A lot of people who start yoga simply choose the cheapest yoga mat they can find, or because they like the color or texture of the yoga mat. This is definitely not the way to choose a yoga mat and could end up compromising your safety.
Choosing the perfect yoga mat will influence how much you enjoy your yoga sessions and also how comfortable and safe you will be during your sessions. Besides choosing the size of your yoga mat, the thickness of your yoga mat is the most important aspect that you need to consider.
Advantages and disadvantages of a thin yoga mat
A standard yoga mat is approximately 1/8-inch thick.
The safety benefits of a thin or thinner yoga mat are that you will be more stable than on a thicker yoga mat. More experienced yogis will be inclined to choose a thinner mat. If you are planning on practicing more standing and balancing poses, then a thin or standard thickness mat will be the obvious choice as you will feel more connected to the floor and more stable.
A thin mat will be best for hatha and vinyasa style classes or practices. If you intend on doing different practices it would be wise to opt for the standard thickness yoga mat that is more adaptable.
The disadvantage of a thin or standard thickness yoga mat is that there is very little padding and cushioning between you and the floor. This may not be a huge problem if you are an experienced yogi and have healthy joints; however, if you are above average size, elderly or suffer from joint aches and pains you may experience more pain than pleasure during your practice.
A thin mat will be more lightweight, easy to roll up and will roll up into a more compact size. If you are traveling between home and studio it will be easier to get around
Advantages and disadvantages of a thick yoga mat
A thick yoga mat is approximately 1/4-inch or thicker.
It has been said that the thicker your yoga mat is, the less stable you will be, and your balance will be compromised. Nowadays, with the newer TPE material that is being used to make yoga mats, this doesn’t seem to be an issue.
Most TPE mats are constructed with double or triple layers, which helps them to give you more than enough cushioning with fast spring back so your safety and balance are not as compromised as with the older type mats.
If you are elderly or suffer from joint aches and pains, a thicker yoga mat will be the best choice for you. The extra cushioning that a thicker yoga mat gives you will ease the strain and pressure on your joints, making the yoga session more pleasurable for you.
If you are in constant pain and discomfort, then you will lose focus and concentrate on your pain instead of the experiencing the relaxing effect that you would like to achieve with practicing yoga.
The type of yoga you want to practice will also be a deciding factor in whether you chose a thick or thinner mat. If the type of yoga you intend practicing involves a lot of lying on your back, forearm planks or kneeling, a thicker mat will offer you more comfort and support.
When using a thin mat, you could always fold it over to double the amount of cushioning; however, it is an inconvenience and prolonged use like that would cause damage to your yoga mat.
Advantages and disadvantages of an extra-thin or travel yoga mat
The third thickness yoga mat that is available is approximately 1/16-inch thick.
The disadvantages of these extra-thin mats are obvious in that it is thin, really thin and doesn’t give much protection or cushioning and should probably only be used by experienced yogis.
The advantages are that there is no way that a yoga mat this thin will compromise your balance. The extra thin yoga mats are known as travel yoga mats. The slim mats are easy to roll up and very small when rolled so they can easily fit into your suitcase when you are traveling.
No matter what thickness yoga mat you need, what yoga you want to practice, or whether you need extra cushioning for your hands, knees, and back or even if you want to take your yoga mat with you on holiday there is a yoga mat that will suit your needs.