Yoga is hugely popular now, with classes and YouTube tutorials dedicated to making our cores stronger and our bodies more flexible.
Yoga doesn’t require a lot of equipment or space, which means it’s easy to practice between sessions on your own. But if you’re going to do this you will need a mat. There are all types of different mats with prices ranging from £5-£100! Your choice should be based on the following:
Thickness: Thickness equates to comfort, but thicker is not necessarily better. While thicker mats are more comfortable to kneel on they can make it harder to balance and your tree pose may topple. A standard mat is 3-4mm thick. I find 5mm is a good compromise, that extra 1mm makes all the difference to comfort, yet allows me to feel the floor for good balance.
Material: This dictates the texture, stickiness, eco-friendliness, and sponginess (how much it yields to body-pressure), and how it wears over time. Most standard yoga mats are made of PVC. However newer, more earth-friendly options include natural and recycled rubber (avoid these if you are allergic to latex), jute, and organic cotton. Sponginess can vary widely with different blends of materials, but in general, PVC has the most “give” of any yoga mat material, while jute and cotton have the least.
Texture: The texture of your mat dictates how much traction it provides. Some people can’t tolerate certain textures so it’s as well to find one you like. I had a jute mat once which made me feel queasy when my skin rubbed against it. I prefer smooth bumps. My partner on the other hand loves the rough stuff and happily adopted my cast-off mat as his own!
Eco-friendliness: Practising yoga has connected me more to my body, the air I breath, the food I eat and the world in which I live. Many people who are drawn to yoga care about their environment, so practising on a yoga mat that will ultimately end up as landfill can feel wrong. Earth-friendly yoga mats are typically made from natural or recycled rubber. They may incorporate natural materials, such as jute or organic cotton. If eco-friendliness is important to you avoid PVC mats.
Price: A basic 3-4mm plain solid-colour PVC yoga mat will be toward the low end of the price range. From there you may pay more for patterns, logos, extra thickness, antimicrobial treatments and textures, especially raised tactile patterns. Eco-friendly yoga mats tend to be toward the higher end of the price range.
Size and style: These are personal choices. If you’re tall you might need a longer mat. If you’re a larger build you might prefer a wider one. As for style, I rather like a complex geometric pattern in soft colours as it allows me to see at a glance whether my feet are aligned, and gives me something nice to focus on in longer holds. But you can choose your favourite colour, one that matches your decor or even your yoga outfit!