Finding the right yoga mat can be a bit tricky, especially if you are new to yoga practice. Here are some things you should consider before buying one.
Your yoga mat is more than just a surface for you to practice on. It is more of a companion, a vital part of your exercise. And as such, it should be carefully selected. However, you will find a lot of information that can be confusing at first, so here are some things you should keep in mind before you settle for one mat.
Is thickness important?
As a standard, a yoga mat is usually ⅛ inch thick. This usually works just fine for most people, but you are skinny or bony, it might not be comfortable, especially while doing some poses that require you to press your hips to the mat. If that is the case, then consider a thicker version (maybe a ¼ inch mat). A thicker version is also better for those who have sensitive joints, as it will provide more support during certain asanas (poses).
The drawback of thicker mats is, however, that it is harder to find balance with them, so poses like the Tree pose or other standing asanas might be harder to perform. Also, as they are thicker, they are harder to carry around.
Is texture important?
Smooths mats can be great —if chosen correctly! If you want to practice Vinyasa or Ashtanga, you can go for a smooth mat with great traction, as you will be performing powerful movements. Avoid smooth PVC mats, because those are really, really slippery, and have a negative impact on your practice.
If you tend to sweat a lot, you can opt for a smooth natural rubber mat, as they tend to absorb less moisture compared to its textured counterpart.
Textured mats, however, naturally offer a better grip, making it an excellent option for more gentle types of yoga.
Is length important?
The perfect mat should be, at least, as long as your body when you lie down in Savasana. Standard yoga mats are 68 inches (172 cm) long, so if you are taller, you should definitely buy an extra-long mat.
Keep in mind where you are practicing
It's not the same practicing at home or in a studio, especially because while at home, you won't need to carry your mat around. So if you are a beginner and you are at home practicing a gentle version of yoga, like Hatha or Yin, you can definitely go for a thicker version, which will provide you more comfort as you get used to the practice.
If you are planning on going to a yoga studio, you need to account for it, too. If you see yourself carrying a heavy mat around, then go for it. You will probably prefer a lighter version, so stick to a standard mat, instead!