what type of mat shall I buy?
this is a big topic!
The typical yoga mat is 4-6mm in depth, 183cm long by 61cm wide and made of PVC.
The majority of students buy this type of mat.
However there are many things to consider: the size, thickness, texture, material, weight, wash ability, eco friendliness, style/colour and the price.
size: If you like to keep arms/hands on the mat when lying, you might need a wider mat or if you are very tall, a longer mat.
thickness: if you like lots of padding underneath you when lying down on your back, you may find a thicker mat is ideal but this can feel like being on a bouncy castle when standing. Instead you could buy a standard 4-6mm mat and bring a blanket to use as a topper to your mat when lying. Very thin mats can be ideal for travel as they are so light. Yoga towels are good for travel but make sure they have sticky grips, otherwise warrior and down face dog become impossible with hands/feet sliding away from each other.
texture: most mats have texture added, some mats are naturally textured due to the material they are made of e.g. PVC, natural rubber and jute. Without a texture you may find your hands/feet slide in warrior/down face dog postures. A few students find this happens anyway and use liquid chalk or sticky yoga gloves to remedy the problem.
material: old mats were probably made of PVC. Modern mats can be made of many different materials including PVC, jute, rubber (latex) and cotton. The choice will effect the sponginess and eco friendliness and weight, plus texture and wash ability. PVC is spongy and durable, organic cotton is eco friendly, latex and jute may be eco friendly. Latex is typically heavy and has good anti-slip qualities. However about 1% of the population have some sort of latex sensitisation or allergy so not ideal for everyone.
eco friendliness: mats can last decades and if made from PVC will take centuries to degrade in normal circumstances. You might also wish to consider what chemicals they are releasing into the atmosphere; if made from PVC they may release pthalates unless specifically manufactured to be 'phthalate free'.
style/colour: there is so much choice - have fun choosing.
price: prices can vary from a couple of pounds up to £50 or more. It very much depends on what the mat is made of and where you buy it.
where can I buy a mat?
often local retailers like Argos and sports shops sell mats - they typically sell very standard mats. If you are looking for a specific type of mat you might try googling 'yoga mats'. I have bought from the British Wheel of Yoga shop and Yoga Matters - both online. This is not an endorsement of any retailer, the choice is yours.