How to Pick a Great Yoga Mat
When I first started practicing yoga it was on a dinky mat that I had grabbed from my grocery store, which now makes me both laugh and want to cry a little bit. I believe it's still hanging around my apartment somewhere- it's a cheery pink with vaguely bohemian flowers. I think I might have asked for it for Christmas, but the memory is fuzzy. It was a few inches too short, so I spent most of my classes readjusting where I was standing and desperately trying not to fall over.
I made the mistake that most new yogis make and assumed that I couldn't balance because I was new to yoga. Practicing was a huge challenge for me, and a lot of it was because I had a really sub-par mat. I figured that slipping around was just part of getting used to practicing yoga in what was essentially a very humid oven. I also assumed that they just didn't make mats for tall girls and that I would forever be practicing on something a few inches too short for me.
After I had been practicing consistently for a few months I lost my mat. It ended up being in my car (classic Lizzie move), but I splurged for a nice mat because I was feeling *fancy*. Holy shit, guys. It made alllllll the different practicing on a nice mat. I realized about 5 minutes in that I wasn't as bad at yoga as I had originally thought. I could suddenly balance, wasn't sliding all over the place, and felt way more confident in my practice. It was a miracle! Hallelujah! Namaste! And all that jazz!
I cannot stress this enough- your mat is going to make or break your practice. A good mat will stick to the floor, keep you from slipping, and will hold up well after you've sweat your entire body out onto it.
How to pick a great yoga mat
Are you going to be commuting with your mat? You might want to pick something a little more lightweight. Most mats will have their weight listed on the packaging or online.
What kind of needs to you have? If you are doing a lot of fitness classes, you might want something a little thicker to absorb the shock of your body and to protect your joints. If you are going to be doing lots of heated classes, look for a mat that's sticky so you don't slide around.
Yoga studios usually sell their favorite mats- ask your teacher!
Does your mat absorb sweat? If not you might want to opt for a good workout towel, too. Yogitoes are my forever favorite and will hold up for years.
Are you a tall gal like me? Opt for a longer mat (most companies make "tall" mats) so that you can practice without always needing to readjust.
Think of your yoga mat like your running shoes. It should hold up through lots of use but likely won't last forever. Just like you need to replace your shoes after lots of miles, you will probably want to get a new mat after lots of classes, sweat, and wear.
What kind of cleaning does your mat require? Some mats have a crazy cleaning procedure that will put them out of commission for a few days. If that's something that bugs you, opt for a mat that's a little easier to clean. I put together a list of my favorites below, and all the mats I love can be cleaned off in just a few minutes.
I love the Jade Mat so much that I have two of them just in case. This bad boy is made of all natural rubber (it's a little stinky at first) but holds up well through class after class, and won't start to get slippery with too much sweat. The Jade mat is also the lightest mat of the three I've listed, so you can carry it around with you without getting tired. I took my Jade mat to Wanderlust a few years ago and barely noticed it in my bag.
The Jade Mat is an all natural option and will begin to wear out after lots of practicing, usually right around the middle section where your feet go the most. But, like I said, running shoes. No mat will last you forever.
This is not my first time singing praises for this little cutie on the internet. The B Mat is the stickiest thing that I've ever encountered, so you won't have to worry about sliding around at all during your class. The price point is a bit lower than lots of other mats on the market, too, so you can get a good mat without sacrificing your donut funds. The traditional B Mat is really heavy, so it might not be the best commuter mat if you like to go to class right after work, but they offer a lighter travel option that is still just as sticky and easy to practice on.
Since it's so sticky you only need to bring a towel with you if you like to wipe off your sweat, just make sure to give your mat a good wipe down after class because everything will stick to it!
I'm convinced that every badass yogi I know pretty much swears by this mat. This is also the mat that we rent out to students at the studio I teach at, so I can vouch for it's quality. Manduka makes incredible yoga products and they've been at this for a long time, so you know you're getting something solid. Plus, Manduka updates the mat every few years and from what I've been able to see it just keeps getting better. Maybe I'm crazy, but I swear these mats are the widest, which is great for fitness classes or just getting cozy in Savasana.
The Manduka is the most slippery of all of these mats, which isn't very slippery, but you may want to consider investing in a good yoga towel just in case you need it.
If the idea of carrying both a mat and towel around with you is, for some reason, absolutely infuriating enter Yellow Willow. I had the opportunity to try out one of their mats recently and loved the soft feel and how light it was. The idea is that it is mat, towel, and machine washable. I haven't been taking a ton of heavily heated classes lately so I can't speak for how it stands up in the heat after a long period of time. That being said, I got more compliments on my YW mat than any other I've ever used. V into the Frond print.
Oh! And before you go spending all your money on a mat cleaner that you don't need, try this combo: 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1 cup water in a spray bottle. Spray both sides of your mat after use, wipe it down, and roll it loosely so that it can dry. If the vinegar smell gets to you, throw in a few drops of your favorite essential oils for good measure. Voila! Clean mat.
There are thousands of yoga mats out there, but these are the three that I've found work best for my bod' and needs. What's your favorite yoga mat? Any that I missed? Tell me tell me!
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