As a beginner, I used a cheap, pencil-thin mat that was slippery and pretty frustrating. If you want a consistent yoga practice, investing in a good quality yoga mat is absolutely necessary as your focus should be on your practice, not on your mat.
And I’ve seen some ugly wipe outs. This happens more often than you might think, particularly in a hot and sweaty class. One reason is that low-quality mats (generally these are under $40) may not be designed to sit evenly on the floor without slipping. If you tend to have a more vigorous yoga practice, a low-quality mat is bound to get you seriously hurt.
A good-quality yoga mat can help improve your balance and coordination. Some mats are thick, giving you extra padding to support you as you transition from pose to pose, while others aim to give better traction. There are yoga mats out there that absorb moisture and perspiration, and for those of you trying to be environmentally friendly, eco-yoga mats are also available. Many yoga mats contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is linked to some types of cancer and cannot be recycled.
So how do you choose a yoga mat?
There are certain factors that determine what kind of yoga mat is right for you. You must take into consideration the type of yoga you are doing: If you are into hot yoga, you might consider a mat that soaks up moisture and sweat, while if you are doing an Ashtanga class, you might go for a mat with extra padding to give you support as you move quickly from pose to pose.
Other things to consider are your physical abilities/limitations, fitness levels and age. An elderly person will probably go for a gentle class like Hatha or restorative, which means they will be doing less standing poses and more seated and reclining poses, similarly, a young person with physical limitations might also opt for a Hatha or a restorative class.
Most importantly, what you must consider at the end of the day is your own personal preference. It doesn’t matter how much your friends rave about a particular yoga mat if you don’t like practicing on it. Try a few mats to see which one you feel most comfortable using. Yoga studios usually offer use of their mats for free or a small rental fee.
Mats range in price from $15 – $100. If you’re someone like me who has been practicing for the last nine years and is committed to a lifetime practice, $100 isn’t much in the long run. If you are willing to dish out more money for a higher priced mat, do your research to make sure it is durable and will last you a long time.
Michelle Uy is a Certified Yoga Teacher and Owner of LoveActionYoga. She is Co-Creator of the Eat Well Feel Well Program, a yoga and nutrition program, and she is also certified to teach Yoga Thrive, a therapeutic yoga program for cancer survivors.