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Yoga Mat Features

The first issue to wrestle with before choosing a cheap yoga mat is figuring out what you want from it. Is durability your top concern? Do you need extra cushioning for your joints? Do you prefer eco yoga mats? Once you've answered these questions, you'll want to consider critical features like composition, length, thickness, and appearance.

Yoga Mat Composition.

When yoga became popular about a decade ago, says Yoga Mats Resource, most people used one kind of mat -- the standard sticky mat made of durable PVC foam.
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Still in wide use today, the best cheap PVC yoga mats we found are Sunny Health & Fitness Yoga Mat (starting at $9) and Altus Athletic Altus Flower Mat with Carry Strap (starting at $13). Recently, eco yoga mats made with non-toxic materials have been grabbing market share. So if you're not down with PVC, you can try environmentally-friendly options like Yoga Accessories Extra Thick Deluxe Yoga Mat (starting at $17) or Bean Products CleanPVC Eco Yoga Mat (starting at $13), which contain no heavy metals or phthalates (a substance that enhances the flexibility and durability of plastics) but perform as well as traditional PVC yoga mats. Other non-PVC mats we researched include MiVizu Eco Friendly Yoga Mat (starting at $9), Natural Fitness Eco-Yoga Mat (starting at $28), and Bean Products PER Yoga Mat (starting at $13).

Yoga Mat Stickiness.

Most practitioners prefer sticky mats, all the better for stable footing and hand placement (i.e. traction and balance). If you do a lot of hot yoga and/or perspire a lot, a non-slip surface is particularly important. All the yoga mats on our list are sticky. Still, some mats tend to lose their stickiness with repeated use. In fact, slipping/sliding, particularly in downward facing dog, is the most common complaint users have about their yoga mats. One reason we're hesitant about the MiVizu Eco Friendly Anti Slip mat is the proportionally greater number of user reviews grousing about insufficient slip-resistance.

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The texture of a yoga mat also affects its stickiness, which in part is affected by its composition. PVC mats are comparatively smooth but still slip-resistant; still, the Altus Athletic Altus Flower mat boasts two textured sides. Non-PVC mats don't have much innate stickiness, so oftentimes the production process adds texture in the way of slightly raised bumps. The CleanPVC mat, for example, is textured on both sides, as is the Yoga Accessories Extra Thick Deluxe mat; the MiVizu Eco Friendly Anti Slip mat has a practice side and a floor side. Obviously, personal preference dictates whether you like the feel of a bumpy surface or not.

Yoga Mat Odor.

As any yoga practitioner can tell you, many mats smell, especially initially. Although odors almost always diminish with airing and washing, some cheap yoga mats, particularly those made with natural materials, are more likely to retain an odor. Some yogis don't mind the smells while others find them intolerable -- we read a few comments by practitioners who admit to being totally put off by the odor or being embarrassed in class -- so try to arrange a smell test before buying. User reviews indicate that the yoga mats on our list don't suffer from overwhelming or long-lasting odor problems.

by Maralyn Edid (Google+ Profile)

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