In comparison to many other practices and activities yoga requires minimal equipment. It is unique in the way that the gear is either highly personalized or completely nonexistent. A mat can be completely optional, however, for those looking to find one to help improve their practice whether it's comfort, size or durability there are a lot of things to consider. Yoga mats come in all shapes and sizes -- if your mat is too thin, it’s going to cause stress on your joints. If it’s too thick and not dense enough, it can affect your balance. So how do you decide what’s the best one for your practice?
A team at Reviews.com recently completed a six-week study on 30 popular mat options on the market to determine which ones had the traction, support, and versatility for every yogi, from beginner to expert. They consulted a panel of instructors and experts, surveyed yoga enthusiasts, and scoured through scientific research to find the top performing yoga mats. Ultimately, they created a comprehensive guide detailing the most important features in a mat, as well as key materials to keep an eye out for.
The perfect mat varies from person to person, and their guide makes recommendations for a variety of preferences. Check out their entire review here: http://www.reviews.com/best-yoga-mat/.
Here are some things to consider when finding a mat that is right for you:
Open vs. closed cell structure - Open-cell mats are good for absorbing oils and sweat, but they are harder to clean. Closed-cell mats are easier to clean, but if you’re going to be sweating a lot you’ll probably need a yoga towel.
Density/thickness/weight - The denser the mat, the more support you have for your joints. But if a mat is too thick and not dense enough, balance poses may feel unstable. Mat thickness ranges from 1/16” to 1/4”. Yoga mat weight can be under two pounds to almost 10 pounds.
Durability - Some mats offer a lifetime guarantee. Natural rubber and some eco-friendly mats tend to last longer. You still have to take proper care of any mat, such as cleaning it regularly and not leaving it outside or in direct sunlight, which will make it break down faster.
Price - With most mats, you do get what you pay for. Yoga mats can range from $10 to more than $100. Just know that the cheaper mats will likely not last as long.
Yoga style & location - Depending on the style of yoga, you’ll need various levels of thickness and traction to hold up when you’re sweating a lot or doing more challenging poses. Also, if you’re doing yoga outside in a forest or on a beach, you’ll need a more durable mat.
Length & size - You want a yoga mat that covers your entire body when you are laying down.