How to select a Yoga Mat

As I started to get more serious in my yoga practice, I discovered that my cheap and old yoga mat from Target was not working anymore.  Of course I purchased it with the information that it was purple and I liked that color.  Not much thought went into function at the time.  Now that I practice yoga multiple times per week, I needed better equipment.  I started to note which brands were sold at my yoga studio and which ones were used by the teachers and students in class.  I also started some YouTube research to see if I could find some mat reviews.  Brett Larkin has a channel all about yoga and back in 2015 she did a yoga mat review week.  (http://www.brettlarkin.com/)   There are TONS of brands out there and a very wide range of prices as well.  It can get confusing and you need to be careful about return policies if you want to try out mats.

I know I wanted a few key items for a mat…

  • Secure grip so I was not slipping during my practice.  My palms do tend to get sweaty and I was getting frustrated during class when my hands would slide forward during poses like a downward dog.
  • The mat needed to be made from a natural material.  I wanted something that was environmentally friendly and non-toxic.  You end up laying your face on the mat and breathing close to it so I did not want to inhale any icky chemicals.
  • I needed something that was easy to clean.  Since I did not want to continue to ignore the sanitary properties of my yoga mat.
  • Durability was also important.  I did not want to spend money on something that would end up falling apart.  In my research I looked up user reviews on Amazon and other sites to see how the mats were holding up in the long-term.
  • The cost needed to be reasonable.  This depends on how often you practice yoga and how much you have to spend in your budget for a mat.  It might be more cost effective to purchase a nice yoga towel to cover the mat for your hot yoga practice and use that over your existing mat.  The yoga towel does move a bunch while doing the class, but it would absorb the sweat and provide a stable surface.  Before I ended up selecting my mats, I used a small yoga towel at the top of my mat.  (Manduka eQua Yoga Hand Towel)  It worked well to absorb the sweat but I ended up moving around the mat too much to make it a long-term solution.  I also tried using foot grip socks which I found uncomfortable and made balancing poses impossible.

Side-note = I was not going to leave my yoga mat in the car.  I found many folks stating that their mat did not hold up since they left them in a cold or hot vehicle.

In my practice, I participate in two very different types of yoga. 

  1. Restorative and At-Home = Very slow moving where you hold a pose for around 5 minutes and it is performed in a 65 to 75 degree room.  I also do some poses at home and normal room temperature is around 72 degrees so I needed a mat that was sticky and provided grip without needing water to activate it.
  2. Hot Yoga = In a 90 to 105 degree room, this type of yoga is fast-paced and I end up drenching the mat.  I needed something that would absorb and handle the water (aka sweat).  I needed something that would be stable when doing downward dog poses.  I was slipping around before and not getting into the full pose because I was afraid of falling.  I needed a mat that needed water to activate its grip function.

Result…drum roll please!  

  • Restorative and At-Home = I selected a natural rubber open-cell construction mat – Jade Harmony
    • The open-cell mat means that you can just roll it out and it is naturally sticky and grips well.  The mat moves under your hands and feet, giving you a deep grip.  The best way I can describe an open-cell technology is to take a hairbrush and move your palm over the bristles.  They give a gentle move under your hand.  At a very microscopic level, the mat acts the same way.  I feel like I can get more grounded into the pose and the mat moves with me a bit.
    • I did use this mat along with a microfiber towel during my hot yoga classes and that did work.  I just got annoyed with the towel moving all over the place.  The mat by itself (without the towel) became too slick during the 90 to 105 degree classes.  The moisture just did not get absorbed at all so the surface became unstable.
    • Downside is that you have to keep it clean because the open-cell allows dirt to get captured.  I use the Mind Over Lather spray in Lavender Mint and it has been working well.
    • Also if you do have a sensitivity to smell, it does have an initial natural rubber smell like balloons.  I left it rolled out in our living room for a couple of weeks to air it out.  I also used the cleaning spray which seemed to quicken the process.  I sprayed and did not wipe it off, it dried on its own.  I hardly smell anything now.
    • The mat comes in a variety of solid colors and the company will donate to a charity based on some of the color choices.  It also plants a tree for each mat sold.  They are made in the USA in an emission-free factory.  https://jadeyoga.com/
    • The mat I selected is 3/16 inches thick.  I like this because I can do my standing poses on a thinner mat more easily and I do not have any knee issues.  They do make a mat called Fusion which is thicker (5/16 inches) if you are interested in that.  They also make a variety of lengths if you like more surface area or are a tall person.
    • Other brands that I considered for this natural rubber open-cell construction mat was the Hugger Mugger Para mat.  I ordered it but did not want to take it out of the package because the mat was very heavy to me; little over 6 pounds.
  • Hot Yoga = I selected a combo matYoga Design Lab
    • A combo mat is basically a microfiber towel layer with a natural rubber bottom.  It is like doing yoga on an absorbent towel that does NOT move around at all.  The more I sweated, the better the mat worked.  At the very start of class, I spray it down with a water bottle in order to activate the mat.  Otherwise if you just leave it completely dry, it is soft like suede.
    • The mat says you can wash it in the washing machine but I have just been using the same spray that I use on my Jade mat.
    • This mat made a world of a difference to me.  Hot yoga is difficult enough, the fact that I am not sliding around anymore makes me so happy!