How to Choose a Yoga Mat
Whether you are just beginning your yoga practice or an experienced yogi, if you are not an ascetic in the Himalayas, chances are that you will be in the market for a yoga mat at some point or the other. When I first moved to the US from India, I found the yoga mat to be one of the culture shock items. I remember thinking – “they use cushy, sticky mats for yoga around here?”
Now that I have used a yoga mat for sometime, I cannot go back to the blanket-on-the-floor routine that I was so used to in India. When I was shopping for a yoga mat, I had so many choices. A whole lot of internet research led me to little information. This post is a result of my research and some friendly advice from my yoga friends. Hopefully this post will address the need of someone who is searching the internet for a yoga mat.
The Budget Yoga Mat
This is the best choice for you if you are just beginning yoga and if you are not sure about being a long time practitioner. These are available for under $20 at your friendly neighborhood super market. Many people do not prefer these because they tend to stink of chemicals. If you cannot smell the chemicals at first, just leave one of these budget yoga mats in your car trunk on a hot summer day, that’ll do the trick!
Natural Fiber Yoga Mats
These yoga mats tend to be made from jute, cork or straw. They are affordable, environment friendly. Many people prefer these as an alternative to the budget yoga mat. However, most of these tend to weaken after some wear. If you are not in the habit of cleaning your yoga mat regularly, these are definitely not the choice for you as they tend to absorb moisture and sweat over time, resulting in some odor problems!
Rubber Yoga Mats
These tend to be more durable than the above mentioned yoga mats. Rubber yoga mats happen to be the choice of most seasoned yoga practitioners as they are durable and not terribly expensive. You may have to look for some specific manufacturers though, if you are allergic to natural rubber. There are many latex free, phthalate free options from many manufacturers.
Is a Yoga Mat necessary?
On a certain level, I do think that using sticky mats is a little bit of cheating because the mat lets you balance your weight without slipping away. I found it much harder to hold the Vrukshasna (the tree pose) while learning on a straw yoga mat on cement floors. But now, I can find my balance fairly easily on slippery surfaces. People have been practicing yoga for a long time and yoga mats were not around until recent times.
If you are practicing yoga on a studio floor which sees a lot of action, a good yoga mat is inevitable because of all the germs and bacteria out there. However if you are at home, practicing on your living room carpet, a yoga mat may not be all that necessary. I have heard of yoga socks, but I have never used them. But I do know people who use them and swear that they will not go back to the mat. I will write more about them in another post.
Hopefully, this post helps you decide on a yoga mat that is just right for you.