Pilates and yoga mats can differ in thickness.
When taking a yoga or Pilates class, you might notice that the mats look similar. You can use the same mat in both types of classes, but there are some differences to consider based on your comfort level and needs. Mat thickness and texture make a difference when it comes to balance poses in yoga, whereas padding is more important in Pilates when you're rolling, lying on your side and putting more pressure on bony spots such as your spine.
In yoga, a standard sticky mat is typically 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick. A thin mat on a solid surface allows you to maintain a firm foundation and gives you stability in standing balance poses. While thicker mats can be used in yoga, you'll find it more difficult to maintain your balance if the mat has too much cushion or give to it. In Pilates, you'll want a thicker mat that provides more cushioning and padding for rolling floor work and side-lying work - these mats are typically 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick. Thinner mats, such as those used in yoga, can still be used in Pilates, but they are not as comfortable.
The type of materials yoga mats and Pilates mats are made from are sometimes the same, but there can also be some differences that you should consider before choosing a mat for class. During a hot yoga session or when doing yoga where you'll be sweating excessively, a mat made of PVC, rubber or an ecofriendly material that provides good traction is essential - these are referred to as "sticky" mats. Yoga mats that become slippery with sweat, such as those made from bamboo, can increase your risk of injury. If you don't plan to sweat a lot and if you're looking for ecofriendly options, mats made from cotton, hemp or bamboo are suitable for yoga, but they are not the best choice for Pilates. Materials such as PVC and rubber are the most common types of Pilates mats.
Yoga and Pilates sessions incorporate floor work that requires you to lie on your back or on your stomach. Your mat needs to be long enough to fit your entire body no matter which type of class you are taking. There are differences in mat lengths, but these differences are not specific to the type of class. Yoga and Pilates mats can range in length from 68 to 85 inches.
If you have limited space, the mat size and how easy the mat is to store should also be taken into consideration. Thin sticky yoga mats roll up easily and can be stored in small spaces, so if space is an issue and you're not concerned about extra padding, a thin sticky yoga mat can work for Pilates. Thicker cotton yoga mats or cushioned Pilates mats take up more space. If you're hauling your mat back and forth to class, it's important to also take into consideration how easy the mat is to transport. Thin yoga and Pilates mats will roll up easily and are lightweight. Thicker Pilates mats or yoga mats will roll up too, but they will be heavier. Pilates mats that fold up are also available for easy transport.