For serious yoga beginners like me, what’s under your hands and feet really matters. I’ve learned that the right mat can make the difference between slipping (and falling) and a yoga pose that feels balanced and well aligned.
What keeps me from falling?
For my home practice the right mat is a 71-inch mat that’s firm and dense without being too cushy.
It provides good cushioning for poses that are otherwise hard on your knees, elbows or hands. (It’s also 2 inches wider than usual.) For a tall yogini the 26 x 71-inch dimensions make a difference if you want to stay within the confines of the mat while doing vinyasa sequences.
Like my sisters I’m plagued with sweaty hands and feet when working out, so it took several tries to find the right solution to mat management. (Before then I had a few humiliating times when my downward facing dog pose dissolved underneath me, and I did a face plant on the floor.) I learned the hard way that a number of so-called “sticky mats” are just not sticky enough for people prone to sweaty palms when they exercise…
- a 71-inch mat from Manduka (the “BlackMatPRO model”)
- Plus, a “skidless” yoga towel from Yogitoes on top of the mat (it’s easier to wash the towel than clean the mat)
To clean the mat I use a liquid organic soap (from Vermont Soap). My cats and I like its smell…
The downside to my wonderful Manduka mat is that it’s heavy (over 6 pounds) and quite thick when rolled up. It’s impractical for lugging back and forth on a regular basis between home and the yoga studio.
As a result I bought a “travel worthy” mat from Manduka that is 2 inches narrower and 2 pounds lighter than my main mat, but still a lovely 71 inches long. (When I bought mine, the only color was purple but now you have several choices.)
For travel I’ve experimented with a shorter and thinner rubber mat sold by Lululemon, but it wrinkles too easily when rolled up in the suitcase (and the wrinkles don’t easily disappear). It’s so lightweight that it provides an unstable foundation on a hotel carpet, and thus defeats its main purpose.
And when I really need to pack efficiently for extended travel, I just bring the skidless yoga towel and put it directly on the hotel carpet. It keeps me from falling, getting “rug rash” or picking up who knows what germs from previous visitors who stayed in that hotel room…
It works for me.