Five thousand years ago, ancient Indian yogis didn’t use yoga mats when they practiced. They used tigers or deer that died of natural causes. Thank the universe because today, we don’t have to do that.
We have a plethora of yoga mats to choose from. But with this fact comes the paradox of choice—which one do we choose? What size yoga mat do I need? Is this the right yoga mat for my practice? If you’re looking for the right yoga mat that aligns with your practice, you’ll love this guide.
You will recognize a yogi out in a crowd because she brings with her a yoga mat. My friend told me this when she was on a flight to an exotic place to study and get her 200-hour yoga teacher training certificate.
She saw someone with a yoga mat on her flight. She then asked the woman if she is going to the same yoga school she is going to. The woman answered yes, and they have become friends since then.
Yoga mats are essential to yogis. It connects us with the ground, our practice, our mind, and our body. It’s one of the things that we buy first when we start practicing yoga. We bring it everywhere.
But it is not necessary to have a yoga mat to practice yoga. You can do yoga with a chair, a carpet, a rug, and even directly on the floor. However, using a mat, especially doing asanas or yoga postures, is more comfortable, sustainable, and safer.
Yoga mats or sticky mats provide traction and cushioning as yogis move from one yoga asana to another. Sure, ancient yogis didn’t use yoga mats before, and you can say having one is not necessary to practice yoga.
However, yoga has evolved so much for the last thousands of years since its inception. Yogis do not only do seated postures now, and we certainly do not sit for hours to meditate. We now practice more challenging asanas (yoga postures), which require more supportive surfaces, thus making yoga mats necessary.
What Yoga Mat Should I Get?
If you’re new to yoga or just on the lookout for a new yoga mat that aligns with your practice, you may find it challenging to choose which yoga mat to buy. There are tons of yoga mats out there, making the paradox of choice real.
Moreover, yoga mats vary in width, length, thickness, and materials used. So, before you decide which one to get, let’s look at these yoga mat basics and the things you should consider before buying one.
What Is the Standard Size of a Yoga Mat?
The standard yoga mat size is 24″ x 68″ or 609.6 mm x 1727.2 mm. If you’re taller than 68 inches, don’t worry, some yoga mats can go up to 72, 74, and even 84 inches in length. There are also yoga mats that go wider than 24 inches. Here are some of the most popular yoga mats of different sizes.
24″ x 68″
JADE YOGA – Harmony Yoga Mat
24″ x 72″
Yoga Mat Extra Thick 1/4 & 1/3 Inch Non Slip Yoga Mats
24″ x 74″
JADE YOGA – Harmony Yoga Mat – Yoga Mat Designed to Provide A Secure Grip to Help Hold Your Pose
26″ x 78″
Gaiam Athletic Yoga Series dynaMAT Xtra-Wide Mat, Black/Gray
28″ x 80″
Jade Yoga – Harmony XW Yoga Mat
27″ x 84″
Pogamat XL Large Exercise Mat And Thick Yoga Mat
What Size of Yoga Mat Do I Need?
Of course, it should always depend on your body size and your preference. Some yogis prefer yoga mats long and wide, while some prefer mats of the standard size. Some yogis prefer their arms and legs to not go over the mat when they stretch them out, so they like their mats long and wide.
What Is the Standard Thickness of a Yoga Mat?
Jade Travel Yoga Mat
Thickness varies in yoga mats. The standard yoga mat thickness is 3 mm or ⅛ inch. These mats are lightweight and provide enough cushioning and comfort when doing poses that require you to kneel, or poses where you point direct weight on your joints.
These mats are great if you like bringing your mat everywhere because they are lightweight. But if you like more padding, you can find thicker yoga mats.
Manduka 4 mm EKO Lite Yoga Mat
Most travel mats are 4 mm. Many people find that this thickness is perfect, not too thin and not too thick. You may see these mats marketed as travel mats, but they can give you enough cushioning and comfort. As always, test if the thickness is right for you by kneeling on it for a few rounds of breath.
Gaiam Yoga Mat – Premium 6mm Print Extra Thick
For those with sensitive knees and sensitive joints, 6 mm yoga mats are perfect for you. This is considered extra thick. Just make sure that they are stable and durable.
Some yoga mats look thick but don’t rebound quickly and are bouncy. Test the yoga mat by standing and kneeling on it. It should be thick but firm, so you have a stable surface when doing standing poses.
Thick Yoga Exercise Mat – 8mm Non-Slip Yoga Mat
If your knees hurt when doing Anjaneyasana and Camel poses, this is the mat you should get. It provides excellent padding for sensitive knees. But again, make sure that it rebounds quickly and feels firm. Test it by doing standing poses like the Camel pose and Gate pose.
What are Different Yoga Mat Materials?
Like sizes and thickness, the materials used in making yoga mats also vary. Here are six of the most common yoga mat materials and the advantages and disadvantages of these yoga mats.
PVC is the most common raw material in the world. You can find it in any product because it is cheap. Yoga mats that use PVC as their raw material are cost-effective. These mats are also lightweight, making them very travel-friendly.
PVC mats are also easy to clean. You won’t need unique cleaning materials for them. However, mats made of this material are non-absorbent, so it gets slippery when drenched with sweat. If you’re mainly doing seated poses or meditation, then PVC yoga mats are acceptable.
However, if you practice yoga styles that require you to move up and down the mat (such as Vinyasa, Power, and Ashtanga) this type of yoga mat will not be a great fit. Another con of this material is that it is non-recyclable and it can be toxic. Most PVC mats contain phthalates, the chemical that makes them flexible. Greenpeace considers this as poison.
TPE or thermoplastic elastomer is a type of plastic blended with rubber. It is human-made just like PVC. It is a newcomer when it comes to materials used for making yoga mats. Yoga mats made of this material are cost-effective. They are also lightweight, durable, and odor-free.
TPE yoga mats provide excellent stickiness and smooth surface Yoga mats made of TPE are also easy to clean. Although TPE is made of plastic, it is 100 percent recyclable. However, since it is plastic, it is just as non-absorbent as PVC yoga mats.
You will likely not find it a protective yoga mat when you’re sweating too much in your Vinyasa or Hot Yoga Class as it will get slippery.
The most eco-friendly yoga mats are made of natural rubber. Yoga mats made of natural rubber are fully recyclable. In terms of durability, genuine rubber yoga mats are not as durable as mats made of TPE and PVC. But if you take care of these mats, well, they can last for years.
They also provide superb cushioning, traction, and grip.
Natural rubber yoga mats are pretty heavy, though. Therefore, they are not travel-friendly. Moreover, they have a strong rubber smell, which many yogis don’t like. If you are allergic to latex or rubber, of course, you should not use this yoga mat.
Cork yoga mats, like mats made of natural rubber, are eco-friendly. These mats are made of tree bark and are blended with natural rubber. They are renewable and biodegradable.
Cork yoga mats are well-loved because of their excellent grip. Because cork is naturally absorbent, slipping is not a problem when you sweat too much during your practice. The only downside of cork yoga mats is that they are hard to clean.
You need a special cleaning product for them. Furthermore, because they absorb too much liquid, cork mats are prone to chipping and flaking.
Cotton and Hemp
Yoga mats made of cotton and hemp are biodegradable and renewable. They are environment-friendly and feel very good on the skin. Using cotton and hemp yoga mats makes you feel like practicing yoga during the old days in India.
These mats are usually handmade in small batches by artisans and craftsmen.
Yoga mats made of cotton and hemp materials are lightweight, which makes them easy to carry and bring anywhere. If you like to travel and bring your mat with you, this is ideal for that lifestyle. If you like practicing Hot Yoga or practicing yoga in tropical places, you will love using a cotton or hemp yoga mat.
It is very absorbent of sweat. However, these mats are not very sticky and don’t provide excellent grip.
Jute is not a new raw material. But it is fresh as a raw material for making yoga mats compared to the other five materials we discussed earlier. It is made from plant fibers. Vegans will love jute yoga mats.
Because they are made of plants, they are sustainable and recyclable. Some jute yoga mats are even organic.
Jute yoga mats don’t usually feel sticky to the touch, but the traction they provide is excellent. They are also durable and lightweight, making them great for yogis who like practicing wherever they are in the world. Furthermore, they are microbial and easy to clean.
The problem with jute mats is that they are thin and may not provide enough cushioning. Also, jute yoga mats’ texture is scratchy and not as smooth as PVC or even rubber mats.
What are Things to Consider When Buying a Yoga Mat?
Now that you know the sizes, thickness, and materials used to make yoga mats, let’s look at the other things you need to consider when buying a yoga mat that aligns with your practice.
Level and Style of Yoga You Practice
Before you buy a yoga mat, consider your level as a yoga practitioner and the style of yoga you practice. Some yoga styles, such as Hot Yoga or Bikram, will need yoga mats with excellent grip and are very absorbent since you sweat a lot in these classes. But even if you don’t sweat a lot, consider your level as well.
If you’re a beginner yogi, you should also consider your grip strength and how much padding your joints need. If your grip strength is not enough yet, you will need to have a sticky mat, so you don’t slip when doing Downward Dogs and other poses that require you to push the mat with your hands. Once you develop grip strength, you may not even need a mat to practice.
To know if the mat has enough grip strength for your level and yoga style, do a Downward Facing Dog and hold it for a few cycles of breaths. If you can grip it without slipping, it has an excellent grip. Then, try it again with your hands wet. This way, you know that it still has an excellent grip even when your hands are sweaty.
You can test if the mat gives you enough cushioning for your joints by doing a few rounds of cat-cows on it.
Some yoga mats are cheap, and some are expensive. Yoga mats made of synthetic materials such as PVC are cheap. You can get decent ones for $10.
Consider your budget as you may not be able to afford expensive yoga mats yet. But keep in mind that most cheap yoga mats are not as durable as more expensive yoga mats. They wear out quickly and flake easily.
If you practice regularly, invest in a yoga mat that you know will last long, even if it’s pretty costly. You will be saving money in the long run.
What does your lifestyle look like? Do you do other exercises and practice yoga as well? Do you practice yoga at home, or do you often travel with your yoga mat? If you practice Pilates, do you do bodyweight workouts and other training, and do you want to use the same mat for all these practices?
It is more practical and convenient to use just one yoga mat for all the exercises you do. But since you use your mat more often, you will need a durable yoga mat that can stand being used for cross-training.
Another part of your lifestyle that you need to consider before buying a yoga mat is traveling and bringing your yoga mat with you. If you practice yoga just at home, having a heavy yoga mat may not be a big problem. If you often travel and bring your yoga mat with you, a bulky yoga mat will not be convenient. You will need a travel-friendly yoga mat that fits your lifestyle as a traveler.
Eco-Friendliness and Sustainability
It is still up to you if you want to get an eco-friendly yoga mat. Sure, non-recyclable and non-biodegradable yoga mats are cost-effective, easy to clean, and lightweight. But consider the impact of these yoga mats on your health and the environment.
What Is the Perfect Yoga Mat for Me?
There is no perfect yoga mat for all. The ideal yoga mat depends on your size and height, yoga practice level, style of yoga you practice, lifestyle, budget, and what you stand for. You will have to try a lot of yoga mats first before finding the perfect one for you.
Before you buy a yoga mat, exhaust your resources first. If you are going to a store, ask if you can touch and test the mats. If you are buying your mat online, read all the reviews that you can find. If the one you like is out of your budget, consider saving money for it.