Selecting the right Bikram yoga mats!
Of all the hot yoga disciplines, Bikram has got to be one of the most intense (and sweaty!), and so Bikram yoga mats have to be able to take a lot more than your average yoga mat does during its lifetime. When I run a Bikram class I'm working hard for 90 minutes in a hot, humid room and so are my students, so we all need a safe, non-slip surface on which to practice our moves. Ane a mat drenched with sweat and moisture just isn't an option.
Some of my students prefer to lay a towel over their mat, but I find this hinders my traction and affects the flowing nature of the Bikram movements. I also like to feel in touch with the earth as I go through my routine, and for me a thick towel prevents this sensation. Because of my experience, I'm able to be compact with my postures, but for many of my students they find the flowing nature of Bikram yoga means that they move around the floor more than they would normally. For these pupils I recommend using an oversize mat, just so they have a better chance of staying on their mat at the beginning and end of a posture!
However, despite my own personal preference, I do like the Yogitoes Big Skidless extra-large yoga towel (25” by 80”). This towel has been specially designed to prevent Yogis slipping on their mats. One side has a grippy silicone finish which is placed face down on to your mat and the other side is a highly absorbent polyester mix - which is of course fully machine washable. At around $50 I can see why this is so popular. Another good one is the Manduka eQua® Mat towel (26.5” by 86”) which has an amazing surface which becomes slip-resistant when moist. (Spraying it lightly before the start of the lesson allows it to work straight away.) The microfibers are highly absorbent, yet fast drying, and at $48 it compares favorably with the Yogitoes.
I'd say about half of my class use a towel over their mat, while the rest use a mat only. For those that tend to move about a bit the large Jade Elite yoga mat is ideal (28” by 80”) at around $105, or the Manduka Black MatPRO 85”, which is just a touch more expensive at around $120. If you are compact with your Bikram movements than you can get away with a more regular sized mat, like the Jade Harmony at 3/16” thick and available in two lengths, 68” or 74”, or the Gaiam Premium Sticky Yoga Mat, both of these are non-slip and are easy to clean down after a hard class.
When choosing Bikram yoga mats, I'd say that it really is a matter of personal preference - whether you prefer to work with a towel and mat, or just with a mat by itself. There are some really good mats and towels available to suit all ability levels, and budgets!