Yoga mats come in weights from thin and light for travel to ¼ - inch heft mats that can get up to 7 pounds in weight. If you’re not sure which is best for you, we’d suggest a ⅛ - inch thick mat--that’s pretty standard when it comes to a strong, flowing practice. You’ll have a solid contact with the floor, which is necessary for many poses. They’re also unlikely to snag during flows, unlike thicker mats.
However, if you’re heading somewhere by air, you’ll want a thin mat designed for portability. These mats pack down smaller than mats like the one suggested above, so you can easily tote them around in your luggage. Just know you’ll have to leave behind some of that comfort.
You’ll want to choose a thicker mat for restorative or therapeutic practices. These mats are far more comfortable in forearm and kneeling poses, that are often part of slower, calmer practices. However, thicker mats are harder for balance during standing poses.
It is common sense, and true, that yoga mats that are thicker last longer than thin mats. Just know--mats of all thicknesses last a pretty long time, so this might not be a concern. You’ll want to think about the material your mat is made from when you’re making your decision on which to buy.
PVC is a plastic-based material that many mats are made of. It’s durable, cleanable and grippy. Please note that they’re not absorbent, so they can become very slick when wet with seat. It’s also latex-free, a consideration if you have latex allergies. But it’s not biodegradable or as environmentally good as other options.
TPE, or thermoplastic elastomer, is a human-made blend of plastic and rubber polymers. These mats are usually more environmentally friendly than PVC and some are even completely recyclable. You’ll need to note that these are usually less durable than PVC, but they are still great in the traction department.
Eco or natural mats are made of things like natural rubber, cotton and jute. They’re usually less grippy on the floor, but they’ll offer plenty of traction against your hands and feet. They aren’t very durable like PVC, but they’re worth the pain if sustainability is a priority.
It’s not often talked about, but yoga can be a pricey practice to take part in. If you’re working to stick to a budget, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting a good value for your mat. That being said, if you get a mat that isn’t plain, standard-sized PVC, you’re probably going to have to pay some extra dough.
Features like antimicrobial treatments or cool designs aren’t as important as material and thickness, and can add to the cost of your mat. If you’re new to yoga, perhaps stay with a slightly less expensive mat--you can alway upgrade!
Of course, the type of yoga you’re thinking of practicing is a huge factor in choosing a mat that’s right for you. Textured mats are great for active yoga, like power yoga or Bikram. However, if lower-intensity yoga is on your docket, PVC or foam mats are great for comfort and support.
Whatever you choose, know that they’re always other mats out there if your first choice isn’t perfect for your practice.