If you’re shopping for a yoga mat, you may have noticed that some have symmetrical markings on them called alignment lines. These aren’t just there to look good, they serve a purpose.
Alignment lines can help with your posture when you’re starting with yoga, both in classes and at home. They will allow you to self-correct when you practice without an instructor and ensure you don’t overwork your muscles which can cause injury over long periods.
Keep reading for a full breakdown of the benefits of yoga mats with alignment lines and for the mat I recommend.
- Are Yoga Mats with Alignment Lines Helpful?
- Benefits of Yoga Mats with Alignment Lines
- Are There Downsides to Alignment Lines?
- How to Use Alignment Lines on a Yoga Mat
- What’s the Best Yoga Mat with Alignment Lines?
Are Yoga Mats with Alignment Lines Helpful?
First of all, it’s worth reiterating the fact that every single human is different and will have a different experience during each asana so nobody should ever force their body into a position.
Each type of yoga will differ in its approach to alignment, but I’m generally in favor of using your common sense to do what feels good. There will be the ‘ideal’ way to approach a movement, but there’s never a one-size-fits-all.
According to Trisha Lamb of the International Association of Yoga Therapists, the benefits of proper alignment include improved posture, spine suppleness, prevention of stress on your body, and combating the negative effects that gravity has over time upon the body.
Alignment lines are helpful so that you can self-govern your posture. You don’t need to use the lines as exact positions for your feet, but you should use them to create balance and symmetry in your practice.
Benefits of Yoga Mats with Alignment Lines
Here are some of the benefits of having a yoga mat with alignment lines:
1. A great aid for the learner and instructor
When you are a beginner, you’re going to face a steep learning curve. The benefit of having alignment lines is that they help position your body whilst you think of all the other aspects such as breathing techniques and sequences.
The lines and not just helpful for you but the instructor too. It makes things easier when they are giving guidance. I’ve witnessed many times in classes where the instructor has used the lines as reference points, usually for beginners but not always.
2. You can learn to self-correct poses
If you’re in a class with lots of people, your instructor won’t always be able to correct you. With alignment lines, you can monitor your position and self-correct without their help.
This is even more important if you’re taking online yoga classes or watching youtube videos where the instructor will not be able to interact with you.
3. Visual reinforcement
When you achieve good posture n yoga, you will feel more balanced. However, this is something that you learn over time, so for beginners, yoga mats with alignment lines provide visual reinforcement that you are positioned well.
It can take a while to master each pose with several modifications required initially. Alignment lines can also help provide some reinforcement as you practice yoga away from the class and your instructor.
4. Safest way to do yoga
When you get the incorrect alignment, you are forcing the stabilizer muscles to work harder which could be unsafe.
This can result in injury from not practicing with correct posture and can be an issue among both beginner and more experienced yogis.
The benefit of alignment lines is that you lower the risk of overstretching. You can gradually stretch your muscles without pushing them too far, and improve your strength and flexibility over time.
Are There Downsides to Alignment Lines?
If you’re a beginner, I wouldn’t say there are any major downsides to using alignment mats. However, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Only helpful if you know how to use them
Alignment lines are not going to do all the work, you need to know how to use them properly during practice. You still need to learn about alignment from an instructor and shouldn’t fall complacent because you have an alignment mat.
Even when placing your hand and feet correctly, there is still the rest of your body to consider such as your spine, head, and even your toes themselves.
2. Limits your choice
Then there’s the problem with choice. Most of the major brands such as Manduka, Lululemon, and Jade Yoga do not have mats with alignment lines.
The only major brand that does this is Liforme which is what most people opt for.
If you want some alternatives, you’ll have to look to less familiar brands such as Yogi Bare Paws, Ewedoos, and Heath Yoga. Oftentimes going with a niche brand will pay off with great value for money, but your choice is still reduced.
How to Use Alignment Lines on a Yoga Mat
Here are some tips to help you when using alignment lines on your yoga mat:
- You don’t have to place your feet ON the lines, just use them as a GUIDE.
- In table top, cat cow, downward-facing dog, and other poses on your hands, use the central line to ensure you’re hands and feet are evenly spaced on the mat.
- Use the central line to align your front foot with your back heel in Warrior 1 (or Warrior 2).
- If your mat has 45 degree lines, use them to align your back heel in standing poses
This YouTube video has some awesome tips for using alignment lines on a yoga mat, but obviously, it will depend on what lines your mat has.
What’s the Best Yoga Mat with Alignment Lines?
The base is made from natural rubber which is a sustainable material, whilst the top is made from polyurethane which has an open-cell design making the mat well cushioned and very grippy, even when your hands are sweaty.
Liforme have a broad range of colors available, this means you can choose a yoga mat color that suits your mood. They also have a version with reduced lines if you don’t need as much guidance.
My dedicated article on the best yoga mat with alignment lines has several other products I recommend, including some alternative alignment markings.
The YogaMad is founded by Mila, an avid yogini who is passionate about inspiring others to live their best lives while finding mind-body-soul balance. She has a background in business consulting but has left the corporate world in her quest to live out her dreams as a yoga nomad.