Stretch and strengthen with the best yoga mats By:

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Yoga mats are a staple of wellness and physical fitness. Back and neck injuries are common in first responders, from carrying heavy gear, to lifting and maneuvering people and patients.

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Yoga allows responders to do the exercises they need to strengthen the back, core, hips and all sorts of small muscles we don’t always target. Yoga exercises present a unique and exceptional challenge for building these important muscle groups, along with endurance and stamina, as well as bridging a mind-body connection.

Yoga mats not only allow all these benefits, wherever you find the space to exercise, but they are also useful for a myriad of floor ab exercises, such as planks. They are versatile, lightweight and easy to bring with you anywhere.

When it comes to yoga mats, you can find them anywhere from box stores, to discount stores, to online retailers, such as Amazon, so it can be difficult to make a choice. When selecting a yoga mat, consider:

  • Thickness. While thicker mats may be more desirable for exercises that require you to be on the floor in a challenging position, thinner mats may provide more stability for some forms of yoga. It really just comes down to personal preference.
  • Material. The same is true for the material, which can range from PVC, to rubber and even recycled material. PVC is known to be very durable and does not absorb fluids, making it easy to clean and sanitize. This again boils down to personal preference.

What I look for in a yoga mat personally is something with a little extra cushion for my floor ab exercises and a nice grippy surface for added stability.

Here are some options to get your flexibility journey started.

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Retrospec Solana Yoga Mat

This 1-inch extra-thick mat alleviates stress on joints, hips, hands and knees, measuring 72″ x 24″

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Gaiam Essentials Thick Yoga Mat

A heavier duty option, this yoga mat made of NBR foam is designed to provide cushioning comfort for stretching and workouts at 72” x 24” and 2/5” thick.

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Amazon Basics Yoga Mat

This 100% NBR foam mat has a textured surface for extra traction and an elastic strap for storage and easy over-the-shoulder carrying.

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Signature Fitness Yoga Mat

This 1/4” high-density PVC yoga mat comes with a carrying strap and optional yoga blocks.

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Gaiam Print Yoga Mat

This ultra-light mat comes with a sticky non-slip surface in a variety of patterns, and costs under $20!

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Yoga mats, whether taken with you on the go for an impromptu workout or left at the station for use between or during shifts, are a great addition to your fitness equipment. They are easy to incorporate into your current workout routine by simply adding a few additional core or yoga exercises at the end of your workout to challenge yourself a bit more.

If you work in a busy system, the versatility of these mats makes them one of the best options for portable workout equipment that can be used anywhere. I highly recommend them.