Yoga Mats and Accessories: The Ultimate Guide
While you don't need much to start practicing yoga, (1) you may feel like changing it up after a while to challenge yourself and keep your experience fun. That's when incorporating the right yoga accessories can make a big difference in your routine.
Whether you're shopping for the perfect yoga mat or looking for props that can support and elevate your practice, here are some points to consider at any stage of your journey.
How to Choose a Yoga Mat
A yoga mat can make your body more comfortable by providing it with stability and a layer of cushioning from the floor. Whether you do downward-facing dog from home or prefer attending classes at a studio, the yoga mat is an essential part of your practice.
Traditional yoga mats have an average thickness of 1/8th of an inch and come in sizes ranging from 68 to 72 inches long and 24 inches wide. You can find them in a wide variety of shapes, colors, designs and materials. Select the mat that best reflects your personality, suits the intensity of your workout(2) and makes you feel good each time you unroll it.
Yoga Mat Material
When you're yoga mat shopping, you'll likely come across four different types of materials:
- Traditional PVC
- Synthetic rubber
- Thermoplastic elastomer (TPE)
Each type comes with its own advantages and price point.
Traditional PVC Yoga Mat
This type of yoga mat is great to start with if you're just beginning your yoga journey.(3) It also has a number of advantages:
- Cheaper price point
- Most common material, which makes it easy to find
- Sticky surface that adheres well to the floor, so it won't slide around while you're changing your poses
Synthetic Rubber Yoga Mat
Synthetic rubber mats include those made of NBR (nitrile butadiene rubber). Choose this type of mat if you're looking for something with these qualities:
- Thicker material
- Sturdier design
- Solid grip
TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer) Mat
If you're looking for an eco-friendly option, this recycled rubber material rubber could be a good choice for you. It's also:
- Easy to clean
Cork Yoga Mat
Cork is a newer material so it may not be as easy to find as the other types of mats above. It may be worth your while to go on the hunt, however, if the following characteristics are appealing:
- Durable with good grip thanks to its rubber base
- Prevents sweat from pooling on your mat
- Naturally antimicrobial, which eliminates bacteria and odors
- Easy to clean
Yoga Mat Sizes and Shapes
A good rule of thumb is to replace your yoga mat every six months to a year, or as soon as it loses traction or shows signs of wear and tear. When it's time to purchase a replacement mat, it's a good opportunity to try a different size or experiment with a new shape. Consider these options:
- Extra long/extra wide: If you're taller or want more space to spread out, getting a mat in these larger-than-average sizes could feel more comfortable for you.
- Round or square: These shapes can provide extra space for any kind of pose so your body never comes into contact with the floor, even if you misstep.
- Curve: Designed to mimic the shape of the human body, an hourglass-designed yoga mat can give you more freedom to stretch than standard mats.
- Youth size: A smaller, kid-sized mat built just for them can encourage the budding yoginis in your life to practice alongside you.
Additional Yoga Accessories
Once you've fallen in love with your chosen mat, you may want to add some variety to your workout with the help of some additional yoga accessories.
Yoga Block or Brick
The yoga block or yoga brick is one of the most commonly used props and can be found in a range of materials. Consider buying a set, since some poses require multiple blocks. This accessory's benefits include:
- Increased support in certain poses by bringing the floor closer to you
- Helps improve flexibility
- Can be used to deepen or ease into poses without needing to stretch as much
- Helps maintain proper alignment
This circular prop can be used to support beginners as well as more advanced yoga practitioners who are looking for ways to challenge themselves.
- It can help you stretch and open up your chest
- It enhances balance and strength training
- It can support your back, neck and head in certain poses
- It can add a level of challenge to certain exercises
Similar to a yoga pillow, a bolster can provide advanced support and help with alignment. Other benefits include:
- Assistance with sitting and reclining poses
- Useful for therapeutic, restorative or prenatal yoga classes
- Availability in both round and flat shapes, depending on preference
If you need cushioning for a certain pose or require more support in poses due to limited flexibility, a yoga blanket can be helpful. In addition it can also:
- Be used to sit on
- Help you stay warm in savasana pose or during meditation
- Help provide a slow restorative flow
- Be used instead of a yoga block
A yoga strap, also called a yoga band or yoga rope, can help you achieve a wider range of motion in certain poses. It can also be used to:
- Wrap around your feet for a deeper pull into a stretch
- Help open up your shoulders
- Improve stability and balance
While yoga is usually done barefoot, this may not appeal to everyone. Consider these benefits of putting on some yoga socks:
- Good grip on slippery floors
- Wick away sweat
- Keep you warm
- Prevent odors
- Protect your feet from exposure to harmful bacteria or fungus in public places
A large microfiber yoga towel acts as a cover for your yoga mat. Some yoga towels include non-slip grips on one side to keep the towel in place, and others include corner pockets to hook to the mat. A yoga towel can also:
- Enhance grip and traction
- Prevent slipping or risk of injury while on your mat
- Absorb sweat and prevent odor
- Provide a dry place for your forehead to rest
A smaller yoga hand towel can be used as a sweat towel during your practice.
Yoga Mat Holder
A yoga mat holder or yoga mat bag makes it easier to transport your mat from home to work, the studio or your next retreat.
- It can come with over-the-shoulder straps or carrying handles
- A dedicated storage holder makes your mat easy to find and access
- Some designs offer extra room for your keys or water bottle
No matter what your level of experience or flexibility may be, you'll likely find yourself at some point shopping for yoga mats or yoga accessories. While there’s a wide variety of props to choose from, consider investing in the items that align best with your lifestyle and routine. This will ensure you have everything you need for a successful yoga practice.
1. "Yoga: What You Need to Know," National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Accessed February 18, 2022. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga-what-you-need-to-know
2. "Yoga Benefits Beyond the Map," Harvard Medical School. Accessed February 18, 2022. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/yoga-benefits-beyond-the-mat
3. "Yoga for Health," National Library of Medicine. Accessed February 18, 2022. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000876.htm