Whether you’ve been into yoga for years or you’re just starting out, your yoga mat is one of the most important things you can bring with you to your practice, other than yourself of course! If you’ve been at it a while, it may be time to upgrade your mat to something that is more you, and if you’re just starting out, you might be looking into getting your first one and don’t want to waste your money on something that isn’t a great fit.
For me, I am very happy with the mat I chose, although it took me a bit of digging to find the right one! I’m a fairly tall guy, so I wanted a mat that was not only longer and wider than a standard yoga mat, but I also wanted my mat to be a bit thicker for my feet and lower back. I tend to set up and often practice on a harder surface such as a wooden floor or outside on the concrete pool deck, and those thinner mats aren’t as enjoyable after 15-20 minutes of different poses. I’m pretty bony, so those harder surfaces do numbers on my body and have even left bruises with the thinner mats I’ve tried in the past!
Once I decided to upgrade my mat to one that would meet all my requirements, my practice has never been the same! I get so excited to hop on the mat, while before I’d often find myself making excuses to skip a day or even a week at a time. I knew it was mostly my mat (although I can’t pin my laziness 100% on just that). If I could just find something more comfortable, I knew I’d be more eager to stick to my daily practice. However, it’s more than just comfort that makes a great yoga mat. If you’re still deciding on what direction to take, here are a couple things you can keep in mind when picking out the right mat for you!
What’s Your Favorite Color?
While it may not be the most important aspect of your mat, if you don’t like how your mat looks, it might eventually get to your head. You might not think that at first, but having to look at something every day is bigger than you might think.
Imagine hanging a beautiful painting in your house or apartment or wherever you’re staying. Every time you walk by that painting you can’t help but smile. It’s perfect, and it makes you feel at home and at peace. Now, imagine if you hung up that same painting, but now that painting is crooked. The painting is perfect in every other way, but now every time you walk by and admire it’s beauty, you can’t help but feel the need to straighten it. Over time this urge to fix the painting only gets stronger and stronger.
Maybe that isn’t you, and perhaps you don’t mind if the painting is beautiful and crooked, as long as it’s beautiful. If that’s the case, great! Maybe you don’t care what your mat looks like as long as it fits all of your other needs. If you’re like me though, that mat (or painting for that matter) would drive me crazy! Even if my mat met all my other needs, I might find myself thinking, “hmm… maybe I should have picked a mat.”
Don’t let this be you. If the look of your mat is important to you, recognize it! You don’t want to be looking for another new mat 2 months down the line.
Is Comfort Important to You?
If you’re like me, then yes, comfort is essential when it comes to your yoga mat, but hey! Everybody is different, and maybe you couldn’t care less if your mat was comfortable or if it was paper thin and rough on your feet.
For me, I like a nice soft mat for my sore feet, achy lower back, and bony body. I like to physically exert my body doing a number of rugged activities such as skateboarding, motocross, and hiking, so my feet are often bruised on the bottom. The last thing I want to do is be in eagle pose, pressing away from my mat, squinting in pain, or to be laying on my back with my tailbone causing me pain from the hard ground underneath.
You might experience similar feelings, or you may not. I know some who enjoy being in discomfort when they practice yoga, and if that’s more your style, by all means have it your way. It’s sometimes good to be in physical discomfort, as with it often comes more awareness.
Another thing to mention, just because a yoga mat is thin doesn’t mean that it’s going to be uncomfortable for you! This brings us to the next thing to consider when choosing the right for you…
Do You Need a Large or a Small Mat?
As I mentioned earlier, I am pretty tall. It only makes sense that I want a mat that will fit the proportions of my body. However, even if you aren’t that tall, maybe an oversized yoga mat is something that interests you. Here’s a couple takeaways that I noticed after upgrading from a standard sized yoga mat (around 72″ long and 26″ wide) to a wider, longer mat that’s 7 feet (84″) long and 3 feet (36″) wide:
- The larger the yoga mat, the heavier it tends to be. Because my newer mat is also 1/4″ thick as opposed to my previous mat that was paper thin, I find it noticeably heavier than the other mats I’ve used in the past. This isn’t a problem for me, I actually prefer it. Just know that the bigger you go, the more mat you’re going to have to carry.
- Space is important. Just because you want a big yoga mat, doesn’t mean you’ll always have the space to lay it down. If you only do yoga in one spot, it’s as simple as measuring your room or yoga area and seeing if the dimensions of the mat you’re interested in are compatible. If you’re like me and take your mat with you, you could experience some problems laying it out where a smaller mat might come in handy. A mat like mine, might not fit in your suitcase.
I’m sure there are other factors in regard to size to ponder, but these are the two that really stuck out to me. It wasn’t until after I got a new mat, that I realized it, but luckily I’ve been fortunate enough to not have any problems with my new mat. Big or small, as long as you’re confident with your decision at the end of the day, it’ll likely be the right one.
So now you’ve got an idea on what to look for in a yoga mat, but there’s one thing that you might not have thought about until now.
What’s Your Budget?
Yoga mats can drastically vary in price. I’ve seen mats range anywhere from a few bucks to hundreds of dollars. As much as I’d love to buy the most expensive mat money can buy, I know that’s not the most practical in most cases. I didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg for my mat, but I also wanted a quality mat.
While price can surely be an indicator of quality, that’s not always the case. I was able to find a mat that fit my needs all for under $40. This may seem steep to some, but oversized yoga mats often cost more than the standard simply because of more material being used. I found the price I paid very reasonable for what I received. In all honesty, there isn’t much that I don’t love about my yoga mat! I could have spent a little more to fix the things that do stand out, but I honestly don’t feel the changes would have been worth the price difference.
If money isn’t a factor, then shoot for the stars! Get whatever mat that stands out to you among the hundreds of mats out there. However, if you’re on a budget, you might find using a “sort by: price” filter and sifting through customer reviews to be the way to go when looking for your new mat.
Regardless, money shouldn’t be the main focus when deciding on your mat, it should be the last thing on the list to check off after you’ve thought about everything else.
Finding Your Balance
Yoga mats are an essential part of yoga as they not only help with hard-to-execute postures, but they also provide stability and create friction between your feet and the ground. It’s important to choose the right mat for your needs whether that be a bigger, smaller, thicker, thinner, longer, shorter, *insert adjective here* type of mat.
Once you find the mat that meets all of your requirements, you may feel so much better about getting up and practicing. Sometimes all it takes is the perfect yoga mat to help you be the best you that you can be.
My mat surely was that for me! I practice now more than I ever have, and I have to give much of the credit to my new yoga mat. I truly hope this helps you find the perfect mat for your body.