What you should look out for when buying a yoga mat (The rule of 3 Ss)
Buying a yoga mat is easy, buying a GOOD yoga mat is hard.
A yoga mat should last you years, and if it doesn't then it's just not a good mat. In today's post we'll go over the rule of 3 Ss for buying a yoga mat:
We'll summarise this all in the conclusion (And give you a couple of links to some yoga mats that fit the criteria), so if you just want a quick rundown and some recommendations you can find that at the end of this post. With that settled, I'll get right into it.
The first S - Stretch:
A good yoga mat shouldn't be too stretchy. If it stretches while you use it it can not only throw you off balance, but put you into a position where one or more of your joints is at risk of injury. Being poorly positioned can also put you at a higher risk of slipping or falling (once again, injury).
Let's consider a very famous Yoga position - downward facing dog:
If you've done yoga, you've heard of it, and the great thing about downward facing dog is that it's a position that develops your balance while keeping your core, triceps and shoulders under tension.
If you've done yoga, you've also probably heard of the proper way to do downward facing dog. Your arms and back must form a straight line (The woman in the picture above is doing a different variant of the classic downward facing dog, hence why she looks a little different), your legs must be straight and your elbows shouldn't 'bow out' to the sides.
If you've got a yoga mat that is too stretchy, you're put in a position where your legs or arms can easily slip out of alignment. When this is the case, not only are your muscles not under the tension they should be, but you're also at risk of shoulder or knee injury.
Finally, when your arms are put significantly out of place, you might be at risk of your elbows bowing out, which (in any position, such as the pushup) is a big no-no.
The second S - Slip:
This is similar to 'stretch', but not quite the same. A good mat should be able to stick to the ground beneath it (beware of getting any mat labelled 'sticky', though, in my experience they're incredibly good at collecting so much dust they turn grey). When a yoga mat can stay in one place while you move around on it, you'll be much more stable when doing yoga.
For one, a non-slip yoga mat will decrease the likelihood that you'll fall and injure yourself, but it's also just far more convenient, especially if you do yoga classes. Having to stop every 10 seconds and readjust yourself just isn't feasible for you or the people around you in a yoga class.
Even when doing yoga alone, a slippy yoga mat will only serve to be a continual bother during your yoga session, especially when you find that you've somehow moved from one end of the room to the other!
Avoid slip, always.
The final S - Size:
When it comes to yoga mats, size matters (sorry I couldn't resist).
Remember that ultimately, a good yoga mat is basically any mat that you can feel comfortable on. Yoga requires your body and joints to be in a very specific position and the more your mat can facilitate that, the better your mat is.
A small, skinny and short yoga mat that you can barely fit your hands and feet on is just a bad yoga mat, there's no other way of saying it. It's important to get a yoga mat that's big enough for you to fit on comfortably. A good metric for if your mat is the right size is to see if you can do downward facing dog on it with 10-15cm (4-6 inches) of leeway each way. If you don't have this leeway, but it feels comfortable enough, then ignore me. Ultimately it comes down to whether you feel comfortable on the mat in each yoga position. If you don't, then you need a better mat.
There is a second part to this third S, however, and that's the thickness of your mat. Yoga mats are often pretty thin, and that's so you can roll them up, but a mat that's too thin just won't do. Mats are designed, in part, to protect you from a hard floor, and there's little point to owning a mat if it doesn't protect you from that floor. A mat that is too thick may be a burden in terms of transportation. Additionally, a mat that is too thick may eliminate all support from the floor below, which may mess with your sense of balance.
What's the ideal width? I would say shoot for a mat that is 5mm (this is the best thickness), but don't buy a mat that's thinner than 4mm or thicker than 10mm. Some yoga mats are marketed as 'travel mats', but if they're thinner than 4mm then you have to ask if they'll actually be useful to protect yourself from the ground.
Stretch, Slip and Size. Don't buy a mat that's too stretchy, don't buy a slippery mat (Look for the term 'extra grip' or 'non-slip' when buying a mat), and buy a mat that's around 5mm in thickness, and has a big enough surface area to fit you on it.
A fourth point is price - you shouldn't worry about price when buying a yoga mat. I know that this is easier said than done, but let me put it this way:
If you buy an £80 yoga mat that's high quality and durable, it might last you, say, 20 years. That's 20 years of great yoga at around £4 a year.
If you buy a crappy £10 yoga mat that breaks every year, then you'll be spending £10 a year on a yoga mat that makes your sessions SUCK.
Buy great yoga mats that will last. Thank me later.
We had high expectations when trying to find yoga mats for WorkoutsMatter (fun fact, there was one we used to sell that we axed because the supplier had created fake reviews for it, and it was actually a crappy product). We needed to meet the three Ss, as well as having a durable mat. We met all these criteria AND found some mats with AMAZING artwork.
We sell 2 variants, a cork yoga mat with 3 designs (Clear, Chakra and Lined), and another mat with 5 unique and more detailed patterns on it. Quickly into searching for products we realised it was important for us to sell a yoga mat that was aesthetically pleasing as well as functional, and we think we've really hit the mark. Pictures below:
Thanks for reading this article! We post twice a week to this blog and if you message us on facebook with a blog idea we'll be sure to write whatever post you'd like to see!