So you have started your yoga practice, and now you need a trusted and reliable yoga mat for your yoga journey! Choosing and buying a yoga mat is the fun part. Like yoga practice, there are many different yoga mat brands out there and different types of yoga mats. What you chose will need to reflect the style of yoga you are practicing alongside the needs of your body. It needs to support the kind of asanas you practice. Buying a yoga mat also depends on the budget you have to spend on the yoga mat. You can easily find a yoga mat in the typical sports stores, or TK MAXX - but if you are looking for a yoga mat which is going to really support your practice - you might want to look towards the more specialist brands.
So you are probably thinking, how long should a yoga mat be? How thick? Most yoga mats you will find will be 185cm long x 68cm wide - this is the size of a standard yoga mat and should be sufficient for the majority of different practices. The thickness of a yoga mat varies depending on whether you are buying a travel mat or an ordinary mat, but usually a standard sized ordinary mat will be between 4 - 5mm in thickness.
For some, the mat thickness is an important factor. A thick mat will usually have a little more cushioning than the standard mat to give the body extra support. A thicker mat will help you find more comfort when in poses which require lying on the floor (like deep relaxation) and help support your spine during class. If you are looking for a thick mat you should be looking for a mat which is more than 4mm in thickness. This is the standard yoga mat size.
If you are planning to be travelling a lot with your yoga practice, it might be worth investing in a specific mat designed for travel. These are designed to be thinner and lighter so they can be transported easily. Most yoga mat brands now have a specific range of travel mats. It means you can always practice on your mat - when you go on holiday, to yoga class in the studio, to a friend's or even the park. For those who prefer a thinner yoga mat, a travel mat might even be more ideal than a regular yoga mat. However, if you practice yoga regularly, a travel mat probably won't survive general wear and tear in the same way as a thicker mat. Most common yoga mat brands such as LIFORME, Yogi Bare, Manduka and Lululemon offer a travel version of their standard mats.
Personally, I think the most important thing about a yoga mat is the grip. There is nothing worse than the hands and feet slipping around in downward dog when you are trying to breathe and relax! A mat with grip will help support balancing poses and help you feel grounded and connected to the floor. For practices like Ashtanga and Vinyasa, a mat with grip will be useful also to deal with the sweat produced during the practice. It is good to look into the kinds of materials that the yoga mat is made from. For a grippy mat the yoga mat brands I would recommend are LIFORME, Yogi Bare and Lululemon.
For the stylish yogis! You only have to get on Google and look up patterned yoga mats to see the vast range of lovely yoga mats available. Yogi Bare have a range of beautifully patterned mats in many designs and colours. LIFORME are also known for their range of stylishly coloured mats, often releasing new special edition yoga mats (check out their latest white magic yoga mat or the rainbow hope yoga mat). Shout out to LIFORME also, as their yoga mats also offer alignment indications - this can help you know exactly where you need to be in the yoga poses, where you need to place your hands and feet, etc.
An additional thing to think through when purchasing a yoga mat is regarding the conscious choices and whether it is environmentally-friendly. For some of you, the cheapest option is the only option - and I understand this. After all, we do not all have the financial privilege to spend £100 on a yoga mat. What I urge you to think about is the investment you place in your yoga mat. If you really intend to make yoga a regular practice, buying cheap yoga mats made of poor materials mean that they may not be made to last especially not with a daily yoga practice. Sometimes paying a larger amount up front and investing in a yoga mat that will last you for years is not only a good idea for you, but it helps the environment. LIFORME are known for their eco-friendly yoga mats. They state that they are "Truly Planet Friendly - biodegradable, non-toxic and PVC-free." Yogi Bare also state that they are "committed to innovation and continuously striving to evolve to being more environmentally friendly – from product to packaging to freight". It is worth taking a look at exactly what type of yoga mat you are buying, what materials it is made from as well as how the mat will be delivered to you and the packaging.
How long a yoga mat will last will, of course, depend on how often it is used. A good mat will usually last minimum of 2 years, possibly even longer. It is important to take care of your mat. Some yoga mats come with instructions on how to clean them so make sure you follow these to make the material last longer.