What to Look For in a Yoga Mat?

Yoga is becoming more and more popular with all kinds of people, from those who want the spiritual and mental benefits of meditation to those who simply want to be a bit more flexible. Yoga is an ideal form of exercise as very little spending is necessary to be able to practise this ancient art. You do not need to spend money on expensive specialised shoes or other equipment. In fact, when practising yoga, all you need is some comfortable clothing and a yoga mat.

What Are Yoga Mats For?

Yoga mats are used so that your hands and feet do not slip out from under you while you are practising the various poses. In more energetic forms of yoga, this non-slip surface is especially important, as sweat can build up on hands and feet. This could cause serious injury, or at best an uncomfortable bruise. Yoga mats also offer a degree of padding for knees and elbows if you are practising poses on a hard floor.

Have people always used mats in yoga?  In ancient India, yoga was practised on bare earth or grass. However, many practitioners used mats made of deer skin or, for the wealthy, tiger skin. When yoga became popular in western countries, people used cotton towels and mats. These materials tended to slip on wooden floors, and in 1982 the first “sticky mats”, which had been inspired by carpet underlay, were sold.

What Types of Yoga Mats Are There?

PVC mats, which may be certified latex free are widely available. Thermoplastic elastomer is a more environmentally friendly alternative. Eco-friendly mats of jute and rubber can also be purchased. Some jute mats are combined with a thin rubber layer to improve grip on the floor. Bamboo yoga mats for outdoor use are also sold. The Oeko-Tex institute, which certifies textiles based on their production ecology, human ecology, performance ecology and disposal ecology, has certified various brands of yoga mat as “free of harmful substances.”

Which Yoga Mat Should I Use?

Almost all yoga mats measure 182 cm in length and 60 cm in width. However, extra wide mats of 78 cm are available and are especially suitable for hand balancing and the Surya Namaskar. Mats may be obtained in varying thickness, with 2 mm considered lightweight, 4-5 mm the standard or classic thickness, and 7mm considered thick. Thicker mats are most suitable for daily use and for those who are practising yoga while rehabilitating an injury.

This guest post was written by Sardinia Yoga, who offer yoga holidays in Italy

Marcus Taylor

Marcus Taylor is co-author of the book Get Noticed, a how-to guide to being in the right place at the right time, all the time.

2 thoughts on “What to Look For in a Yoga Mat?

  • April 29, 2013 at 2:42 am

    I’ve been using a thermoplasic eco-friendly mat for years and its held up nicely. A little slippery when wet, but a yoga towel will fix that right up.

  • April 3, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Excellent post about choosing a mat. I had a hard time choosing my first mat years ago because there really wasn’t any info about it I could find. I don’t believe there were eco-friendly options then either … at least not as many as there are now.


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