The Search for the Perfect Yoga Mat

Written by Mira Saraf.

My yoga mat is falling apart. It was an impulse purchase because my mat prior to it was even more disgusting. Every time I lay it down in class I do so with a little shame, wondering if others can see the disintegration that is becoming so prominent at the bottom of the mat. So this time round, I've decided to choose my new mat with great care, so I can consider it an investment.

yoga mats

A Google search for the "Best Yoga Mat" did not give me the one word or abbreviated answer I was looking for. There are mats of various thickness made of different materials. Some are environmentally friendly; some are not. Apparently synthetic mats are cheapest, with jute and cork being slightly more expensive. Rubber is another natural option. So far the Internet has done little to help my search. Frustrated, I decide to hit the mall.

Lululemon is an obvious first stop. It is slightly disappointing. I have two choices - a $28 Align Ultra Mat or a $98 Manduka Mat. The Align is PVC-free, and apparently offers 2 different grip textures. I'm not so sure what that means, but it sounds impressive. I pick up the second mat, which has to be the heaviest mat I've ever held, and attempt to read the information on the product sleeve. An associate approaches me and asks me what kind of yoga I practice. When I tell him I do Bikram he tells me that the mat would be great for me. It is extra thick, has a lifetime warranty and it's production process is environmentally friendly. Another eco-feature claim is since you don't have to throw it away, it is better for the environment in the long run. It sounds great, but $98 is a pretty steep ticket for most people on a piece of fitness equipment. That said I am curious to see how it could change my practice.

I browse a few athletic stores to realize they do not offer any yoga gear. The Nike store uses one mat as a prop to tease. I head to another common destination for yoga supplies: Winners. Winners carries yoga mats and fitness all year long, but at least once a year (in January) they have a Wellness Event where they pump up inventories of different fitness product and apparel. They have a huge selection all for under $30. There is the Fitness Essentials, which has the solitary claim of being "no-slip" for $12.99. A second option is the Aeromat Elite at $16.99. It is phthalates-free. I don't know what Phthalates are when I see this, but they sound pretty dangerous and possibly carcinogenic. So I take their word it is a good thing - it's funny how marketing works that way. Certain key words - harsh-sounding chemicals with lots of consonants such as phthalates, and phrases such as all natural, organic, they all invoke certain feelings of pleasure and displeasure when it comes to a product, even if we don't always know the true meaning of them. I am pretty sure phthalates is probably something harmful, but on an impulse purchase I might just accept that as fact.

As I continued to stroll through, I notice that Savasa offered a boxed yoga mat with a DVD labeled organic and biodegradable at $19.99. Wai Lana had an extra thick mat recommended by Yoga "Enthusiasts" worldwide at $19.99. Purathletics offered a non-toxic recyclable durable, indoor and outdoor lightweight mat at $19.99. The last and most appealing of options here was a Purearth, eco-friendly, latex free non-toxic yoga mat for $29.99 which seemed perfect but unfortunately came with the guarantee that it would decompose over time.

So now I find myself in a conundrum. The most expensive yoga mat I am looking to buy is $98, while the second most expensive is $29.99. Sure the compare at price on the latter is $50 but that is still a sizeable difference in investment. I visit the Manduka Website. Surely they sell more than one type of mat. They do. They have a pro-lite ($68) which is a lighter option than the original, also with a lifetime warranty. I notice they also have "Eko" lines, which are the environmentally friendly versions of the Mat. These are mats you can send back to have recycled when you are ready to replace them. This sounds appealing but could be a challenge if you are a procrastinator like me. They are also cheaper - the regular one is $70, but the light version and the other one (from which proceeds go to Off The Mat, Into The World, inspiring yogis everywhere to take their learning's in the studio and share them with the world).

I like the concept of the Off The Mat, Into The World one. $42 feels a little more reasonable than $98. Now the only question is...where can I get it in Toronto? A Google search draws few results within Toronto till I find something.

So I am left with two options. The Purearth and the $98 Manduka mat. The biggest lesson to be drawn from this however is there are so many options when it comes to yoga mats. They tell you not to buy Pilates mats, not to buy certain materials and that spending a certain amount of money is best to ensure life-long use. The truth is, it really depends on you. A beginner yogi who is not even sure if they will stick with it could just fork over the $12.99 for a basic mat and trade up as they grow with it. I have gone back and forth in my head about what I want to do. In the end, I think I will go with the Purearth one, after a consultation with one of my favorite instructors. Everyone is different though, so your choice may be based on how important yoga is to you, what kind you practice and any allergies you may have.

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