When teaching in my yoga or reformer classes I make it an utmost priority, especially for new students, to experience a sense of empowerment. Empowerment, not only in their mental state but also physically – during workouts.
When I’m teaching my student a new asana, my greatest concern is to help them maintain a state of excitement – to maintain an ambition to learn and master their workout session.
Because muscles work this way. Muscles are ’emotional’. As a teacher, I know I have a very small window of ‘winning’ a muscle over and achieve success.
The Story of Rob
Let’s take a student I taught at the LeCharles Football Academy. ‘Rob’ is an offensive lineman. He’s over 6 feet tall. He weighs around 250lbs.
Rob cannot carry his weight. He is huge. Pretty much all he does on the football field is stand his ground to block a play. He’s good but could be much better. In our session my main focus is to keep his mind and muscles in a state of ‘I can’.
First, I only teach specific asanas to Rob that I know he is capable of handling. When Rob practices the poses I use all my accessories. I use the wall, blocks or floor to allow him to go into the most accurate alignment he is capable of obtaining.
I then tell Rob to hold the asana for 1/2 second. Just enough time for his muscle and mind to communicate. To imprint the image.
My main focus for Rob is to always, always, always maintain a mentality of empowerment It’s to approach every asana with a positive emotion – never with fear and anxiety.
If I were to put Rob in an asana where he was forced to maintain a pose beyond what his body is capable of doing, the muscle would become ‘traumatized’. Once this happens, we’ve lost the battle. And each time Rob approached that asana his muscles would begin to shut down. We’ve lost.
I want Rob to maintain a clear mental focus. He needs to be aware of what his muscles and mind are capable of imprinting.
Once Rob is in alignment he holds the asana for 30 sec or less. That’s it. That sends the message of the alignment to the brain.
Then Rob’s muscles become satisfied. After we wait 30 seconds and the blood returns to the muscles, we approach the asana again. We do this two to three times. We repeat it the next day and the next.
By the second day, Rob’s muscles have the picture.
When I challenge Rob to go into the asana, he approaches it with confidence because it’s always been a positive experience. Familiar with the image Rob’s muscles and mind can easily apply the pose accurately for 30 seconds.
If we were to have Rob, before he is able, hold the pose longer, fear would set in. That would defeat the whole process.
This concept is not only mental but chemical. When muscles are traumatized they release a chemical that is toxic to the muscles. Therefore , every time we approach the pose, the muscle ‘remembers’ the trauma. And the toxic chemicals wait – ready to be released.
If we continue this cycle (which is the majority of how people work out) we set ourselves up for constant failure, which leads to pain and injuries.
This concept is applied to my Muscular Dystrophy patient, MS and people with injuries and post surgeries conditions.
My goal, no pain. Never allow my client to have pain, if they have pain, we’ve lost the battle. The muscles become traumatized.
We approach each session gently and with a sense of eagerness. I encourage my clients to have an “I Can” state of mind.
I know muscles. They are smart and deserve to be treated that way.
Waiting for a connecting flight or for you plane to start boarding can be stressful. Wandering around duty-free shops and drinking coffee in overcrowded airport cafes can hardly help you get into your zen state. That is why airports have started offering one more activity for passengers – yoga.
Spending 15 invigorating minutes (or more if the time permits) in a quiet room while doing a short yoga sequence – what a great idea! No wonder airport yoga is catching on. Here are some airports that have already embraced the trend.
About a year ago Frankfurt Airport opened two free yoga rooms for transferring passengers. They are fully equipped with mats and yoga props and are open 24 hours a day.
Santiago International Airport
South America is also keeping up with the trend with first free yoga class organized this summer in Santiago International Airport in Chile. The complementary classes are organized during peak times and you can follow the schedule here.
San Franciso International Airport
In fact, this is the first airport to offer a yoga room to their passengers. They came up with this idea back in 2012. They now offer 2 yoga rooms available for domestic flight passengers free of charge.
In order to practice yoga in Heathrow Airport, you need to have access to SkyTeam Lounge which is available if you are, for example, a SkyTeam Elite Plus member, fly business or first class on particular airlines or pay a fee. When more and more passengers started travelling with their iPads and TV lounge was becoming less popular, people at SkyTeam decided to convert a it into an elegant and relaxing yoga lounge by adding mats and instructional videos.
Chicago O’Hare International Airport
If one day you’ll find yourself in a yoga room in Chicago O’Hare, you’ll be able to quickly recharge your batteries by following exercise techniques on a special monitor and listening to the sounds of nature. The warm colors of the room and the calming atmosphere will make you forget about the hustle and bustle of the airport. You can use the room free of charge.
These are only a few examples of airports providing yoga lounges for their passengers. Feel free to add the ones that you attended!
As you can see most yoga rooms are free, so if you are in for a long layover at the airport, check whether it offers a yoga room. And even if your airport hasn’t yet caught up with the trend, you can always do a few yoga breathing exercises and have a more enjoyable and less stressful flight.
Multiple clinical trials for yoga therapy and research carried out in this area have proved the positive effect of yoga in treating a number of illnesses. Nowadays, a traditional doctor may recommend their patients practicing yoga as a way to ease the pain and feel better.
So what exactly is yoga therapy? According to IYAT, Yoga therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well-being through the application of the teachings and practices of Yoga. And IYAT stands for International Association of Yoga Therapists. This organization, founded in 1989, develops standards in yoga therapist education, supports yoga therapy research, certifies yoga therapists and yoga schools which offer yoga therapy training. By the way, you can use IYAT website to look for certified yoga therapists in your area.
Yoga teachers who want to become yoga therapists are required to have a 200-hour teacher training certificate and must have at least a year of personal practice and a year of teaching experience.
Normally, yoga therapists start with completing a two-year course (800-hour training). The admission requirements and programs differ from school to school. During the training, experienced yoga teachers learn to apply yoga for people with health conditions.
Yoga therapy is becoming more and more popular. In fact, according to the recent Yoga in America Study, around 6% of yoga practitioners in the USA named recommendation from traditional doctor/nurse/ physical therapist the reason they got into yoga.
And that hardly comes as a surprise considering yoga benefits proved by a lot of research: it helps to fight the side effects of cancer treatment, it’s effective in treating depression and insomnia, strength & balance issues in the elderly, chronic low back pains and other conditions.
So prescribing yoga practice instead of medication is becoming more common even among traditional doctors. What do you think about this trend?
Yoga: the trendy practice that your hippie, hipster, or fitness friends rave about. Garbed in yoga pants and carrying colorful mats bought off Amazon, the modern-day “yogi” attends one-hour classes that focus on physical stretching, movement, and detoxing from their busy modern lives. We hear a lot about the benefits of yoga, from its ability to decrease stress, chronic pain, as well as the risk for chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
What we don’t hear about as often, however, is the history of yoga. Most people are aware of its Indian spiritual and religious roots, but those tend to get washed out by the manufactured, commodified versions of yoga we see today. Perhaps that’s because research on yoga’s origins is hard to find, and its history is a complicated, lengthy narrative. In fact, yoga is incredibly complex — even the word “yoga” has taken on hundreds of different meanings and practices throughout the years. What you and I might assume is “yoga” is probably not even closely related to what yoga was thousands of years ago.
“Nearly all of our popular assumptions about yoga theory date from the past 150 years, and very few modern-day practices date from before the 12th century,” David Gordon White, a professor of religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, writes in his paper, Yoga, Brief History of an Idea. “This is not the first time that people have ‘reinvented’ yoga in their own image.”
We can try to delineate the history of yoga — at least a brief one. But a practice so rich in religious, spiritual, and physical meaning would take years or even a lifetime to fully understand, grasp, and manifest.
3300-1500 BCE. Historians aren’t entirely sure when the notion or practice of yoga first appeared, and it’s often left to debate. The term “yoga,” however, is found in ancient India’s earliest known scripts — the Vedas. They date from the Vedic period, which began in 1500 BCE. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the Vedas are the oldest writings of Hinduism and Sanskrit literature.
White notes in his paper that the term “yoga” in the Vedas actually refers to a yoke, as in the yoke over animals — and at times a chariot in the midst of battle. Interestingly, in some of these very early writings, yoga was used to describe a warrior dying and transcending into heaven, being carried by his chariot to reach the gods and higher powers of being.
During the Vedic period, Vedic priests who were ascetic — severely self-disciplined and avoidant of any forms of indulgence — conducted sacrifices, or yajna, in poses that some researchers believe are precursors to the yoga poses, or asanas, we experience now.
3rdcentury, BCE. In the 3rd century BCE, references to the term “yoga” became more common in Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist writings. In Mahāyāna Buddhism, the notion of yoga as a spiritual or meditative practice as we know now was referred to as Yogachara (Yogācāra). Yogachara involved eight steps of meditation that was known as “calmness” or “insight.”
5thcentury, AD. For a while, yoga was a loose notion, its meaning difficult to pin down. It was more of a notion of meditation and a religious practice than it was exercise as we know today. But around the 5th century, it became more of an established core idea among Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains. First and foremost, these ancient versions of yoga were mostly spiritual practices, revolving around several core values.
The first value involved analyzing one’s own perception and cognitive state, understanding the root of suffering and using meditation to solve it. The mind was to “transcend” bodily pain or suffering in order to reach a higher level of being. The second aimed to uplift or broaden consciousness, and the third involved using yoga as a path to transcendence. The fourth was using yoga to enter other bodies and act supernaturally — perhaps the strangest and most mystical one.
This is also where the difference between “yogi practice” and “yoga practice” is differentiated. Yoga practice, as described by White, “essentially denotes a program of mind-training and meditation issuing in the realization of enlightenment, liberation, or isolation from the world of suffering existence,” at least in ancient terms. Yogi practice, meanwhile, lies more in the supernatural — i.e., when yogis are able to enter other bodies to expand their consciousness.
A yogi seated in a garden, North Indian or Deccani miniature painting, c.1620-40Wikimedia
500-1500 AD. During the medieval era, different schools of yoga emerged. Bhakti yoga is a spiritual pathway within Hinduism that appeared during this time, a type of yoga that focused on living through love and devotion toward God.
Tantra was also a genre that arrived around the 5th century, exhibited in medieval Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu traditions. White notes that the Tantras, the medieval scriptures that discussed a new yoga ideology, outlined new goals for those practicing yoga: “No longer is the practitioner’s ultimate goal liberation from suffering existence, but rather self-deification: one becomes the deity that has ben one’s object of meditation.”
Interestingly, Westerners today have often associated “tantra” with a sexual form of yoga, but it turns out they weren’t too far off. Some Tantric beliefs involved yogis having sexual relations with low-caste women whom they believed were yoginis, or women who embodied Tantric goddesses. Having sex with them could lead these yogis to a transcendent level of consciousness. Today, gurus who go about doing such things in their yoga or bikram classes aren’t exactly known for their moral or spiritual prowess.
Hatha yoga appeared in Buddhist texts around the 8th century, and it emerged from tantra. It’s known as the common “psychophysical yoga,” a combination of bodily postures, breathing, and meditation — possibly the closest to what we today associate with yoga. The postures in hatha yoga are called asanas. We know some of them now in their English terms — such as cat pose, camel pose, child’s pose, and warrior I pose.
Statue of Shiva in Bangalore, Karnataka, India, performing yogic meditation in the Padmasana posture, or the lotus position.CC BY-SA 2.0
1890s. So when did yoga became the regiment of health freaks? For thousands of years, the term “yoga” encompassed many things, most of them religious and/or spiritual. But in the mid-19th century, yoga came to the attention of Westerners, who at the time seemed intrigued by Indian culture. We can perhaps attribute yoga’s popularity in the West to Swami Vivekananda, a Hindu monk who toured Europe and the U.S. in the 1890s to spread knowledge about Hinduism among intellectuals.
Vivekananda was responsible for bringing the Yoga Sutras more into the light, as well. These were writings of Patanjali, comprised sometime around 400 AD to describe what he believed were the main yoga traditions of his time. The Yoga Sutras focused mainly on removing all excess thought from the mind and focusing on a singular thing; but they were later incorporated more heavily than any other ancient yoga writings in modern, “corporate” yoga.
Patanjali: At times referred to as the “father of yoga,” Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras.CC BY-SA 3.0
20th century. Hatha yoga as a practice (what we’re most familiar with now) didn’t become a commonplace exercise in the U.S. until the 1930s and 40s, and finally reached a peak in the 60s, when Hindu spirituality became far more popular among young Americans. Numerous Indian teachers of yoga taught classes in the U.S., and in the 1980s it became even more popular due to the first health benefits being reported. This was the first time that yoga was seen as a practice with purely physical benefits, something that can improve your heart health and fitness, rather than bring you to a place of transcendence.
21st century. The popularity of yoga in the U.S. has increased throughout the decades, rising from 4 million in 2001 to 20 million in 2011. Since then, plenty of scientific studies have found that yoga comes with a flurry of health benefits: It reduces high blood pressure, depression, chronic pain, and anxiety. It also improves cardiac function, muscle strength, and circulation.
Today, at least in the Western world, yoga is seen as another exercise class to take at the gym, something that will make your muscles sore for days afterward or at least de-stress you. But perhaps knowing at least a little bit about yoga’s ancient spiritual origins — something that has outlasted thousands of years — will help you glean something even more from it.
Yoga is now an international trend, seen as both a ways to reach spiritual enlightenment and a form of exercise.Reuters
December 2014. The United Nations General Assembly marked June 21 International Yoga Day, an annual celebration to incorporate yoga and meditation more into humanity all over the world. As the Dalai Lama notes: “If every 8-year-old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”
Some people hardly change their diet once they start practicing yoga, others suddenly find themselves craving healthy vegetable-based foods. There is no denying that eating habits reflect your way of life. So just the way yoga affects your lifestyle, it may change your eating habits. Here are the 3 ways in which yoga can affect how and what you eat.
Yoga makes you more mindful about your body
As you try to get the poses right and your breath right, you exercise not just your body, but also your mind and attention. This way you become more aware of what is good for you and what’s not, what foods make you feel light and energetic, and what products make you feel crummy.
When you read an article that says eating processed is not good, it’s not convincing enough for you. But when you fully realize how awful you feel after eating a bag of chips, it inspires you to make healthier choices. No one knows better than you what diet is best for you. And yoga helps you to hear that voice.
Yoga promotes healthy habits
As you get into yoga, you start communicating with a lot of new people: you hear other students and your yoga instructor discussing their diet, you start reading about yoga and Ayurveda, about how you should favor particular foods depending on your dosha type and what spices can make you feel better and stay healthier. All this new knowledge is slowly but surely changes your eating habits for the better.
Yoga helps to fight addictions and bad habits
Addictions are not just about alcohol and cigarettes. People can be addicted to drinking soda, for example, or to indulging themselves in eating lots of chocolate whenever they feel stressed.
Each time you perform a certain action, new connections are shaped in your brain making you more likely to repeat that action in the future. And that’s how habits appear.
As you start doing yoga more regularly, a whole new pattern in your brain is shaped. Ultimately it becomes stronger than patterns responsible for your bad habits and that’s how you get over them.
Doing yoga regularly is a habit that doesn’t come alone. It brings along a range of other healthy habits that make your life so much better.
Who doesn’t love hiking? Exploring new places, soaking up the fresh air and beautiful scenery, experiencing the life at its fullest. As you walk for miles and miles you may start feeling a little tired. This exhaustion is pleasant in a way yet you feel like you could do with some exercise.
And here is when yoga comes to the rescue. Forward folds and stretches that require just a few minutes and no mat to practice will make you feel like a whole new person!
Stand up, step your left foot back. Stretch your arms and put them together above your head: your fingers clasped and your index fingers pointing up. Move your chin to your chest and start folding to your right leg, your back round. Try to reach the floor (or rather the earth) with your hands and to touch your leg with your forehead. This pose perfectly stretches thighs and back and calms down your mind.
Put your feet a leg’s length apart, your right foot turned 90 degrees to the right, and your left foot just slightly turned to the left. Bend your right leg until it forms a 90-degree angle. Start bending your torso to the right and put your right hand on the floor. Stretch your left arm up until it forms one line with your left leg. This pose doesn’t only stretch your body but also improves your stamina when performed regularly.
Feet a leg’s length apart, right foot turned 90 degrees to the right. Rotate your torso and pelvis to the right, bend your right knee until the thigh is parallel to the floor. Start bending your torso forward rotating it more to the right until you can put your left shoulder in front of your right knee. You can either put your left hand on the floor and your right hand up or join your hands in Namaste.Make sure to repeat the above poses on both sides
Put your legs a leg’s length apart, place your hands on your lower back and start bending forward. Put the palms on your feet and move your head to the floor. Keep your thighs engaged and your pelvis stretching up. Beginners may practice the pose variation with their hands on hips.
Sally Kempton explains that in yoga, our consciousness can free itself from concepts, beliefs and limiting ideas. How do we do this? By learning how to let ourselves be, with conscious awareness of our own inner Awareness.
This week’s featured classes will help deepen our practice through the cultivation of strong awareness of the body in all of the asanas, and strong focus on the breath.
Access Your Inner Awareness with Sally Kempton: In deep meditation, our consciousness can free itself from concepts, beliefs and limiting ideas. How do we do this? By learning how to let ourselves be, with conscious awareness of our own inner Awareness. This powerful meditation accesses the natural state.
Conscious Awareness with Steven Espinosa: This energetic class begins with a steady opening warm up leading into a vigorous Standing Pose series focusing on moving with conscious awareness. Followed by Arm/Hand Balances, Hip/Thigh Openers, Back Bends and Spinal Twists. Also includes a brief tutorial for the wrists in Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Facing Bow).
Enhance Awareness of Your Heart with Elena Brower: A really nourishing Hatha sequence with a few meditative movements to enhance awareness of how your heart is reflected in your hands, your thoughts and your expression. Hold spacious attention in your hands, heart and mind through a some hip opening, standing poses, forearm stand, backbends and meditation.
Deepen Your Practice Through Awareness with Jodi Blumstein: This class moves through most of the primary series, skipping select postures. The emphasis here is on deepening your practice through the cultivation of strong awareness of the body in all of the asanas, and strong focus on the breath and bandhas. Advancing your Ashtanga Yoga practice is not a function of doing more advanced asanas. Here we explore how to deepen our practice through greater awareness.
Yoga for Core Strength and Awareness with Tara Judelle: Strong class to activate the core as the centralizing magnet of movement. Strong focus on the bandhas, using standing poses, working into arm balances, eka pada koundinyasana II (extended leg arm balance dedicated to sage koundinya, parsva bakasana (side crane) eka pada koundiyasana I. Class focus is on utilizing the core as the center of digesting awareness in order to cultivate center in challenging experiences.
Calm Your Overactive Mind, Develop Deep Awareness with Jo Tastula: Tune out from the overactive mind and simply be in deep awareness of the movement of breath and energy as it needs to happen today. Honoring any tension and tightness we start slowly with seated forward bends and supported backbends. Then embrace core work to build the heat to fuel this transformative practice! Lots of hamstring and quad stretches and of course… my beloved side plank (vasistasana). Extended Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose (utthita hasta padangusthasana) warrior 3 (virabhadrasana) and side crow (parsva bakasana) provide some balance challenge. Freeform backbends (self sequencing is wonderful to strengthen anyones home practice) and pigeon for desert.
Infinite Awareness with Noah Maze: Shoulder stretches and upper back openers will prepare you for a progression of forearm balance (pincha mayurasana–peacock feather) stages. Expand your infinite awareness, as the eyes of the peacock feathers.
Emojis… They reflect emotions we can’t convey with words, they make chatting so much more enjoyable and can sometimes replace whole sentences. It’s really hard to imagine posting and chatting without emojis. No wonder, many yogis have been wondering why such a vast collection of emojis on Apple devices doesn’t have a yoga emoji.
Well, they heard us.
On July 17th, on World Emoji Day, Apple revealed some of the emojis that will be added to its devices later this year. The new additions include the long-awaited emoji of a yogi sitting in a lotus position.
By the way, it’s not just Apple who decides which emojis to add to its devices. These decisions are made by Unicode Emoji Subcommittee which is a part of the Unicode Consortium. The responsibilities of this subcommittee among others include reviewing emoji requests and developing design guidelines for different platforms.
Emoji 5.0 was released earlier this year. It offers 56 code points which can result into 259 unique emojis (including male, female and different skin options). Now it’s up to brands like Google and Apple to design emojis for their products. Apple clearly got started on that and it’s very likely yoga master emoji for Android is also on its way!
This year the emoji requests came from various sources. For example, “person in a steamy room” emoji was suggested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland. As you see, emoji creation is a long and very exciting process!
Twitter has already adopted the changes so you can already add a yoga emoji to your tweets on Twitter’s website. Go here, copy the code at the top of the page near “Copy and paste this emoji”, paste it into your tweet and see it transformed into a cool yoga emoji!
Buy your Manduka PROlite or Manduka Black Mat Pro at 2 Cats and a Mat store Yoga Essentials.
As an instructor and student who rolls out the mat quite regularly, I know what features I prefer to support my practice. However, considering the many styles of yoga and workout routines that involve mats, I wanted to see what other yoga professionals thought, including those that have been at it practically since the time mats debuted (despite the practice of yoga dating back over 5,000 years, the yoga mat hasn’t been around all that long).
In the end, my top choices were pretty easy to grip. There is no perfect yoga mat, and no single mat fits everyone. If you’re looking for the best yoga mat that will support your asanas and be your new place to call OM for a lifetime, the Manduka PROlite is the way to go. It gets my top pick because its durability and versatility are unmatched. However, if you’re looking for an eco-friendly option, the Jade Harmony Professional Mat is made of 100 percent rubber, and offers great traction and support.
With over 50 hours of research on dozens of yoga mats, I focused on the properties and composition of the mat and how this applies to the various styles of yoga. I surveyed the masses, consulted with over 10 yoga professionals with years of experience on mats, and personally put many mats through hours of testing.
The process was sweaty, and reconfirmed that choosing a yoga mat is akin to choosing your wine — some get better with age, and it all comes down to personal taste. To help find the best yoga mat for you, I’ve also recommended top picks for specific formats, some of which include my top choices and others which do not.
The 10 Overall Best Yoga Mats
Jade Harmony Professional Mat($70+)
Manduka Black Mat Pro($90+)
Hugger Mugger Para Rubber($85)
PrAna Revolutionary Sticky Mat($60+)
Gaiam Print Premium($16+)
Liforme Yoga Mat($140)
Yoloha Native Cork Yoga Mat($140)
How We Chose the Best Yoga Mats
My yoga mats aren’t pampered, and they’re used in a variety of styles. One week, I’m traveling to practice yoga in Mexico, and the next, I’m instructing 50 students outdoors on the beach or in a park in New England. I consistently practice a vigorous vinyasa both in and out of a hot room, and teach a gentler flow to athletes who are new to the practice.
There are a number of important features across the board that make some yoga mats better than others, and these factors are useful to take into consideration before purchasing your own. In total, I spent over 50 hours analyzing yoga mat reviews, scouring online publications, and researching the technology, history, brands, and the various qualities of top yoga mats. I drew from previous experience and surveyed over 100 yoga professionals, teachers, and students (of all levels and practicing styles) to get an idea of what people look for most.
I consulted with 10 yoga professionals, including “Boston’s 2014 Best Yoga Instructor” Sadhana Studio Owner, Glen Cunningham, who has been savasana-ing on a mat for over 15 years; Orange County’s Core Power Yoga manager and instructor Lacey Calvert; and international yoga teacher Goldie Graham. I also tapped popular blogger, YouTuber, and traveling yogi Candace Moore, as well as Rasamaya Studio owner and yoga instructor, Carrie Tyler, who is a 20-year veteran of teaching movement.
An initial 30 products were taken into consideration after analyzing reviews from Amazon, REI, and Yoga Consumer Reports. I also consulted some 50 publications (like PopSugar Fitness, Mind Body Green, and Outdoor Magazine) and popular yoga blogs (like Ekhart Yoga, Yoga Journal, and DoYouYoga). I further narrowed the list down to 15 of the best yoga mats based on my criteria of positive reviews, experience, recognitions, and ultimately what other yogi consumers had to say. This strategy helped me get to a manageable number of top products so I could physically test each myself.
I took the research to different studios and tested the mats in temperatures both over 100 and below 85 degrees Fahrenheit. I also tested on a carpet, on a hardwood floor, and in the comforts of my own home. I received feedback from fellow yoga students, and for a week, observed how the top mats appeared and were performing for others in class. Then, it was time for me to get on all the top yoga mats and put them each through a standard 60-minute yoga class. I used the mats in two different formats, restorative and vigorous, and in both heated and unheated conditions. I continued to test the mats at home through various poses and practices. (Tough work, but hey — someone has to do it!)
In my survey talking to other yoga teachers and students, responses demonstrated that the drawbacks to current mats were heaviness, difficulty in cleaning, poor traction, and a short lifespan. The data also proved that the majority of people desire stickiness and comfort. So with the intention to find the best yoga mats for the masses, I focused on a mat’s ability to provide the right amount of traction, density, comfort, and stability. Other criteria that came into play were weight, size, eco-footprint, and color assortment. I also wanted to make sure I factored in price, even though most buyers said they were willing to pay up for the aforementioned qualities.
A Full Review of the Best Yoga Mats
Manduka PROlite: Best Overall
If you want a mat to last you a lifetime, and can also tick the boxes for grip, portability, and comfort, the Manduka PROlite is the way to go. This mat beat out its category contenders for longevity by a landslide. It’s an extremely durable, high-performing mat that’s stamped with a lifetime guarantee. Yoga teachers everywhere (including myself) agree that the Manduka PROlite gets better with age the more you use it, similar to a baseball glove. I’ll get upside-down to that.
The PVC material and density of the mat make it competent under any condition — outdoors, in a heated room, in a non-heated studio, and with gentle-to-vigorous practices — which can’t be said for the majority of the mats tested here. I took this mat through a multitude of restorative and standing poses, sun salutations, arm balances, and inversions.
I’m not the only one who ranks this mat at the top of the list. Boston’s 2014 Best Yoga Instructor and Owner of Sadhana Studio, Cunningham, has been using the Manduka Pro series mats for 14 years.
I’ve been using Manduka mats since 2001 and I still think they make the best overall mats out there in terms for grip, comfort, thickness, feel, size, and durability. I’ve been teaching for over 15 years and see a lot of ‘mat shrapnel’ on the studio floor, but I’ve never seen a Manduka Mat get worn out.
In asanas that tend to be slightly harder on the knees, like Ustrasana (camel pose) and Anjaneyasana (low lunge), this mat provides just the right amount of support and cushion to feel ease and comfort throughout the pose, even when held for long periods of time. The mat also provides stabilization and joint protection during asanas that require more stability, balance, and impact (think: Tree pose, handstand, and jumping back to chaturangas). At the same time, it won’t compromise the ability to feel stable and connected to the ground.
As far as texture, grip, and comfort go, I give this mat two thumbs up. The slip-resistant traction kept fidgeting to a minimum. The surface, which isn’t super sticky, allowed for gliding transitions through quick vinyasas. The transition to take my foot into or out from a lunge felt effortless compared to when catching or sticking on mats made from a different textile (like some of the natural rubber mats did).
Other than the first couple of uses during the “break-in period,” the manual labor for this mat is practically nonexistent. Its closed-cell technology makes it incredibly easy to clean and wipe down after class, and with a weight of around four pounds, it’s light and easy to carry. The mat comes in an assortment of colors and in two different sizes (71 and 79 inches) to accommodate style preference as well as the taller yogis out there. It’s fairly pricey for a yoga mat, but with a lifetime warranty, it provides outstanding value.
Manduka PROlite is always my go-to. It’s easy to travel with, stays good for years, and [is] easy to clean since I’m a sweaty mess! I don’t always use a towel because I don’t need one with this mat. It’s awesome!
Don’t just take my word for it, though. Based on research, and many conversations with other yoga practitioners, the Manduka company is considered the holy grail of yoga-mat brands. It continuously tops the charts in reviews. The Manduka PROlite series is a lighter, more portable version of the beloved Manduka Black Mat Pro, which has been on the market for 15 years. The PROlite mat receives accolades from a number of magazines and popular publications. It was voted the Top Pick Award by OutdoorGearLab, voted a “must have” by Yogi Approved, and is sold and used by the most popular yoga studios across Boston, New York City, and Los Angeles.
CorePower Yoga Orange County’s regional manager, Calvert, says the Manduka PROlite is her favorite, and it’s the one the company carries in its studios all across the United States.
We see over 500 clients a week using our Manduka mats for barre and yoga. I teach on them and take class with them, and I have no complaints — they are super durable. We used to have Jade, but switched to Manduka because they are better performing overall.
Barre & Soul Studios, found in several locations around the Boston area, provides the Manduka PRO series mats to its members for use in class.
Manduka instructs consumers to scrub the mat down with coarse sea salt prior to using, which helps to remove a thin layer that is applied in the manufacturing process. Wearing this down actually helps improve the mat’s traction with continued use. This process may be a little more labor-intensive than you’d prefer, but there’s something comforting about having a mat get better with time and form to you. Cunningham likens the breaking-in process of the mat to that of a new baseball glove: You break it in and then it fits “like a glove.”
Who should skip it?
Although some people, like Calvert, find the mat to grip fantastically with moisture, some evidence points to a few issues. In an email from the company, Manduka implies the mat does require a breaking-in period (although this is not always the case for everyone), meaning it could feel quite slippery for several uses until it has seen some action.
The traction for the Manduka PROlite is best used under dry conditions with minimal moisture, so ultra-sweaty practices and those done in a heated room may not benefit from this mat without the use of a towel on top of it. I recommend the Liforme Yoga Mat for these conditions.
In terms of eco-friendliness, the mat is made with PVC rather than natural rubber or another more environmentally friendly material. However, no toxic emissions are released during production, and its lifetime durability results in fewer landfill dumps, still making it a safe choice for the environment overall. If you are concerned with practicing on a mat that is made from eco-friendly material that’s still high performance, my recommendation is the Jade Harmony Professional (a top pick tested here).
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