Did you know that knee pain is the second most common source of chronic pain? If you are one of the millions of people who experiences knee pain, you may have turned to yoga as a sport discipline that will be easy on your joints. What you can also do to avoid feeling pain on your knees is choosing the best yoga mat.
The best yoga mat for bad knees will be thick enough to protect your joints but dense enough for you to maintain balancing poses. It will also be long-lasting, durable and have a smooth texture. Finally you want the mat to have a non-slip grip surface for extra security and to prevent further injuries.
This article will go over everything you need to look for when purchasing a yoga mat for bad knees. It will also dive into some causes of knee pain, specific mat recommendations, and a few alternative options.
Causes of Knee Pain in Yoga
Many of us turn to yoga when we experience an injury. Yoga promises to heal our bodies, prevent injury from occurring, to begin with, and calm our hearts and minds. But what do you do when yoga is no longer pain-free?
There are countless potential causes for your knee pain. It is something that you should see a professional about, especially if it is chronic. A doctor or physical therapist should get to the bottom of it. This section will briefly overview potential causes for your knee pain and how it might relate to yoga.
Poor Technique & Knee Pressure
One leading cause of knee pain across the board is an improper technique during an activity. Many of the most common yoga poses require a lot of pressure on our knees, and performing them improperly can result in knee pain or injury.
The high lunge, for example, appears to be a simple pose. However, failing to keep your knees, hips, and toes in line can cause your knee to buckle inward. If this improper technique is repeated over time, it can cause issues down the road.
Another potential cause of knee pain is simply the result of the pressure your knees receive on hard surfaces. Many yoga poses, such as child's pose or tabletop, require that you put almost all of your weight on your knee.
This can be troublesome for sensitive knees, especially on some harder surfaces like wood or concrete. If you find that practising on carpet surfaces is a little more pleasant, then this might be the issue you are struggling with.
What to Look for in a Yoga Mat for Bad Knees
There are a few things you should look for in a mat that will protect your knees. This section will detail all of those qualities and provide a few extra details to consider.
A standard yoga mat is approximately 3 or 4 millimetres thick (just under ¼ inch thick). However, if you are experiencing pain through this thickness, particularly on hard surfaces, consider purchasing a thicker mat. Opting for a slightly thicker mat, at least 5 or 6 millimetres (1/4 inch), should do the trick. This simply puts additional cushioning between you and the floor or other hard surfaces.
Density is something you should strongly consider when purchasing a new mat. This is especially vital if you prefer yoga that incorporates a lot of balancing poses. You want the mat to be made of dense material, such as rubber or cork. If you get a thick mat that is also soft and fluffy, it will be tough to do any balancing pose.
Those soft, plush surfaces sink in with your weight, making it challenging to make solid contact with the ground. You can still get a thick mat to get around this, but one with a higher density will make it less likely to sink under your weight.
Texture and Grip
Texture and grip are two more important characteristics to consider. Are you familiar with those yoga mats with a sort of bumpy surface? These bumps can be painful for someone with susceptible knees, despite how small and subtle they are. You can find a yoga mat with a completely smooth surface, which is what you want if your knees are susceptible.
Next, you want to ensure that your mat has a grippy, non-slip texture. This will prevent your hands and feet from slipping on the mat, and it will keep your mat from sliding around on the floor. While you can find mats that are already non-slip, many mats have a break-in period before they get grippy. If that is the case, you can ease some of the slipperiness by ensuring your hands and feet are free of lotions and oils before your practice.
Lastly, you want your yoga mat to be durable and long-lasting. This is not necessarily specific to the knee and joint protection, but it is a good rule of thumb to follow. Generally, a yoga mat's durability will correlate pretty closely with its cost. A more expensive yoga mat is likely to last longer compared to a cheaper one. A durable yoga mat won't begin to fall apart after just a few uses and should last 18 months or more.
Yoga Mat for Bad Knees - Mat Recommendations
Now that you know what to look for in a yoga mat, we will offer a few suggestions for specific mats. Please keep in mind that you may not get all of those qualities in one mat, so think about which aspects may be more important to you.
Do you want a particularly thick mat, or are the texture and grip more important to your specific practice? These mats will also range on the price scale, so consider how much you would be comfortable spending on a mat. Let's get started.
Best Overall Mat: Jade Fusion Yoga Mat
The Jade Fusion Yoga Mat could be just the answer you have been looking for. Jade has made quite the name for themselves as a sustainable yoga company. For each mat sold, they promise to plant a tree. In the last four years, they have planted over one million trees, making this sustainable model something you can feel good about.
Their products are made from sustainable natural rubber, which creates dense and non-slip yoga mat. The mat is extra thick for your knee protection, coming in at 8 millimetres (just over ¼ inch). Jade promises that their products will be extremely durable with a long life cycle. This is because they are made of high-quality materials.
There are only a couple of things to note as drawbacks of this mat. First, its density and thickness make for quite a heavy mat, weighing nearly eight pounds. This is significantly heavier than many mats on the market.
This may not be an issue if you do not find yourself carrying your yoga mat a lot. However, keep this in mind if you frequently travel or commute with your mat. It is also on the more expensive end of the spectrum. This, of course, correlates to a higher quality mat, but it is worth thinking about how much you are comfortable spending on a mat.
Longest Lasting Mat: Manduka PRO Yoga Mat
The Manduka yoga company has gained quite a reputation as a manufacturer of long-lasting yoga mats. No other company has managed to make quality yoga mats quite like theirs. The company prides themselves on their innovation. They also strongly believe in using natural and renewable materials whenever they can.
The Manduka PRO Yoga Mat is easily their most popular option, and for a good reason. You will be hard-pressed to find a list of the best yoga mats that do not include this one. Read on for some additional information about this mat.
This mat's claim to fame is its durability and ability to last a long time. They offer a lifetime warranty, which might make you more comfortable spending a little more on this one.
Furthermore, despite its relative thinness compared to some of these other mats, it is especially dense. So this mat will go a long way in protecting your knees. This also makes it much easier to hold some of those more challenging balance poses. Lastly, this mat comes in an extra-long version for taller folks; it is made with grippy, non-slip material, and it is easy to clean.
Perhaps the main drawback of this mat is the price tag. It is likely to cost you over $100, which is definitely on the more expensive end of the yoga mat price spectrum. It is also on the heavier side, weighing nearly eight pounds, and it is made from PVC, which is not an environmentally safe product.
Thickest Mat: Sivan Health and Fitness Mat
If you are looking for one of the thickest mats available, you should consider the Sivan Health and Fitness mat. Sivan Health and Fitness products are affordable and made of the best quality materials.
The company aims to ensure that fitness and health are accessible to people of all fitness levels and body shapes. They truly want their customers to have the best possible experience with their products. So you can feel confident in purchasing Sivan products. Continue reading for a few pros and cons of this mat.
As a reminder, a standard yoga mat is approximately 3 or 4 millimetres (less than ¼ inch) thick. This particular mat is an impressive 12 millimetres (½ inch), three times the standard mat size.
If you struggle with pain on hard surfaces, then this mat might be best for you. It is also reversible, with one side having a smooth texture and having a wavy, ribbed texture. This is ideal for those of you with sensitivities. This mat comes with a free carrying strap and it is very affordable. It is made with a durable memory foam material and is surprisingly lightweight for such a thick mat.
As you might expect, a thick mat makes for a bulky mat, which might make it difficult to put into a standard yoga bag. Because of the nature of such a thick mat, it might be challenging to use for all types of yoga. Most standing and balancing poses will be difficult on this mat because it is not quite dense enough to get a sturdy footing on the ground.
Yoga Mat for Bad Knees - Alternative Suggestions
If none of these options is of interest to you, or if you really like the yoga mat you already have, then there are a few alternate options available to you. This section will cover a few props that can relieve your knee pain in conjunction with your current yoga mat. No special mat is required.
Yoga Knee Cushion
The first option is a yoga knee cushion. A knee cushion is like an extra-plush miniature yoga mat designed especially for your knees. It can offer that additional cushioning for your knees when you are in uncomfortable positions. This could be simple positions such as tabletop, crescent lunge, or child's pose.
Pros to this option include: It is easy to slip in and out as you transition into different poses, and it is lightweight. Furthermore, it can be re-used for so many other purposes, such as gardening.
However, there are a few cons to consider if you decide to go this route. First, it is an extra item that you have to carry around, either to class or if you do any travelling yoga. Because of its plushness, it can be a bit bulky.
If you consider this option, this Health Yoga Knee Pad is a great choice. It is affordable, comes with a carrying strap, and is made with eco-friendly materials. It also has a no-slip grippy surface, which keeps you stable and doesn't absorb moisture, making it super easy to clean.
The second option is a blanket. You can purchase a yoga blanket to be used specifically for this purpose, but a small blanket you may already have in your home will work as well. You would use a blanket in a very similar manner as a knee pad. Simply fold the blanket and slip in under your knees as you transition into positions that might be painful on your knees. A yoga blanket is a staple for many advanced yogis.
Using a blanket to protect your knee joints comes with a few perks. First of all, it can be folded to varying thicknesses, depending on how much cushion you need for your joint. They are also extremely versatile. You can use a blanket in many ways, including taking a mat on soft surfaces or acting as a picnic blanket in a pinch.
Cons of using a blanket, similar to the cushion, is that they can be heavy and bulky when you have to commute or travel for yoga. It can also get to be a little annoying to carry around additional items to your yoga class.
If this sounds appealing to you, check out this Open Road Goods Yoga Blanket. In particular, this blanket is a great choice because it is extra thick, making it perfect for knee and joint protection. It is also machine washable, which makes things all that more simple.
The final option is knee pads. These have a very similar concept to the previous two options. However, what makes the knee pads different is that they are two separate pieces that you put under your knees during painful poses.
This option has a few pros and cons to consider as well. Some pros to consider are that having two separate pieces make the pads much more versatile than a blanket or knee cushion. For example, if you are in the bird dog position, you can use one pad for your knee and the other for your hand. This is an option that's not possible with the cushion or the blanket. They are also much easier to travel with because they are more compact than a cushion or blanket.
As expected, where there are pros, there are cons. Before going this route, consider these drawbacks to choosing the knee pads. Despite being much more versatile, the two separate pads make it a little bit more difficult to slip them under your knees during transitions. Instead of arranging just one cushion, you now have to ensure that the two pieces are positioned correctly. They also require hand-washing, which can be a little bit of a pain.
If this sounds like the right option, then check out these Yoga Knee Pads from Gaiam. They are comparable in price to the knee cushion option and are made from silicone gel, long-lasting, and durable. The ergonomic design will protect your knees for years to come. They are lightweight, flexible, and easy to clean.
People of all backgrounds turn to yoga as a way to mitigate joint pain. If you are experiencing knee pain from yoga, don't worry. There are many alternatives to your traditional yoga mat to reduce some of the stress on your knee.
Everyone should be free to practice yoga without pain. Hopefully, you were able to learn about a few yoga mats that will reduce knee pain. Otherwise, if you are hesitant to take the plunge on a new mat, try out one of the alternative options, such as a cushion, a blanket, or knee pads.