Q & A April: How can I start practicing yoga at home on a tight budget?

In this Q & A April blog post response, I’m going to focus on the equipment. First up on the yoga home practice kit is a good mat. You could put a large bath towel on the floor. However, that will only go so far in slip prevention. You wouldn’t want to lose your grip in downward facing dog and turn it into a downward face plant. Also, do you really want to sweat all over your carpet, tiles or wood floors? It’s better to be on a mat.

I said “tight budget”, but a lot of mats seem so expensive.

These days, there are many yoga mats to choose from so it can be as mind boggling as a build-your-own sundae. Do you want a plain vanilla mat or something with all the extras?

A simple mat could start from $15 at something like Target or Kmart. While they do cater to a tight budget, you may not get a good quality mat. Then there’s $89 for a big reversible mat at Lululemon, or even up to $209 for a Manduka PRO purchase online – definitely not a tight budget mat. What I can suggest is first, work out how much you want to spend and then second, look for the qualities of a good mat to fit your price range.

Properties of a good mat are:

  • a non-slip surface,
  • durability (doesn’t dematerialise from regular use),
  • ease of cleaning, and
  • the ability for it to be repurposed or recycled if you want to upgrade in the future.

How much padding?

Some sites may also recommend you choose a mat that is padded enough. My personal preference is a thin mat and to use a folded blanket for cushioning or by folding over one end of the mat.

I have a pilates mat that is about four times thicker than my yoga mat. The reason why I would not use the thicker mat for yoga is while it makes the floor more comfortable, it makes balance more challenging and can put more strain in the wrists. We can all benefit from a little challenge every now and then, but when it risks the stability of the ankle or wrist I am not so keen to use a thicker mat. Mat weight or thickness is a personal preference and I can only offer suggestions. Just remember the adjustments that may need to be made with either choice.

MATerials

From the size of your mat to what it is made of is another thing to think about. PVC mats have been around for a while and they are recommended as the mat you can stick to, instead of slide, yet they are not the most eco-friendly. They do hold together well, but poor quality mats may dematerialise (or wear down) in overused places like where the feet contact the mat in downward facing dog.

Then there is rubber, which is more eco-friendly but might not be friendly for someone with a sensitivity to the stuff. My partner was gifted a rubber mat. You could definitely smell rubber and my hands smelled like rubber after giving it a test run Vinyasa Flow. While I’m on the topic of smell, you also want to ensure the material won’t end up stinking of yoga funk.

Keeping it clean

There’s nothing worse than body odour on a yoga mat. It’s right up there with losing grip on the mat because it’s in need of a good cleaning.

Given an average Vinyasa Flow class can build heat and some sweat by the end of Sun Salutations, you want to clean your mat off after class. A spray bottle of diluted vinegar is good, but it does need time to air dry. There are cleaners for mats out there depending on if you are eco-friendly or wanting to eradicate all germs off the face of the mat. What I have found great is if the mat is washing machine safe. You do not want to put a porous mat in the machine and take it out later, falling apart from the water it absorbed.

Check with the retailer or manufacturer if the mat is safe for an occasional clean in the washing machine, so when you think a bottle and cloth is not doing the job, you can give it some extra care with a proper wash. The mat should be able to go through on a gentle cool cycle with mild detergent. When you take it out, lay it across a clothes airer or on the washing line in the shade.

What do other people recommend for mat selection?

I’ve had a look around online as I don’t regularly buy mats. I have one reliable favourite Reebok mat. It has lasted me for over five years. I don’t even recall where I purchased it, it was that long ago. It may have been one of the locations you can source a Gaiam mat from in the list that follows.

These are names of mat brands that have come up again and again in my online research. Popular buys are:

If you are interested in a Manduka or Jade Harmony yoga mat and live in Canberra, I may be able to source these at a lower price at EMP with our super mat buying powers combined . . . a.k.a. through a bulk order. Contact me for further information if you want to be included.

What do I need after I have a mat?

You may have spent $40 to $90 to get the mat that met your criteria, hopefully one that will last you a while. If you have money left to buy some props, then shop around. Other useful props are: yoga blocks, a yoga strap and a bolster. Before I could afford to purchase them, I used equivalents. So to my readers on a tight budget, here’s an example: use a workout towel instead of a strap or folded blankets in place of a bolster.

The good thing is, if you are being taught by a resourceful yoga teacher, they will assist you in making the necessary adjustments for your practice whether you have a yoga prop or not. A number of yoga studios provide the prop equipment for classes. If you are unsure on what prop alternative could be used at home, it doesn’t hurt to ask the teacher before or after class. We are here to ensure your safe practice of yoga.

 

That is all the time I have tonight to answer this question.

If you want to ask anything relating to this post, please leave a comment below. I hope to be back online again before the end of the month with another Q & A April post.

This month’s image is courtesy of Visualhunt

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