Some yogis claim that replacing your yoga mat every six to 12 months is as essential to a successful practice as yogic breathing, but how often you need to change your mat will depend on several factors, including how often you practice. Regularly cleaning your mat can lengthen its life, but eventually the day will come when you need to retire and replace your old mat with something new.
The best way to tell if it’s time to retire and replace your yoga mat is to look for holes or sections that have worn down over time. The thinner your mat, the more difficult you may find accessing and holding standing balance poses. If your mat smells like old sweat, it also may be time to start looking for a replacement. You may also want to replace an older mat that won’t fully unroll, even after you’ve spread it out, since those curled-up edges may interfere with your practice.
When replacing your yoga mat, choose one that will help support your practice. Factors to consider include how thick a mat you want, what it is made of, if it is or isn’t textured, if it does or doesn’t have a sticky side and its cost. If you’re worried about your carbon footprint, you can find eco-friendly mats that don’t use PVC the way most standard yoga mats do. You can also order customized yoga mats through several online and brick-and-mortar vendors. Most custom mat orders will take time to arrive, so don’t throw out your old mat until your new one has arrived and you’re ready to begin using it.
Prepping Your Mat for Use
Very few mats are practice-ready from the get-go -- even so-called nonslip mats. Walking on a mat for several days will help prep your mat for use, as will washing it in a washing machine with a small amount of detergent and then hanging it to air dry. Of course, the best way to break in a new mat is to practice on it. The more often you practice, the more quickly your mat will feel like home. Over time, you’ll find your mat’s sweet spot, those places where your hands and feet naturally go when accessing specific poses.
Cleaning Your Mat
Regularly cleaning your yoga mat will extend its life and decrease your risk for developing bacterial infections such as athlete’s foot. After each use, apply a solution of two cups water and four drops of dish soap with a spray bottle, says Donna Raskin of “Yoga Journal,” dry with a towel and hang to air dry. For very dirty mats, or every few months, wash your mat with warm water and a mild detergent. Rinse your mat in clean water, squeeze out excess water, dry with a towel and then hang to air dry. The more residue on your mat, says “Yoga Journal,” the more likely you’ll slip on it during its next use.
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.