Review of Alignment Yoga Mats

Liforme Yoga Mat
Courtesy of Liforme

When you first start doing yoga, there is a lot of new information to take in. Remembering the names and basic shapes of the poses is first and foremost for new yogis. Your teacher may get into more detail about alignment, but in a group class, the teacher can't get to every student to correct them in every pose. Yet, alignment is so important, and it's better to create good habits than to try to correct bad ones later.

So what's the conscientious yoga student to do? Well, there are several yoga mats on the market that try to help you establish the correct alignment for yourself. Although they are superficially similar, in that they all rely on markings on the surface on the mat, each of the mats that I looked at has a slightly different approach and thus will appeal to different types of students. Read on to see if using one of these mats might enhance your yoga practice and which one will suit you best, plus check out the comparison chart below for a quick overview of the pertinent vital statistics.

1. Gaiam Taos Alignment Mat

First up is the simplest of the mats I tried. Three horizontal bands of the geometric pattern are printed on the Taos, a "premium" version of Gaiam's PVC mat, which, at 5 mm, is a bit thicker than their basic mat. This mat is free of the six most harmful phthalates (6P Free). The bands act as guidelines for hand and foot placement.

By lining your fingers and toes up with the horizontal bands, you can be sure that your right and left sides are doing the same thing.

The symmetrical design also allows you to gauge the midline when setting up your poses. This design is pretty simple but it works well and is flexible enough to allow for different body sizes and styles of practice.

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2. CopyCat Yoga Mat

The CopyCat mat is a 6-mm, phthalate-free, PVC mat, but its markings are a lot more complex than those on the Taos mat. A series of nine standing yoga poses is depicted in silhouette down the center of the mat. Hand and footprints mark the ideal position for each of these poses. The alignment guides are based on Iyengar yoga. As such, each standing pose is illustrated with the heel of the front foot lined up with the arch of the rear foot, as if you were standing on a tightrope. Though this is one way to do these poses, many beginners are better served by taking a wider stance. 

Since bodies come in all different sizes, the user must know enough to adjust her own position in relation to the guidelines as necessary.  Though you could use it in a class setting, it is best suited to a home practice. Following the nine pose sequence is a great way to start a daily practice. As a teaching tool, this mat works really well in illustrating how the position of the rear foot changes in the poses selected. The CopyCat mat was created by Sarah Mark, who manages this small business. 

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3. Yoga by Numbers

Yet another approach is taken by the Yoga by Numbers mat, which uses a custom-sized extra-wide version of the popular Jade Yoga mat as a base.

This generously proportioned rubber mat offers great traction. The mat is printed with 28 numbered ovals, as well as vertical and horizontal cross-hatch marks. Creator Elizabeth Morrow envisions her mat as a gateway to yoga for people who want to learn the practice at home.

An accompanying DVD introduces beginners to 30 basic yoga poses, using the numbered ovals as alignment guides. The number system works well, although there it is tempting to position yourself perfectly on the ovals even if that isn't the optimal alignment for you. It takes a little time to get used to, but this mat is adaptable enough to be used by both beginners and more experienced students.

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4. Liforme Mat

Finally, we come to the Liforme mat, (pronounced "life form"). This mat really stands out from the others, in terms of the quality of the mat itself, the elegance and flexibility of the alignment graphic, and the price tag. The mat is made from polyurethane and rubber, with a smooth, absorbent surface that resembles Lululemon's popular "The Mat." A biomorphic design adorns the center of the mat, bisected by a line running down the very center. In addition, two different horizontal hand and foot guides allow for variation in the heights of users.

The coolest design element is four diagonal lines around the center, which act as foot guides for standing poses. Since you can place your foot anywhere along the diagonal, this design accommodates a wide variety of alignment strategies from different yoga styles. This mat is also the best suited for an evolving practice: it offers as much to an advanced student as a beginner.

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 Gaiam TaosCopycatYoga by NumbersLiforme
MaterialPVC (6P Free)Phthalate-free PVCrubberpolyurethane, rubber
Thickness5 mm6 mm4 mm4.2 mm
Length68 in72 in72 in73 in
Width24 in24 in30 in27 in



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