There are so many yoga mats out there that it can make it difficult for many to truly know which ones are the best to use, and which ones might inhibit you from having the greatest practice. The problem is that many people choose either the prettiest looking mat or the cheapest mat that they can find. While this might seem like a good idea at the moment, many times, these mats do not hold up the way they should, leaving you with a mat that is falling apart and can not properly support your practice.
So, why is having the right yoga mat important? Are different mats better depending on each individual person?
Are there different mats for men and women? What is the best yoga mat for men?
Why is it Important to Have the Right Yoga Mat?
Having the right yoga mat can mean the difference between being properly supported during your practice or feeling unsteady. The right mat might be different from person to person, but overall, there are certain properties that every mat should have, and certain things you will want to avoid.
You will want a mat that is the right length, the right thickness, offers a good grip, etc. The proper mat will also depend on where you are practicing and what type of practice you are doing.
The problem is, if a mat is too thin, this will put pressure on the joints. If a mat is too thick, it will make it harder to balance and will force pressure into the ankles. If you have a mat that slides easily, this could affect your practice as well, making it easier to fall.
Having the right mat can truly improve your practice and make it easier to keep doing yoga in the long run. In this article, we will be further breaking down different features of mats and going into more detail about which mats are best for each person, including whether or not a mat changes depending on gender.
Yoga for Men Versus Yoga for Women
When it comes to yoga for men versus yoga for women, a practice might feel very different. Men and women have very different anatomies.
Flexibility and Strength- Men, in general, are less flexible than women due to the higher levels of testosterone and the lack of estrogen in male bodies. Women are typically more flexible because their ligaments are meant to shift in order to give birth, making the soft tissues of a female’s body stretchier than a male’s. (Blair, 2007)
Joint Mobility- Women naturally have more mobile joints, and this is also due to the fact that their joints are meant to shift when giving birth. This is why females tend to have a much easier time with hip openers. Males typically have much tighter hips on average, making it harder to go deeper into a hip-opening stretch. (Blair, 2007)
Muscle Mass- In addition, men, on average, have a higher muscle mass than women. This is also due to testosterone levels. Having more muscle without stretching can lead to a lack of flexibility. This is another reason why males typically have a harder time stretching in yoga. Luckily, continuing to practice yoga can increase mobility of the muscles, making it possible to keep practicing while also making strength training more doable. (Gołaś, et al.)
The Best Length of a Yoga Mat for Men
Height– On average, males are taller than females. While this should not affect a yoga practice too much, it does make finding the right size of a mat a bit more difficult. If a person is very tall, this can make it uncomfortable to spread out on a shorter mat. Since men are naturally taller most of the time, having a larger mat can be helpful for them. Let’s say that a man was six feet tall and his mat was only five and a half feet. You can see how this would be uncomfortable. During Savasana, it would be more likely that his legs would hang over the bottom of the mat while trying to relax for meditation. This would mean coming in contact with the dirty floor and interacting more with germs.
Width- For many men, having a wider yoga mat is also very helpful to prevent the limbs from hanging over the sides of the mats and touching the ground. Wider mats are also more helpful when practicing poses like wide leg forward fold where you would need to be able to stretch your legs all the way out to the sides.
The Right Size of a Yoga Mat for Men– With all of this in mind, having a larger mat for taller men is typically best. The average yoga mat is just under twenty-five inches wide and under seventy-two inches long. (Gabric, 2020) For many men, this is just not big enough of a mat. This is why we created a much longer and wider mat. Our Body By Yoga mat was specifically designed to be the right size for everyone of any size practicing. Our mat is twenty-six inches wide and eighty inches long. You can check out our yoga mat here.
How Thick Should a Yoga Mat Be for Men
Too Thick- If a mat is too thick, it puts pressure in the ankles, especially during balancing poses. This is due to the fact that the foot will try and compensate for the lack of balance, and the muscles of the ankles will wind up taking that extra force. Thick mats are also much harder to unroll and keep flat since they are often lightweight.
Too Thin- If a mat is too thin, you will be able to feel the hard floor through it. This puts pressure on the knees, wrists, elbows, and other sensitive joints of the body., offering very little support or grip. Thin mats also tend to slip easily.
Just Right- Finding the perfect thickness of a yoga mat is important, and most do not know what to look for. This is why Body By Yoga experimented to find the mat that offers thickness without being too thick or too thin. Our mat is six and a half millimeters whereas other leading brands tend to range between one and a half millimeters to up to seven or more!
The Right Thickness for Men- So, now we can ask the question of why it is important for men specifically to have a thicker mat that isn’t too thick. Since men tend to focus more on strength training and less on stretching, they are prone to low back and hip pain. For men with sensitive joints and sore lower backs, a thick mat offers extra support. In addition, many men typically prefer more strength-based yoga practices, like power yoga, where poses are held for longer periods of time. If a mat were too thick, it would make a person more wobbly in a pose. If it were too thin, it would not offer much support This is why it is so important to find the thickness of a mat that is just right for you!
Why is the Grip of Your Mat Important?
To Help With Balance
Having a mat with a good grip is important to avoid slipping while practicing yoga. If your mat does not have much of a grip, it becomes easier to fall or slide during balancing poses. Instead, you will want a mat that has just enough cushion with a good grip that can help you maintain your balance in a pose without forcing the pressure into your ankles.
For When You Sweat
Some yoga mats are specifically designed to offer a good grip and become stickier the more you practice and the more you sweat. This feature is great, but you will want to make sure that your mat is not becoming stickier from absorbing sweat. When sweat is absorbed past the first layer, bacteria can easily grow with the mat. Instead, look for a mat that will keep sweat in the first layer, making it easier to clean. For a mat like this, you will want one that is non-porous. This is why cork yoga mats are some of the best for offering a good grip. The material reacts with sweat to become stickier, but it also allows you to easily clean the sweat when you are done.
Best Mat for Where You Practice
Where you practice is also a factor that should be taken into consideration when buying your yoga mat. For example, if you are practicing in a studio versus in your backyard, the proper choice of mat may vary. Different mats work better on different surfaces. Therefore, it is important to learn about which surface you will be practicing on the most to ensure that you are using the best possible mat for you.
Carpeted Floor- Let’s say you are practicing at home and are using a carpeted floor. Mats tend to slide pretty easily on the carpet if they do not have much weight or grip to them. If you are practicing on carpet, look for a mat that has a bit more weight and uses a material that is less likely to slide on carpet. We recommend using a mat that’s bottom is made of sustainable rubber to keep it from sliding.
Hard Floor- Whether you are practicing in a studio or at home, floors that are harder (like wood) can also make mats slide pretty easily. This means you will definitely want a mat with a good grip on the bottom. However, it’s also incredibly important to keep in mind that a harder floor will put more pressure on your joints. Therefore, a mat with more padding is better when you are practicing on a hard floor.
Outside- When practicing outside, you are working with the natural elements. The type of ground you are practicing on will affect which mat you should be using. For example, if you are practicing on sand, you will want a mat that is not too thick since you will already have more trouble balancing. If you are on the grass, a mat with a good grip on the bottom, or that has more weight, will prevent slipping. When practicing on pavement, a thicker mat is better to properly keep you from feeling the hard ground beneath you.
The Durability and Sustainability of Your Mat
Durability- It is important to find a yoga mat that is more durable and will hold up as you continue to use it to practice. A cheaply made mat will not be very durable. Different materials will also last longer than others. We personally recommend cork mats for their durability, but if you opt for cork, you will want to find a mat that has just enough cork without being thin and without forcing too much together. If the wrong cork mat is chosen, it might fall apart more easily. A good cork mat will be very durable and will properly support you and your practice. Some mats, like PVC (polyvinyl chloride), are very durable but are not environmentally friendly or sustainable. This is why you should find a mat that is durable while still being sustainable.
Sustainability- You should look for a mat that is more sustainable and environmentally friendly. PVC, for example, is not great for the environment at all and can not easily be broken down. This is why sticking to naturally made mats can be so helpful. Our mats are actually one hundred percent sustainable. Our cork is made from the bark of trees that is harvested without cutting down the tree. The bark will grow back and the tree will not suffer. In addition, the rubber on the bottoms of our mats is made by tapping trees and draining them as you would with maple syrup. This liquid is then turned into rubber, and the tree will continue to reproduce what was taken. This is why our mats are some of the most sustainable out there. Find a mat that is sustainable and will not harm the environment when you are eventually done with it.
Why You Should Avoid Cheaply Made Mats
Lower Quality- The problem with cheaper mats is that they are usually a lower price for a reason. When you buy a cheaply made mat, you will often have a very thin mat with little support. In this situation, a mat will probably not last very long at all, easily falling apart the more you use it. These mats are much lower quality and will make practicing much more difficult.
Cheaper Mats Don’t Last- Since cheaper mats are made of much cheaper material, they typically will not last nearly as long as a good quality mat. If you think about it, this just means that you will have to replace your mat sooner without being able to use it as much as you would like to. The more you have to replace a mat, the more money you wind up spending to get a new one.
Invest in the Right Mat- Investing in the right mat not only ensures you won’t have to immediately replace it, but it also means that your mat will be higher quality. Better quality equals more support during your practice. It is important to pick a mat that makes the most sense for you and find one within a reasonable budget that is not chosen only because it is “cheap.” This also does not mean you need the most expensive brand name mat out there. Just find a good quality mat that properly fits your needs.
Why Cork Yoga Mats are Great For Men
Durability- Cork mats are very durable, allowing you to practice more without the worry of ruining your mat. For men, this is especially helpful for yoga practices that involve a lot of fast-paced movement (like a vinyasa flow or power yoga). Since many men who practice yoga use it as a workout, having a mat that is more durable is better.
Better for Sweating- In addition, since more-intense classes involve a lot of sweating, having a mat that absorbs sweat and gets stickier with use can be very helpful. In fact, studies show that men tend to sweat more than women in general. (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010) For this reason, having a mat that soaks up sweat and uses it to create a better grip is helpful to prevent sweat from getting in the way of a practice.
Better Grip- Cork mats offer an amazing grip, making them a great choice for anyone practicing yoga. When it comes to men, a good grip can be very helpful for those who are less experienced, especially when it comes to balancing or holding standing poses. Since many men might prefer a more intense practice that involves strength building and balancing, a better grip can be very helpful in supporting their practices and avoiding slipping during intense classes.
Body By Yoga’s Cork Yoga Mats
Did you know we make our own yoga mats? Our mats are designed to be accessible for everyone. They are longer and wider than your average mat as well as thicker without being so thick that you can’t balance.
Our mats offer an amazing grip, becoming stickier the more you use them, and they are so easy to clean. They also absorb sweat as the grip gets better. Since cork is naturally antimicrobial, germs are unable to penetrate past the surface, making our mats much cleaner and safer than many alternatives.
In addition, we managed to fit about six times the amount of cork into our mats than other brands. Most cork mats will have a layer of cork that is about as thin as sandpaper. We wanted to make sure that we used as much of our premium Portuguese cork as possible without being so thick that the mat is hard to use or starts to fall apart.
Our mats are just heavy enough that they will not slide while you practice, but not so heavy that they are difficult to carry.
You can use our mats to practice just about anywhere. Our mats are also fully sustainable. Each mat has a different design, and some even have markings to help you align your poses for a better practice overall.
Do our mats sound like the right ones for you? Are you ready to try out one of our yoga mats? Click here to check them out!
References: Blair M. L. (2007). Sex-based differences in physiology: what should we teach in the medical curriculum?. Advances in physiology education, 31(1), 23–25. https://doi.org/10.1152/advan.00118.2006 Gabrić, D. (2020, November 4). How long should your yoga mat be? branded.disruptsports.com. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from https://branded.disruptsports.com/blogs/blog/how-long-should-your-yoga-mat-be. Gołaś, A., Maszczyk, A., Pietraszewski, P., Wilk, M., Stastny, P., Strońska, K., Studencki, M., & Zając, A. (2018). Muscular activity patterns of female and male athletes during the flat bench press. Biology of sport, 35(2), 175–179. https://doi.org/10.5114/biolsport.2018.74193 Wiley-Blackwell. (2010, October 8). Men perspire, women glow: Men are more efficient at sweating, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 19, 2021 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101007210546.htm