A common confusion when starting a yoga practice is what mat to use. It happens all the time: First-time yogi walks into gym yoga class with Pilates mat. Pilates mats are very similar to exercise mats, which are the mats you often see in the stretching area of a gym. The features of a yoga mat and a Pilates mat make them individually suited for each exercise practice. There are some important differences.
Yoga and Pilates mats are similar in length and width. They are typically 68 to 72 inches long and 24 inches wide. The thickness of the mat is where the differences begin. Yoga mats can be quite thin, often 4 millimeters thick, while Pilates mats are 8 millimeters or more. Some yoga practitioners opt for cushion and buy a 6-millimeter mat, while some Pilates mats are as thick as 15 millimeters. The extra cushion in a Pilates class is necessary for exercises that require lying on your side.
Yoga and Pilates mats are usually made of different materials. If you touch a traditional yoga mat, you will notice a sticky quality, which provides traction for balance exercises. The stickiness is due to the PVC it is made from. Because PVC is now known to be harmful to the environment, there are natural rubber alternatives . The Pilates mat feels smoother and squishier to the touch, because it is made of a foam rubber or memory foam.
The biggest difference between the two mats is what you do once you get on them. The yoga tradition goes back thousands of years and consists of hundreds of poses, plus breathing and meditation. Through practice, yoga can balance the mind and body while improving health. Pilates is an exercise invented by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s for the rehabilitation of dancers and core training. It is now also seen as a sculpting and slimming exercise for hips, thighs, butts, abs and arms.
Like most products on the market, you can find more or less expensive versions, depending on the qualities you are looking for. Sticky mats can be found at various super stores for as little as $14 as of publication. The heavy-duty rubber counterparts, known as high-performance mats, can be found in some yoga studios and online for over $60. A standard Pilates mat costs between $25 and $35.