Yoga Mat for Beginners
Factors To Consider When Buying A Yoga Mat
When just starting out doing yoga at home, there are a lot of options when it comes to buying a yoga mat. There are lots of different ones to choose from, but they all mainly do the same thing, although the cost can vary quite a bit.
These are the things that I thought about when deciding on a yoga mat:
Price: What price are you willing to pay for your yoga mat? If you are going to be using it daily, perhaps investing in a high quality (and higher priced) mat will be worth while for you. If you are unsure if this will be a daily or frequent occurrence, then perhaps a cheaper mat will be better for you in case you only end up using it once every few weeks.
Mat thickness: Some people prefer to use a thicker mat that has more cushioning. It can be more comfortable if you are on the floor for a long period of time or even just to have more cushioning under your knee in poses like a crescent lunge. The standard yoga mat thickness is 1/8 inch thick. Mats can also be as thick as 1/4/ inch and some yoga mats labeled as travel yoga mats will be as thin as 1/16 inch. But you may want to look in a store that sells mats and give the mat a squeeze even if you can't try it out before purchasing it. You may be wondering, why does thickness matter? If the mat is more thin, you will not have as much knee support or cushioning if you are sitting meditating, but at the same time with thinner mat you will be able to be more grounded to the floor and more stable when doing tree pose or other balancing poses.
Ingredients: What a yoga mat is made out of is important for how sticky it is, how squishy it is when you stand on it and of course how eco-friendly it is. A lot of yoga mats are made out of vinyl, but some even go the distance and are ethically made of natural rubber, cotton and jute. The different materials may affect how "sticky" the mat is so take that into consideration when buying your mat. A mat that is "sticky" is a good thing so your hands/feet aren't sliding around as you move through different poses.
Gaiam Yoga Mat Review
The mat pictured above is one that I purchased in April of 2017. I have used it 3-4 times a week since I bought it and it has been a great purchase for me. I was first drawn to the cute design on the mat and that it was a nice color. I purchased the Sundial Layers pattern, but there are a handful of other colors and prints to choose from.
Durable: With being used 3-4 times per week for over a year, this mat still looks pretty new. The material is not falling apart and the design has not been worn away by use. There are a few little spots in the mat, but I think they are more from my kids playing on the mat, than from my actual yoga practice use.
Cleans Easily: For this mat, using it both at home and in a studio, I felt like I needed to clean the mat often but I found cleaning it once a week with a mat spray was sufficient. Dirt and debris didn't really stick to it so aside from wiping it down with a damp towel after use and cleaning it every week, it has been pretty simple to keep it clean and looking like new.
Travels well: This mat feels pretty sturdy when you're using it, but it's not super heavy so I felt good about taking it to the gym for class and carrying it around. I bought a mat bag that I'll list below because that was a great investment as well!
Reasonable Price: At $23 this mat was not one of the cheapest I found, but it was also not the most expensive by far. It seemed a fairly reasonable mat for frequent use and I'm happy that it has held up as long as it has. I would recommend this mat for a beginner or someone who is new to yoga because the price is reasonable that if you end up changing your mind or that yoga isn't really your thing, it's not too much money to have spent on a new hobby.
How to Clean A Yoga Mat
If you buy the above pictured spray, cleaning your mat will be super easy and your mat will smell awesome afterwards. I bought this spray when I bought my yoga mat and to be honest, I didn't use it for the first month or so of using my yoga mat. I only did yoga a few times on the mat at home and didn't feel like it was all that dirty. However, my opinion changed when I started taking my mat to classes at the gym and really getting sweaty in more strenuous classes. Then it seemed like a really good idea to wipe down my mat more frequently.
This spray can be used as a light mist or spraying it more heavily for a deeper clean. The order comes with a handy cleaning cloth so you can wipe down the mat after spraying it. That's pretty much it for cleaning the mat - spray, wipe and allow to dry fully before rolling it up to store your mat. I like to do those three steps and then flip the mat to clean the bottom side as well. The lavender scent is really nice. It isn't overpowering so you don't have a heavy residual smell afterwards, just a light scent of lavender. It's a very clean and fresh smell and won't harm your mat or you.
Have You Done Yoga Before?
Is a Yoga Mat Carrier Really Necessary?
I purchased the above yoga mat carrier as an impulse purchase, but one that has proven to be worth the investment. I use it to carry my mat back and forth to yoga class, and it has plenty of room to hold a towel and strap and usually a bottle of water. You could totally put more in the bag if you wanted it to replace your purse if need be, although the shape is a bit long to carry it around more than back and forth to a yoga class...
Other Ways to Carry Your Yoga Mat
I've seen a variety of ways to transport your yoga mat but none that I liked as much as this bag. Often people will have a workout bags that has an extra spot for you to slide your mat into in the bottom, but while this seems practical for a gym bag, I don't think I would get use out of the bag at any other time. It seems like if you're using the workout bag and not going to yoga, that part of your bag will look weird if it doesn't have a mat in it, and I can't imagine carrying around my mat if I wasn't going to class. I'm all about maximizing my use of things so my purse is going to be multipurpose and take me from the gym to running errands and picking kids up from school. I don't want to carry around a bag all day that has a spot for a yoga mat hanging out of the bottom with or without a mat in it.
The second way I've seen a yoga mat being carried to and from class is by simply using a strap that is made for the purpose of holding the mat together so it doesn't unroll while also providing a loop to go over your shoulder the way a purse would. This idea of this seems pretty economical and minimalist which I like, but I prefer to have a bag where I can keep other yoga related accessories like a block, a strap and usually a towel to wipe my face or cover my eyes during savasana.
Why This Bag is Cool
This brings me back to my review of the above pictured yoga carrying bag. The design is cute and the bag is pretty durable which are important factors when buying anything really. The fabric is fairly thick which I like and the straps are sturdy so they won't break after prolonged use. (You know you've had a bag too long or it's really poorly made if the strap breaks!) I've received quite a few compliments on the bag while at the gym, which has been an unexpected but pleasant experience. So, to answer the question of whether a yoga mat carrier is really necessary, my answer is a resounding YES, I think it's totally necessary to have a bag to carry your yoga mat.
© 2018 Lisa Bean