Aside from regular gym exercises and weight training, Yoga, an ancient Indian discipline, has become popular in Western culture. Pilates, a physical fitness system that was developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates, a German physical trainer, is also popular.
If you think all these exercises use the same mat, then I’m sorry to burst your bubble. Different floor exercises require different types of mats.
While Yoga requires a thinner mat to stand and balance properly, Pilates needs a thicker mat to support sensitive body parts like the back and tailbone. Exercise mats, on the other hand, need to be firm for weight training to cushion the fall of a dropped weight.
The differences between Yoga and Exercise mats can be summed up in three categories. Exercise mats, pilates mats, and yoga mats.
Exercise mats are on average ½ – 1 inch thick, 60 inches in length, and 24 inches wide. They are normally made of PVC and have an easy to clean vinyl cover.
Exercise mats are generally used for any floor exercise, such as warm-up, cool-down, ab/core, and stretching exercises. The thickness protects you from the hard surface beneath. It can be firm or soft, depending on the type of activity. An exercise mat is thicker than a Yoga mat but similar to a Pilates mat.
A Pilates mat is about ½ or ¾ inch thick, 55 to 85 inches in length, and 23 to 39 inches wide. It is denser than a Yoga mat and is made from compact foam or PVC.
The upper side of the mat is smooth to allow for the sliding movements in Pilates exercises, whereas the gripping surface on the underside of the mat prevents it from sliding on the floor. A Pilates mat is thicker than a Yoga mat and not sticky.
A regular yoga mat is about 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch thick, 72 inches in length, and 24 inches wide. Whether you choose PVC or more natural materials often depends on the style of yoga you practice.
A Yoga mat needs to provide some cushion, but it also needs to allow the person to feel the pose and feel stable or grounded when performing their poses. Yoga mats also require more traction to prevent slipping. Generally, Yoga mats are course in texture and more sticky than Pilates mats.