Yoga Mats: What are they, and do you need one?

May 28, 2020 | Yoga | 0 comments

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4 min read

There are literally thousands of yoga mats on the market, and all of these choices can be difficult for a beginner yogi to wrap their head around.

You may see all these dozens of yoga mats and feel paralysed by all the choices, and then you find yourself wondering, “What the heck are these thing and do I really need one?”

History of the Yoga Mat

The yoga mat as we know it is a relatively new invention. Historically, yogis practiced on the grass, in the dirt, and on animal skins.

The modern grippy yoga mat we have all come to know and love was invented in 1982 by yoga teacher Angela Farmer.

“I was desperate to find something that would give me traction,” recalls Farmer. 

While travelling through Germany, Farmer spotted a roll of carpet padding at a market, and it was perfect.

She bought a length, and it was heaven.

At home in London, other yogis took an interest in her mat, and she began bringing home rolls of carpet padding every time she went to Germany.

Farmer’s father saw an opportunity and contacted a manufacturer, and soon became the first yoga mat retailer in Europe.

But, thanks to shipping costs and duties, importing these European mats to America was a costly process, and the quality was lacking.

Sara Chambers, creator of Hugger Mugger, began importing the European carpet padding mats, but heard from her customers they would crumble after a few months of practice.

Chambers contacted a chemist and created the first sticky yoga mat, the Tapas Sticky Mat.

It is from these origins that our modern yoga mats have evolved. There are thousands of mats on the market, ranging from $10 mats you’ll find at Walmart to €230 for the Maati Maati sustainable cork yoga mat made from cork harvested in Portugal.

Do you need a yoga mat?

You 100% do not need a yoga mat to start practising yoga.

You can certainly practise on a hardwood floor, or on the carpet, but…I don’t recommend it until you’re more comfortable with your practice.

Without a mat, there’s slippage in poses like Downward Facing Dog, and this can make your Sun Salutations (which you’ll work your way up to later on in this guide), more difficult than they already are.

Beyond that, yoga without a mat can be painful on your wrists and knees (especially if you have any pain issues already). Mats provide support and cushion.

And, last but not least, ordering a yoga mat tells your brain that you’re taking this seriously.

You’re making a commitment. As the adage goes, those who pay, pay attention.

There are literally thousands of yoga mats on the market, and you do not need the most expensive one. You do not need the fanciest one.

I personally use a Liforme mat, though they’re not cheap. But, they’re exceptionally durable. I’ve been using mine for 5 years now. The only real sign of wear is a small corner where my cat decided she too wanted to practice yoga.

The Jade Harmony mat is also fantastic. It’s a great all-purpose mat, and comes in a standard size, and an extra long. If you’re 6′ tall or taller, this is the mat you want.

If you sweat a lot, then check out the Yoga Design Lab mat. It’s a yoga mat and towel in one. This mat will help you slip around less.

There are literally hundreds of other mats on the market you could choose from; these are just my top favourites after years of yoga. If you have a mat you love, I’d love to hear about it! Let me know in the comments.

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