Enhancing your Practice with a Good Yoga Mat
by Heather Artman, Honor Yoga Hillsborough
The right mat can make all the difference in your yoga practice. With many mats, your hands and feet slide around in poses such as downward-facing dog, taking your attention away from your practice and causing frustration and possibly, even injury. I went through dozens of mats, yoga gloves and socks, towels and other products to try to stop the slippage. There is no need to go through all of this effort and expense. It can all be avoided by selecting the right mat first. A good quality yoga mat will last a long time, should be seen as an investment in your practice and can actually end up saving you money in the long run.
What are the qualities to look for in a yoga mat?
I believe this is the most important quality to look for in a yoga mat. It can also be the most difficult one to determine because you really have to test the mat out first which is not always an option. If at all possible, try practicing on friends’ mats or mats that are rented or borrowed from studios first to see if the traction is adequate.
While traction is important across the board, thickness preference varies by individual. If you have knee issues or even if you don’t have ‘issues’ but you find your knees hurt in poses such as lunges or tabletop, the thicker mats would probably be better. The trade-off with thicker mats is that balance poses can be more challenging, so you may want to step off the mat and do balance poses on the bare floor. A good medium thickness for a mat is 3/16” (5mm).
For taller yogis, the length of the mat becomes important because you want to make sure that both feet remain on the mat in wider-stance poses such as Warrior II and that both hands and feet stay on the mat in poses like downward-facing dog. Mats between 68” and 71” are adequate length for most.
If you are environmentally conscious, you may want to consider a mat that is made of natural rubber and does not contain PVC or other synthetic rubbers.
Follow these tips and you will notice an immediate improvement in your yoga practice!