I just had the pleasure of test-driving an array of brand-spanking-new yoga mats — research for a Gaiam article on how to choose the right yoga mat. This was particularly exciting to me because I’ve had my current yoga mat for over 12 years. And although I’ve practiced on it hundreds, if not thousands of times, it is showing no signs of wear and tear.
I’d been telling myself there was no reason to shop for a new mat since I didn’t technically need one. But when that box of mats arrived at my door, I realized that after 12 years of a mat that didn’t speak to me in any way, I was craving a mat that would whisper, “Roll me out and let’s get practicing!”
I share my experiences with you now in the hopes that it will help you, too, find a mat that makes you excited about practicing — whether you’re a new or experienced practitioner, a hot and sweaty type of yogi or more of a stretch and breathe type. Because with all the new styles of yoga mats that have come on the scene in the last few years, there is definitely a mat out there that suits you to a T.
I first tried the Earth Lover’s Yoga Mat — a real beauty made from natural rubber that was perfectly sticky, cushiony without being too soft, and a gorgeous shade of dark brown (which just so happens to match my décor perfectly). I really enjoyed my practice on this. But the problem came when I went to roll it up and put it in my filled-to-bursting wicker basket that holds all my yoga props. It just didn’t roll up compactly or easily, which in my New York City apartment-dweller reality is a deal breaker. I’m going to use it as a floor mat for my 18-month-old daughter’s play area, in lieu of the alphabet mat I haven’t gotten around to purchasing. (That’s how small our apartment is, that her play area is the size of a yoga mat.)
Next I tried the Stay Put Yoga Mat. I generally practice in the living room on top of a rug, but on this day it was raining and my sitter was in the living room with my daughter. So I cleared some space on the bedroom floor (which is hard wood) and laid the mat out there. Although the label says it is suitable for use on a wood floor, I didn’t feel secure on this mat — it slid a little bit when I first stepped on it. Great for a carpeted studio (as many hot yoga studios are), but for my home practice, it wasn’t right.
Finally I tried the Premium Eco Yoga Mat. I liked that it was made of natural materials — rubber tapped from a living tree and cotton — and was therefore easier on the environment. It had just enough cushioning to help the tops of my feet be comfortable in virasana (hero pose) but not so much that I didn’t feel grounded in my standing poses or headstand. And the raised geometric pattern kept my hands and feet exactly where I placed them, without any funny slurpy noises that some sticky mats can make when you lift your hands or feet up off the mat. It also had a satisfying heft — the corners never curled up, even after I first unrolled it. Best of all, it rolled up tightly and slid right in the tiny little space available in the basket of props. We’ve been practicing happily together for about a month now. Best of all, every time I look over and see it, I get excited and start planning my next session.
As for the mats I’m not using, I’m going to Freecycle them and hope that they find a home where someone will be as excited about them as I am about my new blue beauty. (I also love these 50 ideas for reusing your yoga mat.)
If you’ve been feeling like your home practice needs a little kick in the pants, maybe it’s time to find a new home. Here’s a guide to finding the right yoga mat for you.