The type of yoga mat we choose is completely personal, and depends on a number of factors. Like the story of the princess and the pea, a mat that’s irritable or that doesn’t allow for the waistband of our yoga pants can mean we spend most of our practice trying to adjust ourselves, to avoid feeling any bumps or uneven surfaces. All of which interrupts our yoga flow and prevents us from getting the most out of a good practice.
So here, we’ll go through some of the features of different yoga mats. What you experience may be different, depending on whether you feel more comfortable on hard or soft surfaces. You also may want to consider how a mat feels on your bare skin, if you know you suffer from any skin irritation or specific allergies.
Plastic Yoga Mats
The most common yoga mats are plastic, as they’re usually cheap and sold in most locations. Which doesn’t mean they’re the best to use, as they easily slide around, and are often too thin to offer real support.
Sticky Yoga Mats
A lot of plastic mats (although not all) will use PVC coating to allow for extra grip, connecting more to the floor and to the body. However, this means they can easily stick to bare skin, which continues to be a problem the more they’re used, as sweat builds up in the pores of the mat. PVC is also potentially rather toxic, especially as it begins to break down, causing hormonal imbalance and greater risk of cancers, making it potentially harmful with longer exposure.
Hemp Yoga Mats
Hemp is rather like canvas in feel, although it can be converted into many different types of fabric. The relatively thin strands of fibre mean it’s unlikely to cause irritability, except with very sensitive skin. Woven into a thick mat hemp makes for quite a solid mat experience, which is good if you like harder surfaces.
Bamboo Yoga Mats
When we think of bamboo we often picture entire shoots, which sound uncomfortable to practice on. In fact, bamboo is easily woven into hard, durable strands that feel supportive, rather like hemp. They’re also resistant to a lot of water damage, which is why it commonly replaces plastic as a bath mats. This also makes it easy to clean between yoga practices.
Cork Yoga Mats
Cork has the added advantage of being one of the few materials listed here that doesn’t rely on threads. This is good if you like a softer, sponger material which evenly distributes body weight. Tougher than rubber, but more flexible than bamboo, cork is a great middle-ground, and won’t cause skin irritation - although it can get sticky, so make sure you wipe your mat down after each practice.
Cotton Yoga Mats
Cotton is probably the softest material in the list, and that, surprisingly, can mean you’re more likely to feel your yoga pants during practice. While materials like cork create a depression in the mat, they usually do so with a more even spread, adjusting the weight of the body across a wider surface. Cotton does this less so, which is why you may feel your waistband more prominently. But, each person’s experience is highly subjective. Cotton is still a great material, slightly softer than hemp, and easy enough to wash. If you feel better doing yoga on a rug, maybe cotton is the way to go for you.
Jute Yoga Mats
Jute strands are rather thicker, and more ropy, than other types of material, rather like a canvas sack, although not as abrasive. They’re also perhaps the most irritable on the list, so you might want to avoid jute if you have sensitive skin. As a yoga mat though it’s reasonably soft and durable, offering a good level of support to yogis seeking a comfortable experience.
Rubber Yoga Mats
Those with latex allergies may want to consider jute, just as those with allergies to cotton may want to think about rubber. Softer and spongier than cork, natural rubber gives you the feeling of sinking into your mat and offers terrific grip. Rubber is often used, for this reason, as a base, to stop mats from shifting during practice.
Eartha’s mats use cork with a rubber base, to provide good hand and floor grip, so you can focus on the practice itself, rather than worrying about adjusting your mat. Easy to wipe down after each use our mats are designed to promote the best yoga experience.
Visit Eartha.life to see our full range of mats, or read our other blogs on choosing the best yoga mat for you. We cover other things to consider when buying a mat, like colour and directional lines, to help support better body poses during your practice. Also, check out our advice on going eco with sustainable yoga mats.