10 Best Yoga Mats | February 2017
- can be machine washed
- ideal for hot bikram yoga
- eliminates the need to pack a towel
- backed by a lifetime guarantee
- latex and phthalate-free
- so soft it feels like velvet
- lasts through years of practice
- won't destabilize you during poses
- firm enough for headstands
- doesn't absorb sweat
- perfect option for elderly yogis
- comes with a mat strap
- available in nine colors
- can be washed with soap and water
- rolls and unrolls easily
- has no chemical smell
- textured on both sides
- great for any level of yoga
- helps you self-correct positions
- contains no toxic glues
- provides a good amount of cushioning
Are Yoga Mats Necessary?
Perhaps no other symbol of modern yoga has come so far as the yoga mat. But are they completely necessary?
In essence, the yoga mat is a reminder for the modern yogi. In the busy life of the modern era, the mind is filled with any number of thoughts. As the term yoga itself means many different things which have taken lifetimes to discuss, the mat is a reminder of an area in which the body, mind, and spirit are sacred parts of one whole being; a place to allow the yogi to forget about the stresses of daily life and focus on the practice.
Physically, the yoga mat provides many benefits. First and foremost it provides traction. Various poses, such as downward-facing dog or warrior II, can require a lot of traction. If a yogi intends to do these poses on the flat wooden floor of many yoga studios, they will be met with a slippery, unsafe surface. Though serious injuries are rare in yoga; accidents do happen. A yoga mat provides all the necessary traction, thus ensuring that your focus can be on the pose itself rather than worrying about falling down or injuring your body.
Another unmentioned benefit of a yoga mat is sweat collection. Most mats are made of non-porous materials; so they do not collect sweat as much as they simply allow it a place to sit. On the hard wooden floor of a yoga studio, the sweat accumulated from a simple one hour class can be a serious slipping hazard.
Many yoga mats are made extra thick, providing padding to delicate bodies on hard surfaces. These mats make it easy to do yoga anywhere; indoors or outdoors. In the winter months, this padding also means that yoga mats provide insulation and warmth for the body; especially important for those sunrise classes.
Using A Yoga Mat To It's Fullest Potential
To achieve the fullest potential from any yoga mat; it is important to make yoga a daily habit. Even if it means doing just ten simple poses every day; the benefits of a habitual yoga practice are outstanding.
Yoga provides benefits to the body's all around fitness levels. A cumulative review indicated that in both healthy and diseased populations, yoga may be as effective as, or better than, basic exercises at improving a variety of health indicators.
Yoga also keeps the practitioner mentally and emotionally balanced. The practice itself is holistic; not focusing solely on the body with postures; but breathing techniques and meditation as well. This holistic approach to stretching and exercise improves the mood and modulates the body's stress response too.
In a separate study from 2005, women who were emotionally distressed were separated into two groups. The control group did nothing new; while the test group took two 90 minute yoga classes each week for just three months. After the three month period was up; the test group rated themselves as less depressed, less anxious, and were considered 65 percent more well-rounded than when they had started the program.
Yoga Mats Around The World
Yoga had its humble beginning over 5000 years ago, since the first asana, yogis favored natural yoga mats to support their bodies during the postures. In the beginning, this was as simple as using the natural earth. Oddly enough, this ancient practice also combined all the benefits of earthing to their yoga practice; including collecting electrons from the earth to help dispel free radicals in the body.
From there, yogis moved their practice onto rugs made of kusha grass, native to India. More affluent yogis practiced on a deerskin rug, and the most bold practiced on a rug made of tiger skin.
Since the early days of yoga mats, many different styles have emerged. From bamboo mats to basic cotton towels; the global spread of yoga practitioners created an evolution in yoga mats. In the west, it was originally most common to see yogis spread out on beach towels or cotton mats designed for yoga. As the wooden floors of most yoga studios proved to be very slippery, rubber pads were introduced below the cotton mats to prevent slipping. Eventually, the entire mat was made of rubber or various PVC products.
The first person to capitalize on this need was Angela Farmer, a yoga teacher from London. She used the foam underlay of carpets underneath her cotton mats, and the idea caught fire. Th Farmer family became the first to offer the sticky mats we are most familiar with today.
Since then, the yoga mat has evolved even more. The first yoga-specific mats were offered in the 1990s, and soon to follow were eco-conscious mats and even biodegradable mats.