What is the Difference Between a Yoga Mat and a Pilates Mat

Increasingly popular forms of exercise, yoga and pilates improve core strength, muscle control and flexibility. While yoga centres on mindfulness and balancing out the body with breathing techniques and ‘flows’, pilates focuses more on working out the entire body using physical exercises and, in turn, strengthening muscles. Both of these forms of exercise are completed on a mat but the mat varies in both thickness and width.

Thickness of yoga mats

what is the difference between a yoga mat and pilates mat

A standard yoga mat is one eighth of an inch thick – that’s around three millimetres. It allows the user to flow through the yoga poses while staying grounded, keeping balance and feeling like they are firmly ‘earthing’ their feet or hands – a key skill in yoga. A regular pose for beginner yogis is downward dog. While this simple pose does require both the hands and balls of the feet to be firmly grounded into the mat, it doesn’t need much cushioning. Therefore, a three-millimetre mat is ideal. Not only will the yogi feel like they are properly ‘earthing’ their hands and feet, but they will also find it easier to balance with a mat of this density because the floor underneath the mat can still provide firm grounding. Yoga mats can, however, be slightly thicker than this. Often, an expert yogi will prefer a mat of around one quarter of an inch thick (six millimetres) because, the more experienced you are at yoga, the more likely you’ll be doing headstand poses rather than a downward dog. Of course, anyone practising a headstand needs cushioning to protect the head and neck, so a six-millimetre mat is best for the more experienced yogi.

Thickness of pilates mats

Yoga Mat and Pilates Mat

A pilates mat, on the other hand, is much thicker than any yoga mat. At around half an inch (or 12 millimetres) thick, it provides far more cushioning than any yoga mat needs to. Pilates is all about strength and focusing on particular muscle groups throughout each session. Many pilates exercises are floor-based and a large number of them are completed on the stomach or back, often requiring the user to roll around on their tailbone. Therefore, cushioning from a thicker mat is absolutely essential to effectively support the spine and avoid injury.

Does size matter?

what is the difference between a yoga mat and pilates mat

Most yoga and pilates mats are the same length and the length doesn’t really make much of a difference to your yoga or pilates experience. Of course, if you’re tall and realise you’ve outgrown your mat, a longer mat may be a good idea but, generally, the length of both yoga and pilates mats is around 68 inches long. However, pilates mats are sometimes wider than yoga mats, mainly because of the range of floor exercises in pilates that require a wider surface area to be covered.

The key difference?

So, there you have it! While both mats are usually the same size and both generally have a textured surface to stop the user slipping and sliding mid-flow, the main difference between a yoga mat and pilates mat is the thickness. If you would like to know more about yoga mats why not read our article on How to Choose from the Best Yoga Mats.

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