What is the Best Thickness for Your Yoga Mats?

Sunil Murthy
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Addressing the Illusive Question of Yoga Mats Thickness

There are many things in this world for which there is no universal answer. What is the best color? What is the best flavor ice cream? How thick should my yoga mat be? The answer to that last question is “The Thickness You feel Most Comfortable in.” Too thin and you risk your arms and knees digging into the mat, left bruised and shaken. Too thick and the mat absorbs too much of your energy and gets in the way of your practice. It’s all subjective, like everything else. And here is the good news, by experimenting with different mats of different thicknesses, you can find your perfect yoga mat.

At the outset of your practice, you may wish to be more cautious and err on the side of a thicker mat till you discover what your threshold is.

Here is a little more information to help guide your decision. The standard thickness for a yoga mat is four millimeters. As your practice progresses and you build more confidence, you may find yourself enjoying a marginally thinner mat.

Signs that you might enjoy a thinner mat are:

  • Your knees and arms don’t feel too bruised and battered after class
  • You are delighting in your ability to grip and catch yourself in challenging positions

One of the most common questions people ask about yoga mats is: “What thickness should I get?”

If you are shopping for a mat for general fitness & as part of your regular workout routine you would want to get a thin mat. Of course, if you are practicing yoga in a hot environment or sweating a lot, then you would need a thicker mat to help prevent slipping.

However, if you are looking for a mat specifically for yoga, you may want to try out a Medium mat. This will help you gain traction. They provide slightly more support and are less slippery. They also allow you to take a stable, tripod head-stand.

For those that are brand-loyalists, the following chart lists the best-selling yoga mats.

1/16-inch Yoga Mat

Or a 3/8-inch Yoga Mat?

Most people choose a yoga mat for their size. 1/8 or 3/8 inches are the most common, but it all depends on your needs. After you have determined the thickness, polyurethane is the most common material used. You still need to make sure the color is right for you as well as the design, size, and texture.

When choosing a yoga mat, look for one that has a non-slip surface. The best way to do this is to grip the mat. The closer you can get to your hand to stay attached to the mat, the better it will grip the floor.

Some mats are partially produced with natural rubber. While natural and biodegradable, rubber mats can be a nuisance in the studio. They tend to curl up at the corners and have a rougher texture.

Natural rubber is also not as dense as other materials and is weaker when it comes to shock absorption. If a studio does not have a rubber flooring, and rubber mats are not ideal for your needs, then you may want to look for a stronger material. Some examples of yoga mat materials include:

  • Sustainably grown tree rubber
  • Non-carcinogenic Polyurethane
  • Natural Latex
  • Biodegradable Plant Fiber

1/8-inch Yoga Mat

Many of today’s top yoga instructors and studios offer classes for the adventurous yogi.

If you like experimenting with new poses, and want the added thickness of a yoga mat that cushions your yoga floor, consider buying a 1/8-inch thick yoga mat. For many styles of yoga, this added thickness, will provide a great deal of cushioning. Bikram, or hot yoga, however, will not function well with this thick of a mat.

The added thickness of yoga mats is also great if you want additional cushioning for your knees and hands when you get more advanced. There are a number of poses that directly impact your knees and hands and without a thick yoga mat, they can get strained.

Other Things to Check in Your Yoga Mat Apart from Thickness

There is no research that definitively answers the “what” when it comes to types of yoga mats.

Each type has its own set of advantages and disadvantages:

Synthetic mats (especially polyurethane, PVC, and EVA) are great for slip resistance. If you sweat a lot or have slick floors, this may be the best mat for you.

Cotton mats are eco-friendly but heavy and expensive and since they absorb moisture, they don’t dry easily.

Natural rubber mats are lightweight, durable, and the most natural and eco-friendly. They also dry easily, but tend to slide, make noise, and smell.

Jute mats are light-weight and natural, but they also make more noise and tend to be more slippery when wet.

Wooden mats are durable, eco-friendly, and naturally antifungal. The downside is that they are heavy and expensive, making them impractical for travel.

Blended mats are mixtures of natural and synthetic materials. They are durable, dry quickly, and slip resistance. The downside is that they provide less cushioning.

Stickiness and Texture

The textured yoga mats allow you to get better traction, maintain balance, and maintain poses easier than you would with a flat mat. The textured sides help you to find the balance and traction that you need without slipping. There are a number of different kinds of textures on the market.

Some of the most popular and best-selling textures include:

Cork

You will find the cork yoga mats to be the most versatile on the market. They offer traction that is good enough for all kinds of yoga, while still being kind enough to your joints and joints as smooth rubber yoga mats.

Rubber

The rubber yoga mats are great for natural materials, such as bamboo. The mat absorbs negative ions, which is a great feature for anyone who wants to practice yoga near salt water.

Suede

The suede is great for practicing hot yoga, without having to worry about slipping or sliding on a textured mat.

If you want a more organic materials that are biodegradable and eco-friendly without the cost of cork, then the bamboo is right for you.

Size

Yoga mat size depends on your personal preference and comfort. How much you are willing to wander is also a factor. Different sizes of yoga mats have different benefits.

The mat should be wide enough to comfortably accommodate the Goddess pose. Most yoga teachers recommend a 2-foot wide mat for most practices. We support those recommendations for Goddess pose. However, if the Goddess pose is not a big part of your practice, you may not need a wide mat. You can also reduce your area of discomfort by using a thick mat.

The thickness of the mat is also an important factor. A 3/16-inch thick mat is your magic number. This is as thick as a yoga mat can get without being too bulky to move around.

Thinner mats matter too. You may already have a yoga mat thicker than you ever plan to practice on your own at home. You can always cut those mats down to size at home. They can be thinner than 3/16-inch but won’t be as thick as your mat. This also gives you many options in size and thickness.

Material

Yoga mats are made from PVC, natural rubber, or a combination of both. When picking out a mat, consider the type of surface that you will be using it on — will it be carpet, grass, or hard floors? Make sure the mat is the right size for the room you'll be practicing in, (about eight to ten feet long and not too wide).

Vinyl/PVC mats are not as flexible as the natural rubber mats. You may find that the PVC material works better for your exercise surface because of its protective features and chemical resistance. This is better if you're practicing on a floor surface that releases chemicals, such as a concrete floor.

Vinyl/PVC mats are easier to clean because you can just hose them down, but you won't want to leave them in the sun or use a pressure washer. The natural rubber mats tend to take color from other towels or mats that are placed on it. This staining is not noticeable unless you are practicing yoga in a light colored yoga outfit.

Another advantage of vinyl/PVC mats is the rolled edges which prevent your hands and feet from getting caught as you move. They also protect the flooring when you're working through hand positions or in a playful child's pose. This type of mat is the easiest for young children to use, as it is not slippery.

Pattern and Hues

You may find yourself having to walk away from your mat during your session and for regular mat cleaning. These factors will determine the overall thickness of the mat (1/8‪ to 3/8‪ for a typical session). A thinner mat will allow you to do more poses and transitions on your hands and knees without your knees hitting the floor.

When you are standing, the floor comes into play a lot more than if you are on your hands and knees. This is one of the reasons that you may want a thicker mat. Another factor may be the floor you are working on. The comfort of the mat is dependent upon the floor as well.

Cork and rubber offers more comfort and padding than foam for the palms of your hands when you are on your hands and knees. Both of these can help to prevent stress and pressure on your hands and arms.

Foam mats are usually less expensive than cork and rubber mats. However, this is not always the case. You'll want to consider the overall thickness of the voluminous rubber mat you are considering. This is where the thickness matters, whether you are standing on your mat or working through a sprint sequence on your hands and knees.