Updated: Nov 28
The Comprehensive Yoga Mat Guide
A Yoga Mat is your companion. You want your companion to support your practice, and you want them to spark joy and inspire your practice every day.
If you are familiar with Marie Kondo (the author of ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing’), you will notice her philosophy is about more than tidying up or throwing things away. Instead, at its foundation, Marie Kondo’s philosophy is a call to own things with awareness and connect your surroundings with inner joy.
With that in mind, here is a simple guide to help you find your companion.
Yoga mat options in the current market
Yoga mats come in all shapes and sizes, not even mentioning the various brands. But there are three things that are necessary to be considered, MATERIAL, THICKNESS, SIZE.
All Natural Rubber Yoga Mats – Beautiful. The most slip-resistance material on the market, rubber yoga mats is open-celled, meaning that the mat will “suction” to hands and feet, for a super sticky experience. These yoga mats are resilient and tend to bounce back from use. This material also provides a premium cushioning experience without damaging the environment. On the other hand, expect a funny smell upon opening. Rubber yoga mats are also on a heavier side and may need to avoid oil and proper cleaning.
Cork Yoga Mats- Cork yoga mats are made of a tree’s bark combined with natural rubber or TPE (as the base). Generally, cork is a great eco-friendly material: renewable, biodegradable, and naturally antibacterial. But cork yoga mats are probably most loved for their grip. The wetter the surface, the better the grip. But due to its high-absorbent nature, cork yoga mats may be harder to clean.
TPE Yoga Mats (thermoplastics) – A rubber-like material that is designed to be elastic, cushioning, durable, and reusable. While synthetic, these mats can be recycled at the end of their use-life to create more mats. TPE yoga mats are often manufactured using closed-cell technology, which means that they have an impermeable texture and repel sweat and dirt. But if you’re caught on a TPE mat in a hot yoga class – you’ll likely end up losing grip and slipping all over the place.
Yoga Rugs, Cotton & Hemp Yoga Mats – Also known as Mysore yoga rugs, yoga mats made of cotton, organic cotton, and hemp are eco-friendly and recyclable. They’re tightly woven and thick for a soft bit of protection outdoors, during meditation, or savasana. Cotton and hemp yoga mats feel great on the skin and have a nice natural texture that softens with every wash. Both materials are very absorbent, so they’ll fit great in a hot yoga setting or a sweaty yoga class. On the downside, cotton and hemp yoga mats are not as sticky as the average mat. It might be unusual/problematic for beginners since they don’t yet have the required grip strength. Be prepared that cotton and hemp yoga mats slide on tile and laminate surfaces.
PVC – is a plastic-based material that many mats are made of. It is dirty cheap, extremely durable, and easy to clean. They’re not absorbent, so they can become very slick when wet with sweat. It’s also latex-free, a consideration if you have latex allergies. But it’s not biodegradable or as environmentally good as other options.
A standard yoga mat is about 1/8 of an inch (about 3 mm) thick. But you can find yoga mats as thin as 1/16 of an inch (about 1.5mm) or as thick as 1/2 of an inch (nearly 12 mm). The thicker the mat, the more padding you get for your joints, knees, and spine, and less connection with the hard floor, which will make it hard for you to find balance in standing postures, like Tree Pose.
1/4″ or 6mm Yoga Mats – These mats are by far the most popular in the industry. A large portion of premium yoga mats stays within the 1/4″ thickness because it’s a size that has proven to be both durable and cushioning.
1/8″ or 3mm Yoga Mats – While not as thick as a 1/4 inch mat, these still provide plenty of support and durability. A lighter mat is even easier to take to and from classes. They also have the added benefit of fitting in just about every yoga mat bag on the market. There are no worries about making this fit into your routine.
1/16″ or 2mm Yoga Mats – Ultra-thin yoga mats are ideal for frequent travelers. These mats are light, compact (as they can be easily folded), and offer a good connection to the ground, helping with the balance. But unless you’re a seasoned yogi with super-healthy joints, you probably don’t want to practice on a thin travel mat every single day.
Ideally, if you’re committed to your yoga practice, I’d suggest buying two yoga mats – a thicker one for home/studio practice and a thinner one for traveling. If you’re on a limited budget and have sensitive or sore joints, do yourself a favor and buy a thicker mat, which wouldn’t exacerbate the discomfort.
A standard yoga mat is generally 68 inches long (172cm) and 24 inches wide (60cm). Here’s a good rule of thumb: use a yoga mat that is at least six inches (15mm) taller than you are. The goal is to lay on your mat comfortably during savasana without leaving the mat. If you’re in the taller range (over 6 feet or 183cm), try an extra long yoga mat. You may even want to check out an extra wide yoga mat if you have broad shoulders or want to enjoy a little extra space.
Which type of yoga are you practicing?
Hatha Yoga – Hatha covers a wide range of classes that teach physical postures. Typically, Hatha yoga gears itself more to beginner classes. We recommend that you are just starting out, practice on any material with good thickness support within your budget until you have an idea of which direction you would like to head.
Ashtanga Yoga – This rigorous style of yoga demands a sticky mat. We recommend the natural rubber and TPE yoga mats because of their open-cell structure as these mats prove slip-resistant despite the sweat.
Vinyasa – Derived from Hatha yoga, there are a few differences: Pace, and Flow. The much faster paced Vinyasa moves you through asana after asana. The flow becomes just as important as the final asana in this class. Because of the movement, we recommend a mat that is smooth but still has a lot of sticks. Check out a natural rubber travel mat. They have very little texture, but still provide tack for sweaty hands and feet.
Iyengar – Proper alignment is where Iyengar starts and ends. You will not get your heart rate up and therefore sweat as much as in other styles. Balance is key. Because of that, it’s not as important to have a super sticky or cushiony mat. We recommend using very firm 1/4″ mats or thinner 1/8″ mats. Alignment mats are also incredibly helpful for this practice.
Bikram/Hot Yoga – These two styles are very similar. Each happens in rooms heated 100 degrees or more. Expect to sweat a ton. Because of this, we highly recommend using both a natural rubber yoga mat and a yoga mat towel. You may also want to bring in a hand towel or two to wipe off hands between poses. You will sweat like mad.
Restorative – Restorative is the gentlest yoga practice of all. It’s the equivalent to exercise while napping. Characterized by slow, sweeping poses, you have unlimited options for yoga mats.
After considering all the cons and pros of the yoga mat, don’t forget to ask the most important question:
Does your choice sparks joy? ;)
Check our online shop to find your joyful Yoga mat today!