An avid guitarist tends to owns multiple guitars. Similarly, it is not uncommon for daily yoga practitioners to have multiple yoga mats. But if you are looking to purchase your first mat you may be wondering “what criteria should I be considering?” or “What should I expect out of each mat?” I currently own 4 mats each with their own unique characteristics. I use and keep my Manduka Pro at my local yoga studio, while practicing at home on my Lululemon ‘The Mat.’ I mostly use my classic blue nylon mesh ‘lightsaber’ mat for travel purposes including yoga workshops, and I rarely if ever practice on the foam bargain store mat bestowed onto me from my brother Ian. I’d like to take the opportunity to explain the benefits of each mat in terms of practitioner oriented attributes to help advise you as you seek to become a more informed shopper.
- Flexibility: The grip which a mat has may be the difference between wiggling into a flexi posture like kapotasana safely or simply getting stuck. To this effect, I’ve discovered that the Lululemon is a tackiest mat I’ve come across. It also uniquely performs just as well when it is covered with sweat. I find the grip which my blue travel has to be satisfactory. It neither gives me an extra edge nor limits me in any considerable way. I used to be honestly frustrated with the grip of the Manduka. When my sweat started to pour, I would always place a cloth yoga rug on top of it because would become too slippery for safe backbending and forearm standing. After 2-3 years of regular practice and ‘natural’ mat conditioning, I’ve found that its grip has greatly improved to the point where I no longer need to roll out the rug (hence the progressive rating adjustment). The bargain store foam mat simply lacks tack. It may be safe made for certain postures, but practitioners must understands its inherent limitations before attempting bendy poses.
**** Lululemon, *** blue nylon mesh, **/*** Manduka, ** bargain store foam
- Strength: If you’ve got a serious yang practice like me then the Manduka Pro is simply the gold standard. The Manduka’s combination of sturdiness and comfort brings out the best of both worlds. Hands down – feet up in the air! I thought that Lululemon was moderately good, but it makes a ridiculous squeaking noise under pressure, owing to its supreme grip. I prefer not to hold back when swept up in the of a vinyasa sequence. And this mousy little problem is one of the reasons why I prefer to use ‘The Mat’ at home while taking my other mats out to the studio. My thin blue mat simply lacks the springy response I desire in a floaty practice. However if a stiffer suspension response is what you are looking really for, you probably won’t be disappointed. If you plan on practicing sirsasana (head standing), I certainly recommend folding it in thirds. I have to give the bargain foam mat my starkest assessment because it actually sinks like a mattress when you apply weight on it, something no yoga mat should ever do.
**** Manduka, ** Lululemon ** blue nylon mesh, * bargain store foam
- Endurance: After all these years my blue travel mat still wins the day. Weighing in at 1-2 pounds, you can carry it to the park, practice on it from sun up to sun down, fold it in half, then machine wash at night. And surprisingly it still comes out looking like new! After 10+ years of consistent use it only has minor wear and tear markings. Although the retail cost of a Manduka Pro is listed for $108, the most expensive by far, it is the only one backed by a lifetime guarantee. It is easy to see why. If used respectively, I’m convinced that my Manduka will last upwards of 30 years! However, it weighs a hefty 7 pounds and cannot be machine washed. For the past 1.5 years ‘The Mat’ has been a reliable practice surface. And its medium level weight of 3-4 pounds makes it light enough for easy carrying, yet heavy enough for serious use. Be forewarned, cosmetic wear marks will develop on its smooth surface after one month of consistent use. Based on its high quality materials and rugged construction I expect to get another 10 years of life out of it. Lastly, the 1/2-1 pound bargain foam mat practically disintegrates upon contact. I doubt it would last more than 1 year if truly put to the test.
*** blue nylon mesh, *** Manduka, *** Lululemon, * bargain store foam
From Left to Right: The Manduka Pro, blue nylon mesh, bargain foam mat, and Lululemon’s “The Mat”
Unlike a guitar, I doubt you will be able to try out a mat before you buy it. Therefore, it is in my view a good practice to keep a running list of criteria, similar to those which I presented above, in order to give yourself a framework for fair comparison. For instance, price may be one of your big three. I did not include price as a major criterion for my review, largely because I tend to feel that you get what you pay for, be it a $10 checkout line bargain or substantial wellness investment. What happens on top of the mat is worth so much more anything below your feet. That said, I hope you find a satisfactory mat which fits your practice, be it your first, fourth, or 108th.