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Yoga Mat

Last Updated: January 10, 2024

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Yoga mats are a barrier between the user and the floor, so they may exercise without pain or discomfort.

Introduction

A yoga mat is a specially designed mat used for practicing yoga. It provides cushion and support for the body during yoga poses while also providing traction to help keep practitioners in place. Yoga mats are typically made from rubber or foam and come in various thicknesses and textures.

History of Yoga Mats

The earliest use of mats in yoga dates back to ancient India. Long before cloth mats, practitioners utilized Kusha grass or animal hide as a protective surface over the ground. These mats were said to help achieve enlightenment, as seen in the Bhagavadgita and the Shvetashvatara Upanishad. Cloth mats became the new norm over wooden floors to prevent slipping and movement when the West adopted yoga practice.

It was not until the 1980s when Angela Farmer, a German yoga instructor, discovered that using carpet underlay for a mat created a non-slip, sticky surface for her and her students. Bringing the idea to London, "Hugger Mugger Yoga Products" became the first retailer of non-slip mats that many are familiar with today.

Although there have been many alterations from the original design, from animal hide to fabric to durable plastic, the yoga mat has transformed even in the last 60 years. Using Yoga mats has made daily practice safer, more accessible, and enjoyable for millions of practitioners worldwide.

How is Yoga Mats Useful in Current Practice?

A yoga mat serves a great purpose during stretching, mat pilates, meditation, and exercise practices. They create a barrier between the hard floor surface and the body, reducing discomfort during movements and providing excellent traction between the foot and the ground.

Today, yoga mats are essential equipment in various Yoga styles, including hatha and hot yoga. Hatha yoga is a gentle style focusing on the basics of yoga postures, while hot yoga is a more vigorous yoga style practiced in a heated environment. The yoga mat is a protective surface between the individual and the floor in both styles, providing a non-slip surface for better grip during postures.

While yoga mats come in different sizes and materials, they all aim to aid the yoga practice and do exercises, stretching, and meditation less painful than on hard flooring. By providing a cushioned and non-slip surface, yoga mats allow practitioners to focus on their movements and poses without worrying about slipping or discomfort.

When to Use a Yoga Mat

While yoga mats provide a cushioned and non-slip surface, they may not be suitable for constant high-impact exercises due to their thickness. A thicker mat or specialized gym flooring may be more appropriate for these exercises. Still, yoga mats are well-suited for meditation, stretching, and yoga practices by serving as a barrier between the user and the floor, allowing for comfortable and safe body movement without pain or discomfort.

Different Types of Yoga Mats

When selecting a yoga mat, personal preference is the primary factor to consider since most yoga mats work well for any style of yoga. Some of the different types of yoga mats include:

Reversible Mat

A reversible mat offers two different textures on each side, providing versatility for various practices.

Rubber Mat

Textured rubber mats offer excellent grip and traction, making them a popular choice for yoga practitioners who want a non-slip surface for their practice.

PVC Mat

PVC mats, short for polyvinyl chloride, are latex-free, making them a good choice for those with latex allergies. While PVC mats are durable and can double as fitness mats, they are not absorbent and can become slippery when exposed to heavy sweat.

Cork Mat

Cork mats are a sustainable choice from tree bark harvested without deforestation. The surface of cork mats is smooth and soft to the touch, and because cork is hydrophobic, it provides excellent grip and does not get slippery when wet.

Manduka Mat

This fitness mat provides firm support and is known for its’ durability and longevity. Made from sustainable materials such as natural rubber and jute.

Microfiber Mat

For those who travel frequently or prefer a lightweight mat, options are available that are easy to pack and carry. These mats are often made from materials such as microfiber and are designed to be thin and durable.

The selection of a suitable yoga mat is contingent on an individual's particular requirements and the style of yoga they practice. For example, individuals who engage in restorative yoga, which involves fewer poses held for extended periods, may prefer a softer, more cushioned mat.

On the other hand, thicker mats are more comfortable for forearm and kneeling poses and are an excellent option for yogis with tender knees or achy joints.

Properties of Yoga Mats

Many different materials are used in making yoga mats, and each material can affect the mat's thickness, breathability, durability, flexibility, weight, moisture absorption, and insulation. As a result, it's important to consider the material when choosing a yoga mat.

Thickness

The thickness of a yoga mat is determined by how much material is included during the fabrication process. Natural fiber mats tend to be thinner due to the expense and difficulty of achieving depth with these materials, while synthetic materials can be thicker and more affordable. Still, thicker mats can be less portable and may offer a different level of mobility than thinner mats.

Breathability

The breathability of a yoga mat is closely related to its density. Yoga mats with higher density tend to be less breathable, while thinner mats are generally more breathable. It's important to consider the breathability of a yoga mat because the thickness of the mat affects the amount of heat absorbed and dissipated back into the body during use.

Durability

The durability of a yoga mat is a crucial factor to consider, as it affects its lifespan and overall usability. A mat's durability relates to its heat resistance, elasticity, strength, resistance to abrasion, and other external forces. Due to their durability, synthetic materials such as PVC, Polyurethane, NBR, PER, and TPE are popular. Still, natural materials such as cork or jute may wear out faster with frequent use.

Flexibility and Weight

Materials influence the flexibility and weight of a yoga mat. Mats made from flexible materials like cotton and TPE are easy to fold and carry in a bag due to their lightweight.

Moisture Absorption

Moisture Absorption is an important factor to remember when choosing a yoga mat because of its direct connection to its durability. Materials like organic Cotton, Hemp, or cork absorb moisture more easily than many synthetic materials. Absorbing sweat is common in most mats, but when a mat absorbs too much water, it can fall apart and become less grippy.

Alternatives to Yoga Mats

Although not all meditation, stretching, or yoga practices require a yoga mat, it can provide a textured surface for hands and feet to grip onto during poses that require stability or comfort against the floor.

However, if a practice mainly consists of standing poses, the hard floor may provide a more supportive base than the cushioning of a yoga mat. Sometimes, a yoga towel can also substitute for a yoga mat to create a barrier against the floor.

Conclusion

The ideal yoga mat varies from person to person and depends on their needs and preferences. Textured surfaces can provide better grip and stability for those practicing yoga, while harder surfaces are better for those using the mat for exercises with free weights.

It's important to note that yoga mats are not essential for yoga, fitness, meditation, or stretching practices. Still, they can be a helpful tool to stay focused on the movement instead of worrying about slipping or discomfort. Ultimately, the best yoga mats support users' practice and help them stay present and mindful.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to clean a yoga mat?

Cleaning one's yoga mat is important to keep it hygienic and extend its lifespan. Here are some steps to clean a yoga mat:

  1. Check the manufacturer's instructions: First, check the cleaning instructions for the yoga mat. Some mats may have specific cleaning requirements, and following them to avoid damage.
  2. Brush off any dirt or debris: Use a soft-bristled brush or a cloth to brush off any dirt or debris from the mat's surface. This will make it easier to clean the mat thoroughly.
  3. Make a cleaning solution: Mix water, a mild detergent, or a few drops of essential oil in a spray bottle. Alternatively, practitioners can also use a commercial yoga mat cleaner.
  4. Spray the mat: Spray the cleaning solution evenly over the entire surface.
  5. Wipe down the mat: Use a clean cloth to wipe down the mat, scrubbing gently to remove any dirt or stains.
  6. Rinse the mat: Rinse the mat thoroughly with clean water to remove any soap or detergent residue.
  7. Dry the mat: Hang it over a shower rod or lay it flat to air dry. Avoid exposing it to direct sunlight or high heat.

Practitioners should clean their yoga mats after every use, especially if they sweat a lot during practice. This will keep your mat clean and free from bacteria and odors.

How often should I change my yoga mat?

There is no specific timeline for changing a yoga mat, as it depends on various factors, including usage, care, and quality. If the mat shows signs of wear and tear, such as peeling, cracking, or losing its grip, it may be time to replace it. Additionally, if the mat starts to hold an unpleasant odor or is challenging to clean, it may be time to consider purchasing a new one.

How to care for a yoga mat?

It's important to note that different yoga mat materials may require slightly different care, so always check the manufacturer's instructions. However, in general, it's recommended to unroll and air out a new yoga mat for a few days before using it to let any strong odors dissipate.

Clean the mat regularly with a yoga mat wash, a damp cloth, mild detergent, and air-drying flat. Those looking to increase grip can use salt scrub with coarse salt by letting it sit and wiping it clean with a damp cloth. It is essential to avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasives on the mat, as they can damage the material and affect its performance.

What yoga mats do yoga instructors recommend?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as every yoga instructor may have personal preferences and recommendations based on their own experiences and the needs of their students. Some popular yoga mats instructors often recommend include the Manduka ProLite Yoga Mat, Jade Harmony Professional Yoga Mat, Liforme Yoga Mat, and B Mat daily.

The Alo Yoga Warrior Mat is also a quality yoga mat popular due to its extra cushioning, making it ideal for high-impact exercises and those with joint issues. Ultimately, the best yoga mat for an individual will depend on their needs and preferences, so it's important to try different mats to see what works best.

What is the best hot yoga mat?

The best hot yoga mat will depend on your preferences and budget. Popular mats among hot yogis include the Lululemon Reversible Mat 5mm, Manduka Prolite, Jade Fusion, and Hugger Mugger Para Rubber.

Each of these mats provides excellent grip and cushioning for an enjoyable practice, and their construction makes them suitable for Hot Yoga temperatures. Ultimately, the right hot yoga mat for you will be the one that suits your individual practice needs.

Is a mat necessary for restorative yoga?

Yes, a yoga mat is necessary for restorative yoga because the poses involve lying or sitting on the floor and maintaining a certain position for an extended time. The yoga mat provides cushioning and comfort so the body can relax into the pose.

References

Yoga Mats — A Short History of the Prop Yogis Use Most

What to Know Before You Buy a Yoga Mat

Can yoga mats be used for exercise? 4 great pros for YES – Yogigo

Yoga mat - Wikipedia

9 Different Yoga Mat Materials – Which One is Best for You? - Fitsri

Disclaimer

The contents of this article are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making any health-related changes or if you have any questions or concerns about your health. Anahana is not liable for any errors, omissions, or consequences that may occur from using the information provided.

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