I’ll admit, when I first heard of the BallerYoga mat, I did that golden retriever head tilt thing. A yoga mat made out of football leather? Doesn’t that kind of go against the whole yoga lifestyle? Who is it for? Testosterone-addicted “bros” who feel the need to nervously project their masculinity no matter what the activity? Then I tracked down BallerYoga’s website and checked out the price for a “standard” mat and had a long, long laugh. $795-1,500 for a yoga mat isn’t just crazy, it’s fiscally suicidal. Then I took a step back, started researching a bit, and asked myself, what if I stopped considering my yoga mat as something durable, but ultimately disposable, and instead started thinking about it as a permanent addition to my practice?
BallerYoga was kind enough to send me their “medium” 72″ x 24″ mat in natural pebbled leather. When I first unrolled it, I was struck by the quality of the leather. This is authentic football leather, the same kind used to craft balls and finished using the same methods. It’s a thick, tough, single sheet of leather. I was initially a bit put off by the lack of cushioning, as I’m used to PVC mats and the extra cushion they provide. Then I started using it and quickly stopped even glancing at my old GAIAM mat. The pebbled leather provides fantastic grip, even when performing tricky poses late in a session, when my mat can be a sweaty mess. And after some initial stiffness, the leather quickly became more supple as I used it. There’s still a noticable leather smell from the mat after a month of use, but seeing as how I’m a bit of a leather fan, I don’t mind. Heck, I don’t even mind the affectation of the molded “laces”–it gives me a quick way to identify the “top” and “bottom” of my mat.
But the Down Dog in the room is the BallerYoga mat’s price tag. Let’s unpack that a bit. Standard PVC mats break down with use, their soft surfaces eventually tearing. At my house, we can go through 2-3 of them a year, easily. That’s not going to happen with the Baller mat. After seeing how this mat performs, I can safely say that I see no reason to ever buy another yoga mat. If anything, the mat will improve with age. If I got a standard 69″ x 24″ yoga mat, at around $70 a pop for a high end dry-grip mat, I’d reach the price of the $795 “LXIX” Baller mat in about five and a half years of regular yoga practice or after about 11 GAIAM yoga mats. That’s a lot of petroleum products and chemicals I’d consume and put into landfills, which doesn’t seem all that considerate or enlightened. Granted, leather might not be the first thing you think of when you think of yoga, but at least it’s a natural product. Whether or not you’re going to get dirty looks at your studio when you unroll this sucker is your call. And make no mistake, you’re not going to be passing this off as anything other than what it is–the biggest hunk of leather you’ve ever had the pleasure of sweating all over.
Speaking of, be careful when deciding between the Natural and Red versions. While the Red version may be more authentic to an actual NFL football, BallerYoga doesn’t seal their mats with a topcoat (like they do for NFL footballs) so as to improve grip performance. This means that the dye isn’t colorfast and will wear off on you, your clothing, and your flooring as it’s used (so maybe the Red version is for poseurs rather than posers)?
Make no mistake, BallerYoga is definitely vying for the attention of a demographic that might be more comfortable on the field than in the yoga studio. And with a standard mat costing $795, this is a luxury item. That doesn’t change the fact that this is the best yoga mat I’ve ever used and the last yoga mat I’ll ever need. You can snag a BallyerYoga mat of your own (and view instructional yoga videos on their… ugh… #Balleraf page) at the official site.
BallerYoga provided samples for this review. Opinions and awkward Crow poses are my own.