Choosing a Yoga Mat

Traditionally, Indian yogis would practice on bare earth or cotton rugs. Yoga mats are actually a recent invention with yoga studios providing mats to cushion and protect your joints. They also offer some friction to prevent slipping, making your practice more comfortable. With the threat of Covid-19, most studios now recommend that members bring their own mats for hygiene reasons. It can be hard to pick one with so many choices out there. The standard measurements for the average yoga mat are 180cm by 66cm with a thickness of between 4-5 millimetres. Generally a yoga mat should be comfortable providing support for your practice. It would be made of non-slip material and easy to clean. So when you are looking for your own mat whether to use at home or to bring to the studio, there are some key considerations.

Thickness/Weight

Yoga mats range from 6mm to 1.6mm in thickness and this determines the comfort of your practice. If the mat is too thin, there is inadequate protection for your knees and joints and you may find it uncomfortable or even painful. However if the mat is too thick, it may compromise the stability of your balancing poses.

6mm thickness. Standard size used in yoga studios, thicker mats offer the best comfort and support. However if the mat is too thick, you may find that you are losing contact and connection to the ground. Standing poses that require balancing on 1 leg, e.g. Tree Pose, becomes more challenging. Thicker mats provide extra cushioning and are good for therapeutic practices like Restorative, Yin and Prenatal Yoga where comfort is important. If you do a lot of core work lying on your back, this may also be a good option. Thicker mats are also heavier but there are premium mats which are “open cell” (porous mats e.g. Manduka eKO and Jade Harmony) making them lighter than inexpensive mats with similar thickness.

4mm-5mm thickness. This thickness is suitable for home use providing enough cushioning for your knees. Certain poses, however, may still require additional cushioning with the help of a towel or knee pad. With many options for lighter travel mats in the market, there is no need to lug this to your yoga studio.  There are many other options for travel mats which you can lay over the studio mats. 

1-3mm thickness. Known as travel mats, these are light and portable. You can use them when you travel or bring them to the studio to provide that extra hygiene protection. They can be folded or rolled up and easily packed into a suitcase or backpack.

Stickiness/Grip

A sticky yoga mat keeps you from slipping and helps you hold poses in alignment. It is how well your skin sticks to the mat with a suction-like feel. You can test the “stickiness of a mat in a downward dog. Your hands will not slide forward.

Or you can opt for “open cell” mats which are porous, meaning they can absorb sweat and moisture. Popular examples include the Manduka eKO and Jade mats. They have a textured surface which are crucial in providing traction preventing your hands and feet from slipping. So they are popular with people taking hot yoga classes. However because these mats trap moisture, it is important to air and clean them often. The high end premium open cell mats may include anti-bacterial agents in the material.

“Closed-cell” mats are not absorbent. Popular examples include the Manduka Pro, Liforme, Lululemon, and the Gaiam Print Mat.  They are not suitable for hot classes though the Liforme, Lululemon and the Alo Warrior Mat have a top layer of polyurethane, which creates a sticky, non-slip grip that’s ideal for hot yoga in the same way as the open-cell mats.

Material/Texture

There are several materials to consider, with different textures, levels of stickiness , eco-friendliness, sponginess and durability. Traditionally, yoga mats are made of PVC (plastic-based materials).  Now there are more options including eco-friendly alternatives like recycled rubber, jute, organic or natural cotton. If you’re allergic to latex, avoid yoga mats made of natural rubber which also have a rubber smell when they are new. PVC mats are durable, easy to clean and offer good grip but they are non-absorbent and can be slippery when you sweat. They are also not biodegradable or environmentally friendly.

Price

A basic 3mm thick, plain solid colour PVC sticky yoga mat will be on the lower end of the price range. While eco-friendly yoga mats tend to be pricier. Generally, thicker mats last longer than thinner mats. However durability also depends on the material the mat is made from.

Mats We Like

Manduka ProLite Yoga Mat
1.8kg
4.7mm thickness
S$169
Available from manduka.sg

The choice brand for most yoga studios (Manduka Pro), it provides adequate padding with the right amount of grip. The closed cell surface prevents sweat from seeping into the mat and breeding bacteria. This high quality mat should last a lifetime or two (comes with a lifetime guarantee – “Should a PRO™ mat wear out past its useful life from regular use under normal conditions, Manduka will replace the product.”) The price is reasonable for its quality and durability. It is non-toxic, 100 percent latex free with an emissions-free manufacturing process.

Manduka eKO Superlite Yoga Mat
1kg
1.5mm thickness
S$89
Available from manduka.sg

You get ultimate portability with this super light and thin mat which you can place on top of the thicker studio mat. The surface design prevents sweat from seeping into the mat and it is made from sustainably harvested tree rubber.

Liforme Original Yoga Mat
2.5kg
4.2mm thickness
£100 (S$186)

Liforme Travel Mat
1.6kg
2mm thickness

Liforme Orginal and Travel Mat Bundle
£150.00 (S$279)
Available from liforme.com

This immensely popular mat has an amazing non-slip surface providing firm stability and soft cushioning with a natural rubber base and an eco-polyurethane top surface making it suitable for use in normal temperature as well as hot classes as it doesn’t get slippery with your sweat. The AlignForMe system, a series of lines on the mat, helps in alignment during practice. It is also environmentally friendly. A little pricey though, as it doesn’t come with a lifetime guarantee.

Lululemon’s The Reversible Mat
2.4kg
5mm thickness
US$88 (S$118)
Available on lululemon.com

This thick natural rubber mat has two sides: a smooth, “sticky” polyurethane side that makes your hands and feet “stick” to the mat, and a spongy, natural rubber “grippy” side that provides traction via a textured surface. It is slightly oversized—3 inches longer and 2 inches wider than a standard mat. As such it is on the heavier side but built to last.

The JadeYoga Harmony Mat
2.2kg
4.8mm thickness
S$138

Jade Voyager Mat
680g
1.6mm thickness
S$65

Jade Travel Mat
1.4kg
3mm thickness
S$98
Available from www.jadeyoga.sg

Every time someone buys a Jade Yoga mat, a tree will be planted in collaboration with Trees for the Future so your purchase will help support environmentally and economically sustainable projects. Made from open cell natural rubber, it absorbs a lot of moisture and helps maintain traction in sweaty situations. 99 percent latex free, it is built with reinforced scrim which resists tearing or stretching. However it does give off a rubber smell when it is new. Go for the thinner, lighter travel option, the JadeYoga Voyager, if you want a protective covering over the studio mat. You can also consider the Jade Travel Mat which offers more protection at 3mm but it is slightly more expensive than the Voyager.  

Gaiam Performance Dry-Grip Yoga Mat
1.93kg
5mm thickness
US$69.98 (S$94)
Available from giaim.com

PVC mats are generally more affordable. This relatively light mat made of PVC offers adequate cushioning providing firm and comfortable support for the joints. Created with a topcoat that wicks away moisture, it gives better traction and grip even in a hot class. Not as eco-friendly but it is manufactured free of the top six most harmful phthalates. Comes with a lifetime guarantee as well. Giaim also offers a range of affordable eco-friendly mats made of jute and cork with many designs to choose from.

Our Studio Mat

MADANA Pro Yogi Jute Yoga Mat
2.8kg
5mm thickness
S$149
Available from madanayoga.com

The mats we use at our studio are eco-friendly, free from toxic chemicals and made of 100% biodegradable natural rubber and jute. Thus it is recommended to lay your own yoga mat on top if you are allergic to latex. It is a reversible yoga mat where you can use either side to your preference. MADANA is a home-grown yoga brand from Singapore.

There are other cheaper options on the market but investing in a good quality mat will help you to enjoy your practice more and prevent possible injuries. Apart from hygiene reasons, the mat also represents your commitment to yourself and your own wellbeing. Happy Shopping!

ELEMIT YOGA

Learn the art and science of yoga with heart and wisdom

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History of Yoga

For serious practitioners and super enthusiasts

In yogic culture, Lord Shiva, the Hindu deity is considered to be the Adi Yogi meaning the first yogi. He is also called Yosheshwara, Lord of Yoga, being the first yoga teacher and guru. Shiva created the science of yoga and taught it to his wife Parvati and later to the seven ancient rishis, his disciples, 15,000 years ago in the Himalayas. Thus yoga was passed on to the rest of mankind.

Depictions of yoga postures have been found in excavations at Harappa and Mohenjodaro, ancient civilizations of the Indus River dating back 2500 BCE. The first mention of the word “yoga” was in the Rig Vedathe oldest sacred text of Hinduism written around 1500 BCEVeda in Sanskrit translates as knowledge. Knowledge of life. The Rig Veda gives the first known definition of yoga. Derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, it means “to yoke” or “to join”. Yoga then was a spiritual practice which aimed to create union between body, mind and soul as well as between the Individual Self and Universal Consciousness. In other words, to be one with the Supreme Being. Later texts like the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita expounded the spiritual aspects of yoga in greater detail and translated them into practical teachings.

Around 200 CE (the date varies among sources), the sage Patanjali who is known as the father of modern yoga codified all aspects of yoga into a format known as the Yoga Sutras which is a collection of 195 sutras or verses. “Sutra” means thread in Sanskrit. He presented classical yoga in an 8 limbed path that was supposed to lead to the final goal of Samadhi or Enlightenment. It served as a practical guide on one’s spiritual journey to find peace and freedom from suffering. The physical aspects of yoga and the practice of poses were to prepare one to sit for long hours for meditation.

Hatha yoga texts on the practice of physical yoga poses began to emerge sometime between the 9th and 11th century with origins in Tantra. Yoga masters created a system of practices to cleanse, purify and rejuvenate the body combining asana (poses), mantra, mudra, and bandha (energy locks) and chakra (energy centres). They rejected the teachings of the ancient Vedas and embraced the physical body as the means to achieve Enlightenment. 
Then in the late 1800s and early 1900s, yoga masters began to travel to the West attracting a lot of attention and followers. In 1893, a Hindu monk, Swami Vivekananda arrived in America and gave lectures on yoga and the Hindu philosophy focusing on the practices of pranayama (breathwork), meditation and spiritual practices.

T. Krishnamacharya was a major influence on modern yoga and what we understand of it as a physical practice. He was responsible for the popularity of Hatha Yoga around 1920, establishing the first Hatha Yoga school in Mysore, India and contributed to the popularity of Hatha yoga both in the West and the East. His students like BKS Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, Desikachar and Indra Devi (the first female student) popularised yoga further.

Krishnamacharya’s style of yoga was a blend of Hatha Yoga, British military training exercises and Indian gymanastics. That led to the dynamic asana practice now known as Ashtanga Yoga which had a huge influence on the development of Vinyasa and Power Yoga. Then in 1936, Swami Sivananda founded the Divine Life Society on the banks of the holy Ganges River. In 1947, Indra Devi opened her own yoga studio in Hollywood which sped up the growth of yoga and the development of different yoga styles in the West.

What started as a powerful Indian philosophy and spiritual practice morphed into a physical practice through the influence of various individuals. Now yoga and its various styles have achieved massive popularity throughout the world. 

ELEMIT YOGA

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Why do Yoga?

I can dance, play sports, lift weights, do martial arts and gymnastics, so why should I do Yoga?

It’s great if you do all of the above, and you can definitely add yoga to your lifestyle. What’s different about yoga is that it not only builds strength and flexibility over time, but also improves internal health if practised in the right way. There are dance teachers and martial arts teachers who incorporate yoga into their training! Some of the yoga poses help to massage the internal organs, improving their circulation and function. It works on alignment which helps to prevent injuries (a bit like ballet) and yet maintains a balance of both strength and flexibility. Yoga is about balance; balance between the internal and external, balance between strength and flexibility, balance between reaching our body limits and health, balance between mind and body.

But what if I don’t do any sports, I don’t have any dance background? What if I don’t exercise at all and just sit at the work desk all day? What if I have joint pain like frozen shoulder or osteoarthritis?

Then all the more you should practice yoga! I have a friend who has a cyst in her knee because she suffers from rather bad rheumatoid arthritis. Just a simple yoga stretch every day helped reduce the pain and tightness (in fact there is no pain now), allowing her to skip her knee procedure at the doctor’s clinic. Amazing, that’s why we want to share yoga with all of you! What you can do is choose gentler classes that are more suitable for your body, such as Yin yoga, pranayam classes, yoga stretch and Hatha B.

But I have no time for yoga…

One way to overcome this is to put yoga into your schedule, instead of only going for yoga classes when you have time. It’s true that Singapore’s pace of life is rather fast. Work already takes up most of our waking hours, and some of us have (fur)kids to care for, plants to water and elderly parents to spend time with. There are just too many things to do and too few hours in a day. But what yoga does is to improve stamina and strength, give you better control of your mind and improve your sleep quality. All these increase productivity and you may realise that you complete your work faster without compromising on quality. It might take some time for the engine to start, but once you get into routine you will realise the benefits yoga has on your life.

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