Yoga is thousands of years old, but did you know that the yoga mat is a relatively new invention? Your yoga mat size is an important factor to consider when beginning your yoga journey.
This article will focus on:
- The Evolution of the Yoga Mat
- The Various Types of Yoga Mats
- The Best Size and Style of Yoga Mat To Use
The Evolution of the Yoga Mat
In the early eras of yoga, asana (or yoga postures) were not formerly practiced. Yoga was more about philosophical study, breath work, and deep meditative practice. These disciplines involved a lot of sitting in pursuit of a journey towards enlightenment.
If a yogi needed something to sit on, they would have used animal skin, woven cloth, or simply just the earth! These were the most practical and common solutions for studying yoga.
When yoga postures were eventually introduced, the cloths and animal skins became less effective. Yogis needed to work with something a little larger and sturdier than animal skin.
Therefore, rectangular-shaped rugs (to match the length of the human body) were used to accommodate the new movements during this era of yoga.
They would have been crafted from cotton or other available materials. These early yoga rugs were the framework for our modern yoga mat sizes. However, these rugs did not last long. The loose-weaved fabrics could not hold up to the rigorous yoga asanas.
It wasn’t until the 1960s, as different styles of yoga became more popular in the West, that a new yoga mat size and design was developed. It was originally made from a piece of foam that was used to produce carpet padding.
This newer yoga mat was softer and more pliable for the practicing yogi, but they, too, did not last long. They would easily tear and crumble.
Although, all was not lost as the foam padding inspired the yoga mats we use today. They paved the way for the standard thin 3mm mat we are now accustomed to.The “sticky mat,” as it was called at its inception in the 1990s, was made from PVC. The plasticity and texture of the mat allowed it to be somewhat sticky so we would not slip on its surface.
This also meant that the mats could hold their shape and withstand the rigors of many asana yoga practices. They were pliable and thin for easy transport.
The standard yoga mat size was 24 inches wide (60.96cm) and between 68 to 72 inches long (172.72cm to 182.88 cm).
3 Types of Yoga Mats
Along with the rising popularity of yoga, the yoga mat also made its way into the mainstream. Yogis were found going to their local sporting goods stores to purchase a sticky mat for use in a yoga class at their gym or local studio.
The yoga mat continued to evolve, just like the yoga practice. One could not only buy a PVC yoga mat for their practice but other types of mats that suited their yoga needs. Here are a few that are quite popular today:
- Natural Rubber Mats
- All-Cotton Yoga Mats
- Cork Yoga Mats
#1: Natural Rubber Yoga Mats
Because PVC mats pose a disposal problem, other types of materials have been used that are more friendly to the natural world!
Natural rubber yoga mats have the feel of the traditional PVC mats, but are less toxic and more eco-friendly. They are made with more natural materials that are biodegradable.
#2: All-Cotton Yoga Mats
Cotton yoga mats have also become popular due to their natural materials and soft texture. They absorb sweat well when you practice and can easily be cleaned by hand-washing with detergents or cleansers.
However, be warned that a cotton yoga mat isn’t as long-lasting as a plastic mat.
#3: Cork Yoga Mats
Another highly popular yoga mat today is the cork mat. They are very durable, offer excellent traction, and are made with all-natural materials. The cork and rubber components of the mat are biodegradable and the surface is hypoallergenic.
The Best Yoga Mat Size For Your Height
Not only do you have a choice of the style, texture, and make of your yoga mat, but also the size. An important question to ask is ‘what yoga mat size is best for me?’.
Firsty, you need to consider how tall you are. That answer can make a difference when choosing the properly sized yoga mat. As mentioned, the standard yoga mat size is 24 inches wide, 68 inches long, and 1/8 inch thick.
If you are 6ft tall or shorter, a 24×68 yoga mat size should suit you just fine. They are easy to find in most sporting goods stores or places that exclusively sell yoga equipment.
Depending on your height, you will want the length of your yoga mat to be 7-10 inches longer than your height.
That way, in poses like Downward Facing Dog, your hands and feet will remain on the mat. You want to have a good amount of space to adjust for any slipping or other movement that may occur during your practice.
Also, take into account how long your legs are. In yoga poses like Warrior Two, where you are in a lunging stance, the distance between your feet can make a difference. Longer legs may mean a wider stance.
If you’re using a standard-sized yoga mat, you want to be sure that your feet remain completely on the mat.
If you are taller than 6ft or have longer legs, you may want to consider purchasing a longer yoga mat. Luckily, the longer-than-standard-sized mat is more readily accessible now.
You may not find a longer yoga mat in a local store, but many online yoga mat manufacturers certainly sell these.
You can find mats that are 70 to 75 inches long (180-190cm). Extra long mats are also available that range from 75 inches to more than 84 inches (190-215cm). These longer mats, however, may have to be special ordered.
If you are much shorter than 6ft tall (e.g. 5ft tall or shorter), you can also find custom yoga mat sizes that are 60 inches long. If your kids are also dedicated yogis, a shorter yoga mat would be ideal.
How The Style of yoga affects mat type
Another thing to consider when choosing the right-sized mat is the form of yoga you’ll be practicing. Not only do you want the proper length, but you want the appropriate design for your preferred style of yoga. Some common yoga styles today include:
- Hot Yoga
- Yoga Meditation & Restorative Yoga
- Other Hatha Yoga Styles
Hot Yoga Mats
This style of yoga has become quite popular and it requires a certain type of yoga mat due to the high temperatures in the studio. Because you’ll likely be sweating in your class, you’ll want a yoga mat that can absorb moisture.
A cork yoga mat is designed to wick away moisture so that you do not slip on your mat.
A benefit to the cork mat is that it is hypoallergenic so it does not hold any bacteria. Plus, a cork mat is easy to clean, very durable, and eco-friendly.
Another option is to purchase a yoga rug to lay over your current mat. This is a yoga mat-shaped piece of fabric often made from woven cotton. In a hot yoga class, they will effectively absorb moisture and ensure a quality grip so you do not slip.
A yoga rug can be washed so it remains clean for each use. And just like other yoga mats on the market, you can purchase them in various lengths to ensure you have the right yoga mat size.
Yoga Meditation & Restorative Yoga Mats
If you enjoy restful and rejuvenating yoga practices like meditation, Restorative Yoga, or Yin Yoga, then you may want a yoga mat that is thicker, yet softer, to support your body. These styles of yoga require more sitting and lying down.
A mat with a softer texture, or even a thicker yoga mat, will be conducive to your preferred yoga practice.
In regards to size, a slightly longer mat (i.e. 70 to 72 inches) may be nice, too. It will allow your whole body to stretch out completely on the mat, accommodate any props you are using, and you can fold it to create a comfortable pad for seated meditation.
Hatha Style Yoga Mats
Yoga practices often involve a lot of movement. Having the perfect size and design of yoga mat is essential for your Hatha Yoga practice. You want a mat that is durable enough to sustain your movement.
Your mat should be sticky enough to avoid slipping out of poses, too.
The appropriate length of a yoga mat is important so that you can perform all of your poses directly on the yoga mat.
Now that you have learned more about the various sizes of yoga mats, take a moment to research other styles of yoga so you can pick the best size of yoga mat for your personal practice.