“What is the big deal about which yoga mat you buy? I can get a $20 one from Kmart”.
Oh how many times I have heard this statement from people starting out in their yoga or workout regime. Normally I try and bite my tongue, but inside I just want to scream “There is so much more to consider when choosing your yoga mat!”
The truth of the matter is, these cheap Kmart mats normally get ditched pretty soon after purchase. They are often slippery, sweaty, foamy, smelly or they just quickly wear out. There is also so much new research coming out about the massive health implications that these cheap foam mats can have on every aspect of our wellbeing. They also have a devastating impact on the environment. That is why it is so important to be well informed when it comes to buying your Yoga mat.
So how do we know what to look for in a Yoga mat?
Grip, Comfort, Health, Motivation, Eco-friendly and Budget
Whether you are doing downward dogs in yoga, or planks at the gym, grip is important - even for beginners. It is a nightmare trying to hold poses while your hands and feet are slipping and sliding all over the place, plus you risk injury.
Yoga mats/ Workout mats need to be padded enough to support your knees/ elbows/ wrists etc in different poses. This will prevent injury and make your yoga/ workout experience a lot more enjoyable. But NOT too thick - if you buy a big soft foam mat, you will just sink into it.
Foam mats are full of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), phthalates, petrochemicals, and toxic metals, namely lead and cadmium. Surely, these can’t be good for your health. There is plenty of research indicating that these can lead to a multitude of health complications, ranging from liver damage,birth defects, asthma, fertility issues, obesity, and also a whole range of cancers. The chemicals in foam mats break down over time and use, so you will be literally breathing in all of these nasties as you are doing your sun-salutations.
Choose a yoga mat/ workout mat that inspires you. You will want to spend a lot of time with your mat, so you want it to be of a great picture or beautiful design that you enjoy looking at and working with. A yoga mat print or picture that you love can help motivate you when you are lacking energy and can pick you up if you are feeling a little sluggish. In addition, a funny yoga mat print can enhance your whole workout experience and change your mood instantly.
Imagine the environmental difference that you will be making if you opt for an eco-friendly, biodegradable Yoga mat. Foam mats never break down in landfill. “A 3 pound (1.36 kg) PVC/ Foam yoga mat requires 23 kg of petrochemical and mineral inputs, uses 925 liters of water, and 15.8 kg of air (which is converted into greenhouse and other gases)” says Pablo Päster, who is an Energy and Sustainability Management consultant (http://www.treehugger.com/green-food/ask-pablo-what-is-the-best-environmental-choice-for-yoga-mats.html)
100% natural rubber mats, on the other hand, are biodegradable, are completely natural and can be sustainably sourced. They are fast becoming the number 1 choice for environmentally friendly minded.
Unfortunately, as with a lot of other things in life, if you want good quality and eco-friendly and chemical free, you have to be prepared to spend a little extra money. But if you buy a good quality mat (such as rubber mats) then you will have it for a lot longer and you will be more inclined to use it much more as it is comfortable and non-slip.
Rubber mats are quickly becoming the yoga mat of choice for most yoginis and fitness people. They are usually much more comfortable, supportive, less smelly, non-slip and last a lot longer. They often come with a micro fibre surface, which are great because the more you sweat, the more you grip. They are free from nasty chemicals, and are eco-friendly and biodegradable.
There are beautiful boutique rubber yoga mat companies popping up everywhere. You can check them out on Facebook and Instagram. Downward Dawg Designs ticks all the boxes for the perfect mat. Eco-friendly, non-slip, supportive mat with gorgeous designs of animals in funny yoga/ exercise poses. What more could you ask for? Check out the beautiful prints at www.downwarddawgdesigns.com.au