Yoga Mat. But which one?
Originally published March 2010, Ashtanga Yoga Brooklyn Blog.
New, improved, updated.
New, improved, updated.
One thing that I really love about Ashtanga yoga is that you really only need yourself in order to practice. While there are certain advantages to going "en plein air", most people are going to use a yoga mat and sometimes a rug too. But which mat? And why use a rug?
Most people (myself included) started with an inexpensive PVC yoga mat. Usually around $20, one can find these mats just about everywhere from Barnes and Noble to the local pharmacy. Slippery and stinky at first, this will dissipate over time. Usually the go-to mat for yoga studio mat rentals because of the very low price, these mats shred over time. They are often thick, but not firm (a quality that beginners often mistake for a good thing). I do not recommend purchasing a PVC yoga mat. There are many health concerns regarding PVC and it is usually not recycled. These days, with a little effort, you'll definitely be able to get your hands on an eco-friendly mat at a comparable price point. Search Gaiam for mats around $20. I haven't tried any of them, let us know! We carry Barefoot Yoga Eco mats at the Shala. They have the feel of the typical mat, but they are PVC-free.
The common eco mats ($40-$70) are the Jade Harmony mat and the EcoYoga Jute mat. When you first roll it out, it has a strong rubber smell, but that goes away. I found mine (Jade) to be incredibly sticky from day one. So sticky, that certain maneuvers on the mat had to be rethought on account of the non-slippage. That said, other people have told me that it was slippery for them. The Jade mat also attracts dust and hair at the beginning, so be prepared to wipe it off a lot if that kind of thing bothers you. After over two years of use, mine had yet to shred. Other people had shredding within a year. Thickness varies, medium to firm. While the non-stick and eco aspects are positive, for people learning jump throughs I definitely recommend considering a mat with a different textured surface or placing a rug on top for seated postures. Other natural mats can be found through Hugger Mugger, and Manduka. I've tried the Manduka eKO Lite. It is super light (great for travel). It has two sides: slick and sticky. Extra padding is in order for certain second series postures. We carry the Manduka eKO SuperLite Travel Mat at the Shala. It has a similar feel to the eKO Lite, but is thinner making it great for travel. A very thin mat or thick and very firm mat are what I recommend as the best practice surfaces.
The Manduka Pro ($90) mat is an Ashtanga classic. Slippery, thick, and firm. Ideal for Ashtanga practice, but not necessary for beginners. Does not shred. These things last forever (sustainable), but to my knowledge are not eco-friendly. They are heavy and travel with them is not fun at all. David Swenson and Kino MacGregor have both come out with yoga mats that appear to attempt to out-do the Manduka. I haven't tried them... We carry Manduka Pro mats at the Shala, this has been my daily practice mat for years.
I don't really know why other people use rugs, but here's why I like them.
1. Practice seems less daunting when I'm staring at a rug instead of The Mat.
2. Rugs come in many fun colors and patterns and can liven up any mat.
3. Instead of worrying about cleaning my mat all the time, I just have to wash my rug.
4. Soaks up moisture.
5. Doubles as a resting blanket.
6. Good surface for learning jump throughs.
7. Extra padding for certain postures.
8. Some say they help with slipping.
If you aren't going to India tomorrow, you can find a Mysore rug at many Ashtanga shalas, studios, and online. Many people also use "mat towels". I prefer rugs.
How/where to get a mat
- Online (new-stores, new/used-craigslist)
- At a yoga studio (new/used)
- Health food stores (new)
What to do with an old mat
Tips from Gaiam