Updated: Mar 21
A Little History
The modern-day yoga mat is a Western invention by a yoga teacher named Angela Farmer.
Before Angela came up with the idea of the sticky mat, yoga practitioners practiced on rugs, the earth, and on wooden floors.
Back in 1967, when British-born Angela was teaching yoga in Munich, Germany, she happened upon a piece of material – an "underlay" that was placed beneath carpets to keep them from slipping. She started doing her yoga on this underlay and eventually all her students wanted to do the same. The ease of not slipping and sliding during practice was a dream come true for Angela and with time, her own father, who lived in the English countryside, decided to start the very first yoga mat business. The materials came from the company in Germany who invented that carpet underlay Angela had stumbled upon and, as they say, the rest is history.
Some Things to Consider
A standard yoga mat is about 1/8 inch thick, while the thickest are about 1/4 inch. There are also wafer-thin yoga mats, or travel mats, that are a mere 1/16 inch thick. They fold easily and don’t weigh much, and can fold into a suitcase.
The material your yoga mat is made of dictates its texture, stickiness, eco-friendliness, and sponginess (how much it yields to pressure), and how it wears over time.
Most standard yoga mats are made of PVC, otherwise known as vinyl. Newer, more earth-friendly options include natural and recycled rubber, jute, and organic cotton or natural cotton (which means the fabric is not treated with synthetic finishes during manufacturing).
The texture of your yoga mat dictates how much traction it provides. Like stickiness, texture affects how much slipping and sliding you do. It provides physical barriers to sliding (whereas stickiness relies on suction). And because texture affects the way a yoga mat feels, it’s also a component of overall comfort.
Texture can be either man-made (a pattern of raised bumps, for example) or dictated by the materials — jute yoga mats have an organic roughness to them, while PVC yoga mats, though slightly textured, have a softer feel.
Options: There’s a yoga mat texture to suit every whim — from completely smooth to downright rough.
Basic buying guidelines: If you’re looking for a yoga mat that prevents slipping and you’d like to avoid PVC mats (the traditional sticky yoga mats), consider a natural rubber, jute, or cotton yoga mat that has a raised, tactile pattern. The added grip the raised texture provides can help you stay put no matter how sweaty or vigorous your practice gets.
A sticky yoga mat keeps you from sliding all over the place and helps you maintain your alignment as you move from one pose to another, as well as when you hold poses for several seconds.
Options: PVC yoga mats have the highest sticky factor.
Basic buying guide: If you need help staying put in your poses but you bristle at the thought of practicing on a yoga mat with a raised texture, a PVC yoga mat is probably your best bet. Just remember that these yoga mats are only sticky when they are clean, so make sure you care for your yoga mat properly. If you buy a PVC yoga mat, wash it before you use it and use a handy yoga wash cleaner whenever you notice your hands sliding forward in downward dog.
Why it’s important: As yogis, we hold dear the tenet of ahimsa, or non-violence. That makes practicing on a yoga mat that will ultimately end up clogging a landfill for decades to come troublesome.
Options: Earth-friendly yoga mats are typically made from natural or recycled rubber. These yoga mats may also include natural materials, such as jute or organic cotton.
Basic buying guide: If eco-friendliness is important to you, avoid yoga mats made of PVC (the traditional sticky mat), which does not break down in landfills and is difficult and costly to recycle. Rubber, jute and, cotton yoga mats, while available in a range of thicknesses, tend to be thicker and slicker than PVC mats. You can get a yoga mat that's eco-friendly, has a thickness that meets your needs for comfort and portability, and has a texture (such as a raised geometric pattern) that prevents slippage.
6. PRICE RANGE
Typically, a basic 1/8 inch thick, plain solid-color PVC sticky yoga mat will be toward the low end of the price range. From there you may pay more for patterns, designs or logos; premium thickness; antimicrobial treatments; and cool textures, especially raised tactile patterns. Eco-friendly yoga mats tend to be toward the high end of the price range.
Once you've narrowed your choices down by thickness, material, texture, stickiness, eco-friendliness, and price, there's only one factor left: style! So go ahead and pick your favorite color, pattern, or print. After all, you'll be seeing a lot of it in downward dog. Happy shopping!
For a mid-priced range mat, Gaiam is a great choice, and they offer 20% off your first order
For a great mat, though higher priced mat, Manduka is a great choice and offers a lifetime guarantee, emissions-free manufacturing, and is 100% latex free.