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Whether you’re just starting to practice yoga or are looking to upgrade your yoga mat, having the right one will keep you focused and comfortable during your yoga practice. The purpose of a yoga mat is to offer stability by preventing your feet and hands from slipping on the floor as well as offer added cushioning for comfort throughout your practice. Since most yoga mats can be used for a variety of different styles of yoga practice, choosing a yoga mat comes down to personal preference. However, there are three main features to consider when choosing your next yoga mat—thickness, material, and texture.
When looking at the thickness of a yoga mat, think about the style of yoga you’ll be practicing most often. If you’re not sure your favorite style of yoga, a standard yoga mat is the best yoga mat for beginners. These are roughly 1/8-inch (3.175 mm) and are versatile enough to use for a variety of different types of yoga classes.
If you enjoy a yoga class focused around balance poses or one with lots of movement, a thin yoga mat may be best. Thin yoga mats allow you to feel grounded to the floor and are usually around 1/16-inch (1.588 mm) thick. However, a thin yoga mat doesn’t offer much cushioning between you and the floor.
If you enjoy yoga classes focused around mediation and restorative poses, you’ll want to get a thick yoga mat that’s about 1/4-inch (6.35 mm) thick. The downside of using a thick yoga mat is that it’s much more difficult to practice balance poses should you decide to try a yoga class with more movement.
There are three popular types of materials yoga mats are made from—PVC, natural rubber, and TPE. Each yoga mat material has benefits and drawbacks that are important to know about so you can find the best yoga mat for you.
PVC yoga mats are usually thicker and more durable than other yoga mats. Once PVC yoga mats are broken in, they offer great traction for high movement classes. One drawback of this man-made material is that it isn’t biodegradable making it less environmentally friendly.
Many natural yoga mats are made from natural rubber. If you’re looking for an environmentally-conscious yoga mat, make sure to look for one made from natural materials. Although the material offers some traction, these yoga mats don’t offer as much grip and wear out more quickly compared to other materials.
The last material is TPE, Thermoplastic Elastomer. A TPE yoga mat is lightweight and soft, grippy, and biodegradable. Although not as durable as PVC yoga mats, these yoga mats do withstand some wear and tear.
The last feature to pay attention to when selecting a new yoga mat is the texture. You’ll notice either a smooth finish or a pattern of raised bumps. Texture is partly based on the type of material the yoga mat is made from. Most people, including those new to yoga, will want to look for a yoga mat with small bumps to enhance grip and prevent sliding around during your yoga practice. If you’re someone who will be bothered by texture while trying to meditate or relax, it’s best to look for a yoga mat that is completely smooth. A smooth yoga mat won’t provide extra grip, but it can keep you focused on the intent of the practice.
After finishing your yoga practice, make sure to disinfect the mat with antibacterial spray. After wiping clean and allowing it to dry, it’s best to roll your mat up and secure it with mat straps or place it in a yoga mat bag. To extend the life of your yoga mat, store it in a cool and dry place away from direct sunlight.
Aside from finding the right yoga mat, it’s a good idea to invest in a yoga towel too, especially if you’re planning on trying a hot yoga class. A yoga mat towel helps absorb sweat to reduce slipping throughout your practice and are made from soft materials for maximum comfort. Most yoga towels are the same size as a standard yoga mat and feature a non-slip backing on the bottom to prevent bunching.