Just like lacing up in sneakers that suit your workout can help improve your performance, switching up your yoga mat based on the style of asanas you intend to practice can, too. The non-slip model you need to survive hot yoga, for example, won’t necessarily lend support to your joints during a restorative yoga practice. And who wants to worry about a case of bruised knees as well as yoga butt?
So, to find out which mats are best suited for which disciplines, I spoke with the designers behind top brands Manduka, Jade Yoga, and Yoloha Yoga, used by major studios, such Sky Ting and Y7 in New York City and Los Angeles.
Below is their insider intel on how to pick your ideal mat for Bikram, Hatha, vinyasa, Ashtanga, prenatal, and more super-popular styles of yoga.
For your steamier asana endeavors, the pros suggest keeping two major factors in mind when selecting a mat—grip and cleanliness. According to Chris Willey, founder of Yoloha Yoga, cork is superior to other materials in the hot room thanks to its antimicrobial and insulating properties. “Cork doesn’t actually absorb water,” he says. Instead, when the material gets wet, it releases a waxy substance called suberin that gives the material its non-slip quality.
Alternatively, a rubber mat is still a good option depending on what it’s made of, according to Dean Jerrehian, president of Jade Yoga. “We have found that natural rubber is ideal for hot yoga because of the grip provided when wet with perspiration.” He also notes that for particularly sweaty classes, it’s not a bad idea to keep a towel on hand.
Since both yin and restorative-style classes require holding poses for extended periods of time, the experts say that your mat should be thick and comfortable to the touch and as plush as possible. Holding pigeon pose should feel *extra* luxurious.
In terms of padding, you should be looking for mats that are at least 5 mm or 5/16 inch thick.
Just like in hot yoga, choosing a stable mat with good grip is key for Hatha class, since it’s such a fast-paced, physical practice. You likely won’t sweat as much as you would in 90-degree temps, but you still need to choose a material that won’t let sweaty palms dull your asanas.
For “one breath, one movement” flow classes, Joanne Sessler, vice president of product at Manduka, says you should look for a thicker, denser mat option that will safeguard your joints through quick transitions. Both Willey and Jerrehian add that you should also add “non-slip grip” to your wish list for when sweat starts to pool, well, everywhere.
Committing to an Ashtanga practice will necessitate an seriously durable mat—a point both Sessler and Jerrehian note. Even the most-sturdy mats on the market will likely need to be replaced more often if you intend to practice this type of yoga regularly. “Ashtanga practitioners should still expect to wear through their mats more quickly than most other practices,” says Jerrehian.
You can extend the life of yours, though, by investing in one that’s got a compact composition. “For more durability in a mat, you would want to look for density, which can sometimes be indicated by weight—but if the weight is created by filler, it won’t necessarily be more durable,” explains Jerrehian. “So, the best bet is to look for smaller cells or air holes from the side of the mat.”
Partnering up for your yoga practice means doubling down on support and cushioning, according to these mat pros. Not only should you look for one that could moonlight as a daybed in terms of comfiness, you should also choose one that’s a little wider than your usual pick for optimal space to play around in (and yes, probably fall down on a few times).
Expecting yogis should choose their mat depending on whether or not their prenatal asanas will be on the more restorative or rigorous side, according to Jerrehian. If you plan on Warrior 2-ing your way to labor, make sure you choose a grippier option. But either way, go for a mat that offers both stability and support.
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