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So, You’ve Signed Up for Your First Yoga Class. What Mat Should You Get?

So, You’ve Signed Up for Your First Yoga Class. What Mat Should You Get?

If one of the commitments that you recently made was to take yoga, congrats! You’ve just made one of the best decisions ever—not only for your mind but your body and spirit too. We say that because this Hindu discipline (that really has turned into a worldwide phenomenon) is arguably one of the most effective ways to not only strengthen your physical core, but bring peace, balance and awareness to your entire being.

Yoga is proven to help you become more flexible; provide you with more muscle tone; balance out your metabolism; provide you with a greater sense of calm and concentration; give you more energy; improve your breathing (which can reduce anxiety and even intensify your sex life because the more centered you are, the more in tuned with your body you are); protect you from future injuries; make your heart stronger and even help you to lose weight. And you know what? That’s only the beginning of what yoga can do for you!

We know taking all of that in probably has you feeling pretty excited (understandably so). But before you go to your first class, we wanted to provide you with a couple of tips that will help you to avoid the mistake that a lot of newbies make.

The first one is not knowing what to wear.

The second one is not bringing the best kind of mat.

What Should You Wear to Yoga Class?

While taking yoga classes, you want to be as comfortable as possible.

If you’re a woman, consider putting on an athletic bra and then a tank top that’s made out of a breathable fabric like organic cotton. It should be one that fits somewhat snugly on your body so that you don’t have to worry about extra fabric getting in the way. For the bottom half of your body, a pair of yoga pants or even some leggings that contain Lycra (for extra support) is a wise choice.

If you’re a man, a T-shirt (also one that fits closely to your body), a pair of biker shorts and then some shorts made out of lightweight material to go over them is ideal.

You might also want to invest in a pair of yoga gloves too. They are made with “skid-proof palms” so that you’re able to grasp onto your yoga mat more easily and hold a variety of positions much longer.

Another great idea is keeping a pair of yoga socks in tow. Although you can certainly go barefoot, what socks will do is prevent you from slipping on your mat (which can easily happen while you’re in certain positions or you begin to sweat, so bring a towel and a recyclable water bottle too!).

And speaking of yoga mats…

What Kind of Yoga Mat Should You Buy?

If there’s an absolute must-have that you need for yoga, it’s a yoga mat. Some beginners focus more on what color or pattern they want their mat to be. Aesthetics are fine, but they shouldn’t be the top priority. The four main things you should be basing your selection on is THICKNESS, STICKINESS, TEXTURE and MATERIAL (not necessarily in that order).

As far as thickness goes, 1/8” is good. Less than that and you won’t have enough support. More than that and it could be difficult to feel totally balanced on the floor.

Stickiness is all about selecting a mat that won’t move all over the place. A PVC yoga mat is a best-seller simply due to its “stickiness factor” (although more studies are revealing that it isn’t best for your health or the environment; more in a sec).

Texture? This is relevant because texture speaks to how much traction you’ll get. If you’d prefer to not go the PVC yoga route (because you think it’s too “sticky” or you want to avoid any potential “issues”), a rubber or cotton mat that has a raised tactile pattern is a great alternative.  

And then there’s the material part. Being that yoga is about, not only personal balance but in many ways “becoming one” with the environment too, it’s best to select the kind of yoga mat that is made out of materials that are eco-friendly. Luckily, there are several options to choose from.

Material-Wise, What Kind of Material Is Good for the Environment? What Isn’t?

A really popular eco-friendly material option for yoga mats is jute. What is that? Basically, it’s a fabric that’s made out of the white jute plant that is long, shiny and super soft. It’s made primarily of cellulose (plant fiber) and lignin (wood fiber). It’s also 100 percent bio-degradable and recyclable.

Another smart option is Polymer Environmental Resin (PER). It’s a synthetic material that has a great reputation because it contains no phthalates, phenols or latex and it is biodegradable.

If you’d like an eco-friendly rubber yoga mat, how about trying one that’s made out of Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE)? It’s a material that consists of synthetic rubber that is free of BPA, lead, phthalates, dioxins and other biologically toxic chemicals.

Still, another fave (that isn’t the cheapest but makes up for it in being eco-friendly and of good quality) is a cork yoga mat. The top layer of this particular mat is made out of cork while the button layer is made out of a form of rubber that comes from recycled tires.

As far as the kinds of materials that you should avoid, the first on our list are yoga mats that are made out of vinyl. From production until you are ready to dispose of it, vinyl releases fumes that are harmful. Some studies indicate that too much exposure to those fumes increases the chances of having chronic diseases and cancer; it can even give your baby birth defects and health issues (so also avoid sleeping on a vinyl mattress while you’re pregnant or putting one in your baby’s crib).

And, what is form of vinyl (not always, but often)? PCV.

Remember how we mentioned that PVC comes with some challenges? Many environmentalists claim that it is one of the more toxic forms of plastic (due to the phthalates that’s in it), one that can potentially lead to a drop in testosterone levels in men and fertility issues in women. For this reason, it may not be one that’s on the top of your list of options. Plus, they cannot be recycled and if they are incinerated in landfills, they release a carcinogen known as dioxin into the atmosphere.

This is why it’s so important to not make a casual yoga mat purchase. Take the time to thoroughly read the label of the may you want to purchase. See what's in it. Pull this article up on your smartphone to compare and contrast, if you’d like. If shopping online, always look for words like “eco-friendly” and “100 % biodegradable” on it. If you don’t see it, move on.

Hopefully, this provided you with a brief 101 course in how to select the kind yoga mat for your personal needs. You, and the environment, deserve the very best. 

To make finding the perfect yoga mat easy for you, we have designed a beautiful, eco-friendly yoga mat made from the good things - Jute and PER. We are so in love with this mat for many reasons - aesthetics, sustainability and most importantly, how good it is to practice on! You can check it out here.

Whatever mat you choose, doing yoga will do wonders for your body and soul. Have fun and Namaste xx

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