This month we are getting to the heart of the matter! We are talking about how to select your accessories for your yoga practice!
My point of view on the matter has changed over the years and I wanted to share my thoughts with you. It is quite a vast topic so I have decided to address it with two separate articles: we will be focusing on choosing the mat today and will tackle the accessories in another article.
So here is my humble opinion after a few years of experimentation. It is my point of view as a teacher also, but mostly as a practicing yogini!
The choice of your mat will depend on many things like the kind of yoga you are practicing, how ofter you practice, how often you have to carry it with you… And it can sometimes get confusing with everything that’s on the market today. So together we will dissect it all so that the selection of your first (or next) yoga mat is made with serenity and simplicity!
That being said, it is important to choose a mat that is not too thin, nor too thick. I can already hear you say “you’re not really helping me with that”! Let me explain myself: a mat that is too thin will be uncomfortable for your joints, but a mat that is too thick will impact your stability (because it will be too soft). Therefore, it is generally advised to choose in between 3mm and 10mm for a good yoga mat.
Try to choose the thickness of the mat according to your joints’ sensitivity: if you tend to be uncomfortable in some articulations, you should go for a mat that will be thick enough to support being on your knees, ankles, or your head.
Keep in mind that the more often you will practice, the quicker your mat will wear out and get thiner. It is important to favour a product that is durable.
I personally like to practice on mats that are not too thick (between 3 and 5mm) and that would also be my advice for students. I find that way the mat becomes a learning tool: when you start feeling the weight on the mat in certain postures, it is often a sign that you are not balancing your weight properly or not engaging another part enough!
When you choose to practice yoga for your own good, you might as well practice on a mat that is good for the planet too! Right ? If that is the case for you, you will want to check in the description of the product if the materials are natural, non-toxic, ecological, and in line with your values. It is important that this object becomes a real part of your practice. Don’t forget to make sure you are not allergic to the composition of the mat as well (latex for example).
To choose the material of your mat, you will also have to think about the grip. Yes, not all materials offer the same grip, and some can even have a different grip whether the mat is humid or not! You are going to want to ask yourself a few questions before you know what you need: do you practice a yoga that makes you sweat? Do you practice a lot of balance postures where your stability is engaged? Do you tend to get sweaty in you palms or feet during practice? If you practice Vinyasa or another form of dynamic yoga, you will spend a lot of time with your hands or feet supporting you entire body or your stability relying on them. You will need to choose good grip to avoid slipping. Some materials become more slippery with humidity while others are designed to absorb sweat and keep good grip even if you are sweating. Remember to check all this, it should be indicated into the description of the product.
If you already have a mat and are not willing to change or you might occasionally need a little more grip, you can opt for the anti-slip yoga towel that comes in small (to be used under your hands) or large (to cover the whole mat) and that you will use over your mat for more absorption if you get a little sweatier that usual!
Another important thing to consider are the dimensions of your mat. Nothing is more annoying than constantly having your hands or feet outside the mat, which often makes us slip, loose alignment or sometimes give up!
Most specialised brands offer various lengths to fit your size, and some event offer different widths. This can be interesting if you have a wider stature and do not want to feel restricted on your mat, or if you have a practice where you often get off the “line” of your mat!
Las thing to keep in mind regarding the dimensions: it is important to know if you will have to carry your mat often. Of course, if that is the case, it would be advised to choose one that is not too heavy therefore not too wide or too long, so that it is easy to carry in your bag or suitcase, on your bike or anywhere else!
Some of us could be attracted to the originality of some designs (colourful or printed mats) and that’s very nice but try to avoid choosing one that you will grow tired of!
Depending on how often you will be practicing, you will not want to spend the same amount on your yoga mat: if you are starting with an occasional practice, you might not want to spend a lot but if you are planning to make it a daily practice, you might want to go for another range.
Take time to read some reviews about the models you are thinking of going for on the internet, or ask about them to people around you. It is a good way of learning about the mat’s performance in real conditions.
My favorite mats
The most economical: Chin Mudra
This brand offers affordable and non-toxic mats. They have different lengths, widths and colours so that everyone finds what suits them best! It is a good option for a good quality first mat, without spending too much.
I have the Large-Mat 180cmx80cmx4.5mm. Is is very comfortable to practice on because it is very wide and quite thick. I use it for restorative practices when I want to maintain some postures for a while and move slowly.
The best grip : Jade
Natural rubber mats generally offer good grip. I would definitely advise Jade mats, because they have a particularly good grip, and only work with natural and ecological materials. Be careful in case you are allergic to latex though!
I have a Jade Travel (3mm x 61cm x 188cm) at home, that I use for more dynamic practices, to work on inversions and balance postures, or new transitions between postures. It has an extremely good grip even with sweat and I really love it for that.
The most original: Sankalpa
Sankalpa is an American brand that sells mats printed with artists’ designs. The mats are made of natural rubber with a micro-fiber layer on to (so no contact with the rubber during practice). They are really nice and have quite a good grip. I am not entirely convinced about them keeping the grip when it gets sweaty, on that point I believe it does not match Jade. Because it is shipped from the US and are made with artists designs, they are a little expensive.
The most responsible : Yogamatata
A french brand that produces mats with natural, ecological, ethical and durable materials. The dream come true, right? It is a brand new project, launched by Ondine, who discovered yoga 3 years ago and kept dreaming about the perfect yoga mat. So she created it ! Go have a look right there !
That’s it for today my friends! All about the accessories in the next episode!
Until then, good practice!