The Best Yoga Mat by Review.com
As an instructor and student who rolls out the mat quite regularly, I know what features I prefer to support my practice. However, considering the many styles of yoga and workout routines that involve mats, I wanted to see what other yoga professionals thought, including those that have been at it practically since the time mats debuted (despite the practice of yoga dating back over 5,000 years, the yoga mat hasn’t been around all that long).
In the end, my top choices were pretty easy to grip. There is no perfect yoga mat, and no single mat fits everyone. If you’re looking for the best yoga mat that will support your asanas and be your new place to call OM for a lifetime, the Manduka PROlite is the way to go. It gets my top pick because its durability and versatility are unmatched. However, if you’re looking for an eco-friendly option, the Jade Harmony Professional Mat is made of 100 percent rubber, and offers great traction and support.
With over 50 hours of research on dozens of yoga mats, I focused on the properties and composition of the mat and how this applies to the various styles of yoga. I surveyed the masses, consulted with over 10 yoga professionals with years of experience on mats, and personally put many mats through hours of testing.
The process was sweaty, and reconfirmed that choosing a yoga mat is akin to choosing your wine — some get better with age, and it all comes down to personal taste. To help find the best yoga mat for you, I’ve also recommended top picks for specific formats, some of which include my top choices and others which do not.
The 6 Overall Best Yoga Mats1. Manduka PROlite($80.00)
2. Jade Harmony Professional Mat($59.95 - $217.14)
How We Chose the Best Yoga Mats
My yoga mats aren’t pampered, and they’re used in a variety of styles. One week, I’m traveling to practice yoga in Mexico, and the next, I’m instructing 50 students outdoors on the beach or in a park in New England. I consistently practice a vigorous vinyasa both in and out of a hot room, and teach a gentler flow to athletes who are new to the practice.
There are a number of important features across the board that make some yoga mats better than others, and these factors are useful to take into consideration before purchasing your own. In total, I spent over 50 hours analyzing yoga mat reviews, scouring online publications, and researching the technology, history, brands, and the various qualities of top yoga mats. I drew from previous experience and surveyed over 100 yoga professionals, teachers, and students (of all levels and practicing styles) to get an idea of what people look for most.
I consulted with 10 yoga professionals, including “Boston’s 2014 Best Yoga Instructor” Sadhana Studio Owner, Glen Cunningham, who has been savasana-ing on a mat for over 15 years; Orange County’s Core Power Yoga manager and instructor Lacey Calvert; and international yoga teacher Goldie Graham. I also tapped popular blogger, YouTuber, and traveling yogi Candace Moore, as well as Rasamaya Studio owner and yoga instructor, Carrie Tyler, who is a 20-year veteran of teaching movement.
An initial 30 products were taken into consideration after analyzing reviews from Amazon, REI, and Yoga Consumer Reports. I also consulted some 50 publications (like PopSugar Fitness, Mind Body Green, and Outdoor Magazine) and popular yoga blogs (like Ekhart Yoga, Yoga Journal, and DoYouYoga). I further narrowed the list down to 15 of the best yoga mats based on my criteria of positive reviews, experience, recognitions, and ultimately what other yogi consumers had to say. This strategy helped me get to a manageable number of top products so I could physically test each myself.
I took the research to different studios and tested the mats in temperatures both over 100 and below 85 degrees Fahrenheit. I also tested on a carpet, on a hardwood floor, and in the comforts of my own home. I received feedback from fellow yoga students, and for a week, observed how the top mats appeared and were performing for others in class. Then, it was time for me to get on all the top yoga mats and put them each through a standard 60-minute yoga class. I used the mats in two different formats, restorative and vigorous, and in both heated and unheated conditions. I continued to test the mats at home through various poses and practices. (Tough work, but hey — someone has to do it!)
In my survey talking to other yoga teachers and students, responses demonstrated that the drawbacks to current mats were heaviness, difficulty in cleaning, poor traction, and a short lifespan. The data also proved that the majority of people desire stickiness and comfort. So with the intention to find the best yoga mats for the masses, I focused on a mat’s ability to provide the right amount of traction, density, comfort, and stability. Other criteria that came into play were weight, size, eco-footprint, and color assortment. I also wanted to make sure I factored in price, even though most buyers said they were willing to pay up for the aforementioned qualities.
Choosing the Right Yoga Mat for You
Choosing a yoga mat simply comes down to your preferences, your needs, and your practice. As it should be, not all yoga mats are created equal, and there are variables you will want to consider before purchasing your own yoga mat. First things first, let’s start with the basics.
Do I even need a yoga mat?
Sounds kind of ridiculous given the nature of the article, but with mat rentals available at just about every yoga studio, many may question the need in owning one.
The truth is, no, you don’t need a yoga mat to practice yoga. In fact, the whole phenomenon of practicing on a mat is relatively new. In today’s day and age, and when practicing in traditional studios, it’s advised to practice on a yoga mat, and one of your own for that matter. Yoga mats not only provide traction against sweaty palms, but also represent personal space. And yoga teachers agree, while mats are not mandatory, you should absolutely use one in class for safety reasons.
Mats are helpful in getting people focused, instead of being frustrated with a bunch of other variables in the process like being uncomfortable, slipping, struggling, straining, etc.
Additionally, for hygiene purposes as this New York Times article suggests, you should invest in your own yoga mat because of germs on communal mats at studios. Now, let’s get you yoga mat savvy.
Yoga Mat Materials to Consider
The material the mat is made from dictates its stickiness, durability, comfort, texture, and whether or not it’s friendly for the environment. Yoga mat material is a matter of personal preference, beliefs, and how it reacts to your body.
- Polyvinyl chloride (PVC): This is the stuff that keeps slippage to a minimum, is durable, and provides the most “give.” A concern with PVC, without going into too much detail, is that it contains phthalates — substances that have been linked to health issues and negative impacts on the environment.
- Cotton: A cotton mat helps to absorb sweat and can increase grip when wet, but doesn’t provide a lot of give.
- Recycled, natural rubber: It may not be as sticky as a PVC mat, but will still provide great grip. Those with a latex allergy, however, will want to avoid this type of mat.
- Jute: Made from fiber of a jute plant, this stuff keeps you in place due to Polymer Environmental Resin (PER), a nontoxic material. Jute has the added bonus of having antimicrobial properties for those extra-sweaty practices.
- Bamboo, cork, and hemp: These are some other natural fiber mats to consider.
Other Factors to Think About Before Buying a Yoga Mat
Aside from materials, there are a slew of other factors that go into choosing the best yoga mat for your practice.
Open- versus closed-cell structure
There are two other factors to consider when it comes to mat material: closed-cell and open-cell structure. Open-cell mats absorb sweat and oils, which keeps grip even under wet conditions. This, however, also makes your mat harder to clean. Closed- cell mats don’t absorb moisture, which makes these great for cleanliness, but also makes slipping easier.
Density, thickness, & weight
The density of a mat will determine your comfort level, the support of joints, and stability in balancing poses. If a mat is too thin, kneeling poses may not be comfortable. But if a mat has too much cushion and not enough density, the connection to the earth may be lost; balance poses may feel unstable; and wrists, knees, and hip joints may be distressed. Generally, the thickness of a mat ranges from 1/16 to 1/4 of an inch thick. The thickness and density of the mat determines its weight, and weight of a yoga mat can be under two pounds (making it easy to trek and travel with) and upward of 10 pounds.
The durability of a mat will dictate whether it will withstand thousands of surya namaskars (sun salutations) for years to come with minimal wear and tear. Some mats, like the Manduka Pro and Manduka PROlite, offer a lifetime guarantee. Natural rubber and some eco-friendly mats will hold up well. However, lack of proper care (like failing to clean them or leaving them in a hot car), and using them in the outdoors or heated environments can cause the material to break down rather quickly.
Like many other things, you’re going to get what you pay for, and this certainly applies to yoga mats. The price of yoga mats range from $10 to over $100, which is a considerably wide margin. The lower price range can typically be found in big-name department stores, but it means you probably won’t be investing in a reliable, quality mat. The price tag increases with brand name and materials used. Just know that a quality mat is well worth the investment.
Yoga style & location
Take into consideration the type of yoga and where you’ll most frequently be practicing before making the purchase, since the best type of mat can vary based on the style of class. For example, comfort and cushion may be a higher priority when practicing a more restorative yoga. For styles such as Bikram and other hot yoga classes, you won’t necessarily need a sticky mat, but you may look for a mat (or invest in a towel) that absorbs sweat and is easy to clean. For more vigorous styles of yoga, like power yoga and ashtanga, you’ll want to look for a mat with a no-slip grip to provide traction once you begin to drench yourself in sweat.
Length & size
This one is pretty simple: You’ll want to make sure a yoga mat covers your whole body when lying down. If you’re buying a mat online, make sure to look at the measurements. If you’re in a store, ask if you can lie down on the mat to test it out.
What makes a good yoga mat?
The most important qualities in my opinion are: Cushion (enough to protect joints but not too much that it throws off balance), weight (easy to carry to class), and durability. The $15 mats may see breakdown after a few weeks, so consider this when purchasing.
The question isn’t necessarily what makes a good yoga mat, but what qualities in a yoga mat make you feel good in a practice designed to make you feel good. A good yoga mat is relative to the individual. If you want to invest in a high-quality yoga mat, I’ve outlined the most important features below.
The 8 Most Important Features
- Durability and longevity — A yoga mat’s ability to withstand even the toughest of practices over time.
- Comfort and support — Just enough cushioning for your joints can reduce squirming in kneeling postures and provide padding for impact, but not so much that it compromises support.
- Stability — A firm, dense mat can help you feel stable throughout standing and balancing poses.
- Portability — Consider how much travel you will be doing with your mat. A mat’s weight and size will dictate whether or not it is toteable. Since most people walk, bike, and travel to class, an easy-to-carry mat is an important feature.
- Traction and stickiness — It’s important for a mat to provide traction both to keep you from slipping and in staying connected to the ground. The last thing you want is for your mat to function as a Slip N’ Slide.
- Texture — Mats have different surfaces, but most yogis agree that it’s best to have a mat that feels most natural.
- Environmental consideration — Buying an eco-friendly yoga mat is important to many practitioners. If this holds true to you, consider purchasing a mat made from all-natural materials.
- Size — Your yoga mat should cover the length and width of your entire body. Not every yoga mat comes in various widths and sizes, so make sure to check measurements before purchasing.
Bonus Features to Look For
These don’t make a yoga mat “good” per se, but they add a nice touch, depending on your own interests and beliefs.
- Giving back: Many brands are part of a greater cause, participate in recycling programs, or give back for every mat that’s sold. Consumers often like to both feel good and do good!
- Color selection: Not every brand provides an assortment of colors, patterns, and sizes, although most provide neutral colors. It’s nice to have options.
- Smell: This seems like a weird one, but depending on the material used, mats can have an undeniably strong scent. It’s not out of the realm for shock to set in after taking a nice big inhale through your nose in child pose. Although, most of the manufactured smell disappears over time.
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