by Staff Writer
The benefits of yoga and Pilates are numerous: improved strength, balance, coordination, stress relief and peace of mind. While yoga doesn't require much equipment, a yoga mat is important for safety and improved performance.
Traction: The primary function of a yoga mat is to provide you with better traction while you're performing yoga poses. Positioning yourself as necessary for many yoga postures requires your feet to be solidly planted on the ground. Not having good traction could result in injury from slipping and falling. And even if you don't fall, it can be difficult to fully concentrate on your breathing and poses when your feet keep sliding on the hardwood floor.
Cushioning: Although not its primary function, cushioning between your body and the floor is a big benefit of a yoga mat. Many yoga mats are thin, but thicker mats have become more popular. Thick and extra-thick yoga mats are nice for heavier-than-average persons or anyone else who wants a little more comfort out of their yoga mat.
Improved balance: A yoga mat can actually improve your balance. The soft surface lets your feet sink just a little bit, giving your foot more support. The soft base also allows your foot to roll easier and more subtly for minor adjustments necessary to balance.
Warmth: Yoga mats provide an insulating layer against floors that can sometimes be cold. Lying against the cold floor is not only uncomfortable, but it will also cause your muscles to lose their warmth, making stretching more difficult.
Be sure you buy a yoga mat that is long enough for you. Having your feet or head hanging off the mat isn't going to help you relax. If you are over 6 feet tall, you should buy an extra-long yoga mat.