While Yoga has existed for over five thousand years, if you think of modern Yoga as we know it today, one of the first things that comes to mind is the yoga mat. More than just a tool we use, it is also metaphor that represents the space where our minds can be free of the daily pressures and stresses of daily life.
Contrary to popular belief by non-yoga-enthusiast, the main purpose of a yoga mat is actually not to absorb shock or provide cushion, but rather to give the yoga practicer a non-sliding and firm place to plant his or her arms, legs, and core. Trying to do yoga with the surface moving beneath you will really affect the quality of your workout or session. When bracing yourself to avoid sliding on these kinds of surfaces, extra pressure can be placed on joints, especially knees and ankles, and this in turn can cause damage over time, something that the solid footing of the yoga mat avoids. That is why the yoga mat we know and love has become such essential equipment from everyone from beginners to the masters.
Yoga mats are not perfect, though. On of the biggest everyday problems people encounter is when they are trying to use the mat on a surface that moves or does not allow the mat to grip the floor. Carpet is one of the biggest offenders. The synthetic “pile” on carpet, combined with the PVC or vinyl backing of a yoga mat, do not create a firm, fixed place to do yoga poses.
Many of us want to practice at home, rather than loading up a gym bag and driving in traffic to a yoga class. Home workouts can be great, but putting a yoga mat down on carpet leads to all kinds of problems, as anyone who has tried will know. As soon as you put weight on your hands or feet to attempt a pose, the mat will sink and move under you, and this puts us back in the position of bracing the body against movement, and the potential damage we can do to ourselves by doing so.
There are things that can be done to combat this though, placing the mat on a thin rug can help ease the movement problem, and depending on the carpet, some people do find short sessions bearable without the mat at all. There is always the option of finding a place in your home that does not have carpet, but that is easier for some than for others. However, for the safest and most effective practice you should be using a mat, so what do you look for?
The key to finding a good mat that works on carpet is looking for a grippy underside that will affix to a variety of surfaces, much in the way that a good, all-weather car tire can find traction in many different conditions. Some mats have pronounced ‘dimples’ on the lower side that grip well with the manmade fibers of the carpet and so stay put rather than sliding around, and these are the best bet for using in a carpeted room. The other factor is support, mats have a tendency to sink in to the carpet as pressure is applied, however here a thicker mat that has more support can lessen that effect, providing a more stable, safer and more enjoyable yoga experience at home or anywhere there is a carpet.
The Best Yoga Mats for Carpet
Choosing mats is always a personal thing, and it is worth remembering that thicker mats tend to be heavier if you plan on carrying your mat to the studio to use in classes as well, but here are a couple of the best mats available today that are particularly suitable for use on carpet.
Probably the number one name in yoga mats, Manduka have been selling what many consider the best mats on the market for a long time. The PROLite is 100% latex free, completely nontoxic and uses an environmentally friendly emissions free manufacturing process. It also, importantly, has a proprietary molded grip pattern on the bottom of the mat that means it stays stable on almost any surface, including carpet.
The higher density, closed cell construction offers support while minimizing the ‘sinking’ effect deeper carpet can cause, with a lifetime guarantee and a wide range of colors and sizes to suit all needs and tastes, this is not just the bets mat for carpets, many see it as the best yoga mat for any use.
PrAna Indigena Mat
A completely natural rubber product, the Indigena Mat is completely biodegradable and made from non-amazon tree rubber that is both environmentally sound in manufacture and incredibly effective in use. Giving high levels of grip for the feet, the natural rubber also resists movement when used on carpets, providing a stable foundation for in-home yoga practice.
At 36 inches wide and 86 inches long, it’s a large size, so even if you move around a lot, you will stay on the mat, and its extra thick, dense construction means that the problems of carpet sinking as you distribute weight is all but removed as well. Because of its larger size, taller people tend to really like it. It’s a heavy mat, but as a solution for practicing on carpet, it’s fantastic — the heaviness is part of what keeps it solidly fixed to the floor, even on a carpet surface.
Yogasana Yoga Mat
A more environmentally friendly option is the 100% cotton yoga mat by Yogasana. This yoga mat offers better traction and slips less on carpet than the modern synthetic options. For hot yoga this is one of the best options, as the more you sweat the better your grip. According to the manufacturer at least.
The yoga mat weighs only 4 lb., making it easy to transport when you do decide to make it all the way across town to a yoga class. Yet, it is also still considerably more durable than most synthetic options. So much so that it also comes with a 15-Year Warranty.
If that wasn’t enough to tempt you away from what everyone else is using these days, there’s one more good reason to purchase this option. A proportion of the proceeds from every yoga mat Yogasana sells goes towards school supplies like for their worker’s children in India.
More Yoga Reading
If you are getting into yoga, congratulations! It is one of the best, all-around body exercises you can do for a combination of strength, conditioning, balance, and flexibility. We love yoga when combined with other activities, such as the occasional run or cycling workout.
We did a piece on the best yoga pants and shorts. It offers a variety of yoga bottoms so you can find something that suits your style. Be sure to check it out.
If you want to consider a compression shirt as part of your outfit, which many yoga enthusiasts do, we did a piece on that as well. You can find it here. It covers the ins and outs of compression shirts from manufacturers ranging from high-end to budget.
Don’t forget about hot yoga. The mats for it are a little different than your typical yoga mats. We did an entire piece on it here.