The Best Yoga Mat
Our team of three yoga instructors tested 16 yoga mats in more than 50 yoga classes. Nearly 1,000 downward dogs later, Gaiam’s Athletic 2gripMat ($75) was the best yoga mat we found. In sweaty yoga classes, hands and feet stuck like they were glued to its sweat-absorbing polyurethane top layer. In restorative classes, the 5 millimeters (~0.196 inches) of soft PVC foam backing material felt more cushioned and comfortable than other mats of a similar thickness. In crowded classes, the latex-free mat’s large size—almost 3 square feet larger than average—staked out more than enough territory to breathe and bend.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $75.
The Gaiam replaces this story’s previous pick, Lululemon Athletica’s The Mat ($70), because in terms of feel, smell, and weight, the Gaiam’s PVC backing is superior to The Mat’s natural rubber (latex) backing. In head-to-head comparisons, the Gaiam consistently felt just a bit softer than the Lululemon. While the Lululemon had a bit of a “break-in period” of a few days where it smelled faintly of rubber, the Gaiam was odor-free out of the box. And despite the fact that the Gaiam is 7 in. longer than the Lululemon, it weighs about 0.7 lbs less (5.6 vs 4.9 lbs). The Lululemon is still a great mat, but the Gaiam is simply better, which is why it’s our new top pick. At $75, the 2gripMat is priced right in line with other similarly sized, premium mats, but most other mats don’t grip like the Gaiam.
If the Athletic 2gripMat is sold out, or if you want a smaller, normal-sized mat, the Gaiam Sol Dry-Grip Yoga Mat is still our runner-up. It’s newly available in an XL size that has the same 78-by-26-inch dimensions as the Athletic 2gripMat. What else is the same? Just about everything. It has the same grippy polyurethane top layer, the same PVC backing, and even the same price (for the XL version). In fact, after some back and forth, we were able to confirm that the only difference between the Sol Dry-Grip and the Athletic 2gripMat was the branding. So if you want a black mat with a subtle floral design, get the Sol; if you prefer a plain black (or neon green) mat, go with the Athletic 2gripMat.
If $50+ is too much to spend, we recommend the $21 Yoga Accessories ¼” Extra Thick Deluxe Yoga Mat. It wasn’t the stickiest mat we found, but its 74-inch length is plenty big, and its 6-mm thickness does a lot to overcome the cheapness of the material. If you don’t practice or you’re trying yoga and aren’t sure if you’ll continue, this latex-free mat is great for its price—and about 500 five-star-average Amazon reviewers agree.
While we think most people will appreciate the uncanny grip provided by the polyurethane coating found on our pick and runner up, many yogis prefer natural options when they exist. That’s why we also identified a best eco mat: the $70 JadeYoga Harmony Professional Mat. This mat is made of natural rubber and the company even plants a tree for each mat purchased. And, because the mat lasts seemingly forever (members on staff have owned this for as long as 10 years in some cases), you cut down on waste from old mat disposal and new mat production. (Not to mention the cost of purchasing a new mat every few years.)
Eco-friendliness aside, this mat was a top performer in our test—it was as good or grippier than any non-polyurethane-coated mat. At 3/16-inch thick (0.1875 an inch), it’s about 0.01 inch thinner than your typical yoga mat. That doesn’t sound like much but if you do the math, it comes out to about 16.5 cubic inches less material compared to a normal mat. As a result, it rolls up to a slightly thinner cylinder that weighs less than many other natural rubber mats.
Finally, we recommend the $80 Hugger Mugger Para Rubber Yoga Mat for those who want a natural rubber mat and need a little extra padding for their knees and floor poses. This is about the same size as the Jade (just 2 in. longer than the 68-in. regular-length Jade mat) but it’s slightly softer, about 33 percent thicker, and 33 percent heavier. Our testers liked the feel of it and thought it provided as much traction as the JadeYoga mat. But unless you know you need the extra cushioning, the Jade is the better buy.
Table of contents
- Why should you trust me?
- How we picked which yoga mats to test
- Our pick
- Who else likes it
- Flaws but not dealbreakers
- Why you might not want to buy from lululemon
- Runner-up (good for latex allergies, too)
- Budget pick
- Best eco option
- More cushion for sore knees
- Care and maintenance
- Wrapping it up
Why should you trust me?
I’ve been a regular yoga practitioner for years and received my yoga teaching certification from YogaWorks in 2010. I once even did yoga on The Today Show. I’m pretty opinionated about the surface I practice on, so I was excited to be a part of this project not only as writer, but also one of the testers. Now, I currently rotate through four mats, depending on what class I’m going to. In total, I have no idea how many hours I’ve spent on various yoga mats over the years, but let’s just say it’s a lot.
When I’m not in the studio, I’m at my computer: I regularly write about yoga and fitness as a contributor to magazines including Self, Shape, Fitness, and Women’s Health. In 2007 I wrote a yoga mat review for The New York Times’ Physical Culture column, which profiled five different eco mats. (None of the same mats were included in this roundup.) I’ve been on staff of several magazines, including Prevention and Health magazines, where I covered all things fitness, including a lot of gear.
In addition to my own expertise, I consulted with other yoga pros, like Liz Arch, who invented her own yoga style; Kristin McGee, who is a yoga instructor who edits the wellness section in Health magazine; and Chrissy Carter, a personal trainer and star of her own instructional yoga DVD.
How we picked which yoga mats to test
When it comes to yoga mats, even two mats that appear to be nearly-identical can perform very differently. Variations in the materials used to make the mat, the cushioning the mat provides, and the slipperiness of the surface, among other factors, can vary drastically between two seemingly identical mats.
Interviewing yoga practitioners and instructors, plus reading reviews of mats (both the scathing ones and the raves), makes it clear that most people base mat preferences on the following criteria:
- “Stickiness” (does the mat keep you from sliding around?)
- Weight (is the mat too heavy to lug around or too light to lie flat when unrolled?)
- Feel (do you like a textured mat or a smooth one?)
- Thickness (do you want more or less cushion to stand and kneel on?)
- Durability (is the mat easy to keep clean/going to stand up to intense use?)
- Eco-friendly construction (does this matter to you, and if so how much?)
- Appearance (is staring at your mat going to help you achieve zen, or at least not make your eyes go buggy or agitate you?)
- Size (is the mat long enough for you to fully lie down on?)
Most yogis will compromise on one or two of these points—they’re known for their flexibility, after all—but the one mat specification that most yogis, including the three high-profile instructors we spoke with, seem to put first is traction.
Liz Arch, a Los Angeles-based yoga instructor and creator of Primal Yoga, a blend of yoga and martial arts, told us, “A great yoga mat is an absolute essential that can prevent a class from turning into a slippery, frustrating nightmare.” She suggested PVC or natural rubber for traction; while thickness is a matter of personal preference, she said buying a large mat is a good investment for yogis of any size, thanks to the extra floor space it can buy you in a packed class.
According to Kristin McGee, a yoga instructor in New York City who is the yoga and wellness editor for Health magazine, “When choosing a good yoga mat I always look for grip first and foremost. I like a medium thickness [typically around 5 mm]; not too thick, but not paper thin. Something that can roll up and be light enough to tote but still have some support.” She adds that a good yoga mat should last several years and be easy to clean.
We also talked to Chrissy Carter, a Master Trainer at Yoga Works in New York City and star of the DVD “Beginning Yoga with Chrissy Carter.” She told us, “Grip is key. I like a sticky texture, so my hands don’t slip, but not so grippy that I can’t glide: I need mobility and stability. I hate when I feel like I’m stuck on a mat. As for thickness, I’d say medium [about 5 mm]. Too thick and I can’t feel the floor underneath me. Too thin and I don’t have enough cushion.”
As we researched to find “the best” yoga mats, we turned to sites including Outside magazine, Well+Good, and FitSugar for their thoughtful and current yoga mat reviews. About.com, Yoga Consumer Reports, Outdoor Gear Lab, and Consumer Research also have listings of popular mats. We cross-referenced the mats listed here with conversations with yoga instructors and students, searches for Amazon’s top sellers, and general web searches to come up with a list of about 20 brands that were worth considering.
Some, like the classic and beloved JadeYoga and Manduka, were clearly going to be a part of this test due to their overwhelming popularity amongst the yogi community. These brands make multiple appearances near the top of all the aforementioned reviews and you’ll find several of them in any given yoga class. Others, like Gaiam, seemed worthy of consideration solely for the sheer number of mats they make or, in the case of 20+-year-old company Hugger Mugger, for the longevity of the brand. For top Amazon performers Tomuno, BalanceFromm, and Yoga Accessories, the number of reviews (and stars) put them in the running.
The mats we ultimately chose to test were:
- JadeYoga Harmony Professional Mat
- Manduka Black Mat PRO
- Manduka PROlite Mat
- Gaiam Tree of Life Mat
- Gaiam Sol Dry-Grip Yoga Mat
- Lululemon Athletica The Mat
- Prana Henna E.C.O. Mat
- Kulae tpECOmat
- Hugger Mugger Para Rubber Yoga Mat
- Yoga Accessories ¼” Extra Thick Deluxe Yoga Mat
- BalanceFrom GoYoga Premium 1/4-Inch Slip Resistant and Waterproof Yoga Mat with Carrying Strap
- Hugger Mugger Tapas Ultra Yoga Mat
- Tomuno Best Yoga Mat Ever
- Gaiam Athletic 2gripMat
- Lululemon Athletica The (Pure) Mat
- Sequence STILLMOTION Mat
That’s a lot of mats, and to test them, each needed to be used for full-length yoga classes as well as some at-home testing. A few serious yogis were needed to help us test the mats. I’m a certified yoga instructor and a frequent yoga class student so I was game to test all of the mats; I recruited two other certified yoga instructors to also take the mats to class.
The testers and I used each of the 16 mats for at least one full yoga class, paying attention to factors including slipperiness, surface texture, cushioning, weight, smell, and appearance. We made notes about our findings right after class to ensure we didn’t mix up any of the mats. Those that weren’t immediately offensive for one reason or another (too slippery being the main deal breaker) were subjected to at least a few more classes and were passed between testers.
The mats were tested in a variety of yoga class styles—from hot and fast (hot flow) to slow and gentle (yin). The main performance factors we looked for were how comfortable our knees felt during kneeling poses and how well our hands and feet stayed in place while holding other poses. We also noted how weight affected the mats’ performance: Were they too heavy to comfortably lug around? Too light to stay in place? We rolled them up and hauled them around to measure storage and portability. Last, we evaluated how the mats looked and smelled, as natural rubber and PVC both come with their own odors. In the end, we reached a unanimous consensus.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $75.
Gaiam’s Athletic 2gripMat came in tops because hands and feet stuck to the polyurethane top layer like glue in even the sweatiest hot yoga classes. In restorative classes, the mat provided just enough padding for hips and knees without feeling too squishy. In crowded classes, the jumbo-sized mat staked out more than enough territory to breathe and bend. And the price of $75 for a plus-sized mat is right in line with most other brands—but most other mats don’t grip like the Gaiam.
When posing on the Gaiam Athletic 2gripMat, traction is never an issue. The smooth polyurethane top coat looks like it could be slippery, but is actually gets grippier as your skin gets wetter. This sounds absurd, but it really works. Our sweaty palms and feet stuck like glue no matter how hot and steamy the classroom was.
Under the top coat, the bulk of this mat—which is around 5 mm thick (average for most yoga mats)—is squishy PVC foam. This cushy material made it possible to kneel comfortably without extra padding from a blanket and kept our Savasanas comfortable and wiggle-free. Some of the thinner mats we tested, including the 3-mm Lululemon Mat, were just as grippy, but were too harsh on the knees and hips during floor poses. Yet standing on the mat felt stable—no wobbling half-moons here. Best of all, because the mat didn’t have natural rubber in its contents—which can be pretty stinky—the mat didn’t produce any noticeable scent out of the box and is a safe choice for yogis with latex allergies. The same can’t be said for our other top performers, including Lululemon’s The Mat and the Jade Harmony Professional.
Beyond having great traction and cushioning, testers loved the jumbo size of this thing. The Athletic 2gripMat’s actual dimensions are 78 by 26 inches. That means you’re getting 396 square inches of extra practice space (2.75 sq. ft.) compared to your typical 68 by 24-inch mat. For taller folks, that means it’s just big enough, but for the rest of us, the extra space means there’s no need to move forward or backward between poses—no matter where a posture takes you, there’s always mat under you. All our testers agreed that the larger mats were far better for hitting poses. Even better, you get plenty of room to move around in cramped classes since the larger mat gives you more personal space. There’s no claustrophobic feeling—even if your mat is just inches away from the next one.
As far as portability goes, the GaiamAthletic 2gripMat’s PVC foam backing material has the benefit of being far lighter than the natural rubber material many other mats are made of. Weighing long yoga mats on a kitchen scale isn’t easy to do, but we were able to get it to work by using a tall, narrow trash bin to hold them upright. At 4.9lbs (rounded to the nearest tenth of a pound), the 2gripMat was about 12 percent lighter than Lululemon’s The Mat, at 5.6 lbs. That’s despite the fact that the Gaiam mat is 7” longer. Another minor point in the 2gripMat’s favor is that it’s a bit easier to roll up compared to the Lululemon because PVC foam is less resistant to changing shape compared to the Lululemon’s natural rubber backing.
Who else likes it?
We’re not the only ones who like it either. While the Athletic 2gripMat itself hasn’t been out for very long, the compositionally identical Sol Dry-Grip has gotten rave user reviews in the year it’s been out. 150 Amazonians give it an average score of 4.7 stars, which makes it one of the highest-rated yoga mats on Amazon—only three users gave it a rating of less than three stars.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
We haven’t personally tested this mat long enough to comment on durability past about 6 months, so there’s no way to say if it’s going to last as long as the Jade Harmony Professional or Manduka PRO—both of which are reputed to last basically as long as you want them to with minimal care. But initial impressions are positive, and after several months of testing, it still looks and grips like new. This is due in part to the fact that the slick surface is so easy to wipe down with a damp towel.
However, it’s worth noting that the polyurethane top coat is sensitive to sharp objects—try to keep your cat away from it if you can. Amazon reviewers of the identical Sol Dry-Grip who’ve compared it to other mats say that durability is comparable to other $50+ mats like the Lululemon. For what it’s worth, it comes with Gaiam’s “lifetime guarantee,” but this only covers manufacturer’s defects for the lifetime of the mat, not the user. That’s fine, and in line with most other mats’ warranties, but we would prefer if it had an actual lifetime guarantee like the Manduka PRO.
Unlike the Lululemon, this mat is not reversible. PVC foam side down and polyurethane up is the only way it’s meant to be used. But we don’t think this is an issue. In the year that we had the Lululemon, we never once thought to use the rubber side (other than to try it). It’s not all that grippy and if you prefer the feel of rubber, you should just get that. By using PVC foam instead, Gaiam’s mat is softer and hypoallergenic for people with latex allergies.
While we love the performance of PVC foam and the polyurethane top coat, they aren’t the most environmentally friendly options as they’re made primarily out of petroleum products. That said, they should be safe (polyurethane is chemically inert). Just don’t eat your yoga mat or use it to microwave food. For what it’s worth, Gaiam uses PVC that’s free of the six most widely-criticized phthalates (they call this material 6P-free PVC), but if environmentally friendly options are a priority, you should look into our natural rubber eco pick.
If the Athletic 2gripMat is sold out, or if you like everything about it except the large size, consider the $60 Gaiam Sol Dry-Grip Yoga Mat (more colors available on Gaiam’s site). Gaiam says it’s the company’s best-selling mat; on the company website the mat gets a 4.6-star average rating from 56 reviews. It features a similar two-part construction and non-slip properties as the Athletic 2gripMat, made of PVC with a polyurethane top-coat. When we tested this mat it was in a 68 by 24-inch size but it’s now offered in a jumbo 78 by 26-inch size too, for $75—the same as the Athletic 2gripMat.
Without the size differentiation, what sets the Athletic 2gripMat apart from the Sol Dry-Grip? Not much. In fact, we were able to confirm with Gaiam that they’re compositionally identical. The only real differences are in branding and aesthetics. If you prefer a black, blue, or purple mat with an intricate floral (though fairly unisex) design printed onto it, go for the Sol. If you prefer a solid black or green color with no embellishments, go with the Athletic. Or just get whichever is cheaper and more readily available at the time. They’ll perform the same.
Lululemon Athletica’s The Mat was the clear favorite for several months after this first review originally came out. Our testers loved its non-slip polyurethane grip and like that natural rubber was used in the mat. However, the natural rubber was inferior the Gaiam’s PVC backing in two ways: smell and feel. Natural rubber smells, and while that fades over time, we’d rather have an odor-free out-of-box experience. The PVC foam on the Gaiam was also softer on the knees than the Lululemon, despite being the same thickness. Still, the mat was incredibly sticky, even in hot classes and was a top performer according to all our testers.
At about $70, this mat is a good pick for anyone who lives near a Lululemon store and doesn’t want to wait for shipping time. We’d also recommend it if both the top pick and runner-up were unavailable.
Lululemon has a few similar products in the line: a more portable 3-mm version that costs $60 and the $90 Big Mat, which measures a gigantic 84 by 29 inches. (Just be aware, if you’re petite and plan to carry this mat around, a slightly smaller model may be a better fit.)
However, we understand that not everyone is into buying from Lululemon due to a series of questionable statements made by the company’s founder, Chip Wilson. Among other things, Wilson has said publicly that the company’s name was chosen because “it’s funny to watch [Japanese people] try and say” the word “lululemon.” We have additional information on the brand’s controversies if you’d like to learn more.1
A budget pick
If you do yoga on any sort of regular basis, even if it’s just a few times a month, a $50+ yoga mat is money well spent. Our top pick will grip better, last longer, and provide better cushion for floor poses. But if you’re not that dedicated, or you aren’t sure if yoga is for you yet, we’d suggest the $21 Yoga Accessories ¼” Extra Thick Deluxe Yoga Mat. Its 6-mm thickness does a lot to overcome the cheapness of the material (though it isn’t super sticky) and its 74-inch length means it can comfortably accommodate all but the tallest yogis. Don’t expect this mat to hold up to years of regular use (though it does come with a limited lifetime warranty that claims this is “the last yoga mat you will ever have to buy,” despite the fact that it only covers manufacturer’s defects). Still, you could spend a lot more money and still get a worse mat.
Amazon users love the Yoga Accessories mat for its value. Out of its 1,200+ reviews on the site, nearly 1,000 gave it four or five stars. After testing, we could clearly see why.
While its lightly textured PVC surface (reminiscent of quilting baffles) looks the same as every other cheap yoga mat’s, it felt grippier than anything in its price range. It was grippier than Gaiam’s $20-$30 options and the popular BalanceFrom. It also outperformed a few mats costing several times as much including the Manduka PRO and Tomuno’s Best Yoga Mat Ever.
A common pitfall of cheap PVC foam mats is that they compress too easily, which means you can feel the hard floor beneath you. The 6-mm-thick Yoga Accessories gets around that by adding an extra millimeter of padding compared to your typical 5-mm yoga mat. It’s just enough cushion to practice floor poses on without the need for additional blankets or towels to avoid pain.
While its PVC construction isn’t super environmentally friendly, the company’s policy of planting a tree for each order placed is nice. It’s also latex-free for allergy sufferers.
A time-tested (and eco-friendly) favorite
The JadeYoga Harmony Professional Mat ($70) is a great option if durability and environmental friendliness are your top priorities. These mats are known for lasting years with no decrease in performance or appearance and they were the first to be made of natural rubber, which is made of renewable rubber tree sap. While there are now plenty of other natural rubber mats available, the JadeYoga is still a cut above the rest because it has a fine, textured grip pattern that gives it way more grip. In fact, besides the polyurethane-topped mats, this was among the grippiest mats we tested. It’s also got a springy consistency that provides ample support during floor poses. Finally, it has a thinner-than-average 4.76-mm profile that makes it good for storage and travel, and yet it’s still soft enough to give you cushioning on your knees when you need it. It’s also low maintenance and super durable. Some Sweethome/Wirecutter staff members have owned and used this mat for more than 10 years with no issues and it was the top performer in Outdoor Gear Labs’ test of 12 mats back in 2013.
People also like this mat for its stickiness and low profile, but they also like JadeYoga for its devotion to making environmentally friendly mats and its involvement in various charitable causes. Its mats are made from natural rubber, which the company website says is a renewable resources collected by tapping rubber trees. While “natural rubber” may not always be as eco-friendly as the name would suggest, the company says it plants a new tree for every yoga mat sold, which should go a ways towards offsetting any negative environmental impacts.
As far as performance goes, the slightly rough and tacky surface of the Harmony Mat provided a mostly non-slip grip for hands and feet during yoga classes of all kinds—from hot to Anusara. It’s not as effective when wet as the polyurethane-coated Gaiam and Lululemon mats, but it’s about as grippy as you are going to find in a 100 percent natural rubber mat.
It looks and feels like a rubber version of sandpaper—the surface is basically a cluster of sticky tiny nubs. It’s soft, but it still provides a lot of traction. In fact, the only real complaint about this mat was that texture was at times too sticky, gripping leggings and making it a hard surface to clean. One tester said that dust, lint, and pet hair stuck to it like Velcro.
Besides providing a sticky grip, the natural rubber material is supportive and springy enough to pad the knees and hands during poses done on all fours and dense enough to provide a wobble-free base for standing balances like tree and half-moon. When unrolled the mat stays flat and in place on the floor. (No sliding around slippery floors.)
The mat is just 0.25 millimeters thinner than most of the other mats tested (which were typically 5 mm thick) but this small change made it feel better suited for transport: When rolled up, the mat makes a cylinder just 4 inches in diameter; other bulkier mats were closer to 5 or 6 inches. This missing quarter millimeter also helped reduce the weight of the Jade mat. At 4.5 pounds, it’s heavy compared to similarly-sized PVC mats, which fall in the 2-4 lb range depending on thickness and length, but the comparably sized, 5-mm-thick Lululemon was also made primarily of natural rubber and it weighed a full pound more (though it’s also 3 inches longer).
It’s worth noting that Wirecutter editor-in-chief Jacqui Cheng, associate editor Michael Zhao, and operations manager Kelly Gray all really like the JadeYoga mat. Jacqui considers herself to have a “sweaty hand problem,” which is entirely mitigated by the textured grip of this mat. Kelly attests to the long-term durability of the JadeYoga mat as well, noting that it still appears and behaves like new after a decade of use.
It’s worth noting that JadeYoga’s warranty only lasts 6 months, but we don’t see that as a major issue considering most warranties only cover manufacturer’s defects anyway. Also, because it’s made of rubber, it does tend to give off an obvious rubber smell when new, but everyone agrees that it decreases over time.
The standard 68-inch mat worked well for all of the mat testers, who were in the 5’3” to 5’5” range, but Jade now makes a handful of mats. They’re all variations on the original theme: slightly thicker for Pilates use, thinner for travel, or wider and longer for larger yogis.
More cushion for sore knees
The Hugger Mugger Para Rubber Yoga Mat ($80) stood out in testing for its extra-thick, natural rubber cushioning. It’s ¼-inch thick (6.35 mm), which is huge compared to the Jade, but that additional thickness made floor poses feel extremely supported with no pain. The downside is heft—at 6.05 lbs, it’s 1.5 lbs heavier than the Jade. But if you primarily do slow, floor-pose heavy yoga (like Yin yoga) and are willing to bear the weight, it’s a really supportive and comfortable mat. Otherwise, we think most yogis would prefer the portability of a thinner mat like the JadeYoga or a grippier mat like the Gaiam Athletic 2gripMat.
In addition to providing great support for floor poses, the Para Rubber grips well for more active practices as well. It maintained a sticky grip in hot and vinyasa yoga classes that was almost as good as the Jade’s—though not on the same level as the mats with polyurethane top coats. Our testers liked that it had a grippy surface while remaining relatively smooth—unlike with the Jade, we never had an issue with clothes sticking to it.
The mat is also pleasing to the eye: It comes in green, blue, or salmon with subtle striping and color variations. The effect is almost soothing. Although the mat was only tested for a short period of time, all reviewers noted that the material seemed sturdy enough to last for years.
One drawback to keep in mind (besides the initial rubber smell common to all rubber mats) is that the Para Rubber is only available in a one size: 24 inches wide by 70 inches long. That means it’s 2 inches narrower and 8 inches shorter than our top pick. Taller yogis might be frustrated by the fact that they can’t lie down and be fully supported while shorter yogis might miss the extra practice space afforded by a larger mat. There’s also no warranty, just a 30-day return policy. But overall, the main reason to get it is if you want that extra cushioning.
Care and maintenance
Between lying on the floor and supporting your sweaty hands and toes, yoga mats are exposed to a lot of bacteria. (If you’ve ever borrowed a mat at a gym, you know that this can result in a bad odor, much like smelly feet.)
Regular cleaning can help prevent any growth and may keep the surface from getting slippery from a buildup of lotion or body oils. For our picks, Gaiam recommends spot-cleaning with their Mat Cleaner spray or wiping with a damp rag. We think the rag is good enough for most cleanings but if it really starts to smell, mixing in some distilled white vinegar should do the trick if you don’t want to buy the spray.
The mat you purchase may have specific cleaning instructions: Lululemon Athletica recommends cleaning The Mat with soap and water, while Manduka recommends rubbing their mats with coarse salt.
If your mat doesn’t come with specific instructions, experiment. Some studios use a blend of essential oils and water while others run their mats through the washing machine. If possible, test a small patch of the mat first to make sure it turns out the way you want.
We all wanted to like the $50 Prana Henna E.C.O. Mat, and we did, sort of. This lightweight mat was almost too light—it didn’t lay flat for class after being rolled up and the traction texture wasn’t enough to hold hands and feet fast. The mat was also a little too squishy to provide a good base for some standing balances. For these same reasons it would be a dream in restorative yoga, but the Hugger Mugger Para Rubber Yoga Mat would be just as good for that and other types of yoga.
If you travel a lot, the Kulae tpECOmat, which runs $50, would be a great option. At just under 2 pounds it was the lightest mat tested, despite measuring 72 by 24 inches. The mat provided a good deal of grip for hands and feet but all of our testers worried that the delicate squishy foam would break down sooner than later.
People love or hate the $100 Manduka PRO. None of our testers could figure out why this mat had so much buzz. It had good cushion, but it also weighs 7 pounds, which is prohibitive for transport around town. It was also one of the slipperiest mats we tried. Fans of this mat will contend that it gets grippier over time, which is true, but we don’t think that’s a good excuse when there are plenty of mats that are durable and grip great out of the box. (The website says you can scrub the mat with salt to increase traction, but for that price, shouldn’t it come ready for use?) Well+Good had their readers compare it directly to the Jade and found that most people preferred the Jade by a 3:1 margin because it’s grippier and more portable and we would agree with that. However, unlike most mat companies, Manduka offers a true lifetime guarantee that covers normal wear and tear for the life of the user. So if you want one mat that you use for the rest of your life and are willing to deal with having a bit less grip, it’s your only real option.
We had similar problems with the $80 Manduka PROlite Mat. In fact the only differences between the mats are price, thickness (this on is 1.5 mm thinner), and weight (the “lite” is still 4 pounds).
The $40-something Hugger Mugger Tapas Ultra Mat was one of the original styles made more than 20 years ago. It’s fairly sticky despite its shiny finish. But although the mat was thick, it compressed a lot, which made our testers rate it as less than ideal for kneeling and standing poses.
If you’re actually looking for a Pilates mat, try the $25 BalanceFrom GoYoga Premium 1/4-Inch Slip Resistant and Waterproof Yoga Mat with Carrying Strap: This mat is a top seller on Amazon, but we’re guessing that the people buying it don’t have much yoga experience. The mat was too thick to securely stand on and too slippery for holding poses for very long, thus the Pilates recommendation.
Tomuno actually calls its mat the Best Yoga Mat Ever ($40). (Seriously. That’s the name.) We really liked the density and cushion of the mat—enough give for lying down comfortably and enough stability for standing poses. But the mat didn’t provide the hold-fast grip we wanted. The manufacturer advertises that this mat is not designed for hot yoga, so it might be best in slow or restorative classes.
The $20-or-so Gaiam Tree of Life Mat is made of PVC and boasts a tree drawing. (Whether or not you like the mat will probably be at least partially due to whether or not you like the design.) The mat is a fine mat for beginners—it’s reasonably priced and isn’t the slipperiest mat we tried. It’s a good value for its money, but not quite as good or as cheap as the Yoga Accessories step-down pick.
“A new kind of yoga mat” is the tagline for Sequence’s STILLMOTION mat, which runs for $120. It is different, in a good way. The mat is made of a dense foam that is firm enough for wobble-free balance poses but also more comfortable during kneeling poses than any other mat we tested. Either end of the mat is embedded with square rubber cushions which aid the mat’s no-slip grip. The only downsides to the mat are the cost and size: Despite being just 3/16-inch thick, the sturdy mat isn’t easily rolled which means it’s cumbersome to carry to and from a studio.
We loved The Mat, so when we heard about Lululemon Athletica’s The (Pure) Mat we had to give it a try. The 3-mm mat retails for $50, although that might change this spring when the company releases new colors. (Currently the mat is out of stock on the Lululemon site but it may still be available in local stores.) The natural rubber is textured to prevent slippage, but it didn’t stand up to our testers’ sweaty palms. Slippage began moments into class and never eased up. The mat also weigh 5 pounds—another drawback of many eco options.
There were also a number of mats that turned up during online searches. However we ruled them out for a few reasons: They either did not have compelling features, focused on one type of yoga, or lacked enough reviews to warrant inclusion in our testing. In the case of the Original EcoMat, they were different enough to not fit in a standard yoga mat review. These include:
Khataland YoFoMat ($40): This mat is foldable (not rollable) which made it a little unusual. We were afraid it would be harder to carry around, plus there weren’t many online reviews.
Barefoot Yoga Original Eco Yoga Mat ($75): The jute overlay on this mat makes it a divisive product. Either you like it, or you feel like you’re doing yoga on a burlap bag.
Breathe yoga mats ($70): These Bikram-specific mats are more like a mat and towel combo. We weren’t sure how they would work in less sweaty classes.
Yogasana ($95): Woven cotton mats like these may have been the original yoga mats, but because we almost never see them in the studio it seems like they aren’t in the running for best mat. Besides, cotton plus hardwood floors could make for a slippery, dangerous situation.
Wai Lana: These are basic PVC mats with pretty designs. But they seem interchangeable with Yoga Accessories and other inexpensive mats, only they cost more.
Ultimate Yoga Mat: This mat appeared very similar to Yoga Accessories but it cost more than twice as much. It’s since been discontinued.
Dragonfly yoga mats: This company appears to make just about every type of mat, but they haven’t been widely reviewed.
Plank ($85+): These natural rubber mats have funky designs, but that’s the main talking point in online reviews (versus actual mat quality).
Wrapping it up
If you want a slip-free, no-stink yoga mat, invest in Gaiam’s Athletic 2gripMat. This mat is the Cadillac of mats thanks to its jumbo size and grippy surface. The padding is not too firm nor too soft—it’s really just right. For a different look (but literally the same mat otherwise), the Gaiam Sol Dry-Grip Yoga Mat is a good choice.
Yoga instructor and creator of Primal Yoga, Interview,“A great yoga mat is an absolute essential that can prevent a class from turning into a slippery, frustrating nightmare.”
“When choosing a good yoga mat I always look for grip first and foremost. I like a medium thickness; not too thick, but not paper thin. Something that can roll up and be light enough to tote but still have some support.”
“Grip is key. I like a sticky texture, so my hands don't slip, but not so grippy that I can't glide: I need mobility and stability. I hate when I feel like I'm stuck on a mat. As for thickness, I'd say medium. Too thick and I can't feel the floor underneath me. Too thin and I don't have enough cushion.”
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Originally published: May 5, 2015