What to look for when shopping for a yoga mat

Lindsay Tigar, CNN Underscored
Wed March 27, 2019

There's no denying the multiple benefits of yoga. From its ability to alleviate stress and anxiety to reducing inflammation and chronic pain, this ancient practice helps many people improve their overall quality of life.

But being a newbie yogi doesn't always come with a set of instructions on how to build your yoga accessory kit. It's worth investing in your own mat so you don't spend a ton on rentals at your studio.

When you start to browse, you'll wonder if you should go thick or thin in a mat, and whether you need a yoga towel for support. What about yoga blocks? And how do you know if your feet are at the right angles?

Here, a guide to what to look for when shopping for a yoga mat, making it easier than ever to make your way to the best pose of all -- Savasana.

A mat that travels with you: Manduka eKO Superlite Mat ($44; amazon.com)

For those who choose to flow at a class or at the hotel gym during yet another work trip, this lightweight option is ideal. It only weighs 2.2 pounds, so it won't add much to your carry-on, and it's perfect for strapping to your backpack for easy airport security.

A mat that teaches you: Gaiam Restore Self-Guided Fitness Mat ($29.99; amazon.com)

This mat is made of thicker material than more advanced mats, so you'll have extra stability, and includes a picture guide to some common floor moves that turn up in yoga as well as other exercise routines. These visuals will help your confidence while you perfect your form.

A mat for a home gym: Gxmmat ($59.99; amazon.com)

If you're lucky enough to have a home gym, consider using this oversized mat for your workouts. It gives you more than enough space to flow through any sequence and is perfect for impromptu classes with your neighborhood besties.

A beginner pack for newbies: Sivan Health Fitness 6-Piece Yoga Kit ($39.99; amazon.com)

When you're still getting the hang of yoga and you aren't practicing one-leg balance moves yet, a thick yoga mat is ideal. How come? The depth will allow you to fall comfortably — and it challenges you to engage your core for stability. This set also features yoga blocks for relaxing into a pose and towels for even more grip.

A thin mat for the advanced: Yoga Design Lab 2-in-One ($78; amazon.com)

As they progress in their practice, many yogis tend to prefer a thin mat. These provide extra grip for your toes when you're tackling difficult postures. This one also features yoga-towel materials, which means you never have to worry about slippery sweat droplets interrupting your vinyasa.

A guided mat for the advanced: Healthyoga Alignment Mat ($49.95; amazon.com)

... or for beginners. Or anyone. The alignment guidelines on this mat are meant to ensure you're always in proper form — a must, no matter your level of experience. With this yoga mat, you can listen to your teacher guide you and check your foot and hand alignment at the same time.