Yoga is perhaps one of the best ways you can get into shape. It has varying levels of difficulty, allowing you to get into it and then challenge yourself as you improve. It helps in controlling and preventing a number of ailments and chronic problems, ranging from obesity to joint pains. And it requires no equipment, just you and your body – and a yoga mat, of course.
A yoga mat is simply your own personal space for you to perform your asanas and breathing exercises. To ensure that you face no problems, your mat should be clean, comfortable, and tailored to your body shape and exercising needs. If your yoga mat is not comfortable, you might not only find your yoga sessions less enjoyable, but you also run the risk of causing strain or injury to vulnerable parts of your body, such as your knees or back. We have seen most of the students going for their second mat after buying the first one, so know the basics that you should consider so that you don’t repent at a later stage. Here are some few tips on how you can select the perfect yoga mat
- Decide the Practicalities
The first step in choosing the right mat is to answer some important questions. Firstly, where would you practice? If it is at home, you can choose a large, heavy mat easily. However, if you need to go to a studio regularly, a smaller and lighter option will give you more portability. Indeed, it may be better to invest in two mats – one for home and one for carrying out with you if you engage in yoga daily and do not want to miss out on sessions.
- Decide on the Length
A standard yoga mat tends to be 68 inches long (and then there are 72 inches available too), which is usually sufficient for even the floor type asanas. However, those who are on the taller side (more than 5 feet 6-7 inches) may not find the mat to be sufficiently long. As such, it may be best for you to invest in a longer yoga mat. Ideally, your entire body should fit inside the mat comfortably when you lie down on it, as the lines of the mat or the difference in temperature may otherwise bother you. The width of the mat usually does not matter much for a general body type, but it should again be something that you feel comfortable with, whether lying down or standing up. You can always go for a wider mat if that’s what you like – mats are generally available in 24/28 or sometimes in 36 inches as well.
- The Thickness of the Mat Matters
The thickness of yoga mats is usually starts from ⅛ inch (approx 3-4mm), which we suggest is not enough for you to perform your asanas without the ground troubling you. Most people (and thinner people in general) would start facing some discomfort as their bones may press harshly on the ground. For such individuals, a mat with ¼ (approx 6mm) inch thickness should be preferred. However, remember that as the thickness increases so does the cushioning effect (especially if it is a mat with softer material) of the mat, which may make it difficult for you to engage in some asanas, such as those requiring you to stand up and maintain balance. Thus, try to find a balance between your needs. If you have prevailing medical problems, such as weak knees, you may require a thicker mat.
- The Texture of the Mat Matters Too
While a smoother mat may be more personally comfortable (and friendlier to the skin too), it may not provide you with the grip you need to perform your asanas. Thus, if you are going to move around a lot, or engage in poses that require balance and grip, it is better to seek a ‘sticky’ mat. You can wear full leggings/pants to protect your skin from irritation, and a sticky mat will also reduce the risk of slipping and injuring yourself. However, if you plan to practice in places where the ground itself is rough (such as an open field), then you can choose a soft material (and thicker mat), as the traction is likely to be maintained by the ground itself.
- Choose the Right Material
PVC mats were popular for a long period of time amongst the yoga community, but these have fast fallen out of favour because of their adverse impact on the environment, and potential carcinogenic factors. Rubber mats and mats made from natural fibres such as cotton and jute are considered best options today. All of them have their own features – jute mats are skid-free and easy to carry, cotton mats are cheap and thin, and rubber mats are thick and long-lasting. Thus, you can decide the material depending upon your own personal needs and preferences.
In the end, your best mat would be the one that you feel the most comfortable in and one that you are able to perform all your asanas and sessions without the risk of skidding or injuring yourself. If you are still hesitant about investing in this equipment, you can always start out with a cheaper mat of a particular style or type, and see if it suits you. If it does, you can always upgrade. Feel free to also talk with your yoga instructor or peers – they may have learnt through trial and error the best mat for the particular yoga style. Feel free to change and experiment when you feel uncomfortable, and remember that the end goal is to facilitate your exercise. Any mat that does the job well is ideal for you.