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To practise yoga, you really do not need anything else but the willingness to be present in the now and the yoga mat as we know it is a rather new Western invention. However it can bring a new aspect to the practise by creating a space for your meditation and adding cushioning and stability for the asana.
These days there is a wide range of mats available, and the price range can be big. Therefore I decided to write about the mats I have used in my practise so far. The things I took into consideration are their grip (or slippiness), general durability, weight (important to those who travel or carry the mats with them a lot), cushioning and eco-friendliness. All my mats have measured more or less 185 x 61 centimetres although there are longer and wider mats available too.
The Basic Mat
What I call the Basic Mat is the mat that is the usually the cheapest one you can find. They all have more or less the same specs: Made of PVC (sometimes EVA, which is a lighter material), 2-5 millimetres thick and usually having a foamy ”grid” type of surface. You might want to buy the basic mat if you are new to yoga and not sure yet how much you can to commit to it. On the plus side these type of mats usually offer reasonable cushioning (if you have sore knees for example, go for a thicker mat) and they are easy to clean as both PVC and EVA are waterproof materials. At the same time they not the most durable ones, and tend to start shedding small pieces of plastic with the friction/elements the more you use them. They can also get slippy quite easily, especially if go to sweaty classes.
The price of the basic mat ranges usually from 10 to 30 euros, depending where you buy it and if it has some kind of brand label attached to it. I do not diss the basic mat as it will get you started just fine. If and when you have decided to commit to yoga more, here are some other mats I have used:
Drop of Mindfulness
DoM is a Swedish brand that making active wear suitable for yoga and also yoga mats. Unfortunately at the time of writing this text their website is under construction for Winter 2016 so I cannot tell if they still stock the mat I bought 4-5 years ago. This mat has however served me very well; it felt very grippy and sticky straight from the start and has kept these qualities to this day. The mat is on the thinner side (I’d guess 2-3 millimetres) so extra cushioning is sometimes needed for knees. The weight is reasonable at around 2 kilos. I recall reading that the mat is made of natural rubber but this needs to be confirmed once the website is out again, together with the retail price.
Manduka has a great reputation among yogis and they have several types of mats to choose from. I have the MandukaEKO (5 mm thick) which is extremely sturdy. When I stepped onto this mat after having used the DoP for years the difference was big: I need no extra cushioning needed for this mat and it does not fly away in the wind either (yes this can be an issue when teaching outside, hehe.) I have two cons for this mat though: It is heavy (over 3kg) so even if you travel with a proper suitcase, it does take a lot from the luggage allowance and it is definitely not a hand luggage item. The other thing is that it can get a little slippery, especially in sweaty conditions. The Manduka website says that this means the mat is not ”broken into” properly but I did not notice this in the beginning so not sure where the reason for this is. Nevertheless, this is a good mat and ecological choice as it is made of natural rubber with a zero waste manufacturing process. It is also 99% latex free.
Jade Yoga Mats
JadeVoyager is my latest mat. I bought it from the MindBodySpirit festival in Nicosia last weekend. I’d been looking for a travel mat for myself for ages (airline luggage restrictions again!) Also my mum had sent me a photo of an ecomat she had seen in a magazine with the comment ”they don’t tell where I can buy one!” When I bumped into the lovely ladies from the Simply Green shop in Athens and saw the JadeYoga mats it they had it was a no brainer. I got the JadeVoyager for myself: you can fold it (rather than roll, although this is preferable for maintenance) and it weights just over half a kilo. With this weight it obviously has got no cushioning but it can definitely keep your practise going on when traveling. Orm you can use it over another, less grippy mat. For my Mum I got the JadeHarmony (Merry Christmas Mum, thanks for the gift tip!) which is about the same thickness than the MandukaEko. From the first touch it feels a bit softer and a lot more stickier. This can also be due to the open cell natural rubber JadeMats use (Manduka uses closed cell natural rubber) which translates as more grip, these ones will be put to test to find out more! The JadeYoga company also has a very ec0-concious production cycle and they plant a tree (over one million so far!) for every mat sold.
When talking to fellow yogis and reading reviews the JadeMats are always rated on the top with Manduka ones. They both have very similar retail prices ranging from 40 (the travel mat) to 92 (the pro and extra long mats) euros so ultimately it is up to personal preference between these two.
The Ladies behind Simply Green sell both Manduka and JadeMats and offer free shipping for their online shop to Cyprus during the month of November (2016 to be precise…) Just use the code “mbscyprus16” at checkout!
Now, over to you: What is your favourite yoga mat?
PS: If you want to read more about the history of the yoga mat check out this Yoga Journal article.