If you suffer from joint pain or achiness it might be time to take a look at your yoga mat. I purchased my first mat, from Target thinking the phrase "high-quality mat" was just a marketing ploy. Needless to say, once I switched mats, I ate crow, (not in Crow Pose) and never went back. All mats are not created equal.
Many yoga studios have hard surfaces, my preferred for stability. Over time though, our joints might start to feel it. If you bought your mat more than five years ago or you have that borrowed mat frm when you started practicing, we won't say how long ago ;) and you're joints are achy read on....
How a Quality Yoga Mat Helps:
Cushioning: A great yoga mat will have a cushioning effect, reducing the strain on your joints. This is especially helpful for poses that require you to put weight or stress on your wrists, knees, back, or hips. Our joints feel the effects of even static poses. In my humble and professional opinion, I recommend a mat that offers superior support and is 6mm. I have no financial benefit in recommending The Manduka Pro Mat. After more than 15 years, I'm still using the same mat. It has a lifetime guarantee when purchased through Manduka or Amazon. Doesn't seem like mine is dying anytime soon. Bummer cause I would LOVE a new color.
Stability: Slipping and falling during poses in yoga can be avoided by using a high-quality mat, which provides more stability and traction. When you're grounded, you're less prone to make erratic motions that put stress on your joints. We might not think about this but also make sure that it STICKS to the floor. Some mats don't grip the floor. That's a problem because we are routinely pushing into the mat. If you opt for a handstand and the mat itself isn't grounded to the earth, it might (I've seen it happen) slip out from underneath you.
Support: Some yoga mats have additional characteristics, such thicker padding or ridges to cushion your knees and elbows. I can't stress enough how important it is to have a mat that resists my weight and holds me up. Less quality mats don't have enough resistance. It feels like I'm going through the mat and feeling the full wrath of a hard surface on my knees and wrists. Those who suffer from joint pain or illnesses like arthritis may find that these mats make a world of difference.
Grip: To help you keep your balance and alignment as you go through different yoga poses, look for a mat with a textured surface. Having a firm grip can decrease the need to unsafely use muscle and joint energy to hold or transition to a pose.
Here's the thing. If you start to slide, you'll do whatever it takes to regain your footing. That generally entails adopting a "death grip" with your toes and/or hyperextending (locking) your knees and elbows for stability. That will not only make your practice stressful but it'll over access your ligaments and tendons leaving you vulnerable to injury or in pain or both. Worst case scenario (and I have seen this happen) your hand slips out from under you in Side Plank injuring the shoulder. My personal favorite is when lowering from a handstand, it is possible that one's feet slide out from under them, resulting in a less-than-graceful faceplant. (Yeah, that's happened to me.)
**If You Sweat Like It's The End of the World: First of all, you're my people. If you sweat like a river during yoga, invest in a traction towel to place over your mat to absorb the sweat. I haven't found a mat that provides traction when sweat pools on it, no matter how sticky the mat is. If the mat itself is soaking it up all that sweat, all I can say is ewww. If I have puddles on my mat there is no traction because there is something slippery between me and my mat - sweat. It's like a giant slip and slide, and it's really unsafe. (That reminds me, now that summer has arrived in South Florida, I need to start bringing TWO traction towels to my practice and switch them out mid-class.)
Remember that although using a good yoga mat has its advantages, it's equally important to practice yoga mindfully and pay attention to your body's cues. It's always good to speak with a medical expert or a certified yoga teacher for individualized advice if you have any concerns or persistent joint discomfort.
Keep flowing and growing!
Ps. If you're ready to get your headstand in the middle of the yoga room, join me on June 10th at 1:00pm. Follow this link for all the details!
All my love,
Hello, my name is Vikky, and I am thrilled to share my passion for yoga with you. I have been teaching yoga for over 13 years in South Florida, and my journey with this ancient practice started over 37 years ago. As a registered yoga teacher and 200 Yoga School with Yoga Alliance, I hold expertise in multiple disciplines of yoga, including yogic anatomy, 500-hour yoga teacher training, yogic philosophy, and meditation. My classes are a blend of dynamic movement, breathwork, and meditation, providing a holistic experience that nurtures the mind, body, and spirit. I believe yoga is for everyone, regardless of age, fitness level, or experience. My approach is welcoming and inclusive, creating a safe and nurturing environment for all my students to explore the many benefits of yoga. Through my teachings, I hope to inspire and empower students to connect with their inner selves, cultivate mindfulness, and lead healthier, happier lives. Join me in my classes to experience the transformative power of yoga firsthand.