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Yoga, just like other spiritual practices and exercises, has developed over time. While at first, it was practiced on grass or tiger skin, the use of cotton rugs, and, then, mats have become increasingly popular. These props can support a yogi’s practice, making it safer and encouraging development and growth, but what are the differences between the two?
The differences between mats and rugs are many. Rugs are more traditional, made of natural fiber, more absorbent, and suitable for practices such as Ashtanga and hot yoga. Mats provide extra padding and are made of anti-slip material. However, they can be used together.
All yoga practices are different, unique, and personal, and so should be the materials and objects you use to support it. Find out whether a mat or rug is best for you below.
Yoga Mats vs. Yoga Rugs: An Overview
Yoga is a spiritual and physical practice with roots in ancient times. However, it is also intensely personal and always in development. Today, there are new types of yoga for yogis to experiment with, and there are also new props and aids that can be used to support and deepen your practice.
These include yoga mats and yoga rugs. Yoga rugs are often made of natural fibers like cotton, and they are more traditional. Today, they are still used in certain schools in India, and they are considered a way to stick to the formal way to practice yoga. They are also more suitable for certain yoga types, such as Ashtanga.
Yoga mats, instead, are a relatively recent invention. They have been introduced in the early 1980s by yoga teacher Angela Farmer, who called them “sticky mats.”
This invention came from Farmer’s necessity to find something that would stop her palms and feet from slipping and sliding during practice. Indeed, she had been suffering the side effects of a surgery she had gone through in her teens, and her palms and feet would be incapable of sweating.
After trying other methods, she settled for using sticky mats, the predecessor of today’s classic yoga mats. The first mat to be produced commercially was the one by Hugger Mugger in 1990.
You can find out more about the evolution of yoga mats and rugs below:
Not All Mats Are Eco-Friendly
Yoga rugs are made of natural fibers tightly weaved together, such as cotton or jute. They offer a natural, rough feel that allows your practice not to suffer from interferences. Indeed, many yogis find it uncomfortable or disturbing to practice on synthetic materials.
Yoga mats, instead, can be made of a variety of materials, which can be more or less sustainable. Materials such as cork, recycled rubber, and TPE (Thermoplastic elastomers) are among the most earth-friendly ones. More economical alternatives include PVC mats, which can be more damaging for the environment as they are not recyclable.
Yoga Rugs Are Longer-Lasting
Both yoga mats and yoga rugs can represent an investment for a yogi. So, it is worth checking out how long your purchase will last you. In terms of yoga rugs, you can count on them looking and feeling like new for years to come—of course, with proper care.
Instead, manufacturers have been experimenting with new materials and fibers to make yoga mats last longer. PVC was introduced to extend the lifespan of sticky foam mats, and materials like cork and Thermoplastic have been a more recent, eco-friendly substitution to PVC.
Yoga Mats Provide Extra Padding
Yoga mats come in a wide range of sizes and thicknesses. However, the most common ones range from 1/8inch (0.3cm) to 1/4inch (0.6cm). Some are also much thinner than these, with a thickness of 1/16inch (0.15cm).
However, yoga mats’ foam-like feeling can produce extra padding for your knees and hips when practicing. This is something that rugs won’t be able to provide as well.
Yoga Rugs Are More Suitable for Certain Yoga Types
Depending on the type of yoga you love to practice, you might prefer to opt for a mat or rug. A yoga rug is extremely suitable for those practices that require fast transitions from an asana to another. This is extremely common in practices such as Ashtanga, Mysore style yoga, Power Yoga, and Hot Yoga.
Yoga Rugs Are More Absorbent
If you prefer fast-paced practices, you are likely to be sweating more. Yoga rugs can absorb more moisture and keep the whole area where you are practicing dry. Oppositely, mats can become extremely slippery with sweat and moisture.
Yoga Rugs Are Washable
As seen, yoga rugs will absorb more moisture and sweat than mats. However, they are also washable, so you can buy multiple rugs and have a clean one to use each time you wish to practice. With yoga mats, instead, this is not always possible. While you can wipe your mat clean after a yoga class, some dirt might remain stuck in the fibers.
Yoga Mats Might Start Smelling
For the same reason seen above, yoga mats might start smelling after time. Even with regular maintenance and a thorough cleansing routine, it can be hard to stop a yoga mat from becoming smelly after a while. In most cases, this indicates that the mat is no longer usable. Indeed, continuous use of such a mat can interfere with your yoga practice and make it far less enjoyable.
A Rug Allows You to Practice on Natural Fiber
One of the main downsides of a yoga mat is that it will always be made of some synthetic material. If this is PVC or low-quality materials, it can be extremely damaging for the environment and even toxic, making it harmful for yourself and your practice.
Oppositely, a rug will allow you to return to the origins and practice on a natural base!
Yoga Rugs Are More Traditional
Yoga is an extremely ancient practice that has been transforming over time while remaining anchored to solid roots. If, in the beginning, yogis would use animal skin and grass as a base for their asanas, today, you can count on more supportive props. However, a rug made of natural fibers is more suitable if you wish your practice remains close to some traditional aspects.
Travel Yoga Mats Are Easy to Transport
Yoga rugs can be more cumbersome models that are not easy to carry with you, especially if you travel often. Instead, travel yoga mats are designed specifically with yogis’ needs living fast-paced lives who need to ground and focus in different settings.
How to Use Yoga Mats and Yoga Rugs Together
It is possible to use both yoga mats and yoga rugs at the same time, which is something that can offer you the best of both worlds.
Indeed, the yoga mat underneath the rug provides those non-skid features that can make your practice safer, increasing stability and balance. Additionally, the mat’s thickness will provide the extra padding you might need for your joints and hips to feel comfortable throughout your practice.
Simultaneously, the rug’s presence on top of the mat might absorb the sweat and moisture, increasing anti-slip properties. Since the rug is washable, this can also help your mat last longer, avoiding unpleasant odors.
Lastly, the rug will provide that natural feeling that only natural fibers such as jute and organic cotton can provide.
Picking between a yoga mat and a yoga rug to support your practice can be a challenging choice. Indeed, they will offer completely different experiences, which can drastically influence how you feel when flowing. Yoga mats provide padding, support, and anti-slip and anti-skid features. Yoga rugs are long-lasting, natural, and more traditional.