Yoga was developed by the Indus-Sarasvati in India over 5,000 years ago, and it is still being practiced to this very day. The literal translation of the word is to “join together” – to join the body and mind together to achieve ultimate harmony. The practice of yoga is comprised of three main components – exercise, meditation, and breathing. Each of the three is of equal importance in achieving perfect mind and body harmony. Yoga is a mental, physical, and spiritual practice.
To perform yoga exercises effectively, the practitioner needs a comfortable base; thus, yoga mats were born. The earliest known yoga mats were made from grass, or tiger or deer skin; and much later, from towels or cotton.
The common floor mats used today were introduced during the early 1980s, which are an improvement from the rubber mats used earlier in the 20th century. Ordinary exercise mats used during the time were considered too thick and had the tendency to slip that can be dangerous when doing certain yoga positions.
Basically, a yoga mat must have two very important features: It must be cushioned just enough to protect the joints; It must be designed to prevent injury from slipping on the floor.
Best Yoga Mat Comparison Table
The lengths, widths, colors, textures, and materials that yoga mats come in are almost as extensive as the history of yoga and its practices. Below you will find all the information you need to effectively make the best decision for you.
Yoga Mat Materials
A yoga mat may be made from various types of materials. This allows users the leeway to choose which particular materials are best suited for them. Usually, yoga mats will vary in terms of eco-friendly properties, levels of absorption, and ability to prevent slippage.
Following are the more common types of materials used for yoga mats today:
- PVC – While PVC is neither considered as eco-friendly nor absorbent, it is the stickiest among all materials. It helps prevent injuries because of its ability to stick to the floor surface.
- Rubber – Some rubber mats are eco-friendly, and some allow flexibility when changing positions. It likewise has good ability to stick to the floor. However, it is not recommended if you are allergic to latex. Another disadvantage of this material is its lack of absorbency.
- Jute – An absorbent material that is also eco-friendly, jute is the material of choice for many manufacturers. It has two main disadvantages, though: its texture can be uncomfortable, and it can cause resistance when shifting yoga positions.
- Cotton – Extremely absorbent and eco-friendly, it is also easy to clean. However, it may be difficult to pivot on this material, and it does not prevent slipping as much as rubber and PVC do, so this is an important consideration if you will be doing a lot of pivots.
Various Yoga Mat Textures to Consider
Texture is another important consideration when choosing the right yoga mat. The mat should offer proper traction for poses that require standing up, but it must also be comfortable enough for lying and sitting poses. Jute feels rough because of its organic nature and the way it is woven. On the other hand, depending on the manufacturer, rubber and PVC will have varying levels of smoothness. Choose the level of smoothness that is most comfortable for you.
The Ideal Yoga Mat Thickness
A yoga mat with the right amount of thickness will allow you to be comfortable whether you are doing lying down, standing, or sitting poses. A mat that is too thin can be uncomfortable to use, and may even cause pain. A mat that is too thick, on the other hand, may be too unsteady and difficult to stand on, when the position requires.
A standard yoga mat is around 1/8” thick, which is stable and comfortable enough for the regular user. Some mats can be as thick as ¼”, and these are very comfortable to use when sitting or lying down. However, a mat this thick cannot stick to the floor surface as well as a thinner mat. The thinnest yoga mats have a thickness of as little as 1/16”. These are easy to roll and carry. It is also great to use for standing yoga poses; but, when lying or sitting down, it can be painful and uncomfortable, especially when used on hard floor surfaces.
Yoga Mat Stickiness Levels
Beginners to yoga may not be aware that a mat’s stickiness has an effect on how they can effectively perform yoga poses. Obviously, both sides of the mat must be sticky to prevent injury-causing slips. The level of stickiness on the side that touches the floor determines how well the mat will stick to the surface, and avoid sliding. A mat that has enough stickiness provides a safe and stable foundation for the user to perform difficult and complicated poses. Meanwhile, the top side must be sticky enough to avoid sweaty feet and hands from slipping. When choosing the yoga mat to use, go for one that has sufficient levels of stickiness on either side. This way, you can be sure that whatever pose you need to perform, you can do it in a stable and safe manner.
Best Yoga Mat Reviews
1. Gaiam 2gripMAT XL Review
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The 2gripMAT takes first place for the best yoga mat comparisons, as its grip is unmatched and actually improves as you begin to sweat. As you might infer from its name, this yoga mat is extra large and ensures you have just enough room to breath even in crowded classes. The polyurethane top coat may appear to be a slippery mess at first glance, but is surprisingly comfortable and supportive, and grips the sweatiest of palms and feet. Under this top layer is a squishy PVC foam that is around 5mm thick. We recommend at least a thickness of 5mm as this takes care of any discomfort when dealing with knee and hips poses on hard surfaces. For those of you yogis with latex allergies or those who are sensitive to the fumes stemming from natural rubber – you are in luck. Gaiam’s Athletic 2gripMAT is latex free and we found there was no noticeable scent to speak of directly out of the box.
The typical yoga mat is 68-70 inches by 24-inches. This yoga mat is jumbo-sized measuring in at 78 by 26-inches. In our opinion, the larger mat is better not only for the taller individuals, but for anyone who find themselves frustrated every time they have to readjust after each pose because you have run out of space. Your posture may take you in a different direction than expected and so that extra space is highly beneficial. Claustrophobia is another common concern especially in crowded classes or those extra small hot yoga rooms – the extra large yoga mat is noticeably advantageous in these situations and provides you with that extra breathing space that many of us desperately need.
Gaiam’s 2gripMAT is relatively lightweight compared to the rubber mats we have tested, despite the fact that it is actually larger than many of them. The portability is further enhanced with the fact that it happens to be quite a bit easier to roll up than other rubber-backed mats and the PVC foam tends to be less resistant to pressure and shape changes. Packed with these great characteristics is a reasonable price – all in all, the latex-free Athletic 2gripMAT yoga mat is our favorite and we feel it is the best choice for most yogis.
2. Manduka PROlite Review
For those of you who want a yoga mat that will last a lifetime – literally, it has a lifetime guarantee, the Manduka PROlite is a great choice. Durability and longevity set this mat apart from the rest. The PVC material provides just enough cushion while still remaining dense enough to support you comfortably in a variety of asanas including those hard on the knees (eg. Camel pose, low lunge), or those that require a bit more balance and stability that could be hard on the joints (eg. Handstand, tree pose, jumping back to chaturangas). Regardless of your position, or location, the Manduka PROlite will help you stay grounded. The mat comes in a variety of colors and in two sizes (71 & 79 inches) for the taller yogis out there, or those who just need some extra space in a crowded class.
Transitioning through quick vinyasas is made possible with the smooth and supportive surface of the mat. While it is not as sticky as some of the other yoga mats on this list, we did find it to provide just enough traction for balance while making smooth, seamless transitions. Holding poses for long periods of time just feels better on Manduka PROlite. While we did find this mat to get a tad bit slippery in the first few heated yoga classes, after a few sessions it seemed to break-in so to speak. Still, for those of you planning to make ultra-sweaty yoga a routine, you might want to check out the Gaiam 2gripMAT XL we reviewed above as it seems to excel in this respect.
3. Jade Harmony Professional Review
The Jade Harmony Professional yoga mat is another great choice, especially for those of you looking for a mat made of non-synthetic material (natural rubbers). The mat comes in multiple colors and is 4.76mm thick. With a length of 74-inches and a width of 24-inches, you have plenty of room to stretch during the Bhujangasana or the Matsyasana. The mat is thick enough to provide comfort even in those positions that may place stress on the joints (eg. Vrscikasana can really mess with the wrists if your mat isn’t cushioned enough). Not once during testing did we find it too squishy though – you’ll find some of the thicker mats to be detrimental to balance and this was not an issue at all with the Jade Harmony Professional.
Both sides of the mat have a bit of texture to them which helps you not only support yourself during the wildest poses but also prevents the slippage from the mat on slick floors. Dry traction on this yoga mat is one of the best. For those of you who like to dabble in hot yoga with intense sweating, the Jade Harmony Professional does better than most and still maintains its friction when needed. If you prefer to practice in the heat or are perspiration is just your thing, you may be better off without the open-cell technology and instead should check out our the Gaiam Athletic Yoga mat above, which comes at a comparable price and excels in hot yoga.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]
38 Reasons Yoga on a Good Mat is Beneficial to Your Health
1. It makes you happy. – Whenever you’re sad, try sitting in a lotus position. You can also try doing a backbend or regally soaring into a King Dancer Pose. While this may not make you happy in an instant, studies reveal that practicing yoga on a consistent basis can relieve depression, and may result to a significant increase in serotonin production while lowering your cortisol and monoamine oxidase levels. Monoamine oxidase is the enzyme that breaks neurotransmitters down. According to Richard Davidson, PhD., meditators exhibit a heightened left prefrontal cortex activity that is associated with higher happiness levels and stronger immune functions. Long-term practitioners showed an even more dramatic activation.
2. It improves your posture. – Similar to a bowling ball, your head is heavy, big, and round. If you have an erect spine, supporting your head would be easier for your back muscles and neck. However, if the spine is not properly aligned, it will take its toll on the supporting muscles. Imagine holding a forward-leaning, heavy bowling bowl for half a day. You’re not normal if you don’t get weary. Not only will you get tired, poor posture, can also lead to neck, back, joint, and muscle problems. This is because your body compensates for your slump by countering the normal inward curves of your lower back and neck. Your spine may also suffer from degenerative arthritis and pain.
3. It improves your blood flow. – In particular, the relaxation exercises in yoga promotes better blood circulation, specifically in the hands and feet. Likewise, more oxygen gets distributed to the cells that result to better functioning. Poses that require twisting facilitate wringing out of venous blood from the internal organs, and upon release of the twist, oxygenated blood is allowed to flow in. On the other hand, inverted poses like head-, hand-, and shoulder-stand prompt venous blood to flow from the pelvis and legs back to the heart. This will facilitate pumping of oxygenated blood to the lungs. People with swollen legs due to a kidney or heart problem can benefit a lot from it. Yoga likewise boosts hemoglobin and red blood cell levels. It thins blood to help reduce risk of stroke and heart attack.
4. It strengthens your muscles. – Beyond making you look good, strong muscles protect you from painful conditions like back pain and arthritis. For the elderly, muscle strength can help in preventing falls. With yoga, you gain muscle strength with flexibility. This is unlike working with weights where you can build muscle strength, but your flexibility is compromised.
5. It prevents joint and cartilage breakdown. – Whenever you perform yoga poses, your joints are made to go through the full range of their motions. This allows seldom used areas of the cartilage to be squeezed and soaked which lessens risk of injury and the onset of degenerative arthritis. The joint cartilage works like a sponge, receiving fresh nutrients when its fluid content is squeezed out, making room for new supplies to be soaked up. If not properly maintained, unused areas of the cartilage can wear out and expose the bone.
6. It lowers your blood sugar levels. – Yoga reduces your blood sugar and bad cholesterol (LDL) levels as it boosts good cholesterol (HDL) levels. For diabetics, yoga can help control and manage blood sugar in various ways: by lowering your adrenaline and cortisol levels, improving insulin sensitivity, and promoting weight loss. With lower blood sugar levels, the risk of complications from diabetes such as blindness, kidney failure, and heart attack are significantly reduced as well.
7. It helps improve your flexibility. – This is the benefit that is usually first experienced. While you may be unable to do a backbend or touch your toes during your first session, you will notice a gradual improvement in your flexibility if you continue to practice. You will eventually loosen up and be able to perform difficult poses that in the beginning seemed impossible for you to do. You will also begin to feel less pains and aches – no more strains on the knee joints because of tight hips, back pains due to a flat lumbar spine, and poor posture because of muscle and connective tissue inflexibility.
8. It protects your spine. – The spinal disks are like shock absorbers. Located in-between vertebrae, they herniate and compress the nerves. As such, they need movement because that is how they can get the nutrients they need. You can keep the spinal disks supply if you follow a well-balanced asana regimen that includes lots of forward and back bends, and twists.
9. It boosts immunity and drains your lymphs. – When you do various yoga postures, stretch and contract your muscles, and move your organs around, the drainage of lymph is increased. Lymph is a viscous fluid that is rich in immune cells, and assists the lymphatic system in warding off infections, destroying cancerous cells, and disposing of the toxic wastes resulting from cellular functions.
10. It improves your bone health. – It has been proven that exercises involving weights help strengthen bones and keep osteoporosis at bay. A lot of yoga poses require lifting one’s own weight. Upward and downward-facing dog, for example, work on strengthening arm bones that are highly prone to osteoporotic fractures. According to an unpublished study done at California State University in LA, yoga helps increase vertebrae bone density. Yoga has the ability to lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels and help keep an adequate supply of calcium in the bones.
11. It raises your heart rate. – If your heart rate is set within the aerobic range on a regular basis, the risk of heart attacks is significantly reduced. It also provides relief from depression. Although yoga is not entirely aerobic, if done vigorously or if you participate in Ashtanga classes, achieving a heart rate within aerobic range can be easily done. Even the yoga routines that may not significantly increase your heart rate can help improve cardio conditioning. Based on studies, yoga can lower the heart’s resting rate, improve endurance, and increase maximum oxygen uptake when doing exercises. All these are manifestations of a better aerobic conditioning. Even practitioners who only do pranayama can perform more exercises with little oxygen.
12. It lowers your blood pressure. – You can benefit from yoga if you are hypertensive. Studies published in The Lancet done on people with high blood pressure compared the effects of lying on the couch with Savasana (corpse pose). Results after 3 months showed that Savasana contributed to a 15 to 26-point systolic blood pressure drop. Those with higher blood pressure at the start of the study registered the highest drops.
13. It regulates your adrenal glands. – With yoga, you can expect lower cortisol levels. Typically, cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands when responding to acute crises. This boosts the immune functions temporarily. However, if your cortisol remains at high levels after the crisis is over, the immune system can be compromised. While temporary boosts can benefit long-term memory, constant high levels may result to permanent brain changes. Likewise, excessive levels of cortisol is associated with major depression, hypertension, insulin resistance, and osteoporosis as it is known to extract calcium and other nutrients from the bones, and impedes the development of new bones. In mice, it has been observed that high levels of cortisol lead to “food-seeking behavior,” a term used by researchers to refer to a compulsion to eat when angry, upset, or stressed. The body ingests the excess calories and distributes as abdominal fat. This contributes to a higher risk of diabetes and heart attack, not to mention unnecessary weight gain.
14. It helps you focus. – Yoga requires you to focus on the present. According to studies, yoga helps improve memory, reaction time, coordination, and even IQ. Transcendental Meditation, in particular, improves problem solving skills and the ability to acquire and recall information. This is because practitioners have less distractions in their thoughts that can repeatedly play in their head like an endless loop of tape.
15. It promotes a healthy lifestyle. – For many dieters, the mantra is to “eat less, move more.” Yoga can help you in both eating less and moving more. With regular practice, you get to move and burn more calories, while the emotional and spiritual aspects of yoga will encourage you to curb any weight and eating problems you may have – on a deeper level. Yoga will turn you into a more conscious eater.
16. It relieves your pain. – Several studies done in the past have proven that meditation, asana, or combining the two can reduce the pain experienced by people suffering from back pain, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and other chronic disorders. When there is no more pain, the mood improves, and you become more active and in less need of medication.
17. It relaxes your system. – The practice of yoga allows you to relax, slow down your breathing, and keep your focus on the present. It tilts the balance in favor of the parasympathetic nervous system from a “fight or flight response” (sympathetic nervous system). This results to calming and restoration. Breathing and heart rates are lowered, blood pressure is decreased, and blood flow to the reproductive organs and intestines is improved. This is called the relaxation response as coined by Dr. Herbert Benson.
18. It improves your balance. – Practicing yoga regularly will increase your awareness on your body’s actions and its specific location in space (known as proprioception), resulting to improved balance. If your proprioception is poor, you tend to have bad posture or movement patterns that are dysfunctional. You will also be susceptible to back pains and knee problems. If you have good balance, you can easily avoid falls. For older people, this could mean more independence, so the need for admission to a nursing facility is minimized. For regular adults, the Tree Pose is ideal for addressing wobbly feet both on the yoga mat and off.
19. It promotes nervous system functions. – Advanced yoga practitioners develop extraordinary control of their body, and this is usually nervous system-mediated. Scientists have observed some yogis who could generate certain brainwave patterns, induce non-typical heart rhythms, and increase their hand temperature by as much as 150F through a special meditation technique. If these are possible with yoga, then people trying to conceive may learn to increase blood flow to the pelvis; and people who have sleeping difficulties may learn how to induce relaxation.
20. It releases tension in the limbs. – Some unconscious habits like scrunching when looking at a computer monitor, or using an extremely tight grip while holding the steering wheel or the phone can result in muscle fatigue, chronic tension, and soreness in the arms, wrists, shoulders, face, and neck that, in turn, can dampen your mood and increase your stress levels. With regular yoga practice, you will be aware of the areas in your body where tension is held – your eyes, tongue, neck, and facial muscles. By simply being in tune, you can quickly release tension in your eyes and tongue. However, learning how to relax bigger muscles such as the trapezius, buttocks, and quadriceps may take a long time – years, in some cases.
21. It supports your connective tissues. – A lot of yoga benefits overlap simply because yoga is an intensely interwoven practice of various areas. By simply changing your posture, the way you breathe changes as well. By changing your breathing, you effect changes to your nervous system. Everything is connected, and this is one of the greatest of yoga lessons. As your hipbone is connected to your anklebone, so are you connected to your community, which in turn, is connected to the world. Understanding this interconnection is key to practicing yoga. The best source of yoga healing is in synergy.
22. It increases self-esteem. – A lot of people have chronic low self-esteem. Some deal with the condition negatively – through overeating, taking drugs, working excessively, or sleeping around – and suffer the consequences of poor mental, physical and spiritual health. On the other hand, dealing with the condition in a positive way by practicing yoga, you will slowly appreciate your worth, and as taught in yogic philosophy, you will be the Divine’s manifestation. If you practice yoga regularly for self-examination and improvement, you will be able to access another side of you. You will feel empathy, gratitude, and forgiveness. You will also have a sense that you are a part of something that is much bigger. Although improved health is typically not the objective of spirituality, it is a common by-product as proven in numerous scientific studies.
23. It keeps you away from drugs and medications. – Yoga can help you eliminate your dependence on drugs. Based on studies done on people with hypertension, asthma, type II diabetes, and OCD, yoga can help lower medication dosages, and in some cases entirely eliminate the need for medication. Obviously, if you need to take less medication, you can save money while you lower the risk of suffering from the side effects of drug interactions.
24. It helps you have a deeper sleep. – Too much stimulation can take its toll on the nervous system; and yoga helps provide relief from the fast-paced life today. Yoga nidra (a type of guided relaxation), restorative asana, pranayama, savasana, and meditation promote pratyahara or the inward turning of the senses that offers a much-needed nervous system downtime. Studies also suggest that practicing yoga regularly can induce deep sleep that results to less fatigue, stress, and susceptibility to accidents.
25. It improves functioning of the immune system. – While pranayama and asana are known to help improve immune functions, meditation is backed up by stronger scientific support as far as this area is concerned. Meditation provides instant boost whenever it is needed such as when responding to a vaccine by raising antibody levels. Likewise, meditation lowers immune function when called for such as to mitigate unnecessarily aggressive immune functioning when battling autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis.
26. It provides breathing room for your lungs. – An experienced yogi can take great volumes of air with fewer breaths. This is both more efficient and calming. A study published in The Lancet in 1998 discussed “complete breathing,” a yoga technique intended for people suffering from lung disorders caused by congestive heart failure. The technique is said to help lower the respiratory rate in patients to 7.6 breaths/minute from an average of 13.4 within 30 days. Likewise, their capacity to exercise and their blood oxygen saturation level significantly improved as well. In general, yoga can improve different lung function measures, including exhalation efficiency and maximum breath volume. In addition, yoga improves nasal breathing, and this helps filter and warm the air to reduce the risk of asthma attacks in sensitive people.
27. It helps prevent IBS as well as other digestive disorders. – Stress can induce irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and ulcers. With less stress, it follows that you will less likely suffer from these conditions. Just like any kind of physical exercise, yoga helps relieve constipation and this results to a lower risk of acquiring colon cancer. Body movement facilitates faster food distribution and disposal of waste through the excretory system. While there is yet no solid evidence to back it up, twisting yoga poses are believed to benefit bowel movement.
28. It provides peace of mind. – According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, yoga has the ability to quell the mind’s fluctuations. It slows down the stress-causing mental loops of regret, frustration, fear, anger, and desire. Stress, in turn, is known to cause various health issues – from as minor as insomnia, eczema, and migraine to something as serious as MS, lupus, heart attack, and high blood pressure. By learning how to silence your mind, you can experience a healthier and longer life.
29. It provides inner strength. – Perhaps the biggest manifestation of strength is the ability to effect changes in your life – and yoga can help you achieve that. Tapas (meaning heat in Sanskrit) is the discipline or fire that keeps your yoga practice burning. It can be built up through regular practice. You develop tapas that you can use for your entire life in overcoming inertia and changing bad habits. You will start to exercise more, eat better, or quit unhealthy habits without much effort – even if you have been trying unsuccessfully for years.
30. It encourages self-care. – Most conventional medicine patients tend to receive health care passively. In yoga, however, whatever you do for your own self matters. It gives you the tools you need to change. In some cases, practitioners felt better even after only their first try. The more you practice, the more benefits you reap. Three positive things come out of your practice: 1) you care for yourself, 2) you learn that your involvement empowers you to do the necessary changes, and 3) you see hope, knowing that you have the power to effect changes; and in itself, hope can heal.
31. It provides a connection to guidance. – Good yoga masters can help you improve your health, but the more exceptional teachers not only guide you through your postures. They know when your postures need adjustments like going deeper or backing off, give you hard truths in a compassionate way, help you relax, and personalize and enhance your yoga practice. With a respectful teacher-student relationship, you will enjoy a lot of health benefits.
32. It builds your awareness for transformation. – By practicing yoga and meditating, you can build awareness which will make it easier for you to break loose from negative emotions such as anger. Prolonged anger and hostility, just like smoking, high cholesterol levels, and diabetes, make you susceptible to heart attacks. Yoga helps reduce anger by enhancing feelings of interconnection and compassion, and by calming the mind and the nervous system. It also makes you see your life objectively, and keep you level-headed in the midst of unsettling or untoward events. If you have to, you will still be able to react quickly, and yoga can also speed up your reaction time. The choice is yours.
33. It benefits your relationships. – Love can help in the process of healing. Having the emotional support of your family, friends, and even the community can help improve your health or facilitate faster healing. By practicing yoga regularly, you will develop compassion, friendliness, and a higher level of equanimity. As yogic philosophy emphasizes on telling the truth, avoidance of harming others, and getting only what you need, you will experience significant improvements in your relationships.
34. It soothes your sinuses with sounds. – Meditation, asana, and pranayama – the yoga basics – can all help improve your wellbeing, but there is a lot more you can use in yoga, chanting for instance. It prolongs exhalation that helps shift the balance to your parasympathetic nervous system. Chanting, when done by a group, can be quite a powerful emotional and physical experience. According to Karolinska Institute of Sweden, humming sounds such as chanting Om creates, open the sinuses that makes it easy to drain.
35. It guide’s the body’s healing in the mind’s eye. – By contemplating on an image in the eye of your mind, as done in yoga nidra, you can introduce changes to your body. Guided imagery can help reduce post-operative pain, lower the incidence of headaches, and improve the overall quality of life of cancer patients as well as those with HIV.
36. It fights off viruses and allergies. – Cleansing practices such as Kriyas include anything from rapid breathing to elaborate intestine cleansing. Jalai neti, meanwhile involves a gentle cleansing of the nasal passages using salt water. It also prevents mucus build-up, removes viruses and pollen from the nose, and facilitates draining of the sinuses.
37. It helps you be of service to others. – An integral part of yogic philosophy is karma yoga or service to others. While you may have no intentions of serving others, you might be interested to know that your health might get better if you try to do it. In one University of Michigan study, it was shown that old people who volunteered an hour or less a week had three times better chances to be alive after seven years. You can find meaning to your life by serving others. You may also realize that compared to other people, your problems may seem insignificant.
38. It uses the placebo effect to trigger changes. – Believe that you will get better, and you will indeed get better. Scientists, however, do not recognize the healing brought about by the placebo effect. To most people, the goal is simply to get better; thus, if something works, placebo effect or not, they will take it. And why not?
Last update on 2021-06-25 at 01:35 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API