The Best Yoga Mat
Get the right amount of traction for your downward dog
We put in over 50 hours of research, surveyed over 100 yoga professionals, and consulted with "Boston's 2014 Best Yoga Instructor" to bring you the best.
The Manduka PROlite beat out its category contenders for longevity by a landslide. It’s an extremely durable, high-performing mat that’s stamped with a lifetime guarantee.
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 always taking hot yoga classes and you want to stick to your mat with no towel needed, Lululemon The Mat is likely your best option.
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 9 Overall Best Yoga Mats
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.
Other Yoga Mats to Consider
The Best Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat
Jade Harmony Professional Mat The Jade Harmony Professional is a favorite among yoga professionals everywhere because of its great balance of traction and support. It's made from all-natural rubber, making it environmentally friendly. As a bonus, JadeYoga also plants a tree for every mat that's purchased.
The Best Budget-Friendly Yoga Mat
Gaiam Print Premium It's important to invest in a reliable mat, but if you are unsure of making that investment just yet, try the Gaiam Print Premium. It retails for under $30 and is backed with a lifetime warranty. It comes in an array of fun colors and prints, too.
The Best Non-Slip, Sticky Yoga Mat
Lululemon – The Mat “The Mat" has an innovative moisture absorbing design for unparalleled grip under sweaty conditions. In fact, the sweatier you get (and in turn, the more moisture there is on the mat), the more the mat grips. Top yoga professionals say they will never use another mat other than “The Mat."
A Full Review of the Best Yoga Mats
Manduka PROlite: Best Overall
If you want a mat to last you a lifetime, and can also tick the boxes for grip, portability, and comfort, the Manduka PROlite is the way to go. This mat beat out its category contenders for longevity by a landslide. It’s an extremely durable, high-performing mat that’s stamped with a lifetime guarantee. Yoga teachers everywhere (including myself) agree that the Manduka PROlite gets better with age the more you use it, similar to a baseball glove. I’ll get upside-down to that.
The PVC material and density of the mat make it competent under any condition — outdoors, in a heated room, in a non-heated studio, and with gentle-to-vigorous practices — which can’t be said for the majority of the mats tested here. I took this mat through a multitude of restorative and standing poses, sun salutations, arm balances, and inversions.
I’m not the only one who ranks this mat at the top of the list. Boston’s 2014 Best Yoga Instructor and Owner of Sadhana Studio, Cunningham, has been using the Manduka Pro series mats for 14 years.
I’ve been using Manduka mats since 2001 and I still think they make the best overall mats out there in terms for grip, comfort, thickness, feel, size, and durability. I’ve been teaching for over 15 years and see a lot of ‘mat shrapnel’ on the studio floor, but I’ve never seen a Manduka Mat get worn out.
In asanas that tend to be slightly harder on the knees, like Ustrasana (camel pose) and Anjaneyasana (low lunge), this mat provides just the right amount of support and cushion to feel ease and comfort throughout the pose, even when held for long periods of time. The mat also provides stabilization and joint protection during asanas that require more stability, balance, and impact (think: Tree pose, handstand, and jumping back to chaturangas). At the same time, it won’t compromise the ability to feel stable and connected to the ground.
As far as texture, grip, and comfort go, I give this mat two thumbs up. The slip-resistant traction kept fidgeting to a minimum. The surface, which isn’t super sticky, allowed for gliding transitions through quick vinyasas. The transition to take my foot into or out from a lunge felt effortless compared to when catching or sticking on mats made from a different textile (like some of the natural rubber mats did).
Other than the first couple of uses during the “break-in period,” the manual labor for this mat is practically nonexistent. Its closed-cell technology makes it incredibly easy to clean and wipe down after class, and with a weight of around four pounds, it’s light and easy to carry. The mat comes in an assortment of colors and in two different sizes (71 and 79 inches) to accommodate style preference as well as the taller yogis out there. It’s fairly pricey for a yoga mat, but with a lifetime warranty, it provides outstanding value.
Manduka PROlite is always my go-to. It’s easy to travel with, stays good for years, and [is] easy to clean since I’m a sweaty mess! I don’t always use a towel because I don’t need one with this mat. It’s awesome!
Don’t just take my word for it, though. Based on research, and many conversations with other yoga practitioners, the Manduka company is considered the holy grail of yoga-mat brands. It continuously tops the charts in reviews. The Manduka PROlite series is a lighter, more portable version of the beloved Manduka Black Mat Pro, which has been on the market for 15 years. The PROlite mat receives accolades from a number of magazines and popular publications. It was voted the Top Pick Award by OutdoorGearLab, voted a “must have” by Yogi Approved, and is sold and used by the most popular yoga studios across Boston, New York City, and Los Angeles.
CorePower Yoga Orange County’s regional manager, Calvert, says the Manduka PROlite is her favorite, and it’s the one the company carries in its studios all across the United States.
We see over 500 clients a week using our Manduka mats for barre and yoga. I teach on them and take class with them, and I have no complaints — they are super durable. We used to have Jade, but switched to Manduka because they are better performing overall.
Barre & Soul Studios, found in several locations around the Boston area, provides the Manduka PRO series mats to its members for use in class.
Manduka instructs consumers to scrub the mat down with coarse sea salt prior to using, which helps to remove a thin layer that is applied in the manufacturing process. Wearing this down actually helps improve the mat’s traction with continued use. This process may be a little more labor-intensive than you’d prefer, but there’s something comforting about having a mat get better with time and form to you. Cunningham likens the breaking-in process of the mat to that of a new baseball glove: You break it in and then it fits “like a glove.”
Who should skip it?
Although some people, like Calvert, find the mat to grip fantastically with moisture, some evidence points to a few issues. In an email from the company, Manduka implies the mat does require a breaking-in period (although this is not always the case for everyone), meaning it could feel quite slippery for several uses until it has seen some action.
The traction for the Manduka PROlite is best used under dry conditions with minimal moisture, so ultra-sweaty practices and those done in a heated room may not benefit from this mat without the use of a towel on top of it. I recommend Lululemon’s “The Mat” for these conditions.
In terms of eco-friendliness, the mat is made with PVC rather than natural rubber or another more environmentally friendly material. However, no toxic emissions are released during production, and its lifetime durability results in fewer landfill dumps, still making it a safe choice for the environment overall. If you are concerned with practicing on a mat that is made from eco-friendly material that’s still high performance, my recommendation is the Jade Harmony Professional (a top pick tested here).
Lululemon 'The Mat': The Best Non-Slip Yoga Mat
Lululemon’s “The Mat” is the other top-rated and much loved mat that you should consider, especially if hot yoga and heavy sweating is a part of your weekly routine. Yoga classes done in a heated studio are popular today (and let’s face it, many of us continuously perspire holding Warrior II), so I wanted to find a mat that would provide the best stick under super-sweaty conditions without having to rely on the use of a towel. Cue “The Mat.”
“The Mat” has an innovative moisture-absorbing design made to increase the grip with increased moisture. The mat features double sided technology, which means you can tailor it to your own practice. The top side of the mat, the “sticky” side, is made of a polyurethane material that absorbs moisture (hence the grip). The bottom side is made from an all-natural rubber that provides more cushion. It also comes in two different thicknesses: 3mm and 5mm, and a few colors to choose from.
I was thoroughly impressed with how much grip I was able to maintain through sweaty and heated power vinyasa classes. I felt very secure practicing forearm stands for a few minutes while pouring sweat, and felt I could go deeper and comfortably hold downward-facing dog in a class set at 100 degrees and 40 percent humidity. I’m not alone in claiming its incredible grip. Graham, an international yoga teacher, says she’ll never use another mat.”
I am unbiased when it comes to yoga mats because I’ve tried them all! The best mat for all yogis is “The Mat” by Lululemon. You’ll never need a yogi toes (yoga towel) and it’s antimicrobial. I’ll never use any other kind of mat.
Who should skip it?
As a bonus, “The Mat” has antimicrobial properties that help keep it clean. That being said, I did find that it stains easily. Within the first few uses, there were signs of dirt and evidence of accumulated sweat. Consumer reviews also suggest this is one of the drawbacks to the mat, especially if you have a lighter color like I do. So, one piece of advice is to go with black or a darker hue with this mat.
In comparison to some of the others, I found this mat to be a tad uncomfortable, even with commonly practiced asanas such as Child’s Pose. My forehead felt as though I was resting it on a hardwood floor (I do have the thinner 3mm version of the mat, though). One thing to mention: It has a very strong smell when you first get it, which can make you a little light headed, especially when taking a nice big inhale through your nose. I have not stuck with the mat long enough just yet to confirm if this smell goes away, although the consensus is that it does.
Best Yoga Mats: Summed Up
The Runners-Up for the Best Yoga Mats
Don’t dismiss these mats just because they didn’t make my top pick. Like I’ve stated, yoga mats, like yoga, are not created equal and preference is unique to the individual’s style. Depending on what you’re looking for, these mats could be better suited for you.
Jade Harmony Professional Mat
About half of the yoga instructors I interviewed suggested the Jade Harmony as their favorite yoga mat, and it made an appearance as a top pick on just about every review publication I read. The Jade Harmony offers a sturdy grip with open-cell technology and a texture to provide great performance overall. It’s comfortable, lightweight, and is a fantastic alternative for those looking for a 100 percent natural rubber, eco-friendly mat.
This mat puts up a good fight against the top contenders, but the natural rubber makes it more apt to degrade under certain conditions (like heat and sunlight) and doesn’t include a lifetime guarantee. In my experience, the Jade Harmony does wear down rather quickly with consistent use, and needs to be replaced more frequently than with other top contenders. To sustain use, it should not be used or left out in direct sunlight. This mat's open-cell technology means it retains sweat (good for gripping, but bad for bacteria) and oils, making it more difficult to clean.
Warning: Those with a latex allergy should not use the Jade Harmony Professional Mat.
Manduka Black Mat Pro
Known as the ruler of all yoga mats, this is a mat that appeared as a top pick in research and throughout conversation. Except for width and density (it’s wider and thicker), it’s virtually the same as its little brother, the Manduka PROlite. However, with its weight of seven to nine pounds, and a heftier pricetag, the PROlite is more appealing overall. If you are looking for a heftier rendition of the Manduka PROlite, and aren’t concerned with trekking some extra pounds to class, this mat could be for you.
Hugger Mugger Para Rubber
It’s grippy and I found it to provide more cushion than fellow eco-friendly mat, the Jade Harmony. The texture, however, made transitions on the mat a little more difficult for me. As far as durability goes, I was seeing signs of wear (albeit small) within the first week of use.
PrAna Revolutionary Sticky Mat
This mat is firm and not too spongy. But at nine pounds, it’s not only the heaviest, but also the biggest mat tested here. I just couldn’t justify trekking it back and forth from a studio or rolling it out anywhere but at home. However, consumer reviews suggested that taller and wider people benefit greatly from the added length and width of this mat.
I love this company’s eco initiatives, and its unique recycled tire material provides the mat with undeniable grip. However, this mat didn’t pass the durability test since there was a small rip within first use.
This mat has comfort down, but staying put…not so much. It was a little too lightweight for my practice and moved around on a hardwood floor. It also didn’t lay completely flat on the ground, which can be a hassle when moving in and out of poses. It is a more affordable, eco-friendly, and latex-free mat, which makes it a better choice for those looking for these specific needs.
Gaiam Print Premium
For a budget-friendly mat, this isn’t a bad pick. In my opinion, and all the professionals I interviewed agree with me, it’s definitely worth investing in a quality mat for added comfort, injury prevention, and improving your practice. For these reasons it is difficult for me to recommend one.
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.
Like your practice, your yoga mat should be one that you invest in, one that you keep coming back to, and one that supports you through every inhale and exhale. It should feel like a little island you want to call home for every practice.
The Manduka PROlite allows me to take my practice in a variety of settings and teach to a number of yoga styles, while ensuring a long-lasting relationship with my mat. If things get extremely hot and sweaty, I suggest turning to Lululemon’s “The Mat” to ensure you don’t slip and slide around.
Don’t be afraid to test a few mats on your own and ask around before making a purchase.
When a yoga mat feels just right for you, it can make all the difference in your practice.