Photo via Flickr user Werner Moser

Gearing Up: Yoga Mat 101

Here, one yoga pro shares her secrets to selecting, cleaning, and knowing when to get rid of your yoga mat.

When starting a yoga practice (or any other sport), it’s easy to get caught up in the fancy branded gear and go overboard, but don’t go out and spend hundreds of dollars on accessories you may not even use. We reached out to local yoga authority, deAnna Haun, to discuss the one thing every yogi truly needs: a mat.

Haun ERYT is a Certified Jivamukti  Yoga Teacher and Sport Yoga Teacher who is a long-time student of Sri Dharma Mittra. Based in Dallas, she discovered the practice in NYC circa 1994. At the urging of a few friends, she eventually began teaching in 2001.

In addition to her 20 years of practice and 16,000-plus hours of teaching in a variety of settings, Her teaching is informed by a regular systematic multi-faceted daily practice as given to her by her teachers. Haun’s classes are educational, inspiring, vigorous and fun, but always keep the true aim of yoga in mind. Tuning the mind, body and emotions. Clearing the lens of perception. Realizing the interconnectedness of all of life. 

What do you look for in a yoga mat?
I look for little bit of padding so when we do kneeling poses, you don’t have to add extra padding under your knees or joints. And I look for mats that aren’t too slippery. If they’re eco-friendly, that’s always a plus.

Do you know any eco-friendly brands?
The most well-known that I can think of is Harmony and they come in several different thicknesses. They have a really skinny little travel mat that you can actually fold up really small and carry in your suitcase and they have a much thicker one that’s great for people that are older or for restorative or yin yoga, where you want that extra padding but they’re not that great for balancing poses. Thinner mats are better for standing balance poses.

Do you put much thought into color or patterns?
That’s personal preference. Some people love all of the flourish on their mat and you know, it lets them feel more unique or helps them figure out where their mat is in class. It’s amazing how many yoga mats there are now. When I first started, the only option was the pale purple yoga mat that used to come on one giant thick roll and they would just cut it off every five or six feet. 

How do you clean your mat?
I typically wipe it off with Clorox wipes or a wet rag. I’ve heard of people literally rinsing them in their shower and hanging them to dry. You can just hose them down if they’re really grimy. I mean at home if it’s your own mat, it’s up to you and how worried you are about stuff like that. I typically default to, “I will be showering after class anyway” so it’s not like I’m going to be carrying that around for the rest of the day.

Do you have any mats that have gone above and beyond your expectations?
I think they all last a lot longer than you think. I still have the first yoga mat I ever bought in New York in 1994, and I still use it.

How do you know when it’s time to buy a new mat?
When you’re practicing a lot and you get really sweaty, you can end up with these little indentions where your hands and feet are or if it gets to where you’re down to the fibers.

Are the fancy yoga towels necessary?
Yoga towels can be good in a super sweaty class. It depends on the traction on the bottom. Usually they have those little rubber sticky things. I think they’re better for Bikram because you’re standing in stationary positions but if you’re in a vinyasa class and you sweat a lot and it starts to stick to your mat, it doesn’t buckle underneath your feet as much.

What’s an appropriate amount for someone to spend on a yoga mat?
One of my favorite mats I’ve ever had is the Manduka travel mat. As you know, the Manduka itself, the big black mat, is like carrying around a spare tire, but the travel mat has good padding (but not too much) stays still under your feet and it also has really good traction. 

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