How to Choose the Best Yoga Mats


By Alice Piccola
Having trouble picking out the right yoga mat to buy? With all the options available, choosing a yoga mat can be a daunting task. There are many factors to selecting the best yoga mat, and this guide will go over the most important factors.
What Type of Yoga? - The type of yoga you practice is a very important factor for the type of mat you'll need. Figure out your style of yoga before making a big purchase. If you're just beginning, you can use mats at the gym until you know which style of yoga you prefer. If you do intensive yoga or sweat a lot, you should consider a mat that doesn't absorb odors and is anti-bacterial. A practice that is about flowing (vinyasa) postures requires a mat with superior grip. A gentle practice doesn't require as much, so there are many more options to choose from.
What Kind of Material? - The material you choose will determine a lot about the stickiness, sponginess and durability of the mat. There some pretty standard materials and now many companies are combining the materials to create even better products. 
  • PVC/Vinyl - Much more durable than other mats, PVC mats can last up to a decade. PVC mats are the smoothest mats on the market, so if you don't like texture these may be the way to go. These mats aren't sustainable though and can release toxins as they are used. PVC mats are the most spongy available.
  • PVC (phthalate and latex-free) - There are now PVC mats available that are phthalate free. This means they aren't releasing harmful toxins (to our knowledge). This is a great alternative to the rubber mats if you have a latex allergy.
  • Rubber (natural and recycled) - Much more earth friendly, natural rubber mats are available in a wide variety of textures, thicknesses and styles. They don't release toxins, but often start with a rubber odor. They are spongy but not as spongy as PVC mats. The traction is usually very good, especially with thicker mats.
  • Jute - Another great eco-friendly material! Jute mats don't start with an odor like rubber mats. They have a rough, almost scratchy texture that bothers some but not others. They absorb more and will require more cleaning. It doesn't have a spongy feel to it, but still has superb grip.
  • Organic Cotton - These mats are great for those who need more cushioning. They don't have the same kind of gripping as the above mats, so they're better for slower paced practices. These are usually very comfortable!

What Thickness is Right? - The thickness you will need depends on a few factors. A thicker mat will be better for someone who has sensitive knees, ankles or wrists or if you have arthritis or other joint issues. Thicker mats can handle more intensive practices without sliding around too.
Consider a thin mat if your yoga practice isn't too intense. If you plan to carry your mat around a lot or travel with it, a thinner, lighter-weight mat is easier to manage. Also, thin mats provide a stronger connection to the ground which can be great for stability.
Price and Skill Level - The price of yoga mats ranges from $10 - $100. Your skill level will determine a lot about how much you should consider spending on a yoga mat. For beginners, you'll probably be able to find a mat that supports your needs for $20 or less. People who are becoming more serious about yoga may want to consider eco-friendly, higher-quality mats at around $40 - $60. Beyond that, you get into professional mats which can be great for people practicing more advanced yoga.
Keeping Your Mat Clean - Keeping your mat clean will help its performance and reduce bacterial buildup. This is especially important for pvc mats (which lose their traction if they're not clean). A sweaty practice will require that you clean your yoga mat more often too. There are many sprays, rosins and cleaners available for keeping your mat clean. Many mats you can just wash in the washer or in the bath tub. When in doubt, check with the manufacturer for the best cleaning method.
Other Accessories - Besides cleaning products, there are other products on the market that can complement your choice of yoga mat. If you're having trouble keeping your grip, you might want to consider sticky towels, which add extra grip and absorption. There are also sticky gloves and socks available, which can eliminate the need for a mat entirely.
The Best Mat for You - Determining what factors are most important to you is the best way to figure out what mat to pick. Do you have sensitive joints? Get a thicker mat. Do you care about the earth? Get an Eco-friendly material. Do you practice hot yoga? Get an anti-bacterial mat. Understanding your style of yoga and your body's needs are the first steps to picking a mat that can best support you.
Alice Piccola is a professional writer and blogger and the founder of Spiritual Seed - Enhance your inner journey!
Read about the best yoga mats available on the market today. Find out more about the Spiritual Seed Project at: www.spiritualseed.com