Are you thinking about starting yoga for the first time?
That’s a wonderful idea! Do not worry; you do not need much. In fact, the only thing you can’t go without is the desire to succeed. That said, everything is better with the proper equipment.
The list is not long, though.
For starters, get yourself a good yoga mat, a bottle of water – and perhaps a couple of blocks.
A proper mat is an essential item on this list. It’s crucial for a successful – and safe – yoga practice. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or a hardcore yogi; a good mat is a piece of workout equipment worth investing in, period.
There are many mats on the market, though, and choosing one can be overwhelming – especially for beginners. For this reason, we’ve consulted a few experts and made a detailed guide on how to choose the best yoga mat for beginners.
So, what are some things to consider when purchasing your first mat?
Let’s get right to it!
Yoga Mats: All You Need To Know
Professional yoga instructors always stress that every person starting yoga should first focus on their practice. However, they emphasize the importance of choosing the right mat, as well.
If you’re starting yoga classes in a designated yoga studio, you’ll probably be able to rent a mat. However, it’s always a better idea to buy your own, for hygienic and practical reasons.
We’d personally rather avoid getting ourselves down in other people’s sweat and bodily fluids. Think about it:
Shared mats are an excellent ground for bacteria and fungus.
After all, most mats are affordable, and there’s no need to wait and see if your yoga practice “sticks” before you purchase one. Even the best yoga mats out there won’t cost you a fortune.
Why Do You Need A Yoga Mat?
Every construction needs to have a solid foundation; similarly, you need a perfect yoga mat as the base of your practice. If it’s too slippery, flimsy, firm, smelly, or hard to clean, you won’t be able to enjoy your yoga sessions and all their benefits fully.
So, why buy your first yoga mat?
Just like other mats, yoga mats are primarily used to provide extra cushioning and traction. It’s not necessary for you to have a yoga mat to practice asanas – but it does bring some functional benefits.
Workout gear is generally designed to secure a most comfortable, safe, and efficient performance; yoga mats are no exception to this rule. Thanks to the cushioning surface that allows for proper body weight distribution, the joint load is much lower than without them.
If you want to save your sensitive joints from any harm, consider getting an extra thick mat!
In the beginning, yoga might seem very simple, but it will get more and more demanding as you progress. Some asanas require you to assume unusual body positions that can present an injury risk if not performed correctly.
And practicing yoga without the proper equipment increases this risk.
Therefore, it’s imperative not to exercise or do yoga on a slippery floor since that can lead to injuries. Most yoga mats will help prevent slipping – and make your training the most effective it can be.
A Symbol Of Personal Stress-Free Space
Once you become a regular yogi, your mat will become a sort of symbol representing the space to which your mind can escape whenever you feel anxious or stressed.
It takes one look at your yoga mat for you to feel more relaxed. You’ll get there eventually; trust us.
The yoga mat is not only a soft, sticky surface – it is your private go-to space. You’ll choose a mat that meets all your needs and preferences, and in that way, you’ll personalize it:
It will reflect who you are as a person and a yoga practitioner.
You’ll choose your mat’s color, size, and thickness and decide whether it will be eco-friendly or have a polyurethane top layer. You can opt for a textured surface or choose the one with an interesting design on the top. The floor in your home might have already been there when you moved in – but the choice of the yoga mat is all yours!
Your practice will look different every day, but your yoga mat is a constant that gets you in the yoga mood as soon as you step on it! You’ll see – you’ll develop a special connection with it!
Are There Any Yoga Mat Alternatives?
Yes. In fact, a few decades ago, yoga mats were not nearly as popular and sought-after as they are now. Moreover, yoga is much older than us, and throughout its history, things changed.
Originally, yoga was practiced on grass. After that, people started using various animal skins for extra protection and comfort. Finally, towels and cotton covers came into the picture.
You can try any of these alternatives, too!
If people managed back then, we don’t see why you wouldn’t, as well.
For example, Restorative or Yin practice requires people to lie down or sit on the floor most of the time. If you do not have a mat, it would be wise to use a folded blanket or beach towel instead. However, never use any of the two with standing poses; you’ll lose your balance for sure.
Finally, you do not need a mat to be a yogi!
If you’re walking in the park or on the beach and you feel a sudden desire to have an impromptu yoga session, go for it! It will be a great opportunity to connect with the grass, dirt, or sand.
Just be extra careful not to injure yourself on a nearby rock or tree root.
What Type Of Yoga Mat Should A Beginner Get?
Yoga mats come in an array of colors, patterns, and styles. They can be eco-friendly, made from recycled wetsuits, or have a natural rubber base – there are endless options. Some are designed for yogis on the go and are super-easy to carry around.
And you can also choose between a reversible mat, non-slip yoga mat, foam mat, etc.
You get the point – there are many things to consider!
Let’s see what is essential for beginners, though.
Yoga mats come in different sizes, but they typically measure around 68 inches (172 centimeters) long and 24 inches (60 centimeters) wide. If you want a wider or longer mat, you can find one for sure – but it might take a bit more effort.
The largest yoga mats – like this YogaAccessories Mat – are reserved for particularly tall people.
Typical thickness ranges from one to eight millimeters. Mats that are four to five millimeters thick are the most common, though.
You can buy a regular yoga mat for as little as $20 or cash out more than a hundred bucks for a deluxe pro yoga mat. As a beginner, you should opt for the former since standard yoga mats will meet all your needs at this stage.
Is the price of the more expensive mats justified?
Yes, most of the time, these mats are of higher quality. The main difference is usually material thickness and durability:
A pricey pro yoga mat will most likely last longer than a budget mat.
An eco-friendly yoga mat will probably be pricier, too. That’s because it is manufactured with environmentally responsible production methods and eco-materials.
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
Polyvinyl chloride is one of the cheapest materials used for mats. It provides decent traction once you wear it in. However, it often contains toxic chemicals, as well.
There’s one more thing that goes against PVC – it is not biodegradable or eco-friendly.
For this reason, PVC mats are rarely used in homes. Because of the low price and durability, they are most often used at local yoga studios.
If you want a budget-friendly PVC mat, the least you can do is make sure it is certified as non-toxic – like the Manduka PRO mats:
The high-end Manduka PRO series mats are thicker than almost any standard mat, which makes them virtually indestructible. Manduka mats cost more than other PVC mats, though.
Natural Tree Rubber
Rubber has many advantages.
First of all, it’s a natural, biodegradable, and renewable material. It might not be as soft as some other materials – but it is grippy and thus delivers excellent traction.
Natural rubber from rubber trees is one of the densest mat materials, too. Its thickness ranges from as little as 1.5 millimeters (which is excellent for travel) to an extra-thick 6 millimeters. On average, a natural rubber mat is 3 millimeters thick, which is more than enough to hold its shape, provide a decent amount of cushion, and secure solid support.
Natural rubber smell might not appeal to everyone. Yet, this noticeable smell does wear off over time. Those with a latex allergy could have a problem with the natural rubber latex in mats, though.
If you want to find the best yoga mats made from natural rubber, check out Jade Yoga mats:
Jade Yoga mats have a long tradition and are very popular among yogists. Most importantly, Jade Yoga mats are great yoga mats for beginners.
TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer)
TPE or Thermoplastic elastomer is a blend of natural rubber and synthetic materials. TPE mats seem to thick all the boxes and solve many problems other mat materials have.
For starters, TPE has no odor at all. It’s affordable, non-toxic, biodegradable, astonishingly lightweight, and super-soft. You won’t slip on it, either – it offers a superior grip.
Do you want one?
We recommend you try the TOPLUS Yoga Mat. It’s of good quality, reasonably priced, and comes in several colors.
So, is TPE flawless? No, it has one fault – it is not exceptionally durable.
If you’re doing yoga in your yoga studio only, you probably store your mat there. In all other cases, though, it would be pretty handy to have a bag or at least a strap that allows you to carry your mat around with you.
Velcro straps are practical, especially if your mat is easy to roll up. If you want a travel mat, it would be best to get one with a matching bag.
In any case, make sure you do not buy a heavy mat that will weigh you down.
What’s a good thickness for a yoga mat? How thick should a beginner yoga mat be?
As we had already discussed when we tackled size, mats can be thick anywhere from one to eight millimeters. But the question we’ll try to answer now is:
What is the ideal thickness for a yoga mat?
It depends on several factors. First of all, you should consider the type of floor the mat is going on. You should buy a thicker mat if the floor is made of a hard material – such as wood, cement, or ceramics.
Besides a thicker mat made from dense foam, you should consider a non-slip yoga mat, especially if your floor is slippery. If you want to protect your sensitive knees, joints, or tendons, opt for a cushiony mat.
Going for the thickest mat you can find is not always a good strategy, though. Contrary to the general opinion, the thickness of a yoga mat is not always indicative of its comfort or functionality.
For example, if you opt for a thick foam mat that is too soft, you might be in trouble. Namely, softer yoga mats will often indent or stretch under your body weight. And if your legs or arms sink into the foam, you might lose balance and hurt yourself.
Here’s the thing:
A yoga mat is not a pillow. Sometimes it’s better to ditch the thicker mats and go for a thinner mat. You need a solid foundation to start building your balance and strength, after all.
Thinner mats made of denser materials are the best yoga mats for beginners. They do not lose their shape quickly – nor will you sink in them while practicing. And at the same time, they feel comfy enough for your knees, hands, and back. The least you should go for is a medium-density foam.
Practicing on a hot summer day can turn into a tragedy if your hands and feet become too sweaty and your yoga mat is slippery. It’s a killer combo! Doing hot yoga is particularly risky.
The best mat must have a non-slip surface that grips the trainee’s skin and guarantees safety. The best yoga mats for beginners should have a slightly sticky surface with a light texture that provides extra grip and helps hold trainees in place.
If you cannot afford such a mat, you can use a non-slip yoga towel instead. It will do the job as well.
While we’re at it, don’t panic if your new mat is a bit slippery. If it’s made of PVC, the issue will resolve itself as you “wear it in” during your yoga classes. If that doesn’t happen, and your mat is still slippery, try to wash it in mild water (no soap needed) and let it dry. It should speed up the process.
You can also try using some product that will help prevent your palms from becoming sweaty. There are special towels that can absorb extra moisture. They might help – especially during the hot yoga classes where sweat can make the mats extremely slippery.
If you’re shopping for a non-slip mat, consider Gaiam Yoga Mat. It is an excellent choice for novices – and a great all-around pick.
The Heathyoga Mat is a fantastic eco-friendly, non-slip yoga mat, as well. It includes alignment lines on the top layer that help you position your hands and feet properly.
So many yoga mats last only a few months. Why is that?
The durability goes hand-in-hand with the quality of the material your mat is made of – it’s that simple. If you want yours to last, be extra careful when choosing the mat’s material and avoid the following:
- Cheap PVC
Some foam mats can do good – YogaAccessories mat being one of them. But many will tear and wear down after a couple of months – especially in the areas your hands and feet place pressure. You do not want your mat to start falling apart while you are doing your downward dog!
So, what is the most durable yoga mat sold on the market?
Yoga teachers generally recommend mats made of dense natural rubber. One yoga teacher we talked to while doing our research owns a rubber yoga mat and claims she had bought it a decade ago.
If you choose carefully, you can find a mat made from high-quality eco-friendly foam that will last you quite a while, too. Even if the material is biodegradable, it won’t degrade in your room, though; for that to happen, there has to be heat, pressure, and microbial activity.
Remember how we said that your mat is your personal space? Well, that means it has to match your style, too.
Luckily you have an array of choices – from solid one-color classics to artistic mandala designs. Some mats even have imprinted mantras. The least you can do is choose the color you like.
You should clean your yoga mat after each use. We get it; it sounds tiresome – but it isn’t that bad. Most mats – such as the Manduka Pro, Heathyoga Mat, or the Gaiam Yoga Mat – require a quick wipe-down after each practice, and that’s it. They’ll be as good as new after years of use.
If you do a lot of hot yoga and you notice your mat is beginning to smell like sweat, you could make a simple DIY yoga mat cleaner to neutralize the odor. Mix one part vinegar with three parts water and pour it in a spray bottle. You can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil, too.
Some mats are machine washable, too! You can go with that one if you feel particularly lazy and don’t want to clean your mat on your own.
Final Words Of Encouragement
Decisions, decisions, decisions! Hopefully, you’re now able to choose the best yoga mat that meets all your needs.
If you still doubt yourself, don’t! We were all once clueless beginners – and yet, here we are. And remember to enjoy the process; we’re sure you’ll score a great mat. Anything is better than the hard floor underneath you!