Your yoga mat can make or break your practice and experience. All mats are not created equal, here are a few guidelines to help you find your perfect mat.
1. Price is not everything. Yoga mats can range in price, everywhere from $10 to close to $100. While price is not everything, be aware that you do get what you pay for. If you choose to go the cheaper version (like those found at discount stores such as Marshalls or TJMaxx) you will probably find yourself with a slippery and thin mat. Know that if you choose these mats, you may also want to invest in a yoga towel.
2. The type of yoga you are going to practice makes a difference. You will sweat much more with a heated yoga class (hot vinyasa, Bikram, etc) than with an outdoor class. Some mats will be better than others at absorbing sweat and maintaining grip once your hands and feet become wet.
3. Different mats have different levels of cushioning. If you have a bony frame or sensitive knees, you may want a thicker mat to provide more cushion. However, know that a more cushioned mat will be more unstable and therefore make balancing more challenging (which may be a good thing).
4. Different yoga mats have different rules for cleaning. Some mats can only be cleaned with soap and warm water. Others should be sprayed with a concoction of essential oils and water. Be sure to ask the best way to clean your mat, as they are guaranteed to need cleaning as you use them.
5. When in doubt, try it out. Always ask to try a mat before purchasing. If you are going to buy online, ask your local studio if they have any mats to rent or borrow and test a few out before deciding.