It used to be that yoga mats weren’t much more than a thin rectangle rubber material that was less slick (known as “sticky”) than normal gym mats and that had a bit of thickness for padding. Your only choice was color.
But the types of mats available grew as interest in yoga grew, the types of yoga practiced evolved and this form of exercise became more common for those who weren’t yogis. Think aesthetics such as patterns, colors, and fragrances. Think functional differences such as alignment lines, shapes, padding, textures and straps.
The YogaForce mat was the first product from Anne Appleby, a yoga instructor in the San Francisco Bay Area who was just a bit frustrated with the products on the market. With 14 million to 15 million participants in the United States per a 2008 study by Yoga Journal and a constant quest by yoga practitioners to find different, more functional mats with a bit of character, YogaForce found a niche.
While many features on the YogaForce mat are not unusual, the product differs from others because it combines several features that are rarely found all together, and presents them effectively.
The mat has:
>> Has an A-shape to better fit the body’s shape.
>> Several bold orange alignment lines, including one lengthwise and three crosswise.
>> A fabric binding on the edges for a more polished finish.
>> Materials from recycled rubber.
>> A wide, attached webbing strap that wraps around it, enabling you to carry the mat to and from class, It also has a sewn-on tote-like handle of the same webbing for better shoulder carrying.
>> A small removable pocket on the strap for stashing keys, ID, iPod, hair clip or other small items.
Our team as well as a few other yoga practicing friends tried the mat and found it to fit the first and foremost requirement of yoga mats: It was sticky enough – in fact, sticker than some -- to keep the feet and hands from sliding around. The mat also had a “good cush” to it per one tester, and others agreed heartily.
The bold lines also worked well for mid-class alignment checks to assure best posture or hand and foot positions.
Several features had pros and cons, depending on the intended use, personality of the user, and location of use:
Attached straps and handle -- On the positive side, the attached straps, handle and pocket made a great carrying option you couldn’t lose. On the negative side, a couple of our practitioners who attended classes in yoga studios found the attached straps and handle to be distracting during class, the tangle at the end creating a less calm experience. It would be great to be able to wind them up neatly or tuck them away. Of course, you could remove the pocket and put it against a wall or tuck it out of the way – or simply not attach it.
Colors and lines – On the positive side, the big bold orange lines couldn’t be missed to check or correct alignment. On the negative side, the colors were also a bit distracting for our testers who practice in a calm studio environment and prefer earthier or more subtle colors and prints.
Materials – Using recycled rubber is much better than not recycled, so that’s a plus. And the mat is latex-free. However, there are materials on the market today that look and feel more natural, and impact the environment less. One tester felt a more natural, non-toxic product would be a better choice.
Our testers, who basically liked the function, thought the aesthetics would be more at home in a club environment rather than a pure yoga studio atmosphere. Plus, with its padding and look, it was called out as a great mat that would serve all of a person’s exercising needs, from yoga to working out in a club to at-home fitness routines. It was also one that wasn’t too feminine and many men could find more appealing.
If someone truly wanted one mat for everything, this could be a great choice. If only for yoga, some may find others more appealing to them while some may jump up and down over the YogaForce’s features.
SNEWS® Rating: 4.0 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $79 a pair
For information: www.yogaforce.com