide extra grip for your hands and feet. If you’re an outdoor yogi, you may not want to invest a lot of money into a mat that you’ll use for practicing on grass, sand or concrete. Using your yoga mat to practice places other than a yoga studio will mean that it will come into contact with a great many surfaces of a questionable cleanliness. If you’re a traveling yogi, a mat that folds up and fits in your suitcase is perfect for using on hotel carpeting and practicing in the privacy of your room.
Before you invest a lot of money on a yoga mat, you should try out a variety of mats. Lululemon will let you try out their yoga mats in-store; your local yoga studio may have loaner mats by Jade, Manduka, Gaiam or others. Take your shoes off, get on the mat and strike a few poses to see how the mat responds under your feet and hands. Does it stretch underfoot when you open up into warrior two? Is it difficult to come into tree pose because the mat has too much squish? Too much cushioning may seem like a good idea at first, but super squishy mats are more suited to a home Pilates practice.
Things to think about when choosing a yoga mat: does it offer enough cushioning for poses like camel, but not stretch out in all other poses? Is it a light color mat that will show dirt? Does it have a warranty against defects or wear? Do you practice every day or just at yoga events? You may find that you have a couple of different yoga mats for different purposes: traveling, outdoor yoga or yoga studios. Not all yoga mats are created equal. You may find that your yoga practice has been suffering because of the bargain bin yoga mat you’ve been using. Ask other yogis what they practice on and why? Ask to step on their mat and see how their mat feels different than yours does underfoot. You may find a renewed interest in your yoga practice if you trade out the mat you bought at the local drugstore.
Jennifer Huber 200+hr RYT