Yoga is all about enjoyment and relaxation, but when you sit on a mat so thin that you can feel your ankles digging into the floor below, it's hard to focus on your breath, much less relax. Selecting the right yoga mat depends on a few factors, and once you have the ideal thickness of mat, you'll be able to more easily focus on the teacher's instructions.
Indoor Yoga Classes
If you plan to attend a typical yoga class in a studio or practice at home, a standard yoga mat is suitable. Although yoga mats come in a variety of sizes and thicknesses, the most common thickness you'll encounter is one-eighth of an inch thick. This standard thickness of mat provides a moderate degree of padding without being too thick and is suitable for most people.
Outdoor Yoga Classes
Many yoga studios hold outdoor classes in parks during the summer months. While your standard-thickness yoga mat is acceptable to use outdoors, a thicker mat provides a little more comfort, especially when it's on a rocky or uneven surface. Thicker yoga mats typically measure one-fourth of an inch thick, which provides more padding beneath your body. Although thick mats are ideal outdoors, they can be unsuitable on an indoor surface; they can feel so thick that you'll struggle with your balance, especially during one-legged poses.
Practitioners Who Travel
Whether you're on a backpacking trip and want to visit a number of yoga studios, or just enjoy taking in the odd class after work, consider carrying a yoga mat that is slightly thinner than a standard mat. Thin mats typically measure one-sixteenth of an inch thick, which makes them less bulky when you roll them up. Before investing in a thin yoga mat, try one at a yoga studio; if it's too thin to support your body comfortably, opt for a standard mat.
Yoga mats are available in several materials, and once you've tried different types, you'll likely find that you prefer one over another. For a sticky grip, choose a PVC yoga mat. Although PVC mats lose their stickiness over time, giving the mat a quick wipe helps restore the stick. PVC mats are most common, but other mats are available in natural rubber or even recycled materials.
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.