Whether you are a seasoned yoga practitioner, or are new to the practice of yoga all together, getting yourself the best tools can make all the difference in how your practice evolves. Once you start to go through the motions, bringing yourself to the mat (any mat!) several times a week to give it your all, you will start to cherish that time and want to make the best of it. That’s when I invested in a new, longer-lasting yoga mat.
At first, I was using whatever mat I could get my hands on – borrowed, rented, or bought for under $30. This worked well for me, until I realized I was gripping my toes for balance in Vrksasana (tree pose) because the mat at the gym was too squishy. Or that I couldn’t ground my hands and feet down well in Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward dog) because the waxy film on my mat was causing them to slip. This makes for a very unsafe practice!
Ultimately, you want to experience your practice free of distractions, concerns, worries, and unnecessary tension in the body. Yoga-Chitta-Vitti-Nirodha. Getting yourself on a good quality mat will not only make your practice safer, but you will feel more grounded, allowing you to go deeper into your practice. The process of finding the best mat for you may initially be difficult, so here are some tips to help you on your way!
How to pick a mat that works for you:
- What is it made of? Long-lasting materials that will hold up safely with heavy use might be the most important aspect of the mat you choose. You want something with a good grip that will be sturdy, safe, and last a long time (just like your practice!). Mats made of natural rubbers are ideal.
- Test! Next time you take a class at the studio, ask about a mat rental. Oftentimes, they will have available for rent the kinds of mats they choose to sell. Put it to the test – do a full practice, and take note of the differences it made, and if you still experience any limitations. Are your hands and feet slipping? Think you could use a longer mat? There are lots of options!
- Mats come in all sizes. Being nearly 6 feet tall myself, this came as a huge relief when I didn’t have to worry about my nose being off the mat in a belly-down rest anymore. They also make them wider, and of varying thicknesses. If you’re tall, have wider shoulders, or need a mat that is travel friendly – there are options made for you!
- Pay the price! Be willing to make the financial investment. If you have a consistent yoga practice, the kind that will build over a lifetime, you will need a mat that can handle it. Although the initial investment can range anywhere between $50-$75, when compared to the amount you will spend buying several lower quality mats at $25 every 6 months…well, you do the math. It’s worth it!
- It’s not about the brand. There are several brands on the market that make good quality mats. It’s more about the functionality, and finding what you need. Again, plenty of options!
How to maintain the quality of your mat:
- Slipping = unsafe. If you have a mat that slips, or has a waxy / oily film over it, use a coarse salt mixture and scrub your mat down in small circular motions with a brush or tough sponge, then let it dry out in the sun. Note that this is only appropriate for sturdy rubber mats. Repeat as necessary until the residue wears off. No slipping!
- No oils or lotions (and not just the hands and feet) before you practice. As you sweat and move around your mat, residue will build. The natural oils on your skin will be enough to build residue on your mat, so practice clean!
- Clean your mat periodically (especially after a heavy practice) using a chemical-free cleaner – wipe down, and let air dry fully before rolling it up. Use a lint roller to get any fuzz, hair, or other debris off your mat. Keep it clean. The less distractions, the better.
- Most importantly – Use it! Break it in. As much as you can. Like your favorite pair of jeans.
Feel free to pop into Aham Yoga and ask about our personal recommendations for yoga mats. We have some of our favorites for rent and for sale – check out our schedule and pay us a visit!