At my first yoga class as a student I relied on a mat being available at the venue and set off from home worried about everything except the mat I was going to use. I loved my first class and went back for more the week after but this time I brought along my very own first yoga mat , a bright pink thing bought at the sports shop for less than £10. It was only when I started to find bits of pink rubber in my knickers and socks that I I realised perhaps not all mats are created equal and that I ought to invest in a more serious piece of kit.
And so I did and in the last 2 and a half years I have had 4 mats ( including my current one) so although I am far from being an expert I have learnt a few things along the way so here are a few tips if you are thinking of getting your own mat.
1.Mats are not forever : before you decide to invest in a good quality mat , remember that a mat will not last forever, its life will depend on many factors such as how many times a week you use it, what sort of practice you will use it for and how much sunshine it will get ( yes I found out that one of the biggest enemies for rubber mats is sunshine ! you have been warned). A good quality mat should last a couple of years or more if well looked after.
2.Mats do not self clean : one of the main reasons why you may be thinking of buying your own mat is probably hygiene (you want to keep your germs to yourself, right ?!).However even if you are using your own mat remember that differently from fridges and microwaves , mats do not self clean. I clean the studio's mats on a regular basis, you can use a 50/50 mix of apple vinegar and water and add some essential oils, I use that or Method for low toxicity. Cleaning your mat will ensure it stays fresh and lasts longer.
3.Choose ethically : the yoga market is booming and so is the yoga mats business. You will find all sorts of mats out there for all sorts of budgets and needs however do try to shop ethically by choosing products that are environmentally friendly, low in nasty chemicals and if possible fairly traded.
4.You do not need to break the bank : you can get some good mats for about 20£ , if you practice once a week these mats are more than adequate . Consider your true need for a yoga mat rather than your ego's need to have this or that brand or indeed the most expensive mat you can buy.
5. Six of my favourite mats , all offer low toxicity :
The Lifeform ( £100) : wow , amazing! It's pricey and you may find the lines slightly distracting however this is the one I will get myself for a very special treat one day not too far. It also comes in a travel version , much lighter , still the same awesome grip and design. This is a very unique mat!
The Jade Harmony ( £65) : this is on a par with the next one on the list however I have not had direct experience of using it. It's the official YogaInternational yoga mat, it has great environmentally friendly credentials and great grip. It is also latex free.This is lighter than the Manduka ( below) but not as thick.
The Eko by Manduka ( £60) : ethically produced , no nasty chemicals , superior grip and durability . It is a bit on the heavy side ( over 3kg) and it's tricky to roll as it's super sticky , it also has a strong rubber smell when you first start using it but this is the best mat I have had so far. It also comes in the lightweight version but I would go for the 5mm thickness for cushioning purposes.
Prana Henna E.C.O (£40) : a lovely lightweight and spongy mat with plenty of cushioning and grip. The grip wears off especially if left in the heat but I would buy this again as it was such lovely design.
Karma TPE Grip ( £30) : this is an ideal upgrade if you already have a mat but it's starting to loose it's grip. I like the texture of this one and the light weight. If you get sweaty this is a good option as it was designed for use in hot yoga.
Yogamatters sticky mat (£17) : great for beginners and once a week users. This is a safe buy , it is a common choice for studios and offers cushioning, space and grip all at a very reasonable price! Cherry Yoga is proud to stock Yogamatters sticky mats and you can order your own here for £15 and pick it up at class so no postage and package fees to pay !
There are loads of other mats out there , this is just a very small selection. If you practice once a week on a regular basis having your own mat will help you establish your yoga "ritual". Having a mat at home may also help you find space to establish a home practice and create your very own oasis of peace any time you need it. A huge amount of further info is available here: http://www.reviews.com/best-yoga-mat/
See you on YOUR mat very soon.
Love and light