Overwhelmed by the many yoga mat options? I gotchu! I’m going to break down the 4 most important things to consider when you’re buying a yoga mat, and 1 sales gimmick that really doesn’t make a difference and you can stay away from. Keep reading to find out!
The 4 Most Important Considerations When Buying a Yoga Mat:
This is going to depend on your body, but in general the cushion needs to be enough so you can feel comfortable with your knees down, but not so soft you feel like it squishes completely under you feet. The softer the mat is, the harder it’s going to be for you to balance. The less cushion a mat has, the more your knees may bother you. That being said, you could always slide a yoga blanket or pillow under your knees if you feel like you need that extra cushioning for your knees!
When you see a mat at the store, try sliding your hand on it – does it get stuck easily? Then it probably will also get stuck easily in downdog – which is a good thing! If it feels waxy or slippery in any way, then chances are your hand will slide in downdog, which can be really frustrating and actually make your yoga practice feel harder. If it’s rough/textured or literally sticky, then you’re probably going to stay put in your downdogs and feel more comfortable in your practice as a result.
Yoga mats have a huuuuge range of pricing – all the way from $10-$100. Mats you buy at big box stores tend to be on the lower pricing but they also tend to be thinner and more slippery. Other brands like Manduka or Jade mats that have been around forever and are on the high end of the spectrum, but will be thicker and more sticky. There are other brands in the mid-range pricing, such as Gaiam, that may also hit the first 2 mat requirements on this list.
This may or may not be something you need to consider. If you’re short like me (I’m 5’2), it really doesn’t make a difference. But if you’re particularly tall (like maybe 5’10 or more), you’re probably going to want to get a longer mat so you can make sure you have enough room on the mat to practice. There are some companies that specifically design longer mats for taller practitioners – a simple google search for “long yoga mat” should show you your options!
1 Yoga Mat Sales Gimmick to Avoid:
Yoga Mat Alignment Lines
There are some mats that try to sell you on them because of the lines that are “perfectly placed” so you can make sure you’re “staying in good alignment”. Personally I think this is totally unnecessary and I’ll tell you why:
Your body is not the same as someone else’s, which means your yoga practice is not going to have the same alignment as someone else’s.
Certain things may be the same, certain things might not. Certain things one person does that feels good to them may not feel good to you.
Let’s Look at Warrior 1 as an Example:
Your ability to get your hips to face forward in warrior 1 depends almost completely on your ankle mobility. So those of us with poor ankle mobility need to find a wider stance in order to adjust the leg to help turn the hips forwards. If you have great ankle mobility you may be more comfortable in a narrower stance.
So arbitrary lines that some yoga company is calling the “correct alignment” just shows that they actually don’t really understand biomechanics and how bodies function in real life.
This Can Be Applied to the Weight Room Too:
If you’ve ever heard trainers say not to use the weight machines in gyms – this is the same principle. The weight machines in a gym track your body in 1 direction and don’t allow you to move differently than the pathway that’s already been determined by the machine. Again – your body is not your neighbors, which means it needs to move specific to its own design – not the design of a machine, and not the design of a yoga company drawing “alignment lines” on a mat.
There is an Exception:
Now the only exception to this I would say is if you like how it looks. If that’s the case, then go for it. But if you’re using it so you can make sure your alignment is “correct”, then don’t bother.
I hope this was helpful for you to decide what your best mat option is for you! If you have any questions feel free to drop me a comment or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’m happy to help you on your mat journey.