September 25, 2022

A mat is a mat, right? Not when it comes to yoga. In yoga, your mat is your private space. It’s where you come to find zen, strength, relief — whatever it is that drives your yoga practice. But it’s hard to get there when you have a mat that messes with your flow. Even the most blissed-out yogi is going to get pissed off if their hands start sliding or their wrists feel like they’re planted directly into a wood floor. “If you practice regularly, you must invest in your own mat,” asserts Kristin McGee, a Peloton yoga instructor.

How to Choose a Yoga Mat

Most yoga mats look pretty similar, but there are subtle differences in thickness, material, texture and grip or stickiness that can affect how you move. That last attribute is one of the most essential elements for yogis:

Grip

“A mat needs to have that good grip from the beginning,” says McGee. “If you find you’re sliding way too much, it’s not a good sign.” All that extra movement is going to distract you from being present and focusing on your flow — the whole point of yoga.

Material

A textured mat will typically provide more traction, but the material can affect the grip factor as well. “Most mats are made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC),” says Kevin Schaefer, gearhead and yoga instructor at outdoor e-retailer Backcountry. PVC was the OG sticky mat. But now, there are more eco-friendly mats made from natural and recycled rubber or other natural materials that provide just as much grip. “Rubber is my go-to—it’s firm and great for balancing poses, but with some thickness, so it’s comfortable when you are embracing the floor and gravity.”

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For yogis with a rubber or latex allergy, it’s important to consider the material your mat is made of. To avoid any health concerns, opt for a mat containing only natural materials.

Thickness

Comfort is another major factor for yogis, and a mat’s thickness determines that. “Your travel mats can be as thin as 1mm to the mid­-plush thickness of 3mm,” explains Schaefer. “Your usual home mat is going to be around 3­–6mm in thickness. And if you want some extra comfort, you can go 7mm-plus.” Some people need more padding than others, so it’s crucial to figure out what feels good to you (and your joints).

How to Clean a Yoga Mat

A good mat can be an investment, but it’s worth it. “If you take care of them, yoga mats can last for quite a long time — at least five years!” says McGee. That means wiping it down after you practice (every time would be great, but at least once a week) and giving it a deeper scrub and letting it hang dry once a month, she adds. McGee recommends the Jo-Sha Yoga Cleansing Wipes, but you can also use warm water and a few drops of dish soap.

To clean a yoga mat, the process is very simple.

  • Lay your mat out on a flat surface
  • Mix warm water and a few drops of dish soap in a spray bottle or bowl
  • Wet your cleaning rag and clean the mat from top to bottom in a circular motion
  • Wipe the mat clean with a dry towel
  • Air dry your yoga mat for at least 30 minutes, ensuring it’s completely dry before putting it away
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    There are also deodorants, like Swiff Spray, that you can use to treat your yoga mats so they maintain a stink-free condition in-between deep cleans.