20 years ago, I took my first yoga class and borrowed a mat- it smelled like feet and I couldn’t stop thinking about the last person’s sweat touching my face as I folded into child’s pose. I bought a mat on my way out, and haven’t borrowed one since.
Depending on what type of yoga you practice, there are many mats available: eco-friendly, extra thick, travel weight, and anti-bacterial to name a few. Originally, yogis practiced on the floor, but mat choices are now the equivalent of ordering a tricked-out coffee at Starbucks.
For most regular yoga classes, such as Vinyasa, Anusara, Iyengar, or restorative yoga, you can use any of the mats I suggest here, it’s more of a preference when it comes to material, color, weight, and price.
What I will tell you, as with most things, you get what you pay for. You can find a cheap PVC mat for 10 bucks, but it will smell toxic, you will slip all over, and it will start to rip after a month or so.
Here are some questions to ask yourself before purchasing a mat:
How much do you sweat, how often do you practice, will you travel with it, do you care about the environment, what type of yoga do you practice, and how much can you spend?
The following is a list of my favorite mats to practice with- I know it’s excessive, but it’s my equivalent of a “working woman’s” shoe collection.
Kulae- Elite hot yoga mat: This mat is perfect for hot yoga classes, because it combines the function of a traditional mat with incredible absorbability. I love that you don’t need a towel on top. Thankfully, it’s also eco-friendly, so it won’t end up in a landfill. $77
Jade Harmony Mat– With this open cell, natural rubber mat, say goodbye to slippage, even when sweaty. This yoga mat “changed my practice” 9 years ago- it even keeps your elbows planted in shoulderstand. $55
Manduka PROmat– With a non-slip fabric–like finish, this yoga mat is luxuriously dense for unparalleled cushioning. It’s beloved by many yoga teachers for it’s cushioning, and it’s the only mat with a lifetime guarantee- who doesn’t love that! $84
Lululemon “The Mat” -Made of natural rubber, with a polyurethane coating, this mat will prevent sliding through the sweatiest of classes. Luckily, the antimicrobial additive prevents mold and mildew- and it comes not only in black, but soothing pastel colors. $68
Hugger mugger Earth Elements- This mat is made of TPE and is non- toxic. Its soft surface provides great traction for any type of yoga, and because it has a great dry-sticky surface, your hands will stay put. $53
If you practice hot yoga, you’ll definitely want a towel over your mat once you begin to drip.
Any towel will do, but I love the Magic Carpet from Spiritual Gangster-they come in the best colors and you don’t slide all over like on other mat covers.
Once that mat gets all sweaty, and yes- smelly, what do you do? Most people suggest cleaning a yoga mat in the tub, which to me, is akin to wrestling an alligator. Make your life easy, and if the label says you can, toss it in a washing machine- just make sure you put it on cold, and the HANDWASH setting. Do not put it in the dryer, hang it up over your shower door, or outside in the sun. Otherwise, wipe it down at least once a week with mat spray, or tea tree oil and water. You can take this out of it’s too long
If you don’t own your own mat, I highly recommend reading this NYT article, advising against shared yoga mats, asap- it’s not just about smelly feet.
What to do with your yoga mat when it starts to “shed?”
- Line your trunk with it to keep grocery bags and plants from spilling
- Use it as padding under your knees when you garden
- Cut it up and make “bases” for your kids in the backyard