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Yoga mats have come a long way since the original mat, which was made from carpet underlay. Nowadays yoga mats come in a vast range of materials and designs, and with so many yoga mats available it can be difficult to choose one, especially as a beginner.
If you have started practising yoga and are looking to invest in your first yoga mat, this article will provide all the tips and pointers you need. You can either read the full guide or use the links in the list below to navigate to a specific topic.
When you start practising yoga, having your own mat is a good idea. It can prompt and encourage you to practise at home - especially if you can designate a particular area as your gym or own yoga studio. Having your own mat can also be more hygienic, and you can choose a mat that meets your specific needs in terms of comfort, weight and body type. It's also nice to have a mat that you like the colour and design of.
With so many different yoga mats on the market, consisting of different materials, lengths, widths and thicknesses, as a beginner choosing a mat can be a surprisingly challenging decision. With that in mind we recommend considering the following points before deciding on which mat to buy.
One of the first things to consider before buying your first yoga mat is the surface you'll be practising on. If you are buying a yoga mat for practising at home, then consider which room or rooms you'll be practising in and whether the floor will be carpeted, wooden or tiled. If you are going to take your mat to your local yoga class, then again consider what type of floor you'll be practising on – you'll want a slightly thicker mat if your class is in a sports hall rather than a purpose-built yoga studio.
Many people are now choosing to perform yoga outdoors. University research has shown that outdoor or "green exercise" can provide additional benefits to the same exercise, done indoors. One meta-analysis, which looked at the data from various studies, concluded that exercise completed outdoors results in greater increases in feelings of wellbeing and self-esteem. If you decide to mix things up and take your yoga practice outside, a thicker yoga mat like the METIS 6mm Non-Slip mat will provide grip and support without bunching and undulating as much as thinner mats.
Another important consideration and factor to bear in mind when choosing a yoga mat is the type of yoga you will be doing on it. Your preferences are likely to be different if you are doing power yoga or hot yoga, compared to, say, Kundalini or a form of gentle and restorative yoga.
You may also wish to consider whether or not you'll be spending a long time in seated poses meditating on your yoga mat or engaging in relaxation poses and routines such as Yoga Nidra. If you are doing a lot of static holds and poses, you may wish to opt for a thicker, more cushioned yoga mat, which will provide more comfort when sitting or lying on it for prolonged periods.
Once you have established where and how you will practise yoga you’ll need to consider other factors such as your body shape, height and joint health. If you have any pre-existing issues such as a knee injury or arthritis for example, you may wish to opt for a thicker mat that provides more cushioning for when you are carrying out asanas (yoga poses) such as child's, cat and cow - which involve kneeling or putting weight on the knees.
Yoga mats come in a variety of thicknesses. Thinner yoga mats are easier to carry and can be easier to fold and store. Some yogis prefer thin yoga mats because they feel more connected to the earth or the floor beneath them. However, most people will want some extra cushioning, especially when doing kneeling poses such as Ustrasana/Camel pose. For this reason, you'll often see people fold over the ends of thin yoga mats for certain poses so that they have extra cushioning for the knees.
High density, thick yoga mats (6mm or thicker) provide more cushioning than their thinner counterparts. These thicker mats are often touted as the best for people with sensitive or painful joints and also for beginners.
The METIS Non-Slip Yoga Mat is 6mm thick, so it provides lots of cushioning and comfort for anyone who has difficulty putting weight on their knees and elbows during yoga classes.
Our premium yoga mat is 5mm thick and provides ample comfort for the vast majority of users, thanks to its thickness and the fact that it is made of natural rubber. Weighing just under 3kg, it is also light enough to carry to a yoga class and comes with a helpful carry strap.
The level of grip that your chosen yoga mat will provide is also an important consideration. If you are going to be performing hot yoga, for example, you must be able to grip the mat with your feet and hands when you are sweating. The Net World Sports Premium Yoga mat provides excellent grip due to the use of both natural rubber and eco-friendly PU. The materials and custom design provide a high level of grip on the top of the mat so that your feet and hands don't slip. The grip beneath the mat is also designed to be anti-slip, even if any moisture gets under it. The METIS Exercise & Yoga Mat features a waffle design with ridges that provide an excellent grip throughout your routines and classes.
While most yoga mats are stored best when rolled up, folding yoga mats can be a great option if you are looking for something that is easy to store and carry.
Our Tri-Folding Yoga Mats are ideal for all types of exercise classes including Pilates and bodyweight circuits. They are filled with PE cotton for extra shock absorption and comfort. The 6ft long mats also have woven-on handles that make them easy to carry to a class or store away at home. Folding yoga mats are an excellent investment if you are looking for a mat that can be used in a range of home workouts and exercise classes, is easy to clean and store.
Yoga mats come in many designs, but one great feature to look out for are alignment lines. Alignment lines or alignment marks will usually outline the centre of the mat with a circle. Mats with alignment markings will also tend to have "ending lines" and another line that runs through the centre of the mat lengthways.
The markings are beneficial even for experienced practitioners (so much so that during many teacher training retreats and courses, students will be asked to mark out similar lines in chalk on their mats to help guide their postures and poses correctly).
Alignment lines can also help beginners, as they can make sense of the many cues and adjustments that a teacher may use. It's much easier for the student if a teacher can tell them to put their hand on a specific line or mark on the mat. Once you know how to use the markings yourself, you can also track and align yourself properly without as much assistance from a teacher. This will also help you avoid injuries as you will be distributed and balancing your weight more accurately.
Where you place your hands on the mat will depend on the length and size of your body and limbs. For example, in the tabletop position, or the cat/cow pose, you can use a teacher or a mirror to ensure that you are in the correct position, and then make a mental note of where your hands are positioned in relation to the alignment lines.
The small circles on our premium yoga mats, are typically where you would place your hands for them to be shoulder-width apart. However, you may need to adjust this slightly depending on how broad your shoulders are. If you use the small circles on the top of the mat to gauge your hand position, you can also use the small circles near the rear of the mat to ensure that the middle of your feet are in-line with the middle of your hands.
Alignment lines can also be a great tool when it comes to measuring your progress. You can make a mental note of your starting point/line and how far you can stretch in relation to a line or other lines or markings on the opposite side of the mat.
Rubber yoga mats are popular as they are eco-friendly and provide the ideal density – they are not too hard or too soft. Rubber is denser than materials such as PVC, so rubber mats of the same thickness will provide more cushioning and be more comfortable against hard floors. Rubber is non-toxic and biodegradable. It is also extremely durable, providing excellent grip and contact with the ground.
If you are going to be sweating or engaging in hot yoga, then rubber mats are an excellent choice. Rubber provides a good amount of cushioning thanks to the density of the natural 'bounce’ material, but unlike really thick, cushioned mats, it provides good contact with the floor or ground underneath, making balancing poses feel more natural and easier to perform. It's also an excellent material for standing poses, as it is highly unlikely to slip or move around even when your body weight and pressure is applied to corners of the mat.
Rubber is also firmer than most other mat materials, which is again great for standing and balancing poses as the mat is unlikely to move or compress erratically underneath your feet. Stability on a yoga mat is vital, as any sliding or moving dramatically increases the risk of injury. With a rubber yoga mat, you can move into and hold any pose on your feet, knees, elbows or head and not have to worry about the mat shifting or moving.
Pros of rubber yoga mats
PVC is one of the most popular materials used to make yoga mats. It's affordable, easy to clean and highly durable. PVC also offers excellent traction and can be used on most surfaces, ranging from wooden floors to sandy beaches. It can even feel very slightly sticky – which is actually what you want for superior grip.
PVC yoga mats are also very light and easy to carry around. If you are a yoga instructor, this could be good to know if you need to transport 20+ yoga mats to each class! PVC gives excellent grip and instantly curves around your feet or hands when you place pressure on the mat. This means you are highly unlikely to slip in any direction, especially when coupled with the honeycomb traction design of the METIS Non-Slip Mats.
PVC mats are also very easy to roll up and store away or carry, which can be an important feature if you are practising yoga at home or you're an instructor looking to transport a number of mats at the same time. Due to their affordability and high level of comfort and grip, PVC yoga mats are great for beginners or anyone looking for a mat that can be used for a range of exercises and exercise classes. Tough, durable and water-resistant; non-slip PVC mats are a great option for beginners to advanced yoga practitioners or anyone looking to carry out floor exercises including sit-ups and planks.
Pros of PVC Yoga Mats
PU or polyurethane gives a fantastic grip even when it's really hot or if the practitioner or the mat is covered in sweat. PU also provides high density cushioning for extra comfort and is touted for being a material with the elasticity of rubber with a superior level of strength. PU is also recyclable and doesn't absorb heat very readily, so it can be great for outside yoga in the sun or hot yoga.
PU does not absorb water, making it easy to clean, and it is also 100% vegan. PU possesses anti-bacterial properties and is virtually slip-proof, making it an excellent choice for hot yoga or vigorous forms of yoga such as Ashtanga. The material PU is also extremely tough with high abrasion resistance; making it a highly durable, ideal for yoga mats that are used frequently.
Pros of PU Leather Yoga Mats
It’s important that a mat used for yoga is non-slip and of an appropriate thickness. Many exercise mats are designed for stretching and yoga, as well as bodyweight exercises. As long as the exercise is non-slip, it should be fine for practising yoga with.
As long as a yoga mat has a non-slip backing, it shouldn’t slip on a carpet. If for any reason you still have issues using your yoga mat on your carpet, there are a range of solutions touted by the online yoga communities including using additional anti-slip backing for rugs and mats, or even using sea salt!
The first thing to keep in mind when cleaning your yoga mat, is not to use soap. Soap is slippery and can leave a residue even when a mat is cleaned and wiped down thoroughly.
Using a mixture of one part distilled white vinegar and three parts water is recommended by many online cleaning experts. Some people also say that rubbing alcohol can be used instead of distilled white vinegar if you don’t have any to hand. If you are in doubt, you can always try contacting the manufacturer or check the label and instructions that normally come with yoga mats.
You can also add a few drops of an essential oil such as peppermint or tea tree oil to provide an additional anti-bacterial element to the solution. Ideally you should use a spray bottle to apply the solution to your mat but if you don’t have a spray bottle make sure the solution is mixed well before use. It’s important to make sure you use a cloth or flannel that will not start to break apart when it’s rubbed against the yoga mat, and avoid any steel wool or other abrasive cleaning tool as it is likely to damage your mat.
Many premium PU and rubber yoga mats will require a lot more water and solution when you are cleaning them, compared to some PVC mats that don’t absorb the water. Many yoga bloggers recommend making a cleaning spray using water, vinegar and essential oils including lemon and lavendar. However, it’s possible that some yoga mats could start to break away and erode when cleaned with essential oils, so it’s a good idea to start with a single drop the first time you use an oil or a spray containing an oil.
If you want to commute to your yoga class and get some exercise on the way; jumping on your bike can be a great option. However, it’s potentially dangerous to try carrying a yoga mat at the same time as cycling. If you do insist on it however, there are some ways of carrying your yoga mat that are safer than just tucking it under your arm and cycling one-handed (definitely not something we’d recommend).
Arguably the best way to carry a yoga mat on a bike is to use a rear bike rack and a bungee cord. Place the yoga mat horizontally along the bike rack and tie it down firmly and securely with a bungee cord. Some other ideas include using a PVC document holder, or securely fitting the mat into or onto a backpack.
The best way of packing a yoga mat in a suitcase, is to fold it. Instead of rolling the mat up as normal, roll it out so it’s completely flat, then fold it in half. You will need to keep folding it in half three or four times before it will fit in an average suitcase or bag. This works best with the thinner yoga mats, it might be a bit of a struggle trying to fold a large rubber yoga mat! (you may want to try rolling it instead, or use a PVC yoga mat when travelling).
We have a number of yoga mats available to buy here at Net World Sports. Using a range of materials and different designs, we have a yoga mat to suit different requirements and budgets. All mats are exceptionally high quality and provide excellent grip and comfort when practising yoga.
Finally, if you are looking for a complete yoga set, the METIS Yoga Equipment Set includes everything you need to get started. With a yoga mat, yoga belt, a carry strap and 2 yoga bricks/blocks you have everything you need to take your yoga asanas to the next level.
In addition to yoga mats, at Net World Sports we also stock an array of yoga mat equipment and accessories, including yoga wheels, yoga blocks and yoga balls. Ideal for balance and core stability training, yoga wheels are used to release tension, aid flexibility and improve posture. Yoga balls can be used for a vast range of functional exercises including crunches and yoga poses including upward and downward facing dog can be performed using the ball, to add a dynamic element of stability. Ideal for functional training and wellbeing, all of our yoga equipment is manufactured using the highest-quality materials.
Yoga is an excellent form of exercise that can be performed at home, at the gym or in a class. Fantastic for stress relief, flexibility, bone density, balance and strength, investing in a yoga mat is a wise decision that is bound to improve your health and wellbeing. To see our full range of yoga mats and yoga accessories including bands and yoga straps, please see our yoga equipment page.