James Dickinson - June 07 2021
Choosing The Yoga Mat Material That Suits You
The technology behind the manufacture of Yoga Mats has changed substantially over the years allowing their design to better suit their purpose and the style of the Yogi. However, the most important aspect of the mat is that it is practical and aids performance.
There are a number of different styles of mat that vary in both material and thickness and your choice may be dependent on whether Yoga is practiced at home or away. Using a thick mat with greater cushioning will lead to a more comfortable Yoga experience at the expense of stability and portability.
Likewise being 'eco-friendly' will also impact your decision as the materials used are likely to lead to a certain style of mat. The 'eco-mats' largely fall into 2 categories and the manufacturers do not give lifetime guarantees:
Rubber - when made from natural rubber from sustainable rubber trees they are the most eco-friendly mats out there. These mats are usually thin and provide a good firm grounding for a Yogi. However, they can be vulnerable to damage through heat and light but at the same time they are biodegradable.
Cork - usually made with a compound cork upper layer and synthetic rubber base. These mats are sometimes thicker than the rubber mats and provide excellent grip, especially when wet. Cork contains anti-bacterial properties which makes them a good choice for the hygiene weary. However, over prolonged usage, they are prone to cracking due to the durability of the material.
The traditional modern manufacturing material for Yoga Mats has always been PVC which profiles excellent durability, firmness, and a number of thickness levels. They can be found in the lower price bracket, though some high-end manufacturers occasionally provide a lifetime guarantee. There is growing concern regarding the hazards that this material causes to the environment creating contamination during manufacturing and use, or its difficulty to recycle.
A PVC Twist
TPE or thermoplastic elastomers are sometimes labelled as eco-conscious mats but many examined contain derivatives of PVC and the ingredients of the manufacturing processes are not listed. They are usually available in a wide variety of colours and are more pliable than their PVC counter parts.
The New Contender
Polyurethane is a more modern material that much of the time is marketed as 'eco-friendly.' It is a petroleum-based product, although there are many additives utilized during the production process, the polymer is biodegradable in around 5 years under normal landfill conditions.
A material for a specific use case
Microfibre mats provide excellent grip while wet and so are best used during hot or Bikram Yoga. These mats do not offer particularly good grip in normal usage conditions and are therefore better suited to specialised Yoga sessions.
There are now a vast array of mats to suit all walks of the Yogi's life and desires. There are many aspects that will influence your decision including age, proficiency, or life outlook. Ultimately a mat should be something that you are comfortable and happy using.