Guide to Buying a Yoga Mat

Yoga mats aren't necessary for practising yoga.  For centuries yogis have practised in nature, on a level surface or on a bit of cloth.

I recommend using a yoga mat for the following reasons and have included a guide to finding something comfortable and affordable too!

  1. When you are in a yoga class, a mat provides a hygienic surface for you to practice on.
  2. It provides cushioning for your knees when you are kneeling on the floor (mine are pretty knobbly and grateful for it!)
  3. It demarcates a clear space for you to practise on.
  4. You can use your position on the mat to help with alignment.
Where and what to buy?

Buying a mat can be really confusing as there are so many kinds. Standard yoga mats are made of PVC with 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). If you're allergic to latex, avoid yoga mats made of natural rubber. If you want to stick with the tried and true sticky mat, choose a yoga mat made out of PVC, which can endure your use and abuse for more than a decade. Sponginess can vary widely with different blends of materials, but in general, PVC has the most "give" of any yoga mat material; jute and cotton have the least. 

Mats typically range between 2mm and 6mm in thickness.  The thicker your mat the more cushioned and expensive it is.  I personally prefer to practice on a 6mm thick mat due to my aforementioned knobbly knees although the cushioning does make it trickier to balance in postures like the tree pose.

Mats are pretty much available everywhere.  The cheapest mats on the market can be found in shops like Sport Direct and Argos for about £3 - £5.  For about £7 - £12 you can buy a mat in TKMaxx. These tend to be made by companies like ‘Gaiam’ and 'Elle' are a bit better quality: although still lacking in much support or grip. 

Just start with something simple, figure out your needs and then invest in a mat when you've figured out what works for you.

Yoga is meant to help relax you so don't stress! :-)