A good (or not so good) yoga mat can make the difference between getting through your yoga class and truly enjoying it. As a beginner many people – myself included – just use the first free or cheap mat they can find. Spoiler alert: these mats are often thin, slippery, and not very supportive. Common problems you may have on these mats are joint pain and slipping, and these can be a huge distraction to your yoga practice – but they’re also easy to fix.
When you’re picking a yoga mat, there are many factors you can (and should) consider. Everyone will have a different top priority, so there is no single “best” mat out there. Here are a few things you can consider when you’re purchasing your first (or second, or fifth) mat.
What’s your budget? Under $85? Over $120? You can find a mat for anything from $20 to $150+…I’ve noticed that there are plenty of great mats between $60-90 so you shouldn’t have to spend too much money, but also keep in mind that in many cases you get what you pay for.
What are your main problems? Slipping? Lack of cushioning? Too tall for your mat?
What kind of yoga do you practice? Are you more into yin and restorative? Or do you love a good hot yoga class? Or do you take a little bit of everything?
Where does your mat go? Do you mostly practice at home or do you practice at a variety of studios?
Do you want to travel with your mat? It’s very different to have a mat that goes from car to studio and back to car than to have one that goes with you on a plane.
Do you have special considerations? Some of these include allergies and sustainability.
If your main concern is…
Sweating and Slipping
Look for a mat with a grippy surface, or one that absorbs sweat. You’ll also probably want to add a mat towel on top or on the side to help you stay comfortable.
A word of caution: You’ll often be able to see your sweat on these while you practice, and some mats will start to stain at a certain point. I don’t personally mind that very much because it’s a sign that my mat and I have been through some sweat together, but keep that in mind when considering what color you buy – darker colors tend to hide sweat better.
My first serious mat was a Lululemon and I love it to this day – it’s an incredibly grippy mat that I never had to worry about slipping on. In really hot classes I’d add a towel, but I also loved that I could practice any kind of yoga on that mat and I never had to worry about my hands slipping.
I know quite a few people who also love their B Mats. I’ve never practiced on one, but they seem grippy and people swear by them.
Right now I have and love a Liforme mat. It’s an investment but it’s worth it: grippy and cute to boot – plus guidelines that help you fine tune your alignment.
Support and Cushioning
Manduka is hands down my favorite for dense, supportive mats. When it comes to yoga mats, it’s not just about how thick they are – there are plenty of inexpensive, thick mats that compress all the way down when you stand on them, and thus don’t really offer much support. If you’ve got sensitive joints, feel like you can always feel the floor through your mat, or just want a little more cushion, look for a mat that is more dense.
My two favorites are the Manduka Pro (or ProLite) and the Manduka GRP mat. The Manduka GRP mat is best for those who practice hot yoga because it’s got a grippy (not slippy) top layer. The Manduka Pro and ProLIte mats require some break in, and I prefer practicing with a towel on them, but they are dense and supportive and I’ve never felt the floor through one of them.
Many companies make travel yoga mats that are thinner and more easily transported versions of their most popular mats. I’ve traveled with a Manduka eKo travel mat and it’s fit into every suitcase I’ve traveled with.
Environmentally Friendly and/or Allergies
Jade makes a mat unlike many other mats. Their mats are grippy and dense but do not contain PVC, EVA, or synthetic rubber. They’re also made in the US and they partner with Trees for the Future to plan a tree for every mat sold. This is a mat you can feel especially good about! I’ve never owned a Jade mat but they seem like a great option and are popular with many yogis here in Nashville.
Mat Size (especially for my tall friends)
Get an extra long mat! I look for mats that are over 70” long (I’m a touch over 5’8”) so that I have enough space in big poses like Warrior II and Triangle. Here are a few longer mats:
As a teacher these are the mats I see most commonly in the studios I teach and practice. While you don’t need any fancy equipment to get started, you’ll be amazed at how much more secure and stable you’ll feel with the right mat. Got another favorite mat? Let me know in the comments!