The Matter of Your Yoga Mat

When a student walks into my studio without a mat, the first thing I think is: newbie.

Not that there is anything wrong with being a newbie. We all started as newbies.

But the thing about walking into a yoga studio without a mat is, unless you are traveling, it means that you really haven’t thought about what you are about to do.

Maybe you are doing it on a whim. Just to see. And while that is okay, what I, personally, like to see from a Newbie is a bit of a commitment, a little bit of forethought.

Walking into a yoga studio without a mat says, “I don’t know what I’m doing or why I’m here.”

So, even if it is your first class, and you strongly suspect that it will be your last, buy a cheap mat. You can get one at any chain discount store for under $20.

Even if you never do yoga again, it’s not a waste of money. Believe me. Cheap yoga mats are good for lots of things. I always keep an old one in my car.     

Here are a few ways they’ve come in handy for me:

They make a perfect impromptu picnic blanket.

They give you a soft place to kneel when you look under your car to see what’s making that sickening, horrible noise.

You can lie on them to find your jack points, and they make the perfect place to insure those lug nuts don’t disappear when you change your tire.

They can double as a water-proof car mat for a muddy dog.

In other words, it won’t go to waste, so get one.

Whatever you do, don’t buy an expensive yoga mat until you are sure yoga is something you are going to be doing for the rest of your life.

When I first started practicing I wanted a Manduka Pro mat, but at close to $100 I couldn’t justify the expense. So I told myself that I would put $1 in a jar every time I practiced, until I had enough money to buy the expensive mat. That way I felt I earned it. If you do it that way you will know how serious you really are. If at the end of a year there is only $12 in your “Mat Fund” stick with your cheap mat.

My first mat was a purple Gaiam. Before that, I practiced on a beach towel on my living room rug.

Mats designed specifically for yoga are much better than beach towels or any other kind of “all-purpose”exercise mats.

Those “all purpose” exercise mats are usually too thick for yoga. They are great for padding your knees when you are doing push-ups, but they are a safety hazard during particular styles of yoga, especially “flow” styles. So get a mat that is expressly for YOGA. If it says it’s good for Pilates too, it’s probably too thick for yoga.

The other reason it is good to have your own mat, is for hygiene purposes. Even it it’s not the best quality, you know that it is YOURS. It has your foot odor on it, your sweat. You will find as you continue to practice, that you will think of it as “sacred space.”

Sometimes people have epiphanies on their mat. Sometimes they break down and cry. You don’t want to have this big moment on a studio rental mat, do you?

A lot of people have personal space issues around their mat, too, so be sure to avoid stepping on anyone’s mat if you can help it. If you do have to walk on another person’s mat, be sure to apologize.

If you continue to practice at a studio, you will hear a lot of talk about mats—their virtues and their vices. Everybody has their favorites. A yoga mat is a very personal item.

Every mat has a different foot-feel. Some mats are lighter than others. Some give better traction. Others are easier to clean. As you talk to your fellow yogis, you will find out a lot of information.

Sometimes if you ask someone about their mat they will let you stand on it, and even bust out a Down Dog or two. Thank them and take advantage of the opportunity for a little road test.

I own a lot of different mats so my students can try different ones out before they commit. That’s the ideal way to go.

The reason I have accumulated so many mats over the years is that I tend to practice “serial monogamy” with mats. I fall in love with a particular brand and style and pledge my undying devotion to it, until I go to a training and see some other mat, try it out, and fall in love with it, and then claim that, no, I was wrong about that other one, and THIS one is REALLY the one I love.

I am like the Zsa Zsa Gabor of yoga mats. Someone once called me a “mat slut” and they were right.

But I’ve been practicing on a Manduka Pro in the studio for over 11 years now. It’s a great mat.

My home practice mat is a Kharma Khare, though. I love it more than the Manduka in a lot of ways, but it is black and it gets really dirty so my lavendar Manduka Pro looks better in the studio.

I’m probably done with sleeping around with a lot of different mats. It’s about time I settled down, I think.

What mat do you practice on? What do you like about it? Let me know in the comments. Can’t hurt to look, right? *wink*

One thought on “The Matter of Your Yoga Mat

  1. I’ll be honest. I bought the manduka pro (long) simply for longevity. it isn’t love yet. It’s been a slippery month of constant practice and I DREAD prasarita podattonasana (spelling?) which is one of my favorites because I slip slowly into a straddle split every time. I am kind of regretting not trying the Eko, since I loved my Eko lite. I may even sneak the Eko onto my registry and see if someone buys me it. haha I started on a gaiam too. Then a hugger mugger (because it was pretty and I’m shallow like that sometimes). Guess I’m a mat slut too. 4 mats in 4 years. ha 😛


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