The Travelling Yogi Part IV - How to Choose a Yoga Mat

A yoga mat is a very personal thing and as someone who uses one quite regularly in varying different locations (on the sand, grass, shingle, concrete, wood, carpet etc.) I’ve come to learn very quickly the value of a great yoga mat vs. a good one.

The great thing is that given the popularity of yoga all over the world there is a myriad of suppliers of ‘yoga’ goods and in particular yoga mats that suit all terrains, types of yoga, needs and personalities and these are my tips on finding the right one for you!

1.  What type of yoga do you want to practice?

For certain types of yoga this becomes particularly important, do you want something super sticky so that you can keep your grip during a fun and flowing power or Vinyasa class or perhaps something that can soak up moisture during a hot yoga class. Choosing the right type of yoga mat by way of thickness and material is really important to being able to feeling comfortable during your practice.

Hot Yoga – go for a yoga mat that is light in colour (as dark colours heat up a lot) and preferably with a material top, or buy a yoga towel to put over the top of your mat. Make sure to check the care instructions as some types of yoga mats specifically say ‘colours may run when wet / during hot yoga classes’.

Vinyasa/ Power/ Hatha Yoga – this is where you want a sticky mat or one with extra grit. You can work up quite a bit of heat during these classes and often the movements require you to be able to hold them for longer periods of time. A mat with a material top will be ok but will take longer to wear in to get the grip you need, otherwise try a mat that is made from more organic type materials and usually something that’s a bit heavier. I like my Jade yoga mat for these types of classes but would recommend making sure the thickness is 5mm if you’re practicing on hard flooring.

Yin/ Restorative/ Yoga Nidra – the thicker the better for these classes as you may spend a bit of time on your knees or back and don’t want your bones to be digging into the hard flooring. 5mm upwards is what I would recommend, plus a towel /blanket and a few other props to support too!

Beach Yoga – for beach yoga (or yoga on grass) you don’t necessarily need a thick yoga mat but something that is sticky and easy to clean is recommended. I sometimes put a yoga towel on top of my yoga mat when I am practicing on the sand so that the sand doesn’t make my mat slippery underneath me, but a mat that has material

2.  Where are you most likely to practice?

Depending on where you choose to practice yoga you should definitely consider what mat to use. For example, something super thick which a grip or rubber underside is always recommended when practicing on tiles or wooden floors but for somewhere like the beach you ideally want a mat that is easy to clean so that you can wipe the sand off it quickly.

The other thing I tend to do is have a thicker mat that I can take to studio classes with me and a thinner one for my outdoor practice or even just a towel as the softer surfaces are definitely more forgiving.

The other thing to consider is making sure that mats with dyes in them are ‘waterproof’ so to speak, some mats will clearly state that they should not get wet or should not be used in hot yoga classes as the colours on them will run – I have definitely made that mistake before and it’s not fun coming back from class with a blue forehead, hands and feet!

3.  What’s your budget?

You can get yoga mats that range in price from $20-$200 and my recommendation is that somewhere in between those two is where you’ll get the most value for your money and a good quality mat.

In general, companies that specialise in yoga wear / equipment / or simply yoga mats know their stuff and design yoga mats for the yogi in mind. I tend to find that exercise mats which are typically cheaper than a yoga specific mat, are too thick for a yoga practice unless you are practicing yin/ restorative yoga (see my explanation above).

I tend to pay anywhere between $100-$150 for a yoga mat and have always found they’ve been great quality, are robust, can be taken around the world and are able to be practiced on indoors and outdoors.

4.   How frequently will you be using your yoga mat

I tend to find if you’re looking at a budget of around $100 for your yoga mat then you will definitely get a good amount of wear and tear. Most of the yoga mats I’ve ever bought have been around this budget and they always last me at least 1-2 years of regular use (and for me that is a lot of travelling, yoga on grass/ dirt/ sand etc.).

The more you’re using your mat the better quality you will want your mat to be to help avoid injury particularly in your wrists or even when doing inversions / balance postures. For example foam mats (that are quite thick, anything over 3mm) are quite spongy and hard to get your grip or balance on, they’re not usually durable as the material breaks apart and are more aimed at fitness exercises rather than yoga asanas.

5.  Do you plan to travel with your yoga mat?

If you plan to travel with your yoga mat I definitely recommend a 3mm thickness option or less this is a decent thickness for most terrains or studios and still relatively light to pack in your suitcase or strap onto your backpack.

If you really don’t have room and are mostly looking to practice outdoors on the beach or the grass on your holidays I recommend a yoga towel, as they’re the perfect size, easy to pack away and can also act as a sweat towel if you’re in a hot climate or take a swim after your practice.

The three mats I recommend below are the ones that I most recently travelled with for 3 months, they were the perfect combination for all of the different locations that I was practicing and teaching yoga.

Cleaning your yoga mat wherever you are is also easy – I use a few drops of tea tree oil in some water in a spray bottle and use a cloth to wipe mats clean. The tea tree oil has natural sanitising abilities and adding the water means that your mat won’t smell too strong and you won’t need to use as much oil.

My final tip for you is to remember that yoga mats often need wearing in, whilst they may seem sticky at first the more you use them the more you will increase the grip on them.

6.  The mats I travel with:

1.     Yellow Willow Yoga (@yellow.willow.yoga) – these mats can be put in the wash and come in really cool patterns and styles. Made originally for hot yoga the top of the mat is made from material that becomes stickier/grippier with use, they weight approximately 2kg (I have the yellow clover design).

Prices range from $87-$109

2.     Jade Yoga Mats – are made in different thicknesses so that you can choose a travel version vs. studio version (3mm or 5mm), they are easy to dust off when used outdoors but I recommend the thicker version if you’re choosing to practice predominantly on hard floors.

Prices range from: $64.95-$124.95 (USD)

lululemon yoga towel.jpg

3.     Lululemon Yoga Towel – this yoga towel comes in handy when I don’t have enough room to take a yoga mat with me, I also sometimes put the towel over the top of my mat when practicing on the beach so that I have something to wipe my sandy feet on (making it less slippy during beach yoga)

Prices range from: $25-55