There are lots of different types of exercises where it’s ok to work out directly on the floor, but yoga isn’t one of those cases.
If you’re a regular yogi, you’ll know just how important having the comfort of the right mat is, and aside from possibly a yoga block and resistance bands, it’s the only piece of equipment yoga really can’t work without.
Yoga mats are to yoga what wings are to a plane. It’s a pivotal piece of equipment to have, but what exactly are the benefits of using one? And what are the things you should look out for when choosing the best one?
Here we’ve rolled out our minds and stretched out our creativity to provide the most accurate and comprehensive answer to this age-old question.
Yoga mats have been an accessory to yoga for as long as it’s been practised, in one form or another.
Spreading a comfortable layer between you and the hard floor makes sense in yoga. This divider between the body and the floor brings the body back to earth in a way that only a yoga mat could.
Mat-less yoga is a common way to get an injury; something you wouldn’t really expect to happen in this zero-contact sport. Let’s just hope that the surface of the floor has chosen to be kind, because otherwise you’re risking a nasty fall or slip on a shiny surface.
And it only gets worse if you manage to stay standing. Holding long, drawn-out yoga poses on an unforgivingly hard surface will leave you feeling sore in the shoulders, with additional back and knee pain.
The padding of a mat cushions the experience of the floor on your body, and will allow you to maintain your balance for much longer.
It’s also so much more hygienic to have a mat that’s yours and yours alone, especially if your yoga’s taking place in a public space - that’s a lot of hand to floor contact otherwise. Because they’re so easy to maintain, a well-kept yoga mat doubles up as a portable clean space, meaning you can practice anytime anywhere.
One of the more unexpected benefits of using a yoga mat is its ability to keep you warm. Heat rises when it enters a room, making the floor the coldest point of contact.
Without a mat underneath you, laying down across the floor directly for yoga could quickly become a very chilly affair. However, a mat will work really well at reflecting your body heat back up towards you, helping you to keep warm and flexible.
With all these things to consider, it’s a tricky task to know exactly what to look for when making an investment into a yoga mat. Unfortunately, the market has been saturated by many below-par products.
However, for every one hundred mats that aren’t worth your time, there’s an ample few that’ll be able to tick all the boxes; something we’re going to bring to your attention below:
What Makes A Good Yoga Mat?
Understanding the characteristics of a good yoga mat will really help to push your yoga, and your money, in the right direction. Here are the kind of things you should be looking for:
Yoga is all about balance and stability, and the very last thing you’ll need is something slipping out from under you. Unfortunately, there’s no standard material used in the making of yoga mats, causing some to be slippier than others.
If there’s one material we’d really recommend avoiding, it’s mats made from polymer environmental resin. These mats often require a break-in period, and are notoriously less fixed to the ground than others.
2. The Right Size
You wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes in the wrong size, and the same is certainly true when it comes to finding the right yoga mat. Luckily, the manufacturing process of yoga mats implements a universal standard size, with mats typically measuring between 24 inches wide and between 68 to 72 inches long.
To put this into perspective, a 68” mat will be just the right length for someone whose height peaks at 5’8”, whilst a 72” mat will work perfectly for a person of 6’. If you’re a taller person, always go for the longer option available to you for maximum comfort.
3. The Right Thickness
Just as the size of the mat is important, so too is its thickness. A mat that’s too thin could prove to be uncomfortable to engage with, whilst a mat that’s too thick will jeopardise your balance and stability.
As a rule of thumb in this department, we’d recommend trying to land a mat that’s between 4mm and 6mm thick.
When deciding how transportable you want your mat to be, it really falls down to where and when you use it. If your yoga takes place almost exclusively within the comfort of your own home, transportability will probably be the least of your worries.
However, if like you, the location of your yoga knows no bounds, the ability to transport your mat will be high up on your priority list. In terms of what kind of mat you should choose, rubber mats really aren’t to be considered.
Although rubber mats do hold their own benefits, they’re notoriously heavy to move and transport; not to mention that they’re typically quite expensive for what you actually.
5. Non-Toxic Materials
There’s a lot of skin-to-mat contact in yoga, and you’ll want to make sure that this contact is as kind to your skin as possible. However, unfortunately this isn’t always the case with some manufacturers.
PVC, a popular material that’s used to create yoga mats, contains a string of harmful materials, like phthalates, lead, cadmium and organotin. These substances aren’t just harmful for your skin, but they’re also really terrible for the environment too.
As you can see, there are so many different things to consider when investing in a yoga mat, and it’d be just cruel for us to leave you with an unanswered question like that.
Ideally, you’ll be on the hunt for a mat that’s user-friendly, the right length for your height, comfortable, transportable, the right thickness and environmentally friendly at every level.
For us, this Premium Reversible Yoga Mat really delivers on all those elements. This mat comes in at 6mm thick and has been made with TPE (short for thermoplastic elastomer).
TPE is probably the best material to use for yoga mats, due to the fact that it’s super lightweight and durable. In addition to this, TPE is a completely non-toxic and fully biodegradable material, and does a really good job at repelling body moisture, meaning that your grip and balance will remain undisturbed.
This particular 6mm is also colour-reversible, and can be closed and carried with the help of an intelligently-designed holding strap. However, this mat is just one of two options available to you, and you may also be interested in its 4mm counterpart, which sports a similarly lightweight, practical and toxin-free design.
Aside from its immediate use in yoga, a slightly thinner mat like this can also be applied to other sports outside of its traditional use, and forms the perfect surface for other exercises to take place; like HIIT, weight training, Pilates and daily stretches.
To check out SMUG’s brand new Yoga Mats, roll on over to our collection here.
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