Yogitastic’s post last week about her quest for the perfect yoga mat got me thinking about my current mat, ex-mats that didn’t work out so well, and mat experiences that ended in tragedy (I’m sure I could sell the rights to the Lifetime Movie Network).

When it comes to yoga, I’m not a very materialistic person—I don’t need a posh yoga mat bag (I toss mine naked in the back seat of my car) or snazzy designer clothes (I nearly peed my pants when I walked by Hard Tail’s Santa Monica headquarters during our vacation in California last fall but—feeling like I wasn’t “worthy” enough to even glance at the store-front window—I didn’t even dare go inside. I’m sure the salespeople would’ve seen right through me and called me out for my Old Navy and Target yoga pants). In fact, for my very first yoga class series (back in 1999, at my college’s recreation center, before yoga became hip), I didn’t even have a mat—I spread out a bathroom towel on the gym floor every week.

Beginning with bathroom towel yoga

After that initial introduction, I didn’t visit yoga again until about 2002, when I took classes here and there at my new gym. There, I relied on using the communal mats; at the time, yoga was “just another gym class” and had yet to become the lifestyle that it is for me now. So a borrowed mat is was.

I received my first real yoga mat at my bridal shower the following year. Bryan and I had difficulty finding objects to fill our wedding registry, so we each included a few “personal” items; he, a new electric razor; me, a Reebok yoga mat from Target. Therefore, I credit my sister-in-law with officially kicking off my passion for yoga. Thanks, Mina!

The Gray Mat was perfect. It had an ideal stickiness factor and was just the right thickness. All of the classes that shaped my opinion about yoga and got me interested in continuing the practice were done on that mat. It has a history! That mat traveled with me to Egypt in 2005 so I could do yoga in our hotel rooms and then to Disney World in 2007 for the same purpose. It was retired from official studio use probably somewhere around 2005 (the “feet” spots are threadbare and it was constantly shedding little gray rubber bits). But, like a ballerina’s first pair of pointe shoes, I cannot bring myself to get rid of the Gray Mat. It currently resides in my car trunk and is used as the “outdoor” yoga mat, perfect for when I’ve been driving a long time and need to spread out on the grass or a parking lot and stretch my back or do a long Downdog.

Prepared: Yoga mat, reusable bags, beach chairs, Nordic walking poles.

Definitely never going indoors ever again.

Up next came the super-cushy Rainbow mat, which was purchased because I got tired of my hip bones grinding into the floor during belly-down postures and wanted something a little thicker. I also liked it because it was bright yellow, red, and purple and stood out way more than my standard gray. However, I quickly realized that I really missed feeling the floor through the mat and didn’t like the way I felt so unstable on such a thick mat. I stored it in my closet and used it on and off for home practice until last summer, when I finally gave it away to my friend Sara who was just starting yoga and needed a fill-in mat before her husband bought one for her birthday. Therefore, I have no photos of the Rainbow mat!

Mat #3 was a reversible one (gray on one side, aqua on the other) from Nike—I’ll call it the Ineffective Mat. I bought it for its great stickiness factor—too great, unfortunately. Any time you step forward from a lunge or move your feet from one spot to another, the mat follows. It bunches up with every move, resulting in a yoga class full of groaning and adjusting. I recently saw a classmate with this style of mat, and she was constantly straightening it out throughout the whole class. Ineffective Mat was retired very quickly and is currently used as a base layer yoga mat (I’ll throw a thinner mat on top), or I’ll roll it up and put it under my knees for Camel or something.

Yogi Yog and the Funky Bunch

Autograph Mat. After Ineffective Mat came a royal blue Cory Everson-brand mat (NO idea who that is) from Modell’s. Now THIS was a good mat; I bought it in 2006 and still use it today (although it is losing its stickiness). Great thickness, great stickiness, no bunching. I took tons of classes with this mat; it was even my “bike” mat, which I toted along on my back while riding my bike to the gym. This mat followed me to Kripalu in 2006 for YTT and was used as an autograph book during our graduation party. I wanted a way to remember all of my classmates, so I asked that they sign my mat in permanent marker; several other people used the idea as well!

For that reason, I rarely take this mat outside the house, and I don’t think I can ever part with it. I remember using the mat months after YTT and just noticing messages for the first time—it was such a sweet surprise!

Surprisingly, even 5 years later, most of the signatures are still visible and few have smeared, even after sweating like a beast all over it. Autograph Mat is currently in my upstairs yoga room, and I do all of my home practices on it.

While at Kripalu, I purchased Mat #5, a super-thin orange mat by PrAna, in case I wasn’t able to use Autograph Mat again. It’s only 1/16”, so you can really feel the floor. I love everything about this mat….except that its weird texture totally rips up the bottoms of my feet.

Texture close-up!

I simply cannot use this mat in the winter, because weird texture + dry skin = bleeding big toes. In the spring and summer, however, it’s not as bad. In fact, I still use it in class today.

How I dry out my mat after hot yoga.

For a back-up mat, though–when my poor shredded toes needed a break–I returned to Modell’s and bought Mat #6, Savasa brand. I hemmed and hawed over which color to get, but it really didn’t matter because only a few months after purchasing it, a giant tree branch over our driveway fell onto my car, smashed the back window, and sent teeny-tiny shards of glass all over the mat, which was sitting in my back seat. I put it in the trash immediately, not wanting to risk finding a rogue piece of glass one day with my big toe or palm. Such a sad ending for Mat #6. 😦

Not the vrksasana I was hoping to see that morning.

With that, the search for the perfect yoga mat continued. I found one at Target that I fell in love with…it was an earthy brown Gaiam with five decorative lines running vertically from top to bottom. Those lines were the selling point because I have issues keeping my hands and feet equal distance apart in Downdog, and this would keep me even. This mat was great for the first couple of classes, but then its stickiness rapidly began to wane. I’ve had to stop using it because my hands slide all over the place in Downdog, or I only bring it to hot yoga, when I’ll be throwing a towel on top of it.

I’m sure as soon as the weather cools down and my skin starts to dry out, I’ll be ditching my rough orange PrAna mat and once again begin the neverending quest for a replacement. In a perfect world, there’d be a yoga mat outlet right down the street from me, and I could go in and test the mats on hard floors, rubbery floors, carpeted floors, dry skin, wet skin, in shorts, in pants, rain, shine, wind, or snow.

…And all of them would magically repel flying shards of glass. 🙂

What mat do you use? Have you had any bad mat experiences?