Your yoga mat should be a perfect extension of you. It is a vital tool that helps to create your poses while also providing stability in your technique, and is vital for students just starting their yoga journey.
There are yoga mats to suit every length, weight, colour, design, cushioning and body-type and they come in different materials from vinyl to PVC and newer, more eco-friendly and sustainable options made from natural fibres or recycled materials. Closed-cell materials are also better as they seal out moisture and bacteria so are easier to disinfect and clean.
What is most important is that the texture of your yoga mat, from its density through to material selection, traction and grip, is both stable and comfortable for joint protection and to properly support your asana. Different surfaces create different sensations depending on how much pressure is applied during certain poses and it is important that they feel great against your skin too. After all, your yoga mat is where you lay, rest, roll around and ground yourself so it needs to be comfortable and flexible.
Depending on what surface you will use your mat on will also influence the mat density. If you have a hard floor you may want to use a thicker matt that has more protection for your knees, feet and hands and is also quieter to work on. If you are practising on carpet, this may not be such an important issue and instead traction to the carpet may be of greater concern so you aren’t slipping around. The amount of stickiness is also a consideration as a sticky yoga mat with high performance grip keeps you from sliding and helps you maintain your alignment as you move through your poses or hold them for longer periods. With some mats you can break them in by sprinkling coarse sea salt all over them and leaving for 24hours, then adding just a bit of water to exfoliate and air dry. For all other mats, you will naturally wear them in so the goal here is to practise, practise so your mat gets better as you do.
Length is also an important factor when choosing a mat for your body-type. Standard mats normally range from 173-183cm long and 60cm wide but there are some brands like Manduka that feature extra-long 218cm mats or extra large pro mats that are 198cm x 198cm or 200cm x 132cm for taller or more dedicated yogis. Just remember that longer and thicker mats are often much heavier so you may want an additional travel mat with a mat carrier or bag if you need to take your yoga practise with you. Manduka even provide a lifetime guarantee so you know that your investment will still look and feel incredible to use in years to come.
Having a good mat spray or cleaner with a refreshing aroma and using this to cleanse and disinfect your mat after each use is vital. Not only will it keep your mat in great condition but it will help remove surface dirt and stains, kill bacteria, reduce odour and extend your mats lifespan. There are different cleaners required for closed-cell, open-cell, natural rubber and hot yoga mats so make sure you choose the right cleanser for your specific yoga mat, and preferably one that uses 100% naturally derived ingredients that are biodegradable to look after your own health as well as our environment.
Don’t forget to store the mat horizontally if possible, and if you need to roll it up for any reason, keep the top side facing outwards which will keep the corners of the mat flat when you roll it back out and start practising again.
With so many props, brands and designs on the market it is hard to know which ones will best suit your Yoga and Meditation practise, especially without being able to trial them first. Considering how lightweight a product is, how much support you require, if they are eco-friendly, what you want your practise to feel like and what beautiful colour scheme will make you smile and feel good while taking care of yourself are all important aspects of your purchase. Asking friends and coaches is also a great way to get feedback about the pros and cons of different brands and designs.
But the most important thing to remember is that no matter what props you use, that they are simply a tool to help you drop in, let go, ground yourself and support your incredible body, mind and soul. After all, you totally deserve it.
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