All yoga mats are not created equal. Weighing in on the most popular mats being used in hot yoga studios around Ottawa, I will discuss what makes five types of yoga mats unique and why one may (or may not) be your perfect match!
I was inspired to write this post because I am frequently asked about yoga mats by clients and students who are looking to invest, but have no idea where to start. There are so many mat options out there it can seem a little overwhelming. I decided to do the research for you! I asked the experts (teachers & dedicated yogis) and took a survey on Monday and Wednesday evenings at three different hot yoga locations around the city and here's what I found...
Which Yoga Mat Do You Practice On?
lululemon "The Mat"
This mat is clearly the front runner here and for more than one reason. "The Mat" is not only a hot yoga specific mat, meaning that it absorbs sweat so the practitioner doesn't need a towel on top, but it is also reversible so it can be used for regular yoga as well. One side of the mat is "sticky" so it is grippy even when wet, while the other side is ideal for use in your home or in a non-hot setting. The price point for these mats also contribute to them being a top choice, ranging anywhere between $58 - $78, these mats are quality for a decent price. They are also available in a range of thicknesses, lengths and fun colours which makes them relatively customizable. This also happens to be my personal mat of choice!
A couple of the noted downsides to this mat include the fact that they can be heavy to transport especially if you are walking or biking to yoga. It has also been said that these mats have a distinct, almost rubbery, "smell" to them, but after several uses and cleanings this scent usually dissipates. While many yogis enjoy the sticky mat, if you are someone who enjoys using a towel over your mat you are better off going with the next choice.
This mat has quality written all over it! Manduka mats come with a lifetime warranty so even after years of use they hold up amazingly well. Also a top pick for those who like the support of a thicker, denser mat. The surface of this mat is a "closed cell surface", meaning that moisture and sweat will not absorb making cleaning a breeze! Manduka mats are the most expensive mats on this list, but for a lifetime of use, $110 - $130 doesn't seem that bad.
While a thicker and denser mat means support under your body it also means a heavier mat. This mat is heavier than lululemon's "The Mat", and therefore makes it even less convenient to travel with. If you are a travelling yogi, this is probably not the best option for you. Also Manduka mats do not absorb sweat therefore requiring a mat towel on top to prevent slipping. The use of a towel also means extra laundry and if you are practicing daily you will need to invest in several towels which can add up in cost as well.
Jade Harmony Mat
This Canadian company specializes in eco-friendly products. These mats are constructed using all natural tree rubber and use "open cell" technology to absorb your sweat, so no need for a towel! Another huge selling point is that Jade plants a tree for every mat sold, with over a million trees planted so far! They are a company who is all about giving back, supporting the environment and a variety of charities with their "Colour Cause" program. For each mat of a specific colour sold, Jade will donate $5 to the corresponding charity, for example for every pink mat sold $5 is donated to the Canadian Breast Cancer foundation. They do sit on the higher end of the spectrum in terms of cost, ranging between $90 - $120, however this is a yoga mat you can feel good about buying!
Some yogis have described this mat as "very sticky" meaning that it can be more difficult to flow on this surface if you need to drag your feet from an up-dog back to your downward dog. The stick factor also tends to attract lint and pet hair more than the other mats, so if you are an at home practicing yogi with a shedding dog, definitely not ideal! This mat also does have stretch, maybe a bit too much especially in the warm temperatures of a hot room.
Depending on the studio very high quality mats may be offered. This is a great way to not only test out a mat before you buy one but it also gives you the chance to use a Manduka or a lululemon mat without necessarily having to invest in the full cost in one payment. Most studios offer mat rental fees for approx $2 per class, or if you are practicing more regularly a monthly fee of about $30 is charged. This is great if you don't want to worry about carrying your mat around, and mat cleaning is also often taken care of by the studio staff as well!
Some hot yoga studios, particularly ones that are located in more of a gym atmosphere, offer lower quality mats that are not necessarily hot yoga specific mats. These lower quality mats once soaked in sweat can be thought of as a bacterial breeding ground since there are usually no regulations or supervision pertaining to the cleaning or disinfection of these mats, even though sanitizing wipes are offered. The number of people also using a rental mat has a certain "yuck" factor to it, but on the other hand if you are just beginning with yoga and don't have a mat of your own this is still a good place to start.
The most popular "other" mat was the B MAT by B YOGA, followed closely by the generic yoga mat. I will discuss briefly each of these.
B MAT PROS:
The B MAT is actually comparable to Jade in popularity. This Canadian made mat is a super convenient choice for travelling because of it's lightweight nature. This mat offers superior grip and a no-slide surface even in the heat! Costing between $56 - $88 this is a quality mat for a little price!
b mat cons:
This mat, similar to Jade, is a very rubbery and very sticky mat, also making it a magnet for dust and hair.
Generic Mat pros:
Most yogis in the beginning phases of their practice begin with a basic, generic mat (myself included). These mats can be purchased somewhere like Wal-Mart or Winners. Generic mats are attractive to beginners because of their low commitment price, about $15 - $30. They often come in fun colours and patterns too!
Generic Mat cons:
While the generic mat is often the starting place for many yogis these mats are often flimsy and quite supportive. If you have any knee or back sensitivities the generic mat is going to do nothing for you in terms of cushioning. They also offer little to no grip in a hot yoga setting. If you are practicing even somewhat regularly you are better off to invest a bit of money and go with one of the other mats listed above!
Not all yoga mats are the same, but then again neither are the people who use them! It really boils down to each individual's priorities, practice style, lifestyle and budget. Hopefully the research and the information I have shared helps you to make an informed choice the next time you are shopping for a yoga mat.
I want to know what you think! Did your mat make the cut? Did I miss an important feature of one of the brands above? Let me know in the comments!
Thanks for reading and sharing! Happy practicing yogis!