A yoga mat, otherwise known as an exercise mat, is a small and soft piece of foam used for exercise. Traditionally, yoga mats were used for (you guessed it), yoga. Using a mat is pretty much essential for yoga. Not only does it protect your joints from impact against a hard floor, but the surface is grippy enough to keep you locked in place when you’re in an awkward position.
Even if you don’t do yoga, an exercise mat has many other uses.
Why use a Yoga Mat?
When doing any sort of exercise on the floor, whether it’s stretching, ab work, or yoga, you’re going to experience some level of discomfort. Naturally, humans have pointy and bony joints like the elbows, knees, and lower back. When these body parts are put under pressure on a hard floor, it hurts, and also puts you at risk of injuring yourself.
As well as protecting you, a mat protects your floor from damage. Whether it’s a fully kitted out home gym or your living room floor, you don’t want it getting damaged. If you’re doing ab exercises like Russian twists with a kettlebell, you can easily lose control when you’re pushing yourself hard and end up with a dent or scuff on your floor. A good quality, thick yoga mat will absorb the impact of anything you throw at it and protect your home from damage.
If you’re exercising on carpet, a mat will protect your skin from possible friction burns.
Advantages of a Yoga Mat
Obviously, you can use a yoga mat for yoga. It protects your joints, your floor, and helps you to stay locked in when you’re stretched in unstable positions. At some point, you’re probably going to fall over when attempting a new or difficult pose. A good quality mat will stop you from hurting yourself when this does happen. What more could you possibly want?
If your muscles are feeling stiff, weak, or tired, likelihood is you need to stretch. Most stretches involve being on the floor, so once again, a yoga mat is your friend. You can also use a mat to work on your mobility .
Some of the best stretches to do on a mat are the 90/90 stretch and the butterfly stretch.
To do the 90/90 stretch lie face down on your mat. Lift your left knee upwards toward your chest and rotate it inwards towards the right side of your body. Keep your right leg relaxed behind you in a comfortable position. Keeping your back straight with your spine in a neutral position, lean forward onto your left knee. As it’s pressed towards the ground by the weight of your upper body, you should feel a stretch on your hip. Hold this position for five seconds then repeat. Switch legs to work on both of your hips.
To do the butterfly stretch, sit upright on your mat. With the soles of your feet facing each other, push your feet together in front of you and allow your knees to flare outwards. Holding your feet together with your hands, use your elbows to gently push down on your knees until you feel a stretch in your inner thighs and groin. Hold this position for as long as you can, and repeat if desired. You can also push down in a ‘pulsing’ rhythm to loosen yourself up at first.
Floor-Based Exercises/Ab Work
Push ups, sit ups, glute bridges, and more. If floor-based exercises are part of your home workouts, a mat will be a great addition to your home gym. They’re also great for dynamic ab work like Russian twists and leg raises, where your lower back is put under pressure and is in contact with the floor. A soft, thick mat will mean you’ll be more comfortable so you can push for longer and make better progress with your workouts.
One thing to consider when looking at a yoga mat to do bodyweight exercises is the dimensions. Some mats aren’t wide enough for your hands and arms to fit comfortably to do push ups. The MuscleSquad exercise mat is 610mm wide, more than enough to do push ups on but not so wide that it’ll clutter your home gym.
MuscleSquad Yoga Mat
Our very own gym/exercise/yoga mat.
It measures 173cm x 61cm, so you’ll have plenty of space to complete any exercise on it, whether it’s stretching, yoga, floor exercises or a core workout.
At 12mm thick, it’s thicker than most other mats, meaning it can absorb more impact whilst providing a more comfortable experience while you work out.
On top of all this, the NBR foam the mat is made from is non-slip, so it’ll stay secured on any surface while you work out.
Do I need a Yoga Mat?
If you do yoga, stretching, floor-based exercise and ab work, then a yoga mat is definitely a great piece of kit to have in your home gym. Not only are they extremely versatile and useful, but they are also cheap, compact, and simple. You really can’t go wrong with a mat, you’ll always have a use for one.Jamie Grover, Fitness Journalist from Bristol.