How to Choose a Yoga Mat
There is only one thing that matters when you pick out a yoga mat: Do you like it?
If you don’t like it, if you slip and slide, if it looks like refried beans, if it smells like day old cat litter, then you won’t get on it.
We want to invest in a mat we love, that sings to us, that beckons us to take a magic carpet ride with our practice. I love my mat so much that I feel guilty if I haven’t taken her out of hiding in a day or two.
With that in mind, there is no one mat for everyone. We have different needs and different styles of practice. I used to try and keep up with all the mats out there, but it’s impossible. They are multiplying like rabbits.
What to Consider:
There are several factors when choosing a mat. I’ll tell you my favorite at the end.
I’d much rather choose a mat based on color and pattern (that’s me), but cell technology is more important. A closed-cell fabrication, meaning it will not absorb sweat and bacteria, is easier to clean and you won’t pick up germs from fellow yogis. An open-cell mat will absorb those things, but the advantage is you slip less. It’s like practicing on a sponge, but like a sponge, there’s bacteria lurking inside that smells over time.
A heavier mat will usually provide more cushioning for joints. A lighter mat is easier to lug around or haul on a subway. It’s your decision which is most important to you.
Using a mat for six months and then tossing it for a new one has a terrible impact for the environment. There is a landfill somewhere filled with yoga mats. I used to use an open-cell mat which I tossed or donated when it began to smell. Then it dawned on me: “This is really un-yogic.” Consider how long a mat will last when you invest.
Sliding around on a yoga mat is dangerous. If your otherwise perfect mat is a little bit slippery, you can use a non-slip towel, non-slip socks and gloves. You can practice with more muscular energy or gripping in with hands and feet. If the mat is just an ice-rink, then it’s probably time for a new mat.
Okay, My Turn
I’ve been practicing for more than 20 years. When I started, I knew of only one mat: the Gaiam. It was $9.95 at Target, and you get what you pay for. The Gaiam was cute but slippery, smelly over time, and had no padding.
Since then I have tried nearly all of them. Today I use the Manduka Pro. It’s a beast and weighs more than a small grandchild, but it supports my knees beautifully. I have never thrown one out because they never get old. The runners up are several brands made from recycled rubber products such as old tires. These mats do it all, but they just aren’t cute, and you know, I gotta be me just like you gotta be you.
Michelle Berman Marchildon is the Yogi Muse. She is an award-winning journalist and the author of four books on yoga. Her latest book, Theme Weaver: A Companion Workbook to Plan Yoga Classes, is available on Amazon.com.