When I decided to invest in my very first yoga mat, it took me time before finally deciding which one to take. It can be a daunting task with so many options in the market, as affordable and others as rich and famous as possible…
So I jot down the main qualities to look for in a mat and my suggestions based on my experience practicing and teaching.
Things to consider before investing in a mat:
- Will you use at home or bring to class with you?
- How often will you use it and what is your level?
- Do you have any injuries, especially knee?
Maybe you already have a basic yoga mat, but one thing I noticed when teaching privately is that the students don’t acknowledge their improvement as they hold a pose uncomfortably thinking Yoga is a no pain/no gain kind of thing, but don’t realise it’s not pleasant because the mat is too foamy or too slippery. Then when they try a good mat, they can finally truly enjoy the Yoga experience.
According to Patãnjali, the “father of Yoga”, asana – the yoga postures – is Sthira sukham āsanam.
“That which is steady and which is comfortable is āsana.”
That means you don’t have to stay in a position when it hurts or is uncomfortable because like this you’re not practicing Yoga.
What differentiates Yoga to gymnastics or a physical exercise is the aim to align the mind, body & spirit through the well being acquired with the practice of asanas, pranayama, meditation, yamas and nyiamas, etc.
Thus the goal is to hold a pose – as challenging as it is – in a pleasant way, even smiling if you can!
Why your Own Mat?
It’s amazing to build up that energy the more you practice on your own mat. And out of experience, it will become your precious, your child and beloved; and you will want to study while doing pigeon pose on it, will want to start meditating and will do some sun salutations in the morning just because you have your own mat.
With so many options in the market, there are some popular ones full of chemicals impregnated in the mat that harm your health and the environment in its production; plus, they can be cheap but not durable/spoils very easily.
The toxics to avoid are:
- heavy metals
To limit your exposure and support chemical-free mats, opt for those made from natural rubber. These may still smell a little when you first use them due to natural dyes and the nature of the material.
The ones to look for in an Eco friendly mat are:
- Jute (made out of hemp, so does not feel like the common “rubber”, though it’s more rough)
- Natural rubber
- or even some new ones made out of Cork of wine
Which one to take?
After an in depth research and comparision between brands from all over the world, I decided to bring down to the main points that were important to me:
- Ecological & Ethical, that didn’t hurt the world in another mass production slave based company;
- Quality & Composition that also didn’t harm the planet or ME!
- Price vs Durability – I wanted to pay a decent price that was not too expensive but that I invested in a good brand and quality mat that lasted long enough.
These are the ones I personally tested and approved:
Personally, I use this one which I got from Amazon UK and am very happy about. Heathy Yoga is an american brand that caught my attention because of the lines that help with better alignment. I saw this was a plus, and the reviews were 100% positive. I then found their UK reseller which was the closest to me and I can highly recommend their customer service always there to help you.
- Alignment lines that help you naturally get the hang of putting your feet on the same lign when doing a Warrior pose, for example
- Definitely not slippery!
- Too sensitive foam that remains marks if you have long nails or a cat
- Too thick: this is completely personal as I chose the 6mm one for knee protection, but as I advanced in my practices I realised the floor or a thin mat provides better stability.
> If you’re a beginner or have knee injuries, I’d recommend a thicker mat at least 5mm.
Overview: for beginners this is a well-rounded mat ideal to keep at home for yoga, pilates, meditation, sitting on it, just relaxing. Though it’s not too heavy, it can be brought to class with you but I wouldn’t recommend it too often. Ideally, this is a stay home mat.
> Buy it here
Another option from the french Amazon site is this one I bought for a friend, a bit thinner but also does the job great as it’s a non slippery and the colour is beautiful:
> Buy from Amazon FR
- Non slippery
- Thinner 4mm, ideal for advanced balance poses and more stability
- Lighter: ideal to carry on to class or travel with
- Thinner (4mm): not ideal for beginners or those with injuries, especially in knee
- Lighter: not as supportive as the thicker ones
Overview: Being thinner, it’s actually lighter so you can bring with you to class or on travel. But it is not that supportive when you lie down in shavasana, for example.
Whatever you choose, know that you might have more than one mats on the long run if you choose to adopt the Yoga lifestyle for life! And this is just he beginning of a journey.
What makes your Yoga mat yours?