Jun 26, 2012

Yoga Mat: Clean or Replace? by Elise Espat

Making the decision to replace an old mat and figuring out how to pick a new one can be a little overwhelming. Here is a simple guide to help you navigate your mat matters.

Clean or Replace?
Is your mat breaking up or shredding in little pieces?
Does your mat smell?
Does your mat have black spots where your hands and feet rest?
Do your wrists and hands ache during practice?
Has your mat lost the traction you prefer?
Is your mat made of PVC?

It is time to replace a mat if it is shredding at a disruptive rate, if the stink and dirty have become a permanent fixture that withstands even heavy duty washing (see below). Also, if you are having wrist/hand pain it may be a sign that you are not using an appropriate mat.

Jessica Stickler:
"The only one I've ever had to "replace" was because it was getting holes in it. I clean my mats depending on how much I've been using them, if they smell or if they lose their stickiness, its time to clean!"

Cleaning Tips & Keeping it Clean
Using a yoga towel or cotton mysore rug helps keep your mat clean since you aren't practicing directly on your mat. Clean your feet before you walk in the classroom for practice, especially during summer months with flip flops. Allow your mat to dry completely after each use and cleaning to prevent bacteria growth and icky smells.

Bryan Johnson:
"I wipe my mat down after each class and wash it if it gets stinky with a gentle soap in the bathtub and let drip dry."

Ralph de la Rosa:
"I take mine in the shower with me! Scrub it down with my loofah and everything. Then it can just hang dry inside the shower. So easy."

"Some mats are tough enough to go into the actual wash! I used to literally put my Jade mat in the washing machine on an extra small load with a drop of soap, and then run it through the dryer for 20 minutes."

What to do with the old one
If it is time to replace rather than clean, that old mat may still be of use...

"Please donate your used mats!! There are tons of yoga programs at schools, programs for at-risk youth, etc. that are constantly looking for any mats to use for their classes. We donate to YogaActivist.org. If anyone has old mats they'd like Go Yoga to donate for them, I'd be more than happy to take them!"

"I cut my old mat up and used it for furniture pads (under the corners of my bed, to keep it from slipping on the floor). Also, there are MANY school programs that can use the spare mats. lineageproject.org is one of them.

What to look for in a new mat:
  • Eco-friendly / sustainability
    The most important consideration is whether or not a mat is eco-friendly and/or sustainable. It is true, you can find a yoga mat at a local variety store for $20. It may be easy on your pocket, but that is where the fun stops.

    "Be super cautious about buying one at a Sporting Goods Store. Their mats tend to be of lower quality and made out of weird plastics."

    "It has to be eco-friendly."
  • Traction
    They call it a "sticky mat" for a reason. While a slightly slick surface can be a great teacher in pulling in and up, a super slick surface can be counter-productive.

    "I look for mats that my hands and feet stick to. I have three mats and the main feature that they all share is traction, my hands have to stick to the mat in Downward Dog!"

    "I tend to get pretty sweaty. My Jade Yoga mat has extra cushion without compromising its no-slip ability."

    "I have a Vinyasa practice and I use a Jade Harmony. The traction is great, but I think it is time to switch to the Manduka Eko when my current mat starts to fade. I want firmer contact with the earth."
  • Thickness
    There are super thin and light travel mats and the thick and firm Manduka Pros. How you choose your thickness depends on your practice and lifestyle. A thin mat will be lighter and easier to carry back and forth from yoga. Having very close contact with the ground has its benefits, but also can be uncomfortable in postures like dhanurasana. A thicker mat is going to be heavier and harder to travel with, but you can always sign up for mat storage. For me, I look for thick and firm (stable surface that also cushions my bones) or very thin with a cotton rug handy.

    I have mats that are thicker, and I have a mat that's so thin it feels like I'm directly on the floor. You might want a thicker mat if your knees are sensitive, you might prefer a thin mat if balancing postures are challenging for you. (Because you can feel the floor better with your toes!)
Staff picks: Our Favorite Yoga Mats
Some of these are affiliate links. While opinions are always my own, deciding to purchase through an affiliate link helps support this blog.  Thanks!
  • Manduka Pro Black Mat:
    Thick and firm with a lifetime guarantee. Can be slippery for some people. Add a cotton Mysore rug or Yoga towel.
  • Jade Yoga Harmony Mat:
    Thin and firm or thick and firm. Great traction. They plant a tree with each purchase! Can be too sticky for some people. Add a cotton Mysore rug or Yoga towel.
  • Manduka Eko:
    All firm with a variety of thickness. One side slick and one side comparable to the Jade yoga. Great colors.

-Elise Espat


Bryan Johnson is a yoga newbie and co-manager of Go Yoga.

Elise Espat is dedicated to the ongoing practice and study of the traditional Ashtanga yoga method. She is one of the few teachers worldwide to have received Level 2 Authorization enabling her to teach both the primary and intermediate series of Ashtanga yoga. She is honored to have practiced with the late Shri K. Pattabhi Jois and maintains an ongoing practice with R. Sharath Jois and R. Saraswathi Jois at the KPJ Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India. Elise leads the Ashtanga Yoga Brooklyn Mysore program hosted by Go Yoga and teaches Led Ashtanga classes on the ongoing Go Yoga class schedule.

Jessica Stickler teaches musically infused and philosophically amused classes at Go Yoga that aim to inspire, uplift, incite, and ignite! After experiencing physical and metaphysical transformation in her own life through these practices, she decided to teach! Jessica graduated Jivamukti Teacher Training in 2008, and has since completed 800+ hours advanced certification. She would like to thank all of her holy teachers, especially Sharon Gannon, David Life, Matthew, and Nicole for inspiring, teaching, and seeing more in her than she sometimes saw in herself! Classes integrate anatomical and intellectual precision with choreographic sequencing and playful music.

Ralph De La Rosa is a lifelong spiritual seeker and, more recently, a spiritual finder. Yoga and meditation have offered him the hands-down, best solutions to the depression, addiction, anxiety and trauma that weighed him down for a very, very long time. Ralph is the manager of Go Yoga, teaches meditation with The Interdependence Project (www.theidproject.org), and is studying to become a psychotherapist at Fordham University.

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