Yoga Mat vs. Yoga Rug: Which is Better to Buy?
The yoga mat vs. yoga rug debate is one that has been argued endlessly. There is often confusion about which is better to buy, the yoga mat or the yoga rug.
In actuality, what’s “better” is relative to your individual needs, as the intensity of your yoga practice, your weight, how much you sweat, and more, should all be factored in when making a decision about what's better to buy.
What is a Yoga Mat?
A yoga mat is a specifically designed mat intended to aid and assist your yoga practice by providing traction, grip, and balance. A yoga mat can also be used like an exercise mat to do things such as weight training, pilates, meditation, and more.
What is a Yoga Rug?
Yoga rugs are a more traditional floor mat for your yoga practice. Since yoga was originally conceived to be performed without a mat, yoga rugs were used by ancient yoga practitioners to add an extra layer of support between their feet/knees and the ground.
Why Use a Yoga Rug?
Yoga rugs may be a suitable option for those looking for a more eco-friendly alternative to a yoga mat. In addition, yoga rugs’ status as a more traditional accessory can potentially make them a more attractive choice, as yoga rugs do a better job of honoring the origins of yoga while maintaining some functionality.
The Differences Between a Yoga Mat and a Yoga Rug
While there are many options available, the differences between a yoga mat and a yoga rug are significant. While your choice may simply come down to personal preference, understanding the differences between the yoga mat and the yoga rug will help you select an accessory that fits your personal needs.
The materials used by yoga mats and yoga rugs vary considerably. As the eco-friendly option, yoga rugs often are woven, usually with organic cotton. Many yoga rugs are also constructed by hand, woven, stitched, and dyed by artisans, giving them a natural feel similar to a rug you’d find in your living room at home.
On the other hand, yoga mats can be made with a wide range of different materials to serve different purposes. Some yoga mats are eco-friendly, using all-natural tree rubber for the base layer. However, there are many yoga mats that are made from cheap, synthetic materials, such as foam or TPE, which are not biodegradable or recyclable either.
Additionally, there are yoga mats that use other eco-friendly materials, such as cork or jute, and are intended to more closely resemble the traditional nature of a yoga rug.
Yoga rugs have been shown to offer more durability than traditional yoga mats. Since yoga rugs are made of woven materials, you can wash them in your washing machine without worry, giving it more longevity.
While some yoga mats are able to be washed by machine, almost all yoga mats force you to scrub dirt and sweat off of your mat by hand, which is not only annoying and time-consuming, but also reduces the durability and resiliency of the yoga mat.
In addition, since yoga rugs are not made with chemicals or plastics, yoga rugs can withstand wear and tear and maintain their form.
Even though many yoga mats can range in thickness, anywhere from 1mm for a travel mat, and up to 6mm for a soft, foam mat. This means that, opposite of something like a pilates mat, yoga mats generally provide more thickness than yoga rugs.
When doing yoga, you ideally want a balance of thickness and cushion. Too much cushion and you may feel off balance, but too thin and your yoga mat won’t have enough support. Natural rubber in the Yoga Strong Mat provides solid cushioning at 3-5 mm and has more density than standard yoga mats, making it a great option for exercises for your tailbone.
Yoga rugs are unable to provide comparable thickness to yoga mats because they are usually woven by hand, as opposed to being produced through a machine.
Yoga Mats Are More Portable
Yoga mats also have the advantage of being more portable than yoga rugs. What makes yoga rugs a good option for durability can make them a poor option for portability, as the dense nature of yoga rugs can make them difficult to roll up, making them bulkier for transport.
On the other hand, yoga mats can be rolled easily and dropped into your bag or used with a Yoga Strong Strap for hassle-free transport.
Yoga mats also come in a wide range of sizes, so you are able to choose a yoga mat that fits your travel needs, whether that is simply from the home to the gym, or traveling on an airplane, or needing a yoga mat in a hotel room to loosen up.
Higher Variety of Yoga Mats
With a plethora of options to choose from, there is a higher variety of yoga mats available to fit your needs. Whether you are looking for a thicker yoga mat for sensitive knees, a thin yoga mat for travel, an eco-friendly yoga mat, or a cheap yoga mat, there is an accessible option for your lifestyle.
Yoga rugs have more limited options, since they are confined to woven all-natural materials.
The higher variety of yoga mats is also helpful based on the type of yoga you enjoy. For hot yoga, you may need a non-slip yoga mat, while the physical nature of Ashtanga yoga or partner stretches may demand a more supportive yoga mat.
Yoga Mats Have More Grip
Another merit to consider is that yoga mats have more grip than yoga rugs.
While yoga rugs can be comfortable when performing basic warmup exercises, yoga mats are often needed for other types of yoga, such as vinyasa flow, because yoga mats inherently have more grip.
Some yoga mats use nanotechnology that allow your yoga mat to become gripper as you sweat. Instead of your sweat sitting on top of the yoga mat, materials such as microfiber suede absorb your sweat and wick away moisture so you can have a consistently dry practice.
Benefits of a Yoga Mat
For anyone that incorporates hot yoga into their routine or engages in extra strenuous activity, dual layer mats, such as the Yoga Strong Mat, give ideal support, grip, and traction for a worry-free workout.
When working out, you want your mat to provide stability and comfort, so you do not have to worry about dirt or sweat impeding your routine.
Especially for those engaging a physically demanding routine with inversions and balances, such as those with a yoga swing, a yoga mat will be a superior choice.
Benefits of a Yoga Rug
Those looking for a more natural and traditional yoga experience will benefit from using a yoga rug. The organic cotton used in yoga rugs has a very different texture than a yoga mat, and many say it feels like you’re closer to nature.
And when considering a yoga rug, you may also be keen to find out whether the yoga rug is produced by artisans in another country such as India, as an art form and an vital opportunity towards providing livelihood to underrepresented communities.
These distinguished benefits of a yoga rug are not the same as the benefits of a yoga mat, but nonetheless, should not be overlooked.
How to Use Yoga Mats and Yoga Rugs Together
Yoga mats and yoga rugs can also be used together in distinct situations where you may need extra cushion. The yoga rug can give you the natural feel on your hands and feet, while the yoga mat underneath pads and stabilizes your hips and knees.
For advanced yogis that perform headstands and other inversions, you may want additional support. Using a headstand as an example, your hands and wrists hold a lot of tension, so using a yoga mat and a yoga rug together can enhance your comfort level.
Using a yoga mat and yoga rug together can also decrease your distance to the ground, offering more stability. In certain balancing yoga poses, such as standing splits, decreasing your distance to the ground by providing more height, can help you more efficiently perform the pose.
If the decreased distance from a yoga mat and yoga rug together is not enough, using yoga blocks is also beneficial.
Should You Buy a Yoga Mat or a Yoga Rug?
After reviewing the benefits of both a yoga mat and a yoga rug, you may still be unsure which one to purchase.
Even though there are distinct advantages to each, a sturdy, well-made yoga mat can offer the quintessential combination of quality and function.
No matter your lifestyle or preferred exercise method, a good yoga mat provides all the characteristics you are looking for in a yoga mat - eco-friendly, non-slip, durable, and thick.
So when making a decision whether to buy a yoga mat or yoga rug, we highly recommend making the logical choice - yoga mat.
“Different Types of Yoga Mats – Select Best For Your Practicing.” Health and Fitness Magazine, 2 Dec. 2019, https://www.healthnfitnessmag.com/different-types-of-yoga-mats.
O’Brien, Ellen. “4 Yoga Rugs That Might Make You Ditch Your Mat—For Good.” Yoga Journal. 16 Sept, 2021. https://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/fashion-beauty/yoga-gear/yoga-rugs/