We went through the task of interviewing several yoga professionals about what they thought are the most important features a ‘good’ yoga mat should have. Opinions varied, and it seemed there was no such thing as ‘the king of all yoga mats,’ because everyone’s needs are different.
A good example would be where the best yoga matto support your asanas position is the Manduka PROlite. It’s by far the first pick for its near unmatched durability. The second contender for the same position would be the Jade Harmony Professional Mat, which is nearly just as great with a bonus: it’s completely eco-friendly, made from 100% rubber.
A lot of research hours were poured into carrying out the selection process, but the factors most considered when it came to individual yoga mats were the properties and composition of each mat and how instructors felt they would be suited for various styles of yoga.
Despite all this, the selection process all comes down to personal taste, as all the mats eventually selected were of the perfect materials, grip, comfort levels and durable enough to endure years of yoga practice!
This may come as a shocker to newbies, and some professionals might have a thing or two to say, but the answer is no. You don’t need a yoga mat to practice yoga,
In fact, if you want to look at it from a broad perspective, yoga has been around for thousands of years, before which nobody worried too much about what kind of mat they used. 21st century problems, some would say.
However, it is pretty advisable to have one, because not only does it prevent what’s now your personal practice space, especially in class, where they are required for safety reasons.
8 most important features
Durability : A yoga mat is only as good as long as it’s able to last. Its ability to withstand tough practices over long periods of time is more than essential.
Comfort : A good yoga mat should provide just enough cushioning at your joints, such that there is little to no squirming in kneeling postures, all the while providing padding for impact.
Stability : The mat you choose should be firm and dense enough to help you feel stable through any standing and balancing poses.
Portability : How often will you be moving around with your mat? If often, get an easy-to-carry mat that’s both light and not very long.
Traction: It’s pretty important to get a map that won’t have you squirming and struggling to maintain grip with it.
Texture : This is a bit subjective, but make sure you get a mat that feels the most natural.
Environmental consideration : If it’s important to you that you use an eco-friendly mat, try and avoid PVC.
Size : Simply put, your mat should be a little longer than you are tall and wider than you are, well, wide.
How the best yoga mats were chosen
Despite personal opinion, there are still a number of essential features that make some yoga mats better than others, that’s a point that’s already been established. These features are what’s the most important to consider when going out to purchase your own yoga mat, if you want it to last.
Initially, there were over 40 products in the lineup for which was going to be the best of them all. However, after hours of consultation with the experts, reading some popular reviews from Amazon, and Yoga Consumer reports, gathering opinions from frequent yoga enthusiasts and surveying students new to yoga, the list was thoroughly narrowed down.
Industry experts were also consulted to see how the yoga mats reacted to days and days of use – how they wore out, where they wore out and how they reacted to use in different environments, including sandy beaches and indoor tiles. Additionally, the mats were tested to find out how they reacted to temperature changes in the lab before finally being taken out for a real-life test spin to see how the theoretical analysis corresponded with the practical tests, and the results weren’t all that surprising.
In the end, the list was narrowed down to 30 items, but that was still too broad, so additional tests were carried out, surveys used and the list was cut down depending on the drawbacks most commonly stated by students and teachers, which included: some mats were too heavy; this was perhaps in an effort to increase their durability; others were too difficult to clean; this was as a result of the materials used; others had no traction; others still were just too uncomfortable.
Other criteria included density, weight, stability, durability, eco-friendliness and of course, cost. It wasn’t easy, but the list was factored and refactored until only ten remained.
Best overall yoga mat
The Manduka PROlite was picked the best of them all because of its great grip, portability and incredible comfort. When the durability lab results came in, the results were sort of shocking, because in terms of durability, the Manduka PROlite beat all other contenders by a long shot.
The secret to this durability is PVC, which adds up on density that is just perfect for indoor and outdoor use. It barely scratched up under testing, survived high temperatures and beat its competitors in nearly every testable field.
In the domain of texture and grip, the Manduka PROlite is virtually unrivalled. It’s been intentionally manufactured to be slip-resistant, at the same time keeping the surface smooth enough that it doesn’t get sticky, allowing for quick transitions through vinyasas. The traction provided by this mat is such that it’s most suitable for use in dry conditions away from moisture, so if your practices are often sweaty or the room hot, this isn’t the best mat for you. It’s also made from PVC which is non-recyclable, but it does not lose performance because of this.
Runner-ups for best yoga mat
Jade Harmony Professional Mat — This is one of those mats that come up every so often during an interview or a survey about which yoga mat was their favorite, and with good reason too. The Jade Harmony is great because it offers a great grip with open-cell technology and provides a natural texture with great overall performance. What’s more, it’s pretty comfortable, lightweight, and a 100 percent natural rubber. It is a great mat, but despite the benefits of using rubber, it has its drawbacks, because it’s not great for using in the sunlight, and thus isn’t very durable with consistent use. Manduka Black Mat Pro — If you aren’t new to yoga, then no doubt you’ve heard of the Manduka Black Mat Pro, often hailed as the ‘one mat to rule them all.’ It’s virtually the same as its little brother, save for increased density and endurance, which make it heavier and more expensive than the PROlite. Hugger Mugger — Comes in at first place for best grip yoga mat, even above the Jade Harmony, and, just like the Jade Harmony, it’s also completely eco-friendly. As far as durability goes, though, it’s not the best at keeping its form after a couple of weeks.
Kharma Khare — Is right at the top with the Jade Harmony when it comes down to eco-friendliness, since it’s made from completely recyclable materials. Where it doesn’t pass the test is durability-wise, despite its great grip.
prAna Revolution mat — Is sure to win lots of hearts because of its ability to remain firm but avoid being too spongy. The downer is, though, that it weighs 9 pounds, and is by far the heaviest mat here. However, word out there is that this is highly beneficial for taller and wider people.
PrAna E.C.O — Nearly unmatched in comfort. The only problem that remains is that it doesn’t have great grip and is too little to move around. However, it’s much more affordable and eco-friendly which make it the best choice for those with these specific needs.
Gaiam Premium Print — Best budget-friendly yoga mat. For the price, this yoga mat provides pretty solid comfort, grip and injury prevention.
Liforme — Best non-slip yoga mat. It has the best grip surface that’s been encountered so far. From the individual components, it seems it was very specifically engineered to stay in place and retain its grip.
The Yoloha Native — Maintenance-wise, the engineers over at Yoloha need a raise, because this yoga mat perform much better than we’d thought was currently feasible. It has a non-stick surface designed to accommodate a lot of sweat, thanks to its cork and rubber surface. What’s more, it’s the thinnest and most lightweight entry on the list, without sacrificing comfort and eco-friendliness, although that’s a little subject to debate if you’re a heavier than the people who tested it out.
Yoga mat materials to consider
Why is the material used in the production process of a yoga mat important? Well, it’s the primary-most feature when it comes to the definition of the mat’s other properties including durability, stickiness comfort and texture,
The choice of material is a matter of preference, and how friendly it is to your body.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC): If you paid attention in chemistry class, you’ll know that PVC is pretty cheap and pretty useful for making durable products. A little more chemistry and your yoga mat is slip-free. The only drawback of all this chemistry is the introduction of a substance that has been linked to health issues and it’s completely non-recyclable.
Cotton: Cotton is pretty good at absorbing sweat, but is hard to clean.
Recycled, natural rubber: It’s not as sticky as the PVC mat but in our opinion, just as great. However, if you have a latex allergy, avoid this type of mat.
Jute: It has the same properties as rubber, with the added benefit of antimicrobial properties for your extra-sweaty days.
Bamboo, cork, and hemp: These are the final commonly available natural fibers to consider.
Factors to consider when buying a yoga mat
Material should be your primary concern when selecting a yoga mat, but here are a few more factors you can put into consideration.
Open and closed-cell structure
When it comes to material, at times the choice isn’t as simple as which material per se: there is something else to keep your eyes on – structure.
Put simply, open-cell mats are good at absorbing sweat and oils, allowing for great grip in wet conditions, but are harder to clean, while closed-cell mats don’t do any absorption, but, you guessed it – they don’t have the best grip out there.
Density, thickness, & weight
Density is the primary factor when it comes to determining comfort levels, support at the joints and maximum stability in balancing poses.
If the mat is too thin, kneeling becomes an uncomfortable experience, but if it’s too thick, balance poses end up feeling unstable because of the loss of connection with the earth. The general rule of thumb when it comes to thickness is that it should be from 1/16 to 1/4 of an inch thick.
This is basically how much stress your yoga mat will be able to withstand in the long-run before showing the telltale signs of wear and tear.
The most durable material is usually rubber, and the same goes for some eco-friendly materials. However, factor in human error, ie. lack of proper care, and their lifespan starts to plummet. Try to avoid using or forgetting rubber mats in hot environments eg, a car.
Yoga style & location
Everyone has different preferences for the kind of yoga they prefer to practice, and that’s something you should consider before making the purchase.
For instance, if you practice more restorative forms of yoga like Bikram, your priorities should be on comfort and cushion. As such, you may not need a sticky mat. Instead, search for a mat that absorbs sweat and is easy to clean.
If you prefer to practice more vigorous styles of yoga like power yoga and ashtanga, your priority feature should be a mat with a no-slip grip to provide you with maximum traction.
Length & size
This one is the simplest to single out. Get a mat that covers your whole body while you’re lying down. If you’re going to be shopping online, ensure you check the measurements, and if you visit a store, request to test it out.