This past Christmas, I asked for something that I’ve been considering getting for some time. After practicing yoga for over a year, I decided that it was finally time to get a nice yoga mat. I had researched good yoga mats several times in the past, but every mat seemed to have too many pros and cons for me to be able to make an informed decision. A rubber yoga mat was clearly the preferred type of mat, but I just couldn’t decide which brand would be best. Even when it came to speaking with people in real life about their mats, it seemed as though every mat had mixed reviews. I didn’t want to invest that much money into something that I wasn’t sure about. How much better could an expensive mat be than my cheap mat anyway?
When I started doing yoga regularly, Dan and I just bought thick foam mats from TJ Maxx. I knew that this mat wasn’t quality by any standard, but it was thick enough to support me. Plus, I wanted to know that I was going to stick with yoga before investing in expensive equipment (as we all know, I’m not the best yoga buddy!). My mat served me well enough. It was bright pink and thick enough to be comfortable without a blanket underneath me. The one complaint that I had about my mat was the lack of grip. While I was fairly stable in my poses, the bottom of the mat slid all over the place through class. I would slide forward gradually, often until I was uncomfortably close to the person in front of me. So, my apologies to everyone who has had to take a yoga class directly in front of me! I never intended to know your butt so intimately, but here we are.
Before each gift-giving holiday that has happened in the past year, I had considered asking for a good mat, but I was unsure exactly what to ask for and unwilling to ask for a new mat when I wasn’t 100% positive that I would keep up with my yoga practice. But this year, when my aunt texted asking me what I wanted for Christmas, I just happened to be at a yoga class and saw someone with one of those expensive rubber Lululemon yoga mats. She gave her rave review, and I was sold. A rubber mat in particular would help my practice because of the grip. Hooray for not invading the space of the person in front of me! Lululemon was luckily not the most expensive mat out there, and now that I had been regularly practicing for about a year and a half, I was confident that I would continue to go to yoga and decided that it was time to upgrade.
Lo and behold, on Christmas Eve, there was a long box under my grandmother’s tree that I knew was for me. I unwrapped my new, heavy, rubber mat and imagined how much it would change my practice. I was so excited to try my new mat that I went to yoga the morning after Christmas. One of the main things I look forward to when I have a day off work is the opportunity to go to a morning yoga class. I love doing yoga classes in the morning because it helps get me up and stretched and feel great for the rest of the day, and this morning yoga class would be even more exciting with my new mat!
As I took my new yoga mat out of my car, I looked at my old yoga mat and was suddenly very aware that I was changing something fundamental about my yoga practice. My sentimental side started to hurt, worried that I wouldn’t be able to emotionally handle using a different mat than the one I used to start doing yoga. I told you, I’m not good with change!
Either way, I knew that my new mat would take some getting used to and that my practice would feel a bit different on a different mat. Immediately upon sitting down, I could feel that my new mat was much firmer. Throughout our beginning meditation, I was acutely aware of the differences between the two mats with each inhale and exhale. If just sitting on this mat felt different, how much more so would it feel when I actually started doing poses? Once we were up and moving, it became evident that I had not realized how drastically my new mat would change my practice.
I had been warned that a rubber mat would prevent me from sliding my feet on the top of the mat as well as sliding the bottom of the mat across the floor, so it would also require me to lift and move my feet when changing poses instead of simply sliding them like I was used to doing. This would force me to focus on my core strength to move my body instead of lazily sliding along the mat. I was excited to test this out in my first downward-facing dog. I planted my feet and my hands, lifted my hips up, and…nothing. No slipping at all! I moved around a bit to settle in and to test my newfound stability, and I couldn’t get my mat to slip forward even if I tried. I instantly felt validated in my choice to get an expensive mat. It was really living up to the price!
The changes didn’t stop there, though! Since yoga is such a well-rounded practice, it can be challenging to master each different part. I had assumed that I was terrible at balancing poses and that my core wasn’t strong enough to hold me. Come to find out, once I had a mat that held me better, I was able to more successfully complete poses. Poses that I always assumed I would fall out of were suddenly super easy. Instead of my feet just gripping my mat, my mat was gripping my feet back! I was so excited to see where else this mat could take my practice!
Since that first yoga class with my new Lululemon yoga mat, it has continued to prove that it is worth its weight in gold…and that mat is heavy. In fact, the only downside I can find to this mat is the weight. I stood in the lobby of the yoga studio after my first class with my new mat and noticed that my arm was sore from holding it! I immediately went home and bought a bag for easier transportation, so that minor inconvenience was easily remedied! I highly recommend using a quality yoga mat when practicing yoga.
While I’m glad that I waited to get an expensive mat until I knew that I would keep up with yoga, I’m also glad that I’m now investing in something that is good for me and that I enjoy. My physical and mental health are important to investments to make, and what’s awesome is that yoga is great for both! If you’re still thinking about buying that expensive yoga mat or whatever else you might need to invest in yourself and your wellbeing, I say go for it! There is no more important investment. If you love doing something, you might as well have the right tools to do it.
Photography by my talented fiancé. You can find him on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/hope_grows_here/