Are Pilates and Yoga Mats Actually the Same?

Yoga and Pilates are valid alternatives for health-conscious people but prefer a more relaxed approach to fitness. While neither of the two disciplines requires much equipment, buying the right mat is essential – especially because you are bound to spend the whole class on it!

Pilates and yoga mats are similar, but they have important differences to consider. Yoga mats are thinner, anti-slip, and, in most cases, shorter. Pilates mats need to be thicker and denser than yoga mats. Yoga mats promote agility and balance, while Pilates’ mats are built to protect your spine.

Naturally, if you practice both disciplines, you might decide to use a more suitable mat for your varied practice. However, for a mat that best fits your needs, check out the guidelines below!

The Difference Between Pilates and Yoga

Firstly, understanding the two disciplines’ core differences gives you a general understanding of the differences each should have. Pilates, a type of exercise that got increasingly popular since the ’80s, focuses on re-establishing the body’s natural movement, strength, and flexibility.

Instead, Yoga is a thousand-year-old practice spread through western countries after being defined and developed in India. Yoga promotes balance, flexibility, strength, and agility. A yoga mat should not impede any of these movements and, while supporting your asanas (body postures), it should offer a natural floor feeling that can only help you find balance.

The Features to Look for in a Mat

If you are practicing both Yoga and Pilates, you might decide to buy more than one mat. In any case, some essential characteristics can help you define the most suitable mat for your needs. Here are the mats’ features that you should look for in your purchase.

Pick a Thicker Mat for Pilates

If you have been practicing Pilates, or you have just started it, you know that this discipline requires you to roll around, often on your spine, back, ribs, or tailbone. If you have picked a too thin mat, you are likely to feel it in these parts! Instead, choose a mat that is thick enough for Pilates allows you to feel your back and spine supported throughout all movements.

As a general reference, a mat for Pilates should be at least 1/2in (1.27cm) thick or more. This is the minimum required to pad the areas in contact with the floor repetitively during your Pilates class.

Instead, a yoga mat can be as thin as 1/4in (0.6cm) or 1/8in (0.12cm). While this kind of thickness might not be enough to pad your spine or ribs, it can help you perform balancing postures and inversions with more stability.

You Might Need a Denser Mat for Pilates

You will need a thicker and denser mat to perform the Pilates class’s postures for the same reasons seen above. Denser mats in harder foam are more suitable for supporting your spine and preventing injuries that could happen when such a sensitive part of your body enters in contact with the floor.

You can recognize the difference between a thicker mat and a denser one from the support it provides your spine. In any case, firmer and more stable mats are better suitable for both Yoga and Pilates. However, these are often the ones that can result in more expensive models because of PVC or foam quality.

Yoga Mats Are Not As Wide

Today, you can find several mats and models on the market, suitable for traveling, for a quick practice before work, or for more extensive classes. However, generally, a standard yoga mat is 68in (172cm) long and 24in wide (60cm),

For taller yogis and practitioners, some yoga mats can be found on the market, and they can be as long as 72 or 74 inches (182-187cm).

Pilates mats can be of the same measurements, but you can also find some wider ones on the market to accommodate the greater range of postures. If you find a wider mat but also thinner and denser, this might be the optimal choice to practice Yoga. Indeed, it will give you enough space to perform all types of variations without having to expose any body part or limb to the floor.

Non-Slip Mats Are Especially Important for Yoga

Among the features to consider when purchasing a yoga or Pilates mat is its material and stability. Indeed, depending on the texture and composition, you will be able to enjoy different levels of adherence to the floor.

Generally, most mats are made of a coarse texture that makes them suitable for these disciplines. Indeed, these materials make them less slippery.

This quality is especially crucial in specific yoga asanas, such as rest poses (Downward Dog), balance postures, and inversions. Indeed, you should always be able to count on the stability your mat can offer you!

Alternatively, for your Pilates class, you might decide to opt for a smoother mat that allows you to transition from one posture to another more easily.

Sustainability Matters

If sustainability matters to you, and you prefer to shop only for natural and sustainable products, you are more likely to find yoga mats that fit your needs. Indeed, when practicing Yoga, Yogis also explores the meaning of sustainability and the deep connection with nature.

So, while most Pilates mats are in PVC or foam, Yoga mats are often made in environment-friendly materials such as recycled rubber or even jute.

What to Consider Before Buying a Mat

Buying a new mat or upgrading to a better model is an extremely important choice for anybody practicing Yoga or Pilates. Indeed, something so simple can significantly impact your daily practice and make it easier or more challenging to achieve the desired results.

When selecting the right mat, you should especially consider its price, size, and uses. Check out all the important features below. Or, if you are now in a rush, watch the video below and get some valuable insights:

I’ve been practicing yoga for more than 20 years now so I have owned quite a few Yoga mats during the years. You can find my personal recommendations here and if you are on a budget you can take a look here.

They Can Be Expensive

Firstly, a mat for Pilates or Yoga has the aim of supporting your practice. While picking one made of high-quality materials and design is crucial, you should also make sure it fits your budget.

They Might Take Up Space

Depending on the type of use you will do of your mat, you might decide to invest in a bigger one to use in your home and a smaller one to take with you on your travels. You might also opt to buy more than one for total flexibility!

Also, not all mats can fit in the same amount of space. Picking a model that can be easily stored away is crucial.

Aspect and Make

When picking the perfect Yoga or Pilates mat, you might be looking for one that fits your level of expertise and skills. If you practice the different kinds of yoga alignments and discover how this practice can better your body, picking a mat with alignment lines can offer you the indications you need to get started.

Conclusion

While yoga mat and Pilates mats might seem similar at first sight, they are entirely different models. Pilates mats are thicker, dense, and have the objective to support your spine when you are rolling on the floor. Aside from protecting you from injuries, these thicker mats can help you make the transitions between a pose and the other much smoother.

Yoga mats are thinner, more stable, and offer a better grip to the floor. They are designed to increase balance and stability – especially when practicing balancing poses or inversions! When shopping for the perfect mat, you should consider sustainability, cost, and uses.

Sources

Sita

Mother of three and Yogi of 20+ years and 200 Hour Certified Yoga Teacher. I am also a Certified Thai massage therapist and I have taught Gymnastics for more than 10 years. In the last couple of years, I've been a big promotor of intermittent fasting.

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