by Laryssa Wirstiuk
Using a mat is not necessary for a yoga practice, but a sticky mat can assist the yogi in holding asana, especially when sweaty hands and feet might slip on a bare floor. These days, mats are available in a variety of materials, colors, sizes and shapes. Some are even adorned with funky designs and printed affirmations! How can a yogi choose the perfect mat to complement his or her practice?
When purchasing a new mat, you should consider the following:
Size and shape: Are you short, tall, or somewhere in between? Did you know that mats come in different sizes to accommodate the length of your downward-facing dog? In addition, mats don’t just have to be rectangular. Now, you can buy round and square mats, which are perfect for practicing arm balances that might take you too far off a rectangular mat.
Thickness: Thickness of the mat is a matter of personal preference. Some yogis feel comfortable with more padding, while others like being as close to the floor as possible. The thickest mat I could find was 1/2″ thick, while one travel mat is only 1/8″ thick.
Color and design: At a yoga class at the YogaGlo studios in Los Angeles, I couldn’t stop noticing a young woman’s mat because of the affirmation printed along the top edge: “I am grateful.” A Google search lead me to Affirmats, a company that makes yoga mats adorned with inspiring affirmations. I’ve also seen yoga mats that could pass for Persian rugs and others with colorful geometric prints. Will a bright color or pattern distract or inspire you? Only you can decide.
Price: Yoga mats can range anywhere from $10 to $100, depending on the brand and the vendor. If you’re not picky, you can find name-brand yoga mats at discount department stores like Marshall’s and TJ Maxx. Yoga mats made by high-end brands like Manduka and Jade cost more than $50, but Manduka also offers a lifetime guarantee.
Material: Mats can be made of natural materials like rubber, hemp, and jute, or they can be made of synthetic materials like PVC. To decide what’s appropriate for you, consider the following questions: Are you allergic to any materials? Are you concerned about the environmental consequences? How easy is it to clean the material?
When I was first trying to decide which yoga mat to purchase, I asked one of my teachers, who swore by Jade’s products. As a result, I tried the Jade Travel Mat, which is now my signature mat. Jade even offers this mat in my favorite color: purple! At only 1/8″ thick, the Jade Travel Mat is one of the lightest yoga mats I’ve ever carried; I’ve even taken it across the country! Even though this mat is called a “travel mat,” I use it for my regular yoga practice because I prefer less padding. The mat is made from natural rubber, and my hands don’t seem to slip as much as they do on mats made of synthetic materials.
Have you found your favorite yoga mat? If so, what is it, and why do you like it? Still haven’t found your mat? Don’t worry – you can rent a mat for just $2 at Yoga in the Heights.