Whether you’re reading this from your handstand or you’re still working to find your flow, your yoga mat should always have your back—not just in savasana. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of people practicing yoga in the United States grew by 50%.1 As this percentage continues to rise, so too do the number of yoga mats on the market.
The good news: You’re sure to find one that’s a great fit for you.
The not-so-good news: An abundance of choices can overwhelm even the most serene, level-headed yogi.
Not sure what to look for in a yoga mat? No problem. Consider this blog a guided, meditative walk through the essentials of yoga mat shopping. Here’s a look at a few stops you’ll be taking along the way:
- Yoga Mat Thickness
- Common Yoga Mat Materials
- How to Choose a Yoga Mat That’s Right for You
- What Type of Mat is Best for my Preferred Yoga Practice?
Yoga Mat Thickness
When purchasing a new mat, one of the top considerations to make is thickness. You’ll be spending a lot of time here in several different poses, so you’ll want to make sure your feet, hands, knees, and every other extremity rooting you to the earth is being adequately cushioned.
Yoga mats generally come in three categories of thickness:
- 1-3mm – The thinnest and most lightweight mat you’re likely to find on the market is one millimeter. Yoga mats between two and three millimeters are also considered to be on the slimmer side.
- 4-5mm – Most standard yoga mats fall under this category of thickness. What’s standard for some might not be for you. While this is often a good fit for most yogis, don’t be afraid to opt for something a bit different if that’s what your body needs!
- 6mm – Finding anything more robust than six millimeters wouldn’t be very common. But if you’re looking for extra support, this should be enough to keep your joints comfortable. This thickness is also ideal when practicing on hard floors.
Common Yoga Mat Materials
Materials matter, especially when it comes to your yoga mat's durability, stickiness, cost, and cleanliness. If your mat is dirty, you might wonder how to clean your yoga mat. Though a towel or blanket can save you when you’re in a pinch, you’ll want to find a mat material that’s going to be your partner-in-prana. Here’s a brief look at some materials you’re likely to come across in your search.
Note: As you go through this list, keep a mental note of what seem like top priorities for your practice.
PVC – Polyvinyl chloride is one of the most common, cost-effective, and sticky mats out there. The drawbacks? They’re non-recyclable and often made with toxic chemicals like phthalates (used to increase flexibility).
TPE – Thermoplastic elastomer. Another material whose name probably transports you back to high school chemistry class. These mats are rubbery, recyclable, and likely to retain their shape over time.2
Natural Rubber – Easy to clean, extra grippy, and a great alternative to other synthetic options. Beware of the odor, though! Don’t worry, it will improve with time. Maybe just break it in and air it out a few times first before bringing it to a yogi-packed class.
Jute – An easily biodegradable mat. Also, because of its plant origin, a jute mat helps keep air cleaner by absorbing carbon dioxide! Keep in mind, this mat could have a tendency to slide a bit on wooden or tile floors.
Cotton – What it lacks in stickiness, it makes up for in eco-friendliness and recyclability. Cotton mats are also machine washable and portable.
- Wool – Soft and snuggly, though not-at-all sticky. Yogis love this mat because of its low environmental impact.
Now that you’re a bit more oriented to the varying materials and thicknesses of most yoga mats, let’s find one that’s best suited to you.
How to Choose a Yoga Mat That’s Right for You
An essential part of practicing yoga is finding what feels right for you and your body. Shopping for a yoga mat adheres to a similar philosophy. What works for your yogi pal might not necessarily be best for you, and vice versa. In addition to considering what your body might benefit most from, keeping things like location, level of practice, and the environment in mind could help weed out a few mat mismatches.
For the Beginner Yogi
You’re new to the practice, but you’re a bold beginner. You’re hoping to step onto the mat nearly every day, and you’re curious to try as many poses as your body allows. You’ll want a mat that supports your yoga dreams and your body.
Consider a yoga mat that is:
- Sticky (to give you more confidence as you find your footing)
- Easy-to-clean and durable
- Standard (4-5mm) thickness
For a humble beginner looking to ease into things with some slower, meditative practices, consider a soft wool or cotton textured mat to keep you cozy and relaxed.
For the Traveling Yogi
Whether you’re taking your practice to Bali, the park, or a yoga studio on the other side of the city, you need a yoga mat compatible with your on-the-go soul. At-home practices are great once in a while, but you much prefer to build your balance across the map. Consider a travel yoga mat that is:
- Lightweight and a cooperative airplane companion
- Slim (1-3mm in thickness) to avoid weighing down your luggage
- Cost-effective, so that you can spend more money on flights
For the Environmentally-Conscious Yogi
If you were a yoga pose, you’d be a tree pose. You are the go-to friend when everyone has questions about recycling, and you’ve been practicing yoga since way before it was cool. You live a low-waste lifestyle, and keeping our earth safe is a top priority to you.
Since sustainability is a non-negotiable for you, consider a yoga mat that is:
- Made with eco-friendly materials that can be recycled like wool, natural rubber, jute, wool, or cotton.
- Thicker (5-6mm), especially if you frequently take your practice to a root-filled forest.
For the Advanced Yogi
You’ve come a long way in your practice, and you’re darn proud of it, too. You can’t imagine your life without yoga. You impress your friends with peacock poses, but mostly, you love encouraging them to get started on their own yoga journey.
If you’re ready to retire your old one, consider a new yoga mat that is:
- Thinner (2-3mm) to keep you steadier in your balance practice
- Extra sticky (you definitely don’t want to be sliding around the floor the next time you attempt a challenging pose)
Yoga, for you, is not going anywhere, and you want a mat that will stand the test of time alongside you.
For the Sensitive Yogi
You are grateful to have a practice that offers accessible modifications for you and your body. Whether you’re dealing with a chronic injury or simply have sensitive joints, you’ll want to have a gentle, forgiving space that meets you where you’re at.
Consider a yoga mat that is:
- Thick to extra-thick (4-6mm)
- Soft if you prefer a more mellow cushion yoga style
- Sticky to keep you from moving around too much and aggravating an injury
A stickier, thicker mat should help make more poses available to you without sacrificing comfort or risking injury.
What Type of Mat is Best for my Preferred Yoga Practice?
One last thing to consider when choosing a yoga mat is the type of yoga you most regularly practice in yoga class or if you're a yoga instructor. Hatha yoga, often ideal for beginners, doesn’t require anything too fancy. Any mat might work well with this practice.
For yogis who prefer Bikram or Ashtanga practices, you’ll certainly want to keep that in mind when making your purchase. Since Bikram will likely have you sweating a ton, a mat that is easy to clean is second to none. Ashtanga is another lively practice that will require an extra sticky mat to keep you moving in between poses with more finesse.
Hop on the Mat With BÉIS
At BÉIS, we like to keep things balanced. We’re professional packers, that’s true. But we’re also fellow yoga enthusiasts. So, what do you get when you combine the two?
A balanced, traveling yoga mat.
Like most of our bags and travel accessories, it’s functional and super stylish. We think it could be the perfect companion for your next trip abroad or for practicing at home with your friends and fur babies if you want to take the step and learn how to stay fit while traveling. Make sure that you have the gym bag essentials for women. Whatever your mat preferences may be, what’s most important is taking care of your body in a way that’s right for you.
Frolic and flow with BÉIS. We’ll see you on the mat!
- “Thermoplastic Elastomer - an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics.” ScienceDirect, www.sciencedirect.com/topics/materials-science/thermoplastic-elastomer.
- Wei, Marlynn. “New Survey Reveals the Rapid Rise of Yoga — and Why Some People Still Haven’t Tried It.” Harvard Health Blog. www.health.harvard.edu/blog/new-survey-reveals-the-rapid-rise-of-yoga-and-why-some-people-still-havent-tried-it-201603079179.