Here's How To Pick The Perfect Yoga Mat

Picking the wrong yoga mat can completely change how you practice. There are many different types of yoga, from Vinyasa to hot and even Yin yoga. Each practice moves your body differently, either flowing through poses or focusing on mindfulness. You need the right mat to get the most out of your favorite type of yoga. Choosing the right one and caring for it properly can make it last for at least a year.

To care for your mat, you should wipe it down with a cleanser every time you are done with a session. This can either be a mat spray you purchased or a mixture of water, white distilled vinegar, and essential tea tree oil. Then hang it to dry out of direct sunlight. You'll know it's time to replace your mat when it falls apart. It may thin where you usually put your hands and feet down, peel apart, and develop an odor. You can shift and slip on the mat when the texture has rubbed off, especially when sweating. You want to replace your yoga mat as soon as you see these signs of wear and tear because it can be dangerous to continue using it.


The length of your yoga mat is crucial so you're not left lying on the dirty floor. You need enough room to not only lie down but to do poses like warrior one, which require you to lunge. The last thing you want is to worry about your hands or feet falling off the mat when you're supposed to focus on the movements. It's also dangerous to have a small mat. If you did slip off, you could fall over and injure yourself.

To find the best size, you should start by referencing your height. Once you've measured yourself, add 7 to 10 inches. A standard yoga mat is 68 to 70 inches long, according to Yogigo. If you're any taller than 5'8", you'll need the tall or extra-long size. You should also measure your stride before purchasing a mat. Then you'll know that it's the right size for various poses. With a measuring tape on the floor, start with the heels of your feet at zero. Then lunge forward with one foot and move your other foot to meet up with it. Look at what measurement is at the top of your toes. Your mat should be longer than your lunge. If it's a tight fit, consider going up a size because you can stretch farther the more you practice yoga.


The thickness of your yoga mat also matters when deciding which is the perfect one for you. There are four different types that work best with varying styles of yoga. When determining your mat's thickness, the first question you need to ask yourself is whether you have sensitive joints. During many poses, you put a lot of weight on your knees and wrists, so you'll want to keep them protected with a thicker mat if you have previously injured yours or are weak.

A standard yoga mat is about 4 to 5 millimeters thick. It's cheap and versatile for different types of yoga but won't protect your joints. The next level is a thick yoga mat that's 6 millimeters. It will add more cushion without getting in your way if you do a lot of Vinyasa. Then there are extra thick mats. They're over 6 millimeters thick and the best for sensitive joints, according to Yoga My Old Friend. However, they're fluffy and don't have much grip, so they should only be used for grounding practices like Yin or Restorative yoga. On the other side of the scale, travel mats are the thinnest you can get. They're 1 to 2 millimeters thick and can easily fold into a bag. This makes them very flimsy, and you'll be able to feel the hard floor below them.


The texture is a necessary component of yoga mats. Without it, you could severely injure yourself. While texture can add a pretty design to your otherwise simple mat, its main job is to provide grip. Fistri explains that having a lot of texture on the mat's surface stops you from slipping while moving through poses because your body creates friction as it presses into the tactile design.

If you only stick to restorative yoga practices focusing more on grounding the mind than moving the body, the texture of your mat is less critical. This is because these classes typically only have a handful of poses that you hold. Meanwhile, Hatha classes need texture for the body to grip onto as you move through up to 30 poses (via Absolute Pilates). These tactile features will also help you to balance and correct your posture since you're not focusing on trying not to slip and fall.


The material you choose for your yoga mat makes a big difference. Not only will it affect the price, but it can change the amount of grip it has and how durable it is. PVC is what most yoga mats are made of. It's an easy-to-clean material, very durable, and latex-free. PVC also provides lots of grip, but it can become slippery if you sweat a lot during practice. Another downside is that it's not biodegradable. TPE is another version of plastic that's used for yoga mats. It's more environmentally friendly than PVC, but also less durable. However, it still gives you grip as you move through poses.

Natural mats are the most eco-friendly. REI explains that yoga mats can also be made from jute, cotton, or natural rubber. They aren't as durable as other materials because they're biodegradable. Another downside is that they provide less grip than the other materials. If you're looking for a mat that will last as long as possible, go with PVC, while the most environmentally friendly option is a natural jute mat. Although, if you want the pros from both materials, go with the TPE since it's durable and can also be recycled.


How far you need to transport your yoga mat can change what type is the best for you. Some people practice yoga at home, so they can use the thickest one available, while others may struggle to carry theirs into class every week. Without a carrier, it can be difficult to lug your mat around while holding a gym bag, water bottle, phone, keys, and other yoga accessories. Plus, the taller you are, the larger the mat you'll need. Walking to class instead of driving makes it even more important that your mat is easily transportable.

To make it easier for yourself, a travel mat may be the best option. They're light for you to carry and can roll or fold to fit in your gym bag, according to Mikkoa. They come in many options for your style of yoga. Some have a lot of grip, while others have the same texture as a towel, making them perfect for beach yoga. Since they're so compact, you can even fly with your mat so you don't have to borrow one while traveling.