When most people begin their yoga journey they show up to class unsure if they’ll fit in, or indeed if they’ll come back after that one class. With this in mind, borrowing a mat from the teacher or studio you attend allows you to take part without the commitment. After all, who wants to invest in a yoga mat for it to sit sullenly in the corner, mocking you each morning it doesn’t get rolled out?
But investing in your own mat can be an investment in yourself and a statement of your commitment towards creating a healthier version of yourself. I’ve had many yoga mats over the years, ranging from the cheap and cheerful to the shockingly expensive and they have all served their purpose well at the time I used them.
With a plethora of mat options available, here’s some tips to help guide you on your shopping trip:
Ask about to see what type of mat other people are using. I’ve used great mats from TK Maxx which haven’t cost the earth and are great for those starting out on their yoga journey. But choosing a mat can be very personal, some people prefer thicker mats which offer extra cushioning for kneeling postures, whereas others look for mats which offer superior grip to address ‘slippery hand syndrome!’
Try before you buy (if possible)
If at all possible, give the mat you intend to buy (or the one you like) a test. Try flowing through a sun salutation, pausing in downward dog to check if your hands slide forward. If the grip is less than optimal after one sun salutation, this may not be the best mat for you – walk away, even if you love the colour!
Looks are important
You’re going to be staring at this mat for quite a while in all those yoga poses, it’s not too much to ask that it looks decent and is functional. There is a great array of mats from Yogabellies which have beautiful images on them, and still offer good grip and longevity.
Is it portable?
Will you be using this mat at home only? Or is this a mat which you’ll have to cart around with you all day before you head to class after work? I have a mat which I keep at home, because it’s pretty heavy and the thought of dragging it about with me (along with all my other belongings) is a bit much. For classes I tend to use a travel mat or take a yoga towel to place over one of the studio mats. Travel mats are much thinner than your regular yoga mat and offer little to no cushioning, so be aware that while they may be cheaper, they may not be exactly what you’re looking for either.
Keeping it clean
This tip deserves a blog post all to itself. How to clean the yoga mat, and not leave it filled with soapy bubbles? Check the paperwork that comes with your mat or contact the manufacturer for advice on how to look after it. My Liforme and lulu lemon mats cannot be cleaned with oil-based products, this will damage the top layer of the mat and stop them from being as sticky. To clean them I use some vinegar or lemon juice dissolved in warm water and a damp cloth. I then hang them out to dry and air over a washing line, only if the weather is half decent!
Manduka sell a mat cleaner recommended for use with their mats, but I’ve not tried that out. My TK Maxx mats undergo a rigorous washing process whenever the weather is nice enough to let them dry outside.
Break it in
New yoga mats can need a bit of breaking in. Just like a bunch of flowers, you should unwrap your new mat and let it settle in some fresh air before you begin working together. It’s also a good idea to place your mat somewhere in your home where you can begin to walk on it (without shoes!) Mine spent quite a bit of time at the end of my bed, when I first got it. This helped to break it in a bit and made it (slightly) easier to roll out of bed in the morning and do some yoga.