The Role a Yoga Mat Plays in Your Practice

(and is it worth the investment?)


If you’ve been practicing yoga at Giving Tree, you’ve probably heard us emphasize that yoga is not about what you look like, or wear during your practice. You don’t need fancy, brand name clothes or leggings to do asana (physical poses), pranayama (breathing) or meditation.


But what about your mat? Does it matter what kind of mat you use, or if you use one at all?

Do you really need to invest in a yoga mat? Will it really help your practice? You’ve probably asked yourself these questions and others.



Different sized yoga mats
Is there really a difference in all the yoga mats? And does it matter?

Well, it actually does matter. That doesn’t mean we’re saying you have to have a certain brand or mat to do yoga, or buy the most expensive one; but, it can make a difference in your practice. In particular, it can be important when considering the type of yoga you are practicing and your personal needs. Other factors might simply be your love for the environment and sustainability.



Let’s break it down and find out more.



1. STYLE OF YOGA

Graphic displaying factors for selecting a yoga mat

Consider if you are doing a Vinyasa Flow or even a Hot Yoga class (we’ll talk more about this in another post) versus a Restorative class. There’s a lot more movement and weight placed on the hands and feet during Vinyasa, and most likely more sweating involved in a Hot Yoga class than in Restorative, where you are relaxing into poses and finding support and stillness.


Important factors to consider across different styles of yoga are moisture absorption; hygienic/anti-microbial qualities, grip or anti-slip properties, and cushion.


Then there’s the personal aspect.



2. YOUR BODY. YOUR PRACTICE.

YOUR NEEDS.


Maybe you naturally perspire more leading to palms or feet that are more inclined to slip; or you’re still building strength in the shoulders and core to help press and lift all at the same time.


Either way, does this sound familiar...you’re in a downward facing dog, and those hands just keep sliding away like water flowing down a stream. You awkwardly try to maneuver and readjust, so you don’t land flat on your face...yeah, pretty sure we can all relate or have experienced something similar at some point in time.


Material and texture, which can impact the stickiness, slippage or traction needed for your practice, as well as the stability, are key to finding alignment and safely practicing physical poses.


Another personal aspect is support and stability from thickness, cushion or lack thereof.


Support for the body is important. Maybe you do Yin or Restorative on a regular basis and would like a thick mat for extra cushion and support. Then, you decide to try out a Vinyasa class, and find your feet and ankles wobbling and rocking in a balancing pose. Or, you like to feel the earth beneath you, which has been great, but you have an injury, or your joints and/or knees are saying, “hey, give me some love and cushion.”


Thickness and stability are key, and there are many options for multi-purposed or specific practices and preferences. Thickness along with material can also impact the weight of your mat, which could be important to consider if you travel frequently or tote your mat with you to and from a practice outside the home.



3. DURABILITY & SUSTAINABILITY


Let’s not forget about durability and sustainability. These go hand-in-hand.


We all like a deal. But, deals don’t necessarily equal quality and durability or even saving money. Buying a cheap mat, might be good if you’re new to yoga and not sure if you’re going to stick with it. However, if you begin practicing regularly, you may notice your cheaper mat wearing down, peeling or fraying quicker than expected. The next thing you know, you find yourself buying several mats a year, or even at a time to get the thickness you want by doubling up. All those purchases and dollars begin to add up, and so does the waste that piles up in our landfills. Many of the cheaper mats available on the market are made of PVC, polyvinyl chloride foam. PVC, while cheaper, is harder to recycle and many experts claim is toxic as noted in an article in the Huffington Post, ‘What’s the Difference Between A Cheap Yoga Mat and an Expensive One.’

Investing in a mat that has proven to be more durable might actually be friendlier on your wallet and to our planet. Yes, they might come with a higher price tag upfront, but they are using higher quality materials that are more environmentally friendly, such as natural rubber, as found in one of our personal favorites the Jade Yoga Harmony Mat. Natural rubber is a sustainable, renewable resource, known for its grip and cushion, and lasts longer compared to PVC, meaning fewer purchases and less waste.


In addition to using more sustainable, less toxic materials, many of these mat brands offer tips on what to do with your old mat as well as having programs to recycle your mat and even planting a tree with your purchase.




SO, IS IT WORTH THE INVESTMENT?


All things considered, the role your mat plays in your practice is an important one. It can help support your body, improve alignment, reduce slipping, absorb moisture, fight microbes and even be green. Ultimately, you have to decide if it’s worth the investment, but consider what’s important to you.


Whatever that is, there is a mat waiting for you somewhere to come home to.


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Here's a few resources and articles to check out if you want to do more reading:




Jade Yoga - Which Mat is Right for Me



8 Reasons Expensive Yoga Mats are Worth the Cost



Yoga Direct: How to Choose Your Yoga Mat



Gaiam - How to Choose the Right Yoga Mat



Manduka - Yoga Mat Quiz



Hugger Mugger - Yoga Mat Guide



Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored by any of the mat manufacturers listed. However, Giving Tree Yoga + Wellness is a Jade Yoga Retailer and Affiliate.




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