The first thing buyers of cheap yoga mats complain about is sore joints. Thick and dense mats will prevent the joints to ever touch the hard floor. They will always have a layer of protection no matter how compressed they are. Comfort and long-term protection is the key to satisfaction and a fulfilling yoga experience.
Protecting Your Joints. Thickness and Density
When you are young or beginning yoga, your joints and back may be able to withstand the exercises but eventually, if your mat is of a cheap yoga mats material, you will definitively feel pain and damage done to your joints. An injury is the last thing you want to have when start to practice yoga. A poorly made choice can make anyone to feel disenchanted with yoga and stop before experiencing the amazing changes it can make to your life. As the saying goes: first impressions are the most lasting.
Thin or spongy yoga mats don’t give the firm padding needed to protect your joints safely for both short and long-term use. You only have one set of joints and it is better to prevent than fix any damage done to them because of a poorly chosen mat.
Thickness is important but density is more since you want resistance to your weight.
Resistance to compression is what you want, you don’t want to feel the floor when you press in your knees.
Think of it like an investment in your future joint health and longevity. An insurance in comfort and accessibility to help you keep doing your yoga practice.
Cheap Yoga Mats Aren’t Good. What Is Considered Thin And Thick Then?
A bare minimum yoga mat is about 0,25 inches thick (about 6mm), while a thick yoga mat would start about 0,4 inches (10mm). You can find paper-thin yoga mats, which are less than 0,25 inches and marketed as travel or portable yoga mats but these won’t help your health and you could easily save the money and carry a towel with you instead, they both provide the same level of protection, none.
Always take into consideration your budget versus how resilient you are to hard surfaces. Thinner mats cost less and lets you feel more in touch with the ground but the downside is that it can be painful and harmful. A thick mat will weight more and take more space but this isn’t really a concern when most of them come with a carry strap or backpack included in the purchase and most importantly when it will protect your health and practice for the long term.
Choosing The Best Yoga Mat That Last a Lifetime. Quality and Performance
A common error is choosing a mat that has poor quality and ends up getting bumps, permanently deformed or stained or eventually degrading its surface becoming slippery.
This is hard to spot when buying on line. The mat looks good but after some time with your new mat it ends up sliding during your practice or worse, during your jumps potentially making it unsafe. It is also common in cheap yoga mats to start smelling after some sessions or get hard to clean stains after you rest your head on them or get sweaty.
If your mat bunches or flops under you it can be uncomfortable and painful. If you have to fold or double-up your mat to do your poses or set down your joints that will be a worrying sign.
A quality material will let you focus exclusively on what you must, your practice and body. On your breathing and your movements without distractions and worries during your practice. Secondly it will be easy and quick to clean, keeping a fresh smell if you do it regularly and spray your yoga mat with some essential oil.
The safest way to ensure a mat is quality made is to look at its materials, search for its properties in Wikipedia and most importantly, search for some kind of product certification by a recognized company. Google is your friend in this case.
A heavier mat will stay more firmly on the ground and avoid slippage. Thick mats will tend to be heavier but is more important the density and quality of the material.
Protecting your skin and your health. Non-Toxic Yoga Mat Certifications
Cheap yoga mats may be alluring, but they won’t provide a healthy, quality practice. The most common toxins are bisphenol A, a hormonal disruptor organic synthetic compound, phatalates, which are endocrine disruptor antibiotics, and PVC, which has a long list of toxic effects and they are in the majority of yoga mats available!
The practice with yoga mats is an intimate one. Skin mat contact, often sweating, and breathing deeply is how we spend time on our mats. Sweats acts like a soft acid promoting the passing of mat components through our skin and this same sweat and body warm can make cheap yoga mats release toxic fumes. All in small quantities but with a cumulative effect that is noticed years later in your practice.
Checking if the seller has a legitimate non toxic certification prior to making your purchase is key to prevent any possible intoxication with your mat. If you’re going to invest in your mat make sure it specifies its composition and materials on its description. That it was manufactured without PVC, also called vinyl, TPE, often referred as thermoplastic rubbers or elastomer, or has toxic tints in its composition. I’ve seen unscrupulous sellers marketing TPE in mats as a new material, less toxic than others and more expensive. Never trust what sellers claim, do your own research.
For non-toxic certification search for a recognized certification badge, for example the SGS ISO 9001 and 2000 certification. To be granted with this badge the manufacturer has to perform an expensive and rigorous process. It often requires extensive modifications to existing production processes and equipment.
The composition of most standard yoga mats is PVC, although toxic it will endure more than a decade of continuous use. Newer environment-friendly options have natural, synthetic (like NBR) and recycled rubber, jute, organic or natural cotton this prevents the mat to be treated with synthetic finishes during the manufacture process.
If you’re allergic to latex, avoid yoga mats made of natural rubber. Choose synthetic rubber also called NBR or any of the non-toxic materials mentioned. Density and firmness can vary widely with different blends of materials, but in general, PVC has the most sponginess while jute and cotton have the least.
Stability And Balance. Even, Flat Surface
If you are a beginner or someone who just want extra comfort and goes for extra thickness make sure the mat material is extra dense as well. Often the comfort of an extra thick surface makes very difficult to achieve good balance when doing some poses. You want a firm, even and flat mat surface and only a dense material can give you that while maintaining a good thickness protecting your joints.
When you use your mat and have enough practice to have good balance if you notice a firm, dense, stable surface it will be a good sign. But if you still struggle to achieve basic poses or asanas, even after months of practice, it will be a sign that you’ve bought a squishy, mattress-like mat.
If you need a thick yoga mat that prevents slipping and do not want PVC mats (traditionally considered the stickiest), look for a natural or synthetic (NBR) rubber, jute, or cotton yoga mat that has a ribbed, tactile pattern. The extra grip its texture gives can help you stay put no matter how sweaty or intense your practice gets.
Some natural yoga mats may surprise you with how much traction they provide even though they don’t have the traditional “sticky” feel but better to test them out before committing to one material. Synthetic materials like NBR or TPE are the closest to PVC in that sticky feel. EVA will be too thin to properly protect your joints.
Ethical Concerns are Compatible with Saving Money. Durable, Ethical & Sustainable
Among yogis there’s the tenet of ahimsa, or non-violence. This should encourage us to choose only ethically made mats that last for long. Modern society promotes consumerism, obsolescence and waste and it’s concerning to think our mat will last less than a year and end up in a landfill or polluting even more a sea dump.
The purpose of yoga is to train our awareness and consciousness. That’s why we need to support our environment and view ourselves an active part of it. With this awareness we should choose only products ethically made, caring for all living beings.
I know that cheap yoga mats are a temptation because there are priorities in our lives, like food and shelter. Jobs aren’t getting any better in terms of salaries. That’s why is so important to keep in mind that cheap yoga mats never last. Cheap yoga mats and even some expensive ones will only last 2 or 3 years before they end up in the trash. Do your own math; sum the cost of 3 to 5 cheap yoga mats during 10 years and then compare it with the cost of a quality yoga mat that can last for at least those years and more.
For this reason take your time to choose a mat that is of excellent quality and is ethically made in an emission free factory, with care for it’s workers. A quality yoga mat that will last a lifetime has the smallest impact to the environment. Invest in quality and excellence to guarantee the best yoga practice and conscience.
Eco yoga mats are often manufactured from natural, synthetic or recycled rubber. They can include natural materials, such as jute or organic cotton.
If you want a clear conscience then PVC is a no no (the traditional sticky mat). PVC is NOT biodegradable and is hard and expensive to recycle. Rubber, jute and cotton yoga mats are available in a variety of thicknesses and are thicker and slicker than PVC mats. I’ve searched hard for a yoga mat to offer in my shop that’s eco-friendly, has a thickness that meets your needs for comfort and portability and has a ribbed pattern texture that increases yogis’ grip even during the most intensive sessions. It’s called the Gajendra Yoga Mat, please check it and consider if it meets all your requirements.