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At the outset, yoga seems an easy enough activity. Just a mat, maybe some blocks, a bottle of water, and some space to get your asanas on. However, that’s just skimming the surface, as yoga is actually a pretty precise discipline, with a few technical requirements that are crucial to a successful (and safe) practice. The first rule of order is a proper mat. No matter whether you’re a hardcore yogi with regular practice, or a casual, once-a-month yoga class goer, a good yoga mat is one piece of workout equipment definitely worth having in your stash. But with no shortage of options to choose from, how do you pick one?
The choice may be harder than you think, especially considering the appealing marketing of some of today's trending yoga brands. And while most yogis would tell you the focus should go to your practice, the experts we talked to didn't mince words when it came to the importance of choosing the right mat.
What to Look For in a Yoga Mat
Before choosing a mat, consider where you’re going to be doing your downward dog-ing, more specifically, “Keep in mind the type of floor the mat is going on,” suggests Chicago-based fitness and yoga instructor, Karla Beltchenko. If it’s any type of hard flooring (wood, cement, tile), she recommends opting for a thicker mat. A cushiony mat is also a must if you have sensitive knees or wrists, as well as if you’re going to be using it for other workouts where you’ll be kneeling or on your back, such as barre or Pilates she adds.
Consider the surface of the mat, too: “If you’re practicing in a heated room, or you just tend to work up a sweat during home practice, look for a mat that features a non-slip surface or extra grip,” advises Beltchenko.
Finally, if you do plan on moving around with your mat, choose one that’s durable, lightweight, and easy to roll up, she suggests. Although most mats neatly roll up, some materials are heavier than others, and depending on what kind of schlep it requires to get to yoga class, you don’t want to be left carrying unnecessary weight to and fro.
Check out our picks of the best yoga mats below to find your perfect MATch (sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves).
Best Overall: Gaiam Yoga Mat
For novices and experts alike, this mat is an all-around great pick. A six-millimeter thickness makes for plenty of cushion, though it’s still lightweight enough to make carrying it around a breeze. A sticky, non-slip texture prevents sliding, and it’s also made of non-toxic PVC and free of six different harmful chemicals. Yoga newbs will also appreciate that you get a free downloadable yoga workout with the mat, the perfect way to get started on your yoga journey.
Best Reversible: Lululemon The Reversible Mat 5mm
“This is the yoga mat I have currently,” says Beltchenko, who lauds it for being lightweight and easy to carry, as well as, “extra grippy,” even in hot yoga classes. Credit its two sides, one with a polyurethane top layer to absorb moisture, the other a natural rubber base that’s great for low-sweat flows. Also nice: An antimicrobial additive can help keep it from getting grimy.
Best for Beginners: Atmananda Alignment Yoga Mat
This may be a bit more than you’d like to spend when just getting into yoga, but it’s worth the price. “Alignment markers are a great feature for beginners,” says Beltchenko, and this mat has exactly that. Lasered in lines help you see exactly where your hands and feet should go, as well as help you master your alignment. Eco-friendly, it’s made from 100% natural rubber, and also comes in three different lengths.
Best Sustainable: Jade Yoga Harmony Mat
Yes, this mat is eco-friendly, made with natural rubber from rubber trees, a renewable resource. But the brand also takes it one step further, planting a tree for every mat sold, further upping the sustainability aspect. Not to mention that it’s an overall great mat in general, grippy and comfortable, and available in a wide array of pretty colors, as well as three different lengths.
Best Multitasker: Manduka Eko Yoga Mat
For those searching for a multi-tasking exercise mat, this pick is choice. “I love this mat because it has a good amount of cushion. I’d recommend it for yoga, Pilates, and barre,” says Beltchenko. (Though she does note that it’s best reserved for at-home workouts since it’s a bit too heavy for carrying around all the time.) Bonus points for the fact that it’s made sustainably, and uses both non-toxic rubber and dyes for the pretty colors and patterns.
Best Lightweight: SugaMat Recycled Wetsuit Yoga Mat
While it may look a bit bulky, Beltchenko says this option is surprisingly lightweight, a great choice if you want a mat you can easily take with you. Plus, it’s made from recycled wetsuits, giving it a distinct and totally unique look.
Best Print: Pendleton Fire Legend Yoga Mat
Tired of boring, solid-colored yoga mats? This Aztec-inspired print is unlike anything we’ve seen on any piece of workout equipment before, a seriously stylish statement. And it’s not only pretty, but also practical, made of eco-friendly, latex-free materials, easy to wipe clean, and weighing in at just two and a half pounds.
Best for Germaphobes: Prana Large E.C.O. Yoga Mat
There’s no sugar-coating it; a grimy yoga mat can harbor some seriously gross grime and bacteria. That’s why germaphobes, in particular, will appreciate that the material of this mat has a closed-cell construction to help prevent germs from absorbing into it. To be safe, you’ll still want to wipe it down post-use, and follow Beltchenko’s tip and never roll it up immediately after; let it air out for a few seconds first to ensure it doesn’t get smelly. Still, this can help keep things hygienic. And in other interesting feature news, the material also is UV resistant, a boon for those who prefer to practice outdoors.
Best Splurge: Liforme Original Yoga Mat
Another one of Beltchenko’s picks, this is pricey, yes, but has a slew of features that justify the price. Longer and wider than many others, it gives you plenty of space to practice, plus alignment markers that are great for beginners or to help experts nail more challenging poses. The material is also super grippy, ensuring hands and feet stay put even when the mat gets sweaty, and it’s made of eco-friendly material as well.
Best Set: Clever Yoga 7-Piece Starter Kit
Get totally geared up in one fell swoop with this seven-piece kit. You get not only an extra-long, extra-wide, extra-thick mat for maximum space and comfort but also two different sized microfiber towels. Then there are the props, namely two blocks and a yoga strap to help you nail poses and ensure proper support and positioning. And finally, it all comes with a convenient case to help you store and pack everything up.
How thick should a yoga mat be?
The thickness of your yoga mat should depend on two main factors: the hardness of the floor beneath it and any sensitive areas on your body. If the floor is made of wood, cement, or tile, you’ll want a mat that’s on the thicker side. And if you tend to have vulnerable knees or wrists, a thicker mat may help provide essential cushioning.
What should I look for when buying a yoga mat?
When choosing a yoga mat, keep two things in mind: how you plan to use it and where you plan to practice. Things like thickness, texture (stickiness), and material can depend on how intense and sweaty your workout is, as well as the hardness of the surface under the mat. Experience level also factors in, as many of today's yoga mats come with alignment markers to ensure proper postures.
What is the best yoga mat brand?
That depends on why you need the mat. While well-known brands like Lululemon churn out awesome multi-purpose yoga mats, other lesser-known brands offer a slew of great options, from recycled materials to anti-microbial engineering. Each brand featured above brings something special to the table, making it easy to find one that works for you.