It seems obvious: Over time, yoga mats wear out. It's impossible to predict when yours will expire. That depends on lots of factors: Your weight plays a role. So do the intensity and frequency of your yoga workouts. Plus, the quality of your yoga mat matters. A thin mat will wear out more quickly than a thicker one with more cushioning. But even though you can't figure out when you'll need a new mat, you can definitely figure out whether or not it's time to replace your mat now.
Think about whether your mat has become slippery during yoga practice recently. If so, wash out the dirt in soapy water in your bathtub, and then spray the mat with disinfectant to kill bacteria. Allow the mat to air dry.
Roll your mat onto a hard, flat floor surface. Practice yoga at your usual intensity level, and observe whether or not slipping has stopped. If there are any slippery spots left, go ahead and replace it.
Kneel down, and sniff your mat in multiple locations. If disinfecting did not remove any lingering smells, like body odor or dirt, the yoga mat needs to go. It has growing mold or bacteria that could make you sick.
Inspect your mat all over. Go slowly so as not to miss anything. Look for holes and tears. If you see any, replace your mat.
Look at the thickness of your mat. If you like, measure it. It should be at least 1/4 inch thick. If it isn't, discard your mat and get a new one.
- Fitness Magazine: When to Replace Your Exercise Essentials - Yoga Mat
- Time Magazine: No Stress - Pricey Yoga Mats Sell Briskly in Recession
- The Yoga Stand: Frequently Asked Questions
- CBS News: Keeping Fitness Gear Fit
- Treehugger.com: Posing Against PVC on Your Yoga Mat
- Yogava.com: How to Clean a Yoga Mat
- Fit Sugar: 6 Things I Wish I Knew Before Buying My First Yoga Mat
- Pennlive.com: What Kind of Yoga Mat Should You Choose?
- Care2.com: Avoiding the Dangers of Yoga
- The New York Times: Communal Yoga Mats - Beware of Germs
- The New York Times: How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body
- National Public Radio: The Risks and Rewards of Practicing Yoga
- Fit Sugar: How to Fix a Slippery Yoga Mat
- A well-cushioned yoga mat supports your joints, and that can protect against pain if you're working at the right level for your body.
- More expensive mats have fewer toxic chemicals, like PVC -- that's better for your health and for the environment.
- Spending a little extra now will save money later. An upscale yoga mat that costs around $100 will last longer than a cheaper one.
- A slippery mat can cause you to lose your balance in the middle of a difficult pose. Falling from such a pose onto a hard surface can cause serious injury. Try to replace your mat before it starts causing falls.
- Yoga mats do not completely prevent injury from muscle and joint strain. Know your limits, and don't do more than you can handle. Your body will thank you later.
Christina Lee began writing in 2004. Her co-authored essay is included in the edited volume, "Discipline and Punishment in Global Affairs." Lee holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and politics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a Master of Arts in global affairs from American University and a Master of Arts in philosophy from Penn State University.