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20th Jan 2012 - How to Choose the Best Yoga Mat (Part 1 of 2)

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We all know that a Yoga Mat is a Yogis best friend. But for someone starting out, choosing a Yoga Mat can be a challenging task, especially with a million different kids of Yoga Mats in the market today. Not to worry, by following a few simple tips, you can easily find the Best Yoga Mat for yourself. Soon you will not only fall in love with Yoga but your Yoga Mat as well.

1. Look and style

Well needless to say, the way a mat looks can be one of the most important factors for many people. Just as we buy different styles of clothes that reflect our styles and personalities, we also want a yoga mat that we like to look at and perhaps look good in. Don't forget that as a yogi, you will be spending anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour on your yoga mat per session, so it doesn't hurt to have a mat that is aesthetically pleasing to your own eyes. Moreover, the mat can itself become a sacred ground that allows you to get in the mood when starting your session every-time, so you should not ignore this factor in choosing your perfect yoga mat.

2. Thickness

Thickness of a yoga mat can be an important factor based on what your needs are and also which yoga style you wish to practice. There are different thickness mats athick-gaia-yoga-mat.pngvailable in the market. Standard thickness mats are usually 1/8 inches thick. Thick Yoga Mats are usually 1/4 inches thick and Extra Thick Yoga Mats can be thicker than 1/4 inches. On the other hand, people who want lighter mats because they travel quite a bit or simply because they bring their own yoga mats to yoga studios have the option of buying lighter mats that are usually 1/16 inches in thickness. 

Which Yoga style you prefer to practice can be a major factor in deciding the thickness of your mat. For rigorous yoga styles such as Ashtanga or Vinyasa, you may want to have a firmer grounding to find better stability and thus may not wish to go with thick yoga mats. On the other hand, you also don't want to go too thin, i.e. 1/16 inches as it may cause discomfort in your knees during some poses. For yoga styles that require that you stay in certain positions for an extended duration (e.g. Hatha, Yin etc.), a thicker mat may be more comfortable.  For restorative poses, a thicker mat may also provide good comfort. However, note that if a mat is too thick, it may make you lose your balance in poses such as Tree Pose.

In terms of thickness, you have to find your balance between, cushioning and comfort on the one hand, and level of ground support and stability on the other hand!

3. Material

Material of the yoga mat can be an important factor in defining many of the other factors such as its texture, slip-resistance, eco-friendliness etc. In the market today, there are a variety of Yoga mats available made of variety of different materials ranging from PVC (vinyl), TPE, PER, Natural or Recycled Rubber, Jute, Cotton, and the list goes on. The most common ones are made from PVC. However, many people these days tend not to prefer PVC mats (although they are widely available) because some studies show that they may have some harmful effects on health. A more health friendly material TPE is recently being used to replace PVC mats and is relatively successful with the Yoga crowd. Rubber mats are also a good alternative, although if you are allergic to Latex, you should make sure that the rubber mat is latex free before purchasing. Rubber mats may also have some rubber smell and you may have to air them out for a period of time to get rid of the smell. Other materials Jute, Cotton etc, are also eco-friendly, however, may tend to wear much sooner than PVC mats.

If you are choosing to buy a PVC mat or TPE mat, check that the material is free from Phthalates, which may be harmful to health.

(Read Part 2 here)