There are few specialty items that are needed for a yoga practice. Comfortable clothing and a willingness to step away from your day are the main things. This is why yoga is the perfect practice for just about anybody. Equipment-wise, you do need a good mat. Never underestimate how your mat can make or break your practice. If a mat is too thin you will have sore knees or tailbone if you are doing a more active class. No grip on the mat and you may end up in a very unintended splits during your hot yoga class. Trust me, if nothing else, you must invest in a decent mat.
Gaiam has been a leader in the yoga apparel and accessory market for over 25 years. I have seen their mats in specialty stores over the years and finally got the opportunity to try out the Classic Yoga Mat (3 mm) and the lovely coordinating Flower Burst Cargo Mat Bag. The mat is a great everyday mat. It was thick enough for a regular low impact class and it had just enough grip for a flow class. I definitely would not recommend the 3 mm thickness for anybody with joint issues or who find themselves constantly folding over their mats during lunges. I also wouldn’t recommend this type of mat for a hot class as the stickiness factor was good, but not quite good enough for a super sweaty class.
Gaiam has 5 mm mats too, which would have the great cushioning that I have grown accustomed to with my regular mat and they also have some great looking options made specifically for hot classes for the yogis who need that feature. The one huge benefit to this mat is that is it very light and easy to transport, which can be an issue with the thicker mats.
The Cargo Mat Bag was a great size for the mat and I was even able to squish my hand towel in along with the mat, but I did find it slightly awkward to carry due to the placement of the strap. I also think the pocket would be better designed if it were large enough for a water bottle to fit while the mat is in the bag and had a zipper instead of Velcro. I think this bag is ideal for storage purposes (which is recommended for most yoga mats since they can become brittle if exposed to sunlight), but not for long distance travel with your mat.
What I loved the most about Gaiam is their commitment to non-toxic materials. One issue I constantly hear about mats from a very popular yoga apparel company that we are all probably very familiar with is that they stink. The weeks of “off gassing” that are needed for those mats are just awful and many people find that even after the mat airs out, the smell lingers. The Gaiam mat had very little odour at all and I used it in a class the same day I opened the packaging. One reason for this may be that these mats are free of six different phthalates as well as latex and PVC, which may be critical to those with an allergy.
The Classic Yoga Mat retails for $21.98 (USD) and the Cargo Mat Bag for $19.98 (USD) and are available online and in many specialty stores across North America. If you are new to yoga or are looking for a mat and bag for home use this would be a good option.
Disclosure: I was gifted product for review consideration, this is however not a paid post and all opinions and views on this post are 100% my own.