Most people who start out practicing yoga scoff at the prices of yoga mats on the market. Why would you spend $50, $80 or $100 on a yoga mat!? It’s just a pieces of foam and rubber that I am going to step and sweat all over; plus I can get one at Winners for $15.
I hear you, loud and clear. And I too was that person, once upon a time.
But let me tell you, your yoga mat matters.
Regardless of whether you practice once a month, once a week or everyday, investing in a high quality, proper yoga mat, will completely transform your yoga practice.
1) No more slipping and sliding.
Have you ever been in a downward facing dog and feel like you’re going to do a downward face-plant into the floor? Being able to grip the mat with your hands and feet is essential in most yoga postures for proper form and alignment in your body to avoid injury, strain or pain. Those cheap Winner’s mats do not have sufficient grip and stability to help you. I remember once asking a yoga instructor when I was first starting out how to avoid my hands slipping on the mat and I was given some band-aid solution of using a yoga strap under my hands for grip. But what I wish the instructor had said to me…. Your yoga mat sucks and until you buy a good one, your gonna be slipping all over the place.
Truth bomb. And sometimes the truth hurts. But for me, having a crap mat hurt more and it took me way longer to realize than it should of. Which brings me to my next point….
2) Reduce joint pain, especially in the wrists and knees.
I have wrist issues and knee issues – a lot of people do. And bearing weight on the wrists and the knees is common in yoga and a lot of people, especially beginners, experience a significant amount of pain in those weight bearing poses. It’s true that practicing yoga regularly overtime will make it less painful as you build strength in those areas, but having a proper yoga mat with proper support will ease some of the discomfort to help you get to that stronger place.
I would tuck the edges under me three or four times and I would still be uncomfortable. I could not ease the pain and it made me not want to go to yoga. And if I can’t bear the pain long enough to suffer through a class, how am I ever going to build a regular enough practice to build the strength to reduce the pain. It’s a bit of a conundrum….. unless… you invest in a good mat! When I started using a higher quality mat, that offered greater support and cushioning (plus less slipping and sliding so I could stay in the proper alignment) when in weight bearing poses (such as table or plank). I still like to support my knees with a blanket since I want to still be able to walk when I am 90 but that is more out of preferences and prevention that necessity.
Lastly, as with most investments, time and longevity are key. Spend more money up front for quality and see lasting return on your investment. With those dollar store mats, you likely will have to replace them frequently as the foam begins to disintegrate and weaken. If you have one of those mats, you may notice you begin to leave little bits behind after each class, especially if you’re overdue for a pedi and your toenails scratch the surface during a vigorous vinyasa flow.
I have had the same yoga mat for about 18 months and it is still in perfect shape. I occasionally wipe it down with some mat cleaner (because I don’t really have an overly sweaty practice – if you do, more frequent cleaning is recommended) but the integrity of the material remains the same as when I first bought it. I don’t see it needing to be replaced for quite some time. The other thing about the less expensive mats, is they are harder to clean and hold a sweaty smell a lot longer.
So, what mat should you buy? It depends on your budget, your style of yoga and just generally your preference of where you like to shop. But here are a couple of recommendations…
This is my mat. I love my B Mat. It completely changed my yoga experiences for the reasons above (and more). I love B Mat because they are made by a Canadian company (B Yoga), the mat is super grippy and durable, and is made out of an eco-friendly material. They also offer a “long” version for taller yogis.
Jade Yoga mats are also made of eco-friendly, sustainable rubber. They are also know to be grippy and help yogis avoid slipping and sliding on their mats. They are made in the United States and Jade Yoga plants a tree (in partnership with Trees for the Future) for every yoga mat sold. They have similar charitable endeavors with sales of their yoga towels and blocks. I personally have not used a Jade mat but I do know many people who swear by them.
As with any major purchase, it is essential to do your own research and connect with a company that is meaningful for you with a quality product. Many yoga studios sell mats and may allow you to try one out before purchasing or you can ask your yogi friends what they use and what they like about it. Also, the Toronto Yoga Show & Conference is coming up at the end of March and many vendors will be there at the tradeshow (I know B Yoga was there last year) and will allow you to try before you buy.
Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Much love and Namaste.