Whether you’re only thinking of trying hot yoga or you are an experienced practitioner, doing yoga in 90- to 100-degree heat comes with unique challenges. Choosing the correct mat for such an endeavor can go a long way towards making the practice more enjoyable!
Things to consider when purchasing a yoga mat for hot yoga
Given the propensity to slip during hot yoga, mat stickiness is something to investigate before purchasing. You may also want to take the mat material into consideration. There are mats with non-slip surfaces, sticky yoga mats, eco-friendly yoga mats and hot yoga towels, to name a few. Additional props like yoga gloves can be useful.
Some materials break down fast than others in intense heat. Mats with polyurethane coatings or other toxic materials may emit these toxic compounds at a higher rate in intense heat, so a good yoga mat for hot yoga must be able to withstand the additional heat and moisture from your sweat. Additionally, the difference between open cell and closed cell mats becomes more important since open cell mats will absorb more of the bacteria in a space.
This is a great option for individuals with a regular yoga practice who are looking to experiment with hot yoga as well. The Manduka eKO has a comfortable price point and offers great traction when wet due to its horizontal wave pattern. It has a closed cell top surface, ideal for preventing the absorption of sweat and bacteria. The bottom is open-cell in order to provide more cushion, with the tradeoff of possible bacterial exposure.
A solid yoga mat for hot yoga practitioners who prioritize eco-friendliness, Yoloha’s Nomad Cork Mat provides the ultimate non-slip mat. The top facing layer is comprised of cork, which is naturally antimicrobial, a plus in sweaty situations and free of all toxins and other chemicals. The bottom layer is composed of latex-free, closed cell rubber, offering additional protection from bacteria. Ideal for regular hot yoga practice, the cork also resists odor absorption.
The Gaiam Sol Studio may be the best mat for those with rubber-sensitivities. It prioritizes thickness and stickiness. The Gaiam Sol mat was designed specifically for hot, sweaty yoga practices and features a moisture-wicking top coat. The topcoat also provides a good amount of stickiness for extra staying power in difficult poses. At 5 mm thick, this mat is a great option for hot yogis who prefer a bit of cushion. The Gaiam mat is 100% rubber-free, ideal for those with a latex allergy.
This is the ideal option for yogis who practice hot yoga 1-2 times per week, are OK with moderate thickness (3.5 mm) and prioritize being dry over traction. This mat boasts a natural rubber bottom and a microfiber towel top layer. This mat keeps throughout the duration of a hot yoga class as sweat is absorbed into the towel portion.
This also creates decent traction, although some may wish for more stickiness. Perhaps the best feature is that it is machine washable! Please note that it has to be line-dried and may not be the best option for those who practice hot yoga more than a few times per week.
Hot yoga and Bikram yoga
Many people conflate hot yoga with Bikram yoga. This is actually not accurate, despite the fact that both hot yoga and Bikram yoga are conducted in heated spaces.
Bikram yoga is a very strictly defined practice, invented by yogi Bikram Choudhury, who has turned out to be a controversial figure. It is a 90-minute practice that consists of the same 26 poses and two breathing exercises, conducted in a room that maintains a temperature of 105 degrees and 50% humidity.
Hot yoga more loosely refers to any practice conducted consistently at a temperature of 85 degrees or higher. These classes may range in duration, and poses vary. Hot vinyasa yoga classes have been a more popular hallmark of this trend.
The benefits of hot yoga
Practicing Bikram or a more generalized form of hot yoga comes with some added benefits. For starters, the heat provides for enhanced flexibility as your muscles and ligaments loosen up. It also increases blood flow throughout the body and increases your ability to flow more easily between postures. Hot yoga also comes with all the benefits of regular sauna-sitting, such as increased detoxification via sweating and boosting of the metabolism. Practicing in a heated setting has also been proven to boost immunity.
The challenges of hot yoga
Many people find 60+ minutes of physical practice in such high temperatures to be mentally challenging. For this reason, a hot yoga practice can be especially useful for honing your ability to maintain focus and calm under pressure.
Other challenges that come with the hot yoga territory are less beneficial to grapple with. At the top of this list are slipping around on your mat in your own sweat and accelerated mat degradation due to the unique conditions of a hot yoga class.