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How to choose the right yoga mat

July 21, 2008
Yoga acharya Shameem Akthar, trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, checks out five brands of yoga mats available in the market.

Just a few years ago, it was more common to do yoga on dhurries (hand-woven cotton or woollen rugs). When I did my instructor training, I too belonged to the majority, from India, who did their sadhana (practice) on a slippery, multi-coloured Rs-100 dhurrie. Only those from abroad slung their yoga mats with an enviable nonchalance or skipped into the advanced scorpion pose fearlessly. The rest of us endlessly adjusted our dhurrie or removed it while experimenting with difficult poses and practiced directly on the hard ground, as I often preferred to do those days.

Today all that has changed. Sports shops stock yoga mats as the ancient science re-establishes itself in the country of its origin. Today, we take a look at how these options fared.

To decide how each mat fared, I tried out poses/ practices where mat steadiness is important: this included surya namaskar (Sun salutation), chakrasana (wheel) including its advanced variations, scorpion pose or vrschikasana, pincha mayurasana (peacock feather pose), adhomukha vrkasana (handstand) and its vinyasa or flow.

In the surya namaskar the 'inverted V' pose (also called mountain or parvatasana) requires a firm mat which will not move as you press down with your shoulder and heels. Also, if your pace is very fast while doing the sun salute, most regular practitioners will find their mats can shred from the sheer intensity of practice!

Also, when you do fast-paced sun salutes, some mats can move about, affecting mental focus. Similarly, in all the other poses mentioned above, the steadiness of the mat is very important to be able to kick or slip into the pose. If the mat moves or shifts it causes fear and disorientation that in turn ruins your learning process, especially at the beginner's level. This anxiety can afflict even an advanced practitioner. So the steadiness of your yoga mat must be the primary criteria while choosing it.

Photographs: Jahnavi Sheriff
Also read: 5 poses using a gym ball
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