I decided to buy my own yoga mat after the very first yoga class.
Truth to be told, I didn't know much about yoga. But I sure knew even less about yoga mats.
When I went on a yoga mat hunt, my only choosing criteria was: If my hands don't slip in Down Dog, it's good enough. Now that I recall that time, I realize it was a pretty reckless thing to do because:
So if you're at the point when you're ready to buy a yoga mat, this guide is for you. It combines everything you need to know before buying a new yoga mat (and everything I wish I knew when choosing one years ago).
Read on to learn:
Meet YogaKali top pick - a non-slip yoga mat sustainably made of recycled tree rubber. Excellent grip, comfortable padding, and travel-friendly weight in one place.
Table of Contents
Let's be real here. A yoga mat is definitely not a necessity for a fulfilling practice. You may as well practice on a bare floor, carpet, rug, or [insert your option here] if you wish so.
Plus, if your hippie grandparents happened to do yoga in their younger days, they'll even tell you that these modern sticky yoga mats are no good because nothing is better than practicing barefoot on the green grass in the woods. (I still see comments like this popping up on some forums).
It sure sounds great. But I grew up in a big city in Europe where the grass gets green (and warm enough) about 2-3 months a year, and it takes me at least an hour to get to the woods.
So I myself chose to buy a yoga mat for a few reasons, both practical and not so much.
First of all, hygiene. This is a huge factor if you attend group classes in a studio. Before COVID-19, I don't believe free studio mats were cleaned very often, and it wasn't uncommon to get a yoga mat that smelt like someone's feet. Skipping the yoga mat altogether is also not an option because as clean as your yoga floor studio is, there's always a risk of foot diseases.
Second, safety. Unless you're going for a restorative or Yin class, you'll sweat at least a tiny bit at some point (or sweat like hell during a hot yoga class). A good yoga mat is your number one friend that will save you from slipping and falling flat on your face.
Third, comfort. Your sensitive knee joints and protruding bones will undoubtedly feel much better with a cushion of a yoga mat. Plus, an extra layer is also great for insulating your body against a cold or hot surface.
Fourth, alignment. As a beginner, I found it helpful to compare my shoulders or hips' position relative to the mat. Before I developed body awareness, I often found myself in a situation when the teacher says "keep your hips square" in Warrior I, and I'm absolutely sure they are... until I look down, and see that my hips are playing Warrior II on me. Nowadays, there are also all sorts of cool yoga mats with alignment lines that will show you where to place your feet and hands and learn the yoga poses faster.
Fifth, space marking. If you've ever practiced in a really crowded yoga studio, you'll know that "marking your space" is essential if you want to avoid awkward touching of someone else's limbs.
Six, (we're almost done here!) setting a positive trigger. This one may sound cheesy, but it works. I've started having daily yoga practice only when I stopped rolling my mat and stashing it into the corner. When you set up your environment to make things you want to do easier (keeping your mat rolled out at all times), you're more likely to stick to your plans.
So what's a good yoga mat?
Easy-peasy. It's the mat that perfectly suits your needs.
I strongly suggest that you carve out some time during the day, take a piece of paper and write down answers to these questions:
These are just some of the basic questions you have to ask yourself when choosing a yoga mat. Write down anything else you feel is important.
And let's get into the nitty-gritty.
PVC, TPE, NBR… These mumbo-jumbo terms can give anyone a headache. But before you decide to skip this section, I'd strongly recommend not to.
The material of your yoga mat is the most essential choice you'll have to make.
Because the material will determine:
Yoga mats made of PVC (vinyl) were the first on the market and are still one of the most mainstream options. No wonder. Vinyl is dirty cheap, extremely durable, and easy to clean.
As good as it sounds, PVC has a lot more disadvantages.
PVC isn't only bad for the environment but may be potentially harmful to your health as well.
Yoga mats made of may contain lead, cadmium, and phthalates. These chemicals may adversely affect your brain in case of excessive exposure.
Sure, the chance of you getting sick from doing yoga on a PVC mat is slim. But keep in mind that phthalates are also used for a handful of other objects, like furniture, car interiors, shower curtains, and even personal care objects (shampoos and nail polishes), which increases the risk of high exposure.
And if that's not enough, just know that PVC cannot be recycled. Plus, when buried in landfills, it releases dioxin — a cancer-causing chemical.
TPE is a synthetic material that combines the qualities of rubber and plastic mats. Just as with PVC, its production is chemically-heavy, but the output material itself can be recycled with no harm to the environment.
It’s generally hard to control what exact substances get into the TPE mix. Still, the material is more eco-friendly than PVC and a safe alternative for yogis allergic to rubber or latex.
TPE yoga mats are often manufactured using closed-cell technology, which means that they have an impermeable texture and repel sweat and dirt. No need to worry if you’re caught with your mat under the heavy rain. But do worry if you’re caught on a TPE mat in a hot yoga class – you’ll likely end up losing grip and slipping all over the place.
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. But as always, there's a trade-off – more cushion means less balance in standing poses.
Natural rubber yoga mats are an eco-conscious substitute for PVC or synthetics (unless you’re allergic to rubber or latex). The material is non-toxic, biodegradable, and fairly durable (though not as durable as its synthetic counterparts).
Generally, natural rubber mats provide a good grip and a fair amount of cushion.
On the other hand, expect a funny smell upon opening. Rubber yoga mats are also on a heavier side and may take a longer time to dry after cleaning.
Cork yoga mats are made of a tree's bark combined with natural rubber or TPE (as the base). Generally, cork is a great eco-friendly material: renewable, biodegradable, and naturally antibacterial.
But cork yoga mats are probably most loved for their grip. The best part? The wetter the surface, the better the grip.
On the other hand, due to its high-absorbent nature, cork yoga mats may be harder to clean.
Also known as Mysore yoga rugs, yoga mats made of cotton, organic cotton, and hemp are eco-friendly and recyclable.
They are typically hand-woven by craftsmen rather than mass-produced in factories using tons of chemical substances. So if you're a natural fiber lover, you can stop researching your yoga mats right here.
Cotton and hemp yoga mats feel great on the skin and have a nice natural texture that softens with every wash. Oh, and you can even wash those in the washing machine (though check it with the manufacturer before).
Both materials are very absorbent, so they'll fit great a hot yoga setting or a sweaty yoga class.
Cotton and hemp yoga mats are relatively thin and light, so they're also great for taking on a trip or a short outing to the park or the beach.
On the downside, cotton and hemp yoga mats are not as sticky as the average mat. It might be unusual/problematic for beginners since they don't yet have the required grip strength. On the bright side, it's always better to go through the initial body "break-in" period and build strength rather than always rely on the stickiness of your yoga mat.
Be prepared that cotton and hemp yoga mats slide on tile and laminate surfaces.
Jute mats are one of the most environmentally friendly yoga mats on the market. They are manufactured from a renewable vegetable plant that needs little maintenance and no pesticides and grows faster than bamboo.
A jute mat is suitable for any type of yoga practice: fast and sweaty or slow and relaxed. It is durable, lightweight, and antimicrobial.
However, jute has a unique sort of scratchy texture that might not be to everyone’s liking.
Apart from the already mentioned yoga mat materials, there are also a few "secondary" materials out there. I call them secondary since they're less common and/or often combined with the ones above.
The thicker the mat, the more padding you get for your joints, knees, and spine, and less connection with the hard floor.
A standard yoga mat is about 1/8 of an inch (about 3 mm) thick. But you can find yoga mats as thin as 1/16 of an inch or as thick as 1/2 of an inch (nearly 12 mm).
While extra-thickness might seem like a good thing, it’s not always an advantage. If your yoga mat is too squishy, you’ll find it harder to balance or even sink into some poses, such as Plank.
Plus, the thicker the mat, the heavier it gets, and the more time it takes to dry out. You shouldn’t worry much about this if you’re planning to store your yoga mat at the studio or use it only for home practice.
Ultra-thin yoga mats are ideal for frequent travelers. These mats are light, compact (as they can be easily folded), and offer good connection to the ground, helping with the balance. But unless you’re a seasoned yogi with super-healthy joints, you probably don’t want to practice on a thin travel mat every single day - it offers almost no cushion between you and the floor.
Ideally, if you’re committed to your yoga practice, I’d suggest buying two yoga mats – a thicker one for home/studio practice and a thinner one for traveling. If you’re 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.
We tend to consider that the stickier the mat and the grippier the surface, the better.
But I dare to say that those "world greatest grip" we're all chasing for is simply not practical for most of the people. Instead, we should chase the right balance between grip and freedom of movement.
Sure, you probably don't want to slide all over the place in your Down Dog. But you also don't want to feel like your feet are glued to the surface. Why? Because how will you transition from High Lunge to Warrior II or do a jumpthrough? I bet you'd feel annoyed at the end of the class.
When it comes to price-grip-freedom of movement ratio, PVC yoga mats are typically one of the best. They also have a bumpy texture that can help with traction and grip. TPE or NBR yoga mats offer a similar degree of stickiness with a smoother surface and don't come with a lousy reputation surrounding PVC.
Both synthetic and natural rubber are generally more grippy when dry, but often need a yoga towel or rug on the top if you're planning to break a sweat.
In case you're practicing hot yoga, or just enjoy a sweaty session, consider investing in a cork or cotton mat. They absorb the moisture and get even grippier when wet.
How to make yoga mat less slippery
Many yoga mats are not performing at their best right away. They need what is called a "break-in period." The slipperiness will wear off with time.
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. It may also help to get rid of the funny smell of a new mat.
Warning: avoid "sunbathing" your mat at all costs if it's made of natural rubber.
A standard yoga mat is generally 68 inches long and 24 inches wide. This size works for the majority of the yogis under 5’8” tall and offers enough space both for standing and supine postures.
If you’re higher than 5’8” or prefer to have a bit more extra space in your poses, look for extra-long yoga mats sized 71 inches, 72 inches, 74 inches, and 84 inches.
Sometimes, you can come across extra-wide (up to 30 inches wide) mats as well. These are great if you need extra room in a crowded yoga studio or when you practice on a cold tile floor and need insulation.
Keep in mind that the longer/wider the mat, the bulkier it gets when rolled up. Plus, it’ll also be heavier to carry.
Even if your yoga mat is advertised as antimicrobial, don’t forget to give it a good rub every so often. This will keep bacteria and funky smell at bay.
It feels weird even to mention this but... don’t wait until your yoga mat gives off bad smell or shows stains to clean it.
You can do a quick clean after every yoga class. To do that, simply wipe your yoga mat with a damp cloth or use water with a vinegar solution. There are also lots of ready-made commercial sprays that kill bacteria and make your mat smell amazing.
You might try adding essential oil, such as tea tree or lavender oil, to make a DIY 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 less sticky.
Every so often, give your mat a deeper clean. You can either wipe it with a baking soda solution or submerge it into the bath with a bit of gentle soap. Don’t get too generous with the soap, though, as some mats may absorb it and get extremely slippery for the next couple of yoga sessions.
Some yoga mats (like cotton ones) can even be washed in the washing machine. But make sure to check the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions on the temperature – some materials can break at higher temperatures.
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.
Best for: all-around practice indoors and outdoors; eco-conscious and green yogis
Many brands use natural rubber as an eco-friendly alternative to PVC and other synthetic materials. But Kiss The Sky went a step further. Rather than taking new resources from nature, they are using the waste that would otherwise end up in the landfill.
The company makes their yoga mats from 100% recycled manufacture scraps to bring you a brand new product that’s easy on the environment and gentle on your joints. With almost 5mm of cushion and a grippy surface, this yoga mat performs well indoors or outdoors, and weights just the right amount for easy transport.
Best for: all-around yoga practice; eco-conscious yogis based in Europe
Say goodbye to stinky plastic mats that trash the Planet and say hej-hej (hello in Swedish) to the first closed-loop yoga mat.
HejHej is a small German-based yoga brand that's on a mission to reduce plastic waste and promote eco-conscious consumption. Each yoga mat from Hej Hej is made locally from 100% pre-consumer foam scraps and delivered to your door with climate-neutral shipping.
But the brand's sustainability efforts don't end there.
Once your HejHej yoga mat wears off, you can send it back to HejHej - the company has implemented a closed-loop production process where your old mat gets disassembled and its components are then used to make new products.
Best for: dry/low-sweat yoga practice indoors or outdoors
Manduka yoga mats need no introduction. Their heavy-duty PRO mat is probably among the most popular yoga mats. The only "but" is that PRO is made of PVC.
Manduka eKO, on the other hand, is made of biodegradable tree rubber, which is better for the environment (and your consciousness, too). With 5mm cushion, Manduka eKO mat is great for day-to-day yoga practice, indoors or outdoors. Though make sure to avoid direct sunlight and extreme heat, and definitely don't leave this yoga mat in a car on a hot day.
Manduka eKO is made with closed-cell technology, so it repels moisture and dirt and is truly low-maintenance when it comes to cleaning.
Keep in mind though that closed-cell mats get slightly slippery when wet. So invest in a pair of yoga socks or a yoga towel if you like an occasional sweaty yoga class.
Best for: all-around yoga practice for beginners and veterans alike
Jade Harmony yoga mat is made of biodegradable natural tree rubber. But unlike Maduka eKO, it uses open-cell technology, which means that Jade Harmony:
If you’re tall or like some extra room, you’re in luck - Jade Harmony yoga mat comes in three different sizes to cater for everyone’s needs.
Plus, you can add Jade Yoga a score for making their yoga mats locally in the US and supporting a variety of social and green causes.
Best for: beginner yogis in need of alignment cues; yogis with sweaty palms and hot yoga fans looking for superior grip
Liforme was probably one of the first yoga brands that put alignment markers on the yoga mats. And guess what? People loved those. So now the company has a handful of copycats.
But compared to its competitors, Liforme still gets the upper hand in many features.
First, the unparalleled grip out of the package. No need to give your mat a salt scrub and break it in for months. This yoga mat is ready to rock from the start. And no, sweaty hands are not an obstacle.
Second, the alignment cues are etched onto the surface rather than printed to avoid toxic dyes.
Third, it comes with a free yoga mat bag.
Fourth, the natural rubber and polyurethane used to create the mat are biodegradable. The brand even conducted a study to see how safe the materials are for users and the Planet. Result: each Liforme yoga mat takes only several years to completely biodegrade.
But here’s the catch… There’s a good chance the mat will start wearing off relatively soon - according to users, after about 1-2 years of regular practice.
Best for: eco-conscious outdoor/hot yoga enthusiasts of any level
Feeling icky about the synthetic and foam yoga mats? Or maybe you're allergic to latex?
Yogasana Cotton Yoga Mat comes to the rescue. Brought to you all the way from India, this natural yoga rug is handwoven of 100% cotton and has no trace of rubbery or plastic smell like most of the yoga mats do.
Yogasana probably performs at its best outside since grass and sand help with cushion, and it easily absorbs moisture if you happen to break a sweat under the sun.
Keep in mind that the surface is slightly bumpy, and the material is scratchy at first. But it's like good new jeans - sturdy at first but will soften with use.
Best for: yogis who love to sweat it out
Cork yoga mats don't only look great, but they also prevent you from slipping when things get sweaty. Made of cork and natural rubber, this Guru cork yoga mat gets grippier when wet (no yoga towel needed) for maximum comfort and performance.
And in case you want to keep your yoga flow slow and steady today, just flip the yoga mat and enjoy a steady dry grip from the natural rubber.
Best for: sweaty home practice for yogis tired of dull black yoga mats
Best for: sweaty home practice for yogis tired of dull black yoga mats
Did you know that keeping your yoga mat unrolled at all times can actually help you get in the habit of doing yoga every day? Thanks to the awesome Persian rug design, testing this psychological technique with Ananda Yoga Mat is pure pleasure.
Made of a natural rubber base and microfiber topping, the Ananda Yoga Mat is a hybrid between a mat and a yoga towel. It will stay firmly in place even on the carpet and keep you safe and supported when things get hot and sweaty.
That said, you can absolutely slow down your practice when you feel like. Just make sure to spray your hands and feet with water for a better grip.
Bonus: the company also gives a 1-year warranty and a 30-day full refund/exchange if you’re not satisfied.
Best for: hot yoga fans who are always on the go
It's hard to come across a yoga mat that would cause a flood of excited reviews such as this one: "Like it better than my Manduka." But that's exactly what yogis are saying about the IUGA mat.
Made of TPE & PU, this yoga mat isn't exactly eco-friendly (though it is advertised as such), but has some great features.
Primarily, the grip. Thanks to the open-cell structure, the mat will absorb sweat and moisture so you can flip your dog safely even when soaking wet.
Secondly, portability. With only 2.5 lbs in weight, the IUGA mat is a perfect companion for yoga nomads who are always looking for adventures.
Thirdly, free carry strap. Because everyone likes freebies, don't they?
Best for: beginner yogis looking for an entry-level yoga mat for their low-impact indoor yoga practice.
Looking for a budget-friendly yoga mat for your slow and restorative yoga practices?
With plenty of cushion for your joints, this Clever Yoga mat will protect you from the cold and hard floor without leaving a big dent in your wallet.
This yoga mat is made with closed-cell technology, so it’s moisture-repellent and easy to clean.
Best for: eco-conscious yogis who travel a lot
Made of earth-friendly natural rubber, Jade Voyager yoga mat is manufactured using open cell technology for better grip and traction.
Just like most of the travel yoga mats, it’s thin, light, and extremely portable. With 1.5 mm thick, the Jade Voyager mat doesn’t offer much cushion but easily packs into a backpack for weekend getaways.
A piece of advice: don’t keep the mat folded for a long time as it shows creases (which can potentially break with time).
If you're just starting your yoga journey and not really invested in any other sport, I'd advise buying a thicker mat (5-6mm thick). It will make the practice more comfortable and allow you to slowly build joint and muscle strength. Alignment markings can also help maintain symmetry during the practice.
But there are always exceptions to the rule. My first yoga mat was 2.5mm thick, and it felt perfectly fine. You can always get some extra padding with a yoga blanket or knee pad cushions such as this one from SukhaMat.
You might think that an expensive yoga mat is not worth it. But trust me, it's an upfront investment that you won't regret.
First of all, high-end yoga mats are likely to be safer to use as more and more brands are turning to natural materials (tree rubber, cotton, jute). These are healthier for you and less toxic for the employees who're making your yoga mat.
Second, there's always some degree of social and environmental responsibility attached to a higher price tag. Yoga brands with mats priced above $80 are likely to implement green practices in their production as well as support social causes.
Hej-Hej yoga mats, for example, have established a closed-loop production process. They use manufacture scraps to make mats and then take your old mats back for recycling. They're not only leaving minimum-to-zero waste but saving pre-consumer waste from the landfill. You simply can't maintain such a system and sell a $20 yoga mat.
I'd like to say that expensive yoga mats are more durable, but it's often not the case. The thing is that PVC and PER plastic are super-cheap and also super durable. But the cheap dollar tag comes with a much higher price for your health and the environment.
Many yoga mats are reversible, so it doesn't really matter what side goes to the floor. Gurus Cork Yoga Mat, for example, can be used with cork side up for extra grip when hands get sweaty and flipped to the rubber side when you're planning to stay dry during your practice.
Sometimes yoga mats have no design but are not meant to be reversible. Take a close look at the surface – the bumpy/textured side generally goes up, and the smooth side should stick to the floor.
Exercise mats are made for shock absorption during bodyweight training and for comfort during seated and supine exercises. Since you'll most likely wear sports shoes, exercise mats are not so much concerned about the grip but rather the stress resistance and cushion. That's why exercise mats are thicker than yoga mats, offer less connection to the floor, and not very practical if you want to stay in Downward Dog without slipping.
A yoga mat, on the other hand, is made for the barefoot practice. Its surface is more firm and grippy for added stability and safety.
If you're open to experiments, you can practice yoga literally anywhere: on the grass, on the beach, on a carpet, or even a wooden floor.
For the extra cushion, use a yoga rug or a sturdy Mexican blanket.
A set of yoga socks and gloves (like these from YogaPaws) is also an excellent on-the-go alternative to a bulky yoga mat.
What is the most important thing for you in a yoga mat?
Share your opinion in the comments!
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