Dripping sweat from a hot yoga studio set to 105 degrees Fahrenheit and 40 percent humidity doesn't exactly bode well for your stability. A slippery, unsupportive hot yoga mat could leave you sliding all over the place, which detracts from your practice. By outfitting yourself with the right type of mat, sweat won't derail your performance so you can get your "om" on in your next Bikram yoga class.
Most yogis are diehard when it comes to the type of material their mats are made of, but in hot yoga, only two types will really suffice. The traditional mat is made from PVC, which offers good traction against the floor. However, when that material becomes wet with sweat, it can become slippery, so keep that in mind -- you may want to invest in a yoga towel to mop it up during class. Other yogis go for a bamboo mat for Bikram. It absorbs some of the sweat and the natural fibers don't become slippery. However, you might not get the superior traction that you do from PVC.
You'll definitely want a mat that has a sufficiently bumpy texture to give you the best grip, especially if the mat will be wet during class. A bumpy or lined mat is best, but you can also go with a sticky mat for Bikram. A sticky mat has a thin adhesive coating, which allows you to stabilize yourself even in the hottest conditions.
A traditional yoga mat is fairly thin, but you might need something a little thicker when practicing hot yoga. Some of the poses -- Awkward pose and Toe Stand pose, to name a few -- are fairly intense on the joints. While the heat in the studio can help loosen your muscles for a deeper stretch, you might need more padding to help protect your joints during class. In some cases, it's best to purchase two mats -- one thin and one thick -- and alternate between the two depending on the pose or the class you're attending.
When you're heading to Bikram yoga, definitely grab a reversible mat. A reversible mat has texture on both sides. That way, you can flip your mat over if it starts to become too wet with sweat. The ability to roll up the upper edge of the mat and create extra padding for your wrists during Triangle pose is also helpful. Above all, look for a mat that is fully washable; you'll want to spray it down or toss it in the wash as soon as class is done.
Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.