I’ve been practicing yoga on and off for several years now. After my very first class, I decided to buy my own yoga mat, even though my studio had free mats to use. For me, getting a personal yoga mat meant the seriousness of my intention to delve into the practice I’ve been drawn to for such a long time.
It was very motivational as well. We all get lazy sometimes, and no matter how pleasant you feel after a few asanas, there are moments when you just want to stay in bed. By spending money on a good yoga mat, I would in a way kick my own bum to get up and go practice regularly, rain or shine.
Time has passed, and my old mat started wearing out bit by bit. I sat in front of my laptop to search for new yoga mats. How hard can it be, right?
Well, turns out it’s much harder than it used to be a few years ago. While yoga is getting more popular, new materials, both synthetic and more eco-friendly, new textures, and better features become available.
This guide will show you where to start when choosing a yoga mat, what factors to consider and pitfalls to keep in mind.
I've also compiled a list of my top picks for such categories of yoga mats as suited for beginners or travel, yoga mats for those with sweaty palms or who practice Bikram yoga (a.k.a. 'hot' yoga, where classes run in a heated room and high humidity), yoga mats for any level and type of yoga.
Meet our top pick - a first-class yoga mat made of biodegradable natural rubber with zero waste and no toxins. Excellent grip, comfortable padding, and durability.
Table of Contents
A yoga mat is definitely not a necessity for a fulfilling practice. You may as well practice on a bare floor if you find it comfortable. I myself choose to use a yoga mat for a few reasons.
First of all, hygiene is a big factor. The mats you can rent or use for free at the studio do not seem to be cleaned very often. I’ve had an experience with mats which smell like someone’s feet, and I must say that was the only thing I thought about during the Dolphin pose or low plank. And even if the cleanness of the studio floor is impeccable, there is always a risk of foot diseases.
No matter what type of yoga you do, most probably you’re gonna sweat at least a bit at some point (or sweat like hell during a hot yoga class). The mat is your number one friend that will prevent you from slipping in your Downward Dog.
A yoga mat will provide some cushion and comfort for your joints and protruding bones as well as insulate your body against a cold or hot surface.
As a beginner, I found the yoga mat extremely helpful for alignment. You can compare your shoulders or hips to the mat and immediately see if you’re in the right position.
If you’re practicing yoga in a crowded studio, your mat will mark some space between other people and you, and it may save you from some awkward accidental touching.
A good yoga mat is the one that perfectly suits your personal needs.
Think of how often will you train – once a week or every day; where you’re gonna practice yoga – inside of the studio, outside, on a soft or rough surface; how often do you get itchy feet and whether you need your mat to be light and portable; what kind of yoga you will be doing – restorative yoga with passive exercises and breathing or hot yoga with lots of sweating. These are just some of the questions you have to ask yourself when choosing the mat. So let’s take a closer look at the specifics.
The material of your yoga mat is essential. It will determine its durability, Eco-friendliness, sweat and dirt absorption as well as stickiness and grip.
Yoga mats made of PVC (vinyl) were the first on the market and are still one of the most mainstream options. Vinyl is very cheap, durable, easy to clean, but bad for the environment and potentially harmful for your health. PVC mats may contain lead, cadmium, and phthalates - the chemicals that may adversely affect your brain if you’re exposed to excessive levels of them.
Surely, the chance of you getting sick from your mat only is very slim. But phthalates are also used for a handful of other objects, such as furniture, car interiors, shower curtains, and even personal care objects (shampoos and nail polishes), which increases the risk of high exposure.
PVC cannot be recycled, and when buried in landfills, it releases dioxin — a cancer-causing chemical.
Yoga mats made of thermoplastic elastomer (TPE), a synthetic material, combine the qualities of rubber and plastic mats. It can be recycled with no harm to the environment, but its production still involves chemical processes. This is a good alternative for those who are allergic to rubber or latex. TPE yoga mats are manufactured using closed cell technology, which means that they are highly hygienic. They have an impermeable texture and repel sweat and dirt. So you may spare the worry when your mat gets wet. Mats with closed cell structure are also easier to clean, but they may become more slippery with use.
Nitrile butadiene rubber (NBR) is a non-toxic synthetic rubber material. Yoga mats made of NBR are usually thick, about 10 mm or more, thus making it more suitable for people with sensitive or injured joints. At the same time, more cushion means less balance in standing poses.
Natural rubber yoga mats are an excellent eco-substitute for PVC or synthetics (unless you’re allergic to rubber or latex). The material is non-toxic, biodegradable, and durable. Generally, natural rubber mats provide a good grip and a fair amount of cushion but may have a funny smell at first. So if it’s a deal breaker for you, consider choosing other material. Yoga mats made of rubber are usually a bit heavy and may take a longer time to dry.
Organic cotton and hemp yoga mats are recyclable and famous for providing a good grip. Cotton is very absorbent, so mats made of cotton will suit people who sweat a lot or practice hot yoga. They are also relatively thin, light, and most of them can be washed in the washing machine.
On the other hand, cotton mats may slip on tile and laminate surfaces.
Cork yoga mats are made of the natural material of cork texture combined with natural rubber or TPE at the bottom. These yoga mats are considered to provide the best grip, which increases with moisture. Cork mats are durable but usually pricey. Due to its high-absorbent nature, they may be harder to clean.
Jute yoga mats are one of the most environmentally friendly mats on the market currently. They are manufactured from a natural vegetable plant, which makes them extremely sustainable. A jute mat would be suitable for any type of yoga practice: it is durable, sticky, and has breathing and antimicrobial properties. It may be a bit scratchy if you don't use a yoga towel.
A standard yoga mat is about 1/8 of an inch (about 3 mm), but the thickness ranges from 1/16 of an inch to 1/2 of an inch (nearly 12 mm).
Obviously, the thicker the mat, the more padding for your joints, bad knees, and spine, and the less connection with the floor. Watch out though, if your yoga mat is too squishy, you may find it harder to balance in some poses or sink into some poses such as plank.
Thicker mats are also heavy and are not very portable. They will work for you if you plan to leave your mat at the studio and transport it often. Thicker mats also dry longer than thin yoga mats.
Ultra-thin yoga mats are ideal for frequent travelers. They are light, easily folded, and good for perfecting your balance. However, thin mats are typically not suitable for everyday use unless you are a seasoned yogi because they provide almost no cushion between you and the floor.
Ideally, if you are serious about yoga, I’d suggest buying 2 mats – one for home or studio practice and the other for traveling. But in case you are on a limited budget and have sensitive or sore joints, do yourself a favor and but a thicker mat, which wouldn’t exacerbate the discomfort.
I may have the best yoga mat in the world, perfectly thick, ideal size, and with a pattern of my dreams. But to me, none of that matters if I don’t feel safe on it and the experience is spoiled by the mat slipperiness.
PVC yoga mats are typically one of the stickiest. If you prefer a more environmentally friendly option, rubber and a mixture of rubber and plastic offer good grip for an average price.
If you have sweaty hands or practice hot yoga, then cork or cotton mats will suit you best as they efficiently absorb the sweat and offer better traction when getting wet.
A bumpy and rough texture of PVC or jute mat can help with the traction and grip, but if it bothers you opt for TPE or NBR mats which have a softer touch.
It’s important to remember that most of the yoga mats are not ready for performance right after the purchase and will need some time to break in. The more you practice, the sooner the slipperiness of the mat wears off. You can speed up the break-in period by treating a new yoga mat with a salt scrub. Mix sea salt and warm water and wipe it down with a brush or washcloth. Some people also recommend washing a new yoga mat with diluted vinegar and leaving it in the sun for a few hours a day (unless they are made of natural rubber). It may also help to get rid of the funny smell of a new mat.
A standard yoga mat, which is about 68 inches long and 24 inches wide, works for the majority of the yogis, men or women. But extra-long mats are available in case you’re taller than 5’8” and need extra space.
Give your yoga mat some care and love. Check out these yoga bags and carriers that will protect your mat from dirt and dust while you're running errands after a yoga class.
Clean your yoga mat regularly if you want to prevent bacteria from growing and preserve its durability. Mind that the yoga mat doesn’t have to give off a bad smell or show stains for you to clean it.
How often you clean the mat is up to you. Some people choose to wipe it after every session, especially if they are sweating a lot. I personally used to clean my mat every month.
The cleaning process depends on the type of material that composes your yoga mat. Cotton yoga mats can be generally washed in the machine, but it is not a generally recommended way of cleaning. Machine washing may compromise the integrity of the mat material.
Instead, wipe the surface of the yoga mat with a damp cloth or use water with a vinegar solution. For a deeper clean, add baking soda or a drop of gentle soap (be careful though, as some mats may absorb the soap easily and get extremely slippery for the next couple of yoga sessions). Wipe the mat and let it dry out before rolling it back up.
Some people prefer adding essential oil, such as tee tree or lavender oil, to their cleaning solution. Though, some manufacturers who use open cell technology when producing their mats warn against this practice. Oils may clog the pores of the material, give off a strong smell for the first few days, stain the mat and make it slippier.
Make sure to familiarize yourself with cleaning instructions of the manufacturer before washing your yoga mat.
For those who are just starting their yoga journey, we’d advise buying a thicker mat. It will make the process more comfortable and allow you to slowly build joint and muscle strength and prevent injury. Alignment markings can be very helpful for newbies to maintain symmetry during the practice.
The Starter Kit is perfect for yoga newbies who are on a tight budget and still not sure if yoga is for them. For the price, you get a yoga mat and additional goodies such as a yoga block, 6’ yoga strap, two full-length yoga workouts, and a seated meditation preparation routine.
Yoga mat has alignment markings, which will help you to practice better form during your starting classes.
There is, of course, a trade-off for the price. The mat is made of PVC which is non-recyclable, and the least eco-friendly material available on the market. It may give off a bad smell at first. Some people said that out-gassing lasted for up to several weeks.
In case you have sensitive or sore joints, this option might not be for you as the mat is thin and doesn't provide enough cushioning.
The mat can also start crumbling after months of intense practice (given the low price). So once you practice yoga for a while and decide to commit, I’d recommend investing in a more expensive yoga mat.
Clever Yoga mat is an excellent value for money and will fit both beginners and those who practice fairly often.
The yoga mat is made of recyclable TPE (so you will leave a smaller footprint) using closed-cell technology. The mat doesn't absorb sweat and dirt. It will be easy to clean but may lose grip if you get sweaty hands or feet. A proper yoga towel may solve this problem though.
Clever Yoga mat offers sufficient support for your joints, but it’s bulky at the same time and carrying it around or traveling with it can be a hassle.
Liforme is a flagman of modern yoga mats. They make pretty expensive premium yoga mats, but if you’re a beginner who is certain that yoga is love for life, then it might be worth an investment
Liforme yoga mats provide a system of alignment markers right on the mat. With it, you can practice better postures during your asanas, quickly find the center, avoid injury, and immediately correct yourself when you see that your feet and hands are misaligned.
The mat provides excellent traction even when you sweat excessively, so it feels safe. The mat comes together with the official Liforme bag so you will save money on that.
The mat is pretty heavy to carry around, though, and people say it becomes less sticky over time.
The main features to look for if you’re always on the go is the weight of your yoga mat. Opt for the mat which can be easily folded, put in the bag or taken on the plane.
Gaiam Foldable yoga mat is non-toxic, but it’s still made of PVC, making it not the best choice for the Eco-conscious yogis. On the flip side, the mat will serve you well for a longer time, as PVC is considered a durable material.
The mat is very thin and light, but not recommended for everyday practice since there’s not enough support for joints, whether they are healthy or sensitive.
It is great for weekend getaways when you don’t want to miss your yoga or for practicing and stretching outdoors, such as the park or a beach.
Just like Gaiam Foldable, Jade Voyager is thin, light, and extremely portable. It’s made of natural rubber which makes it recyclable, but it may give off a rubber smell right out of the package.
Jade Voyager is manufactured using open cell technology, which makes it grippy, but not suitable for practicing outdoors unless you want to bring home chunks of dirt, and sand.
People also noticed that it’s not durable enough for the given money, and can't be folded for a long time as it creases permanently (and may potentially break in the areas of creases).
B MAT Traveller is a relatively young Canadian yoga manufacturer, but it has already created quite a following.
Their mats are made of natural rubber and are known for offering amazing grip, durability, and zero off-gassing.
Again, they are light and thin but need a carpet or an extra mat for everyday practice. B MAT Traveller yoga mat is also a bit on the expensive side.
Aurorae Synergy yoga mat is a hybrid between a mat and a towel. It is made of PER (Polymer Environmental Resin), a rarely used synthetic material which is more ecological than PVC and is said to biodegrade in landfills. But PER manufacturing process involves chemical processes which do not do any good for the environment.
Aurorae Synergy's trademark is that the mat’s traction and grip increase when it gets wet. This solves the problem of sweaty hands and bunching towel. The mat is perfect for the hot yoga class, and you won’t need a yoga towel in addition to your mat.
The company also gives a 2-year warranty, during which you can exchange your mat for a new one.
If you’re planning to use the mat for other types of yoga, you may want to spray your hands and feet with water for better grip.
Aurorae Synergy has to be cleaned often due to sweat accumulation and takes a long time to dry.
Hot yoga lovers have long been chanting the praises of Cork Yoga Mats. They are made of the natural material with antimicrobial properties, stay grippy when wet (so no yoga towel needed), and comfortably thick.
Basically Perfect Cork Yoga Mat is also a bit wider and longer than an average mat which gives extra space for a good stretch out. At the same time, it is not easily portable and may be harder to clean due to high absorption qualities. Avoid if you’re allergic to rubber or latex as the non-slip bottom is made of it.
Yogasana Cotton Yoga Mat is handmade, expensive, and gives you a 15-year warranty. It is made of made of 100% cotton and has no trace of rubbery or plastic smell.
Yogasana mat has to be cleaned often as cotton is highly absorbent, but due to that, you won't be slipping in your hot yoga class.
The mat can also be a bit scratchy at first, but the manufacturer states that it is like new jeans; sturdy, but will soften with time.
PrAna E.C.O. yoga mat would be suitable for any level and almost any type of yoga. It is also great value for money.
The mat is made of non-toxic recyclable TPE. Even though being thick enough to provide necessary support for sensitive joints, PrAna E.C.O. is lightweight and portable. You mind find balancing pretty challenging, though.
The mat repels sweat and dirt, thus you may get slippy if your palms sweat excessively during practice.
Manduka eKO made of natural rubber is a more ecologically-friendly version of a legendary Manduka Pro. It is free from latex, thus is suitable for the most people allergic to latex.
It is thick enough for sore joints, but not too squishy to lose balance.
It is heavy, durable and easy to clean, but as any natural rubber, Manduka eKO can’t be left in direct sunlight.
The mat offers an excellent grip when dry, though you might want to use a towel if you sweat a lot.
Jade Harmony is famous for its good company ethics and environmentally friendly products.
Jade Harmony Yoga Mat comes in 3 different sizes and is made of natural rubber. This is an open-cell mat, which means that it easily absorbs moisture and dirt. Thus, it offers great grip both when dry and wet.
You may find it more challenging to clean the Jade mat, and it would take longer to dry out. It is also heavy and challenging to transport.
A good yoga mat can surely make the practice easier and more comfortable. But it shouldn’t be the thing that motivates you and drives your practice.
Be persistent and committed, and in no time you’ll be amazed at your capabilities. The benefits of yoga won’t be long in coming.
What is the most important thing for you in a yoga mat?
Share your story in the comments!