Comfort on the mat is essential to establishing a regular yoga practice. And whilst there are many factors to consider when choosing a new yoga mat, the thickness is certainly a key component to the overall comfort of your practice. But thicker is not necessarily better, the right mat for you will be dependent on the type of yoga you practice, your general joint health, considerations on your stability and balance and of course the flooring type that your regularly practice on.
Yoga mats typically range from 1.5mm to a plush 6mm. A standard yoga mat is approximately 3mm. As you would imagine a standard mat thickness of 3mm is the most popular and the most versatile, suitable for a wide variety yoga styles. It offers some cushioning underfoot (or bottom) but is still supportive enough to flow through the standing postures of the sun salutations. And for the times you need that little extra support it is often very easy to fold the mat over to create a double thickness, particularly important for positions such as boat pose or shoulder stand.
If you regularly practice more restorative forms of yoga like Yin Yoga or spend most of the class lying down or seated, for example when completing longer reclined Hundreds Series in Pilates perhaps you might appreciate the extra cushioning of a 6mm mat. A thicker mat is also suitable for those with poor joint health, pre-existing injuries or for those of us with knobbly knees and bony butts, offering just a little extra padding to where it is needed. It is important to note that given the additional thickness this mat can inhibit stability in standing and balance postures. So, it is advised if you struggle with balance, take a few steps off your mat when you attempt balancing standing poses such as Tree Pose or Warrior III, unless of course you enjoy the challenge and are looking to increase your core stability!
For those who like the feel the of the earth beneath their feet, grounding down to establish that connection, perhaps a thinner 1.5mm mat is for you. Offering only a small layer of protection from the surface below your mat, these thinner mats can also be ideal if you are practicing on carpet which already has the added cushioning and softness. Or maybe you are a travelling nomad, and enjoy incorporating your practice wherever you roll out your mat. With an excellent range travel yoga mats on the market these days you will normally find these mats with a thickness of 1.5mm making them as lightweight and convenient as possible, perfect for the suitcase.
Ultimately the thickness of your new yoga mat comes down to personal preference and what feels most comfortable for you. If it is possible next time you are at the yoga studio find some time to test out a few different mats with varying thicknesses. It’s just like the goldilocks principle to finding the perfect mat, one that is not too soft or too hard but instead just right!