With yoga being practiced long before the advent of the yoga mat, you may think that picking the perfect yoga mat is an easy decision. Not so.
Choosing the best yoga mat for you is a bit like a runner choosing the perfect shoe. Many factors play into the decision. New and seasoned yoga practitioners alike may find themselves overwhelmed by the purchase.
Many factors go into the yoga mat you purchase. You should consider the following:
- What type of yoga are you practicing?
- Where will you be practicing?
- What is your budget?
This yoga mat buying guide will take the mystery out of the yoga mat decision and allow you to make an informed decision. Read on to discover:
Types of Yoga Mats
Travel Mats: Travel mats are designed with thinner materials. These types of mats take into consideration going to and from the gym and travel. If you are bringing your yoga mat while you travel, you will want to take care to pick a mat designed to be portable in your suitcase.
Hot Yoga Mat: Mats designed specifically for hot yoga offer extra traction needed for when you start to sweat.
Important Considerations for Choosing a New Yoga Mat
Type of Yoga Practiced
As you read through the other considerations, keep in mind what type of yoga you primarily practice. If you are an enthusiast for two or more types of yoga that have different poses and movements, you may find that you want to invest in a few different types of mats.
For example, you may want to consider a thicker mat for meditative yoga and a thinner mat that gives you more connection to the floor with yoga focused on balanced poses.
As with any product, the materials that make up your mat have a big impact on a variety of areas such as cost, traction, stickiness, eco-friendliness, durability, and comfort. Which material you should choose will depend mostly on how you answer questions related to these areas.
Materials range from all-natural to full synthetic. Here is a breakdown of the four most common material types:
- Foam Yoga Mats - Mats made out of foam are generally inexpensive and long lasting. The foam material is synthetic, latex-free, and phthalate free. Foam mats tend to weigh between two and four pounds, which is dependant on how thick the mat is.
They are also one of the more budget friendly options, but they tend to also be more spongy, which may not be good if you practice yoga heavy with balance poses.
- Cotton (Clothe) Yoga Mats - Cotton mats tend to be straight from nature, making them one of the naturally more environmentally friendly mats. If you have used foam or other synthetic materials, the cotton mats will feel different than what you are used to.
For one thing, cotton mats are extra thick, which makes them ideal for meditation, restorative yoga, and yin yoga.
- TPE Yoga Mats (thermoplastics) - TPE mats are cushioning, stretchy, and recyclable. That’s right, at the end of your use for them, you can fully recycle them for use in new mats. The gel-like material is extra soft for comfort, and the material is lightweight for ease of portability.
- All Natural Rubber Yoga Mats - The all natural rubber mat is the most slip-resistance. This is because the rubber mats are open-celled, meaning they create a suction on your hands and feet. In addition, rubber mats are resilient and durable, needing only washing to keep them in their prime. Rubber mats are also considered environmentally friendly.
Traction can be broken down into two categories. One is texture and the other is stickiness.
- Texture: The texture of a mat helps affect how much you slip and slide during yoga. Texture can range from smooth to coarse based on either added features in the mat, such as raised patterns, or the materials used for the mat. The more bumpy the texture, the more physical barriers there are to sliding around.
There are some considerations to take into account when considering texture. For example, if you are bothered by ridges and bumps, you may not want a courser mat. On the other hand, if you are finding that you slide too much during poses, a more textured mat may be what you need. This is particularly true if you get very sweating during yoga.
If you are looking to reduce slipping around, you will want to try mats made of rubber, jute, or cotton as these can often have raised texture. But if you are more concerned about smooth surfaces for your comfort, a rubber mat is a better bet, as this relies primarily on stickiness.
- Stickiness: Very similar to texture, how sticky a mat is helps determine how much it helps prevent you from sliding around during poses. For those looking for comfort because raised textured mats bother you, a smooth but sticky mat will help you maintain your pose and your comfort.
The stickiest mat available currently is one made of natural rubber. Some things to consider with rubber mats is that they work the best when clean. Before the first use and whenever you notice stickiness lessening, clean the mat. The cleaner the mat, the better it will stick to your hands and feet.
Yoga mats range in thickness from about to a 1/16 to about a ¼ inch. As you might imagine, the 1/16 inch thickness are designed with portability and travel in mind where the ¼ inch material are more concerned with comfort and cushioning. Before deciding on thickness, you must consider how much comfort versus portability you need.
Comfort is perhaps one of the most important features to consider for some. After all, you will be holding posing during your yoga routines for several minutes at time, connecting with the floor the entire time. Some people prefer and need a firmer mat as they do balance poses more frequently. Others prefer softer mats because they offer superior comfort during movement and poses less reliant on balance.
For some, the smoothness of the mat directly affects how comfortable the mat feels, at least to some users. If you have sensitive skin, a smoother mat may feel better rubbing against and pushing into your hands, knees, and feet. Likewise, the thickness of the mat also has an impact on comfort and stability largely for the same reasons as texture.
Portability becomes more important depending on your exact needs. If you practice yoga at home, following a video or other program, you probably don’t need to worry too much about how easy it is to move your mat around. For times when you are going to and from class, portability becomes more of an issue.
Considerations for portability include both weight and size. Some mats come with or have additional options to get bags or slings for the mat, both of which make toting it around easier. Thickness can affect how tight the mat can be rolled up. This affects space for storage as well as how easy it is to carry.
And finally, the heavier the material, the heavier the mat will be. Cloth mats tend to be the heaviest while some of the synthetic materials are lighter in weight.
As a general rule, you want a mat that is about two inches longer than you are. If you are taller, this is especially important as too short of a mat will not fit your needs. Similarly, if you are shorter a longer mat is not necessary and will result in extra mat to tote with you.
You may not think much about the concept of how to care for your yoga mat at up front. It’s not like a car in the sense that there are not hundreds of mechanical parts. But things to consider with yoga mat maintenance is the type of materials it is made of, how difficult is it to clean, and does the manufacturer have a warranty for normal wear and tear.
Synthetic mats can last for years of hard wear and tear. TPE and rubber can withstand quite a bit of stretching and moving associated with many yoga poses for years.
Cloth mats are more likely to suffer from normal wear and tear. Like all cloth products, as time goes on, the threads in cloth mats stretch and give. This makes their shelf life shorter than some synthetic materials.
For any material, basic cleaning is recommended, and as is the case with sticky rubber mats, required for optimum performance and use. You can check out some other articles here on proper care for your yoga mats.
If you are like most people, price and budget factor into your decision making when making any purchase. And though yoga mat pricing will not likely break your budget, it is important to take into account the cost while considering a mat.
Cheaper does not always mean inferior quality, but like most products, too cheap may speak to its inferior materials and lifetime. Things like brand name and what’s in demand can drive the price up of a mat you might be interested in, while a simple, cheap rubber mat may be all you need.
As a general rule, a very basic, 1/8 inch thick with a plain solid-color sticky yoga mat will be toward the lower end of the price range. As you add patterns, designs, logos, premium thickness, antimicrobial treatments, and textures, you will find the price tag going up. And the most expensive mat type are generally eco-friendly.
Eco-Friendliness / Eco-Footprint
If you are passionate about the environment as much as you are about yoga, you’ll want to take into account how eco-friendly a mat is. Foam mats are made of materials that will take hundreds of years to degrade and are not recyclable. But this does not mean all synthetics are bad. For example TPE is fully recyclable.
One thing to keep in mind, if your cloth mat is sprayed with anti-microbal or other chemicals, its eco-friendliness goes down. In which case, you may be better off getting a mat that you can recycle when you are done with it.
Basic mats come in a solid color. Though this does not affect your yoga, you may want a mat that expresses more of your personal style. In which case, it may be very important to you to look for unique patterns or designs. Some benefits to design come if the design is a raised, texture design as this will help traction.
A point to consider, however, is that design may arbitrarily raise the price without improving the performance of the mat.
Best Yoga Mats to Buy
As you have probably gathered, there is a lot that can go into picking the perfect mat for you and your needs. Mat’s are not as simple as they might seem, and getting the wrong one for you can be a waste of money and time spent on a poor mat.
To help you, here is a list of a few of the best yoga mats out there.
# Best of the Best: Manduka PROlite
If you are looking for a mat that is considered by many to be one of the best ones out there, look no further than Manduka PROlite.
This mat is a great balance of comfort, durability, portability, traction, and stability. This mat may very well last you a lifetime with its durability backed up with a lifetime warranty.
- Easy to tote to and from class.
- Durability that is backed up with a lifetime warranty.
- Good traction that still allows for smooth movement into new positions.
- Stand up to a good beating from movement and static poses.
- At less than three pounds, this lightweight mat is easy to bring to and from the gym.
- Comes in a variety of colors.
- Not as good in hot yoga conditions, best in room temperature where moisture will be minimal.
- Needs a break in period before it is really comfortable.
- Manufacturer recommends cleaning with a salt scrub before first use which will improve its initial traction but may be off putting to people who don’t want to have to put in that much work.
- More expensive than other mats.
- The mat is made from a non-natural rubber that cannot be recycled. However, the lifetime guarantee helps eliminate landfill waste.
# Best on a Budget: Gaiam Print Premium
If you are not ready to make a large investment in a mat just yet, the Gaiam Print Premium might be the best mat for you. This mat is as light on price as it is on weight, making it easy to bring back and forth. It is made free of harmful or unwanted chemicals.
It is considered durable and offers decent traction with its textured surface. This mat may not have all the cushioning or offer as much support and injury prevention as others, but if you are beginner trying yoga out for the first time, this mat may be for you.
- Budget friendly.
- Free of harmful chemicals.
- Light weight and generally durable.
- Offers a variety of patterns to choose from.
- Textured surface.
- Not as comfortable as some other mats.
- May not be as good at improving your form and injury prevention as other mats.
# Best for Taller People: Manduka PRO
Similar to the Manduka PROlite, the Manduka PRO offers an extra long mat surface for taller yogis who need the extra length to comfortably do all poses in class.
Besides length, the Manduka PRO offers excellent traction, durability, and comfort. Though it is not made of the most eco-friendly material, it’s very long lasting which will help decrease landfill waste.
- Durability backed up by a lifetime warranty.
- Excellent traction even when wet.
- Comfortable at ¼ inch thick.
- Keeps sweat out so cleaning is easier and it is less likely to grow bacteria between cleanings.
- An impressive 85 inches long, perfect for some of the taller yogis out there.
- Company offers a towel that is as long as the mat.
- A bit pricey, but may be worth it given that it is a very long term investment.
- Heavy and not as portable since it weighs in between 7 and 9 pounds.
# Best for Hot Yoga: Lululemon ‘The Mat’
Interested in hot yoga or do you sweat a lot and need a good, non-slip mat? Lululemon ‘The Mat’ offers one of the best sticky mat available.
It retains its stickiness even during the sweatiest conditions. It retains its stickiness so well because of its dual material construction.
On the top side is a sticky material that absorbs moisture, while its bottom layer is made of natural rubber that acts as a cushioning layer. Finally, ‘The Mat’ has antimicrobial properties that make keeping it clean easier.
- Super sticky and good under wet conditions with no need for a towel to help keep it dry.
- Comes in two thickness, 3mm and 5mm.
- Helps you maintain poses due to the extra grip.
- Antimicrobial so it helps keep the mat clean between cleanings.
- There is a strong smell when you first purchase it that does tend to go away over time.
- Easy to stain. It sucks in moisture and will suck in stains and dirt too.
- Only comes in a few colors.
- Not as comfortable as other mats so you may want to consider the thicker mat for better comfort.
# Best for Eco-friendly Mat: Barefoot Yoga Original Eco Yoga Mat
If you are most interested in eco-friendly mats, the Eco Yoga Mat is considered one of the best.
It is made from a combination of natural rubber and a jute fiber , a plant based fiber. It retains stickiness and offers excellent comfort and stability.
- One of the best all natural, environmentally friendly mats available today.
- Excellent comfort and support.
- Maintains its traction through most yoga poses.
- Comes in two lengths to accommodate short and tall yogis alike.
- Durable under stress.
- Weighs about 4 pounds, so not the lightest mat available.
- Coarse texture may take some getting used to.
- May need more frequent cleaning and maintenance.
# Best for Comfort: PrAna E.C.O
For those of you looking for superior comfort, one of the best mats available is the PrAna E.C.O. This mat offers one of the most comfortable surfaces even on hard floors.
However, what it offers in support it lacks in traction. Also, it tends to have some issues where it comes to bunching up during, you may like it’s environmentally friendly materials, its affordability, and that it is latex-free.
- Latex-free making it ideal for those with allergies to latex.
- Very comfortable and cushioned.
- Helps prevent absorption of microorganisms.
- Lightweight for easy carrying back and forth to yoga class.
- Traction is lacking on the mat.
- May bunch up on you during movement based yoga.
- Does not offer great stability.
# Best for Travel: Manduka eKO SuperLite Travel Mat
If you travel a lot and need to keep up with your yoga, the Manduka eKO mat may be just what you are looking for. It weighs in at about 2 pounds and is about 1/16 inch thick. It is made of natural, eco-friendly materials and offers a super sticky surface even when wet.
And unlike more traditional mats, you can fold this mat up to take it with you in your suitcase or carryon.
- Super lightweight and portable - you can literally fold it up like a towel and take it with you wherever you go.
- Sticky even when wet.
- Durable with a lifetime warranty on the mat to back it up.
- Made of all natural rubber that will degrade over time.
- Lacks padding for comfort.
- A bit pricey, but it is a long term investment.
Performance Review of Popular Yoga Mats
With all the considerations you want to take into account, you may find yourself a bit overwhelmed. But like yoga, choosing a mat for yoga is all about balance. Your best mat will meet all your needs while not neglecting any areas you find important.
Below is a visual guide comparing the mats described above based on some of the important criteria you should consider when picking out your mat.
Yoga Mat Accessories
Once you have picked your yoga mat, you may want to think about accessories for your mat. Accessories to a yoga mat might seem odd, but accessories give you additional function to your yoga routine or to your mat.
Here are a few accessories you might find useful when purchasing a yoga mat:
- Blocks: Yoga blocks can give you the extra stability or stretch to your poses. For beginners, they can help you better connect to the floor, and for flexible yogis, it can help extend stretching so you can get the most out of stretch moves.
- Yoga Pants: These comfortable, stretchy pants are excellent for the movement and stretching associated with yoga. Depending on often you do yoga each week, you may want to consider getting a few pairs to cut down on the amount of laundry you have to do each week.
- Yoga Socks: Yoga socks often have grips on their bottom. If you find your feet get cold easily, having some yoga socks on hand will help keep your feet warm and help you get traction on the mat.
- Water Bottle: If you don’t have a water bottle, now is probably the time to get one. Hydration is important during yoga and really all exercises. And the extra upfront cost is worth it for getting a reusable bottle, making them overall more environmentally friendly.
- Yoga Towel: If you are the type who gets really sweaty, bringing a good towel could be a major benefit for you. Towels can also help to add support or cushion in areas that need a little bit extra of either.
- Essential Oil Diffuser: For a truly relaxing yoga experience, you may wish to get an oil diffuser. The benefits of essential oils range from relaxation to helping combat aches, pains, and illness. A pleasant, relaxing scent during yoga can add greatly to your experience.
- Yoga Mat Cleaner: A clean mat can make the difference between having great traction and slipping all over the place. Many manufacturers sell yoga mat cleaner that will allow you to do quick wipe downs of your mat after you are finished with your yoga session.
- Straps: Your yoga mat might come with straps already. However, if you get a more basic mat or one that does not have straps, you will want to consider adding straps to your collection. Straps can help you roll your mat up tighter and keep it in place, making portability easier.
- Gym Bag: You may already have a gym bag, but does it fit your new yoga mat or have built in straps to help carry it? If not, you will likely want to consider a new bag that allows for easier portability of your mat, clothes, towels, and blocks.
Other Yoga Mats We Have Tested & Helpful Tips To Take Care Of Your Mat
Yoga Mat Buying Conclusions
Ultimately, what mat is best for you depends largely on you. You may want to sacrifice comfort for portability or grip.
Likewise, you might rather get a mat made of natural or biodegradable materials over a synthetic material. Or you might prefer a more comfortable mat that sacrifices some stability. And, if you are ready to fully commit to yoga long term, you might want to get a durable mat that will last a lifetime.
Also, keep in mind what type of yoga you will be doing. More posed based yoga will require a mat with good traction and stability. Movement based yoga will require better traction and control. And for more meditative practices of yoga, you may like a more comfortable mat.
Once you figure out what is most important to you, choosing the mat will be much easier.