How do I buy the right yoga mat? A comprehensive guide.
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Comprehensive Guide: How To Buy a Yoga Mat

Welcome back Sara from Sara Lou Yoga! A do it all yogi with the most amazing pictures! Last month she shared with us tips to know when we’ve stretched too far. Today, she’s got practical advice to help you How To Buy a Yoga Mat. There are a few key things to consider and Sara will help you with all of them!

How do I buy the right yoga mat? A comprehensive guide.

Comprehensive Guide: How To Buy a Yoga Mat

My very first yoga mat came to me by way of a local yoga studio– it was slightly worn, brown and had the scent of an essential oil blend mixed with rubber. And, if I must be honest here– that essential oil blended smell was really the smell of a diluted mat cleaner mixed with the smells of the people who had used it before me.

Not so fabulous, but it did the trick. I was just 17 when I first started doing yoga. I bought a yoga class package with my friend because I thought it would be fun. My rental mat supported me through the most simple vinyasas (flows from pose to pose) and had a cushion thick enough to know I wasn’t practicing on a bare wooden floor.

There will be times in your yoga practice where all that you need is that slightly smelly mat rental from your local yoga studio, and as a yoga teacher I am here to tell you that’s totally OK. So relax a bit and realize that you don’t need a $100+ yoga mat when you’re just starting out.

lulu mat at home1

Now, as you progress and fall in love with your practice (and, trust me beauty, with the right teacher, you WILL fall head over heels in love with your yoga practice) you have a few things to consider. A good yoga mat won’t necessarily make you stronger or more flexible, but that doesn’t really matter. Good quality yoga mats can last you years and years of sweat, tears, muscle and flexibility. And if you’re looking to advance your practice, there’s no question about it– getting a high quality yoga mat is a must to prevent injury and to really enjoy your practice.

5 tips on How To Buy a Yoga Mat:

1. Weight & Size

  • Are you going to be traveling with this mat or are you developing a home practice with it?
  • Where will you put it?
  • Does it fit in your workout bag?
  • Can it fit in your suitcase?

Depending on where you’ll bring your mat you need to consider how annoying it will be to lug it around. Similarly, if you’re doing yoga at home, you can afford to get a heavier mat with a more generous cushion to it.

The size of your yoga mat is going to depend on how tall you are and how much you want to play beyond the lines of a traditional practice. There are longer mats for tall people who want to be comfortable in their savasana. There are also square mats that you can purchase to get more of a surface area when you’re practicing. And if you’re traveling, look for the lightweight and slim mats that you can bring with you on your next vacation.

travel mat in Cuba1

2. How much grip do you need?

No one wants a slippery yoga mat. Even when you’re getting from downward facing dog to a lunge, you want to make sure that your feet and hands are supported by your mat, or else you will go flying into your favorite candle, or the person beside you in yoga class. I’m sure you don’t want that. Or worse, you can hurt yourself. And if you’re trying inversions (the yoga postures that put you upside down) grip is non-negotiable.

Note: This is also the same reason why you shouldn’t practice yoga in your socks– your feet have natural grip pads on them that will prevent you from sliding– match that natural grip with a solid grip on your mat and you can balance in and out of any pose.

Tip– Hot yoga classes get pretty wet, so look for a yoga mat towel to put on top of your mat while in class. Wet it first to make it extra grippy.

3. What’s your comfort level?

Cushion is comfort. Some mats provide lots of cushion while others have none. The level of cushion you get is really going to depend on how your knees feel on the mat when you put weight on them. If your joints are OK in something like a low lunge, you should be OK with minimal cushioning. Similarly, if you’re going for the splits and you’re practicing on a wooden floor, a thinner mat might make things uncomfortable and potentially painful, depending on how sensitive your skin and joints are to pressure.

Tip– You can roll your mat in two to get more cushion on certain areas when you need it. You can also purchase yoga pads to place underneath areas of your body like your knees and elbows.

4. How often are you practicing?

If you haven’t even started doing yoga you might want to wait before you invest your money in a good mat. Start to notice what your preferences are every time you step on a mat. Keep renting the mats that smell like “essential oil blends” or borrow your friends mat until you know what you want.

lulu mat at home

5. How health & environmentally conscious do you want to be?

Both of my newest mat investments are made of real rubber. This makes them a more natural and ecologically friendly choice. If you believe in getting healthier by reducing the toxins in your home, then you need to extend this belief into your yoga practice. Look for mats made from natural rubber and antimicrobial properties to kill the growth of mold, bacteria and/or fungi. Bonus karma for you if you look to purchase a mat from a company that prides themselves in fair trade and ethical production principles.

Tip– essential oils can break down the properties of natural rubber. When you’re looking to clean your natural yoga mat, all you need is some baking soda and water to do the trick

Which mats do I personally use?

I currently own 3 yoga mats. The first one was a Christmas present from my momma that supported me when I was starting my practice and needed something to practice with at home. It’s super lightweight, not grippy and has no significant cushion. But still, that was OK for me for the first 7 years of my yoga practice. I mostly practiced on carpet (which I don’t recommend unless you’re doing more gentle, seated and slower movements) and I did lots of seated postures and stretches.

After I moved to a place where I had hardwood floors and deepened my practice, practicing on a hard floor with a mat that had no particular cushion became a bit painful, so I purchased my lulu. She makes regular appearances on my instagram account. This baby has grip, cushion and is extremely durable. I’ve been practicing on her almost every single day for about 3 years now and she still isn’t showing any significant wear.

travel mat in Portugal

My third mat is a manduka hot yoga/travel mat. She has made it across 3 continents and has been in the sand, mud, mountain tops, studio floors and anywhere else I’ve dared to place her. And she has all the stains and wear to prove it. I love this mat because she fits in my suitcase, isn’t too heavy to bring to yoga class (my lulu gets a bit heavy for this) and has an excellent grip and cushion on her.

A good yoga mat won’t run cheap (they start around $70 US) but they will make your yoga practice much more enjoyable, guaranteed.

Here are a few really good, awesome companies that have your favorite yoga mat waiting for you:

travel mat in Canada

Over to you, do you have any favorites? What is the most important to you, out of this list, to consider when buying a new mat?

Sara Lou, CYA RYT Yoga Instructor
Sara Lou is a yoga teacher who helps women go from feeling tired, anxious, stressed and unmotivated to being inspired, calm, physically & emotionally stronger, having more energy & feeling amazing in their bodies. You can grab a free copy of her Yoga Life Checklist here or for even  more daily inspiration and support, join her inspiring Facebook Community  here.  

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  • Haley

    I love this. Thank you for sharing all your perspectives and experiences so we can make the best decisions. I personally have been practicing on a Gaiam for the past 5 years, but I really want a Manduka. I’ve heard such amazing things about them and this just reaffirms what I’ve heard. Thank you for that.

    • Sara

      Thanks Haley, glad you liked it 🙂

      Yes, my manduka mat is wonderful, so versatile. I think my next mat purchase will be to get one that’s even thinner and more portable!

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