There are a few regular comments I get time and time again after someone takes their first pilates mat class with me. This post is about the most common: "It hurts my hip when we do the side-lying exercises." or "Rolling like a ball doesn't feel good on my back." Almost every time there is a good solution to this. Change the mat you use.
Many, many times a new pilates enthusiast takes their first mat class at a yoga studio. Don't get me wrong, yoga studios are fantastic and I prefer to take all classes in this type of setting. (More to come on that subject later). However, they USUALLY only have yoga mats. What's the difference you ask? Well, I'm glad you did because that is what this post is all about.
As I mentioned in my first post, my first pilates mat class was in a gym. Most of the time big box gyms will have basic exercise mats. They usually have them around for members to use for stretching, ab workout, and for the end of a fitness class that ends with a core workout. These mats are thicker than your typical yoga mat. (Notice I said typical). These are great for a pilates mat class.
Now, if you are like me and get a bit of an "ick factor" when using a communal mat, or if you want to just start doing pilates at home...please read on.
Here is my very first pilates mat. I still use it at home today.
You can still find this mat here. They have a few new colors now too. This mat is 4 inches thick. That is 10 mm for all you metric people. It is 24 inches wide and 72 inches long. It has Velcro straps so you can roll it up and it will stay that way when it is in the trunk of your car. (Come on, we ALL leave our mats in our cars from time to time.) The moral of the story here is that it is THICK. It will be easier on your hips when doing side leg work, and it will feel gentler on your back during "rolling like a ball".
Now I will compare to a mat you can pick up at your local Marshall's or TJMaxx. When I decided I wanted to start yoga, (remember, I get the ick factor from using communal mats) I went to Marshall's and bought a regular yoga mat. It was about $12. Here it is:
You can see that it is thinner and you can probably see that it has ridges on it so it doesn't slip. I believe this is 3 mm or 4 mm thick. It is also 72 inches long and 24 inches wide. I honestly do not remember the brand, and the tag is long gone. However, I can honestly say this is the typical mat you will find when out shopping. I can tell you that the difference of 5 or 6 mm in thickness will make a difference if you have noticed any discomfort while doing pilates. This is the mat I will use when I am practicing PiYo (TM) at home. (More on PiYo later).
Ok, Crissy, that is great but I don't see you with either of these mats in class?
I wasn't sure I was going to like yoga, so I kept it simple. Without digressing too much, I tried Hot Yoga and liked it, but not the slipping under my hands. I bring all this up, because if you know me personally you see me in class with a completely different mat. I read as many reviews as I can find about the best mat to use for hot yoga and decided Lululemon's The Mat was the one I wanted. And it is awesome for hot yoga. It is heavy so I keep it in my car, which is why you will most likely see me with this mat because it is always ready.
So yes, I digressed into yoga...but please keep in mind I am NOT a yoga instructor. My preference of a mat for yoga is strictly taken from my point of view as a student.
Quick note: I'll work on photo quality for future posts!
Have a favorite mat? Tell us in the comments!