Choosing a Yoga Mat - Tips & Advice

Choosing a yoga mat can be quite challenging as there are so many different styles, sizes, materials and colours available to buy - so we aim to offer plenty advice which will hopefully help you find the mat that's right for you.

Buying your first mat can be an overwhelming experience for beginners who are unsure what they should be looking for know or are unaware there are different types of mats for different purposes and styles of yoga.

A good yoga mat can provide you with the essential grip and support you need, as well as helping you improve your balance. It can also provide a comfortable cushioned barrier between you and the floor, and give you good support in your lumbar region and your neck when you are lying down.

A proper mat can mean the difference between effective yoga and yoga that results in pain or injury. Since yoga is based on comfort and relaxation the right mat will help to make it more effective because you will be suitably comfortable and relaxed.

There are various things to consider when you decide to buy a mat to ensure you are choosing the right accessory to fully meet your needs.

Eco-friendly mats are big business these days as more people become committed to caring about the future of our planet. Environmentally-friendly options are made from hemp, natural tree rubber, cork, TPE foam, organic cotton, floating fibrous grass, bamboo and jute.

An earth-friendly mat will normally cost a bit more than a basic and cheap yoga mat made of PVC or foam mat, but most people consider the additional expense a worthwhile investment for your body and the environment.

Natural cotton mats, backed with natural rubber, are a popular choice of eco-friendly mat and they are great for providing plenty of traction on slippery surfaces. Some people opt for natural yoga mats made of hemp as it gives them a sense of being closer to nature. There have been reports of some yoga enthusiasts having allergic reactions to certain types of eco mat, so you should bear this in mind if choosing one.

You will also need to buy a mat that efficiently supports you and keeps you balanced during your yoga practice. You should also take into consideration a mat’s portability, as well as durability.

The style of yoga you practice also has a bearing on your final decision - some types of yoga involve more sweating than others, meaning you'll need a very absorbent mat to reduce the risk of slipping. Some styles of yoga, such as Ashtanga, are best practised with a thicker mat.

CUSHIONING: This is a key feature with a yoga mat and your preference for either comfort or connection should be considered carefully. A thick mat, with plenty of depth, will be kind to your bones and joints but may lessen that feeling of connection with the ground. On the other hand, a thin yoga mat will make you feel connected to the ground but it might not be enough to cushion the impact of the ground to your boney areas, such as your elbows and knees.

You will need to access how much cushion and comfort your body needs especially during difficult poses. Most mat range in thickness from a 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch. You should bear in mind that the thicker a mat is, the heavier it is likely to be. So if you are looking for a travel mat, a thick mat is not a wise choice as it would be too bulky to place in a holdall or suit case for trips away from home. A mat with a thickness of 1/16 inch is a far better option for the yogi on the go. Yoga mats are available in many sizes but one of the most popular choices is 24 inches by 68 inches.

DURABILITY: A yoga mat comes in for a lot of punishing treatment so you'll need one that pretty robust and durable - otherwise you'll be buying a replacement much sooner than you would like! An eco mat, made from natural materials, is likely to wear out more quickly than an environmentally 'unfriendly' synthetic PVC mat. However, with proper care, many eco-friendly mats will serve you well for a considerable period of time. 

STICKINESS: Having a sticky yoga mat will help you maintain your balance and keep you from sliding and slipping. Moving from one pose to another can be extremely challenging and, when you bring sweat into the equation, you can end up with a potentially slippery situation. PVC mats are renowned for being very sticky but there are plenty of eco friendly mats available to buy these days that are also very sticky. Stickiness relates to the ability of a mat to keep the user's feet firmly in place during a workout, but you also need to look for a non-slip mat which won't slide on the floor. Furthermore, some poor quality mat which is prone to bunching up under you feet, which is something you definitely don't want to experience during a yoga session. Some mats even come with raised textures in the form of little dots that help improve traction between the mat and your body.

SMELL: Some Eco friendly yoga mats, including certain natural rubber mats, have a reputation for having an odour which certain yogis and yoginis have found to be a bit unpleasant. It this is something that's not likely to bother you, then you shouldn't put you off buying that type of mat - you can rest assured that the smell is harmless and will have no negative impact on your body. Some eco mats can smell a bit when you first buy them, but the odour fades quite quickly after they have been broken in and cleaned a few times. Often all that's needed to eliminate the smell is a wipe down with a mat cleanser and a few squirts of a yoga mat spray.

PRICE: Last but not least, is the matter of price. The most expensive yoga mat does not necessarily mean it will be the best - however, generally you get what you pay for when it comes to yoga mats, as is the case with most things in life. Obviously you will need to stay within your budget when choosing a mat, but it's usually best to lean towards the upper end of what you can reasonably afford - buying a cheap and cheerful mat, made for inferior materials, is unlikely to be a wise investment. Going down that route just to save a couple of pounds can often mean you end up having to buy an another matter sooner than you would like, just to replace the poor quality one you bought first time round. There are plenty of top quality mats available that should be within range for most people. Yes, there are some very stylish deluxe yoga mats costing £50 or more, but there are plenty of great value mats for sale which cost considerably less.

You should always buy a mat from a reputable manufacturer to get best results from your yoga sessions. A cheap and inferior mat will probably fall to pieces sooner rather than later, and worse still, could pose a safety risk if it's prone to slipping.

In summary, when buying a yoga mat you should ensure it has an acceptable level of stickiness and skid resistance. It should be manufactured to the highest standard and quality you can afford and should be durable and thick enough to offer proper body support. If a mat you are interested in doesn't meet these key requirements, it may be worth checking out another one that does.

A yoga mat is useless if it doesn't do the job that it was designed for. Every yogi or yogini, from beginner to veteran, needs a suitable mat for practising yoga. These mats really are crucial for stability, balance, and preventing slips and falls. A good mat will go a long way to ensuring you don't suffer an injury or strain any area of your body.

In the end, what matters most is that you choose a mat that will allow you to practice your yoga in complete comfort and safety - and ideally one that’s kind to the earth and healthy for your body.