How To Choose The Right Yoga Mat For You?
Do you already own a workout mat of sorts?
You may be wondering if you can just dust off your old pilates or workout mat that’s sitting in the cupboard and use that for yoga too?
When we’re new to yoga we tend to grab the most convenient or the cheapest mat we can find. Often times those don’t last long and we end up upgrading it a short time later.
Maybe you’re thinking you want a mat you can take away on holiday with you or perhaps you’re concerned about the sweat dripping from your body that’s pooling on you mat and setting in a stench you keep breathing in.
Maybe you’re acutely aware of the hard floor beneath you and how cushioned your mat feels on your bony parts.
At the very leasts your mat should not distract you from the important aspects of your practise and should enhance your experience of the physical postures and your inner exploration.
So what is the best kind of yoga mat? I get asked this question A LOT by new students as there are so many options out there it’s overwhelming! I’ve tried SOOO MANY yoga mats, like literally dozens of yoga mats so you could say I know the ins and outs intimately.
To help you make an informed choice and get a mat that’s right for you, I’ve rated my top 5 yoga mats based on some important key factors like durability, grip, price, eco friendliness and weight.
How To Choose The Best Yoga Mat For You!
The durability of your mat is important, especially if you want to make your investment last because let’s face it good yoga mats aren’t cheap!
For some purposes durability is even more important, like say if you intend to take your mat away on holidays or you’re practising outdoors. These are factors that may wear your mat out sooner and you’d want to have a more durable mat.
Often you can tell by the ‘feel’ of a mat whether it’s durable or not (its not actually the thickness of the mat).
Want a quick trick you can try to test the durability of a mat…
If digging your finger nails into the mat leaves an indent and it feels like you can easily pull a piece of the mat out then it may not withstand the test of time.
Whether the mat has an open cell or closed cell construction will affect its durability. Open cell construction means the mat is more porous and better able to absorb moisture. While closed cell mats are not absorbent and tend to have less stretch, so tend to be more durable.
However if you intend to practise hot yoga or in a hot environment (aka Brisbane summer) where you may sweat a lot then a closed cell mat which doesn’t absorb moisture may not last as long as an open cell mat.
Open cell mats while in some ways are more suited to hot environments for durability reasons, are also trickier to clean as they are more porous and sweat and bacteria can get trapped.
Considering the types of uses you may want to get out of your mat is a good idea to get the most out of your investment.
Not only does a sticky mat keep you safe, it also helps you to stay focused in your practise, rather than getting distracted by sliding hands and feet. The material and surface texture will contribute mostly to your mats grip.
If you’re practising hot yoga or in hot environments or you sweat a lot then you want a mat that has good grip when the surface is wet.
Another factor is break in time. Some mats will have great grip right our of the packaging while some take a quite a few practises for the factory finish to wear off and get a good dry grip.
As the saying goes you get what you pay for and this is also true of yoga mats. It can be difficult to know how much to spend, but it will depend on your budget and on your level of use.
If you decide to become a studio member and you practise 2 or more times a week – you may justify a more expensive mat.
Or you may be inclined to buy a more expensive mat as an incentive to encourage you to practise more consistently.
You might decide to buy a cheaper mat to start with and see how much you engage with your practise and upgrade it when you feel more committed.
In any hobby or practise we often tend to invest in better tools over time as we progress and our interest and knowledge expands.
Wherever you’re at now, whatever price range, there are good mats that are just right for you. While you can pick up dirt cheap mats from some reject shops, as a general rule the lower end range of mats is $35-50, the mid range is around $60 – 90 and the upper range is $100+
As you’re spending a lot of time on your mat you want to know that it’s healthy for you and the environment. Ensuring that the materials used are non toxic as you are breathing in and sweating and opening up your pores for any chemicals to be absorbed. You know these mats as they are the ones that have that chemical smell that lingers.
Avoid mats made from PVC as this has been found to be toxic both from skin contact and inhalation.
Avoid mats that are non biodegradable and will sit in landfills for eternity.
Look for renewable, non toxic materials like cork, jute, natural rubber, eco-polyurethane and cotton.
Many of the natural products also tend to be more grippy and so if grip is important to you, you’ll likely get this from an eco mat.
Whether you intend to practise at the studio only, at home only or a combinations of both, as well as if you like to travel and intend to take your yoga mat with you. These are all factors to consider when looking at the weight of a yoga mat.
A heavy mat might feel nice and grounded when you’re sitting on it but not so nice when you’re lugging it to the studio every other day or strapping it to your backpack, weighing you down while travelling.
Generally light weight travel mats are around 1.5kg or less, middle range is 1.5 – 2.5kg and heavy mats are: >2.5kg
Matt thickness while different to weight – is also important to consider as while the thicker the mat, the better cushion and comfort for your joints in seated poses, the harder it is to balance in standing poses. That extra thickness means less stability and greater challenge in balance poses.
While this tends to be more of an issue for extra thick mats like pilates mats, it still may affect your ability to balance at the upper ranges of yoga mat thickness > 5mm.
Most yoga mats range in thickness between 2mm – 6mm, whereas a typical pilates mat is 10mm+
The thinnest 2-3mm mats also tend to be the lightest travel mats, 4-5mm are mid range and 6mm is the upper end. The 5mm mats often provide the best balance of both stability and support or cushioning of your joints. but not so much that it’s difficult to balance on.
Now that you know some of the factors to consider when choosing your ideal mat, let’s take a look at my top 5 mats and how they stack up!
Reviews of Top Yoga Mats On The Market
1. Gaim Dry Grip Yoga Mat Review
Experience: This mat looks and feels sleek, but lacks padding for your joints and bony areas.
Pros: the surface is non-slip and wicks away moisture. Great for hot environments and sweaty yogis. It’s also lightweight and comes with a carry strap so nice and portable for taking to and from the studio. Affordable price at $79.99. Latex free.
Cons: Rubbery without much stretch. Feels dry and without much texture . Contains PVC so not eco friendly. At 68cm long is a little short.
Final Score: 3/5 ⭐
Gaims dry grip yoga mat is a great affordable yoga mat that’s light enough to fit in your suitcase.
2. Yoga Design Lab Combo Yoga Mat Review
Experience: Visually stunning, makes you feel like a goddess.
Pros: Looks pretty and made from eco friendly and toxin free materials. Is actually made from 15 plastic bottles! The rubber base provides descent cushioning, especially for the 5.5mm option. Hygenic and ultra absorbant microfiber top layer provides excellent grip for sweaty hands. Comes with convenient carry strap so you can show off your beautiful mat at your local cafe after class.
Cons: Feels heavy to carry and is quite slippery when dry. Due to it’s ultra-absorbent microfiber top layer it only offers grip with wet hands. The geometric patterns could be dizzying or distracting for some. Expensive at $130
Is also narrower and shorter than most standard mats.
Final Score: 4/5 ⭐
The Yoga Design Lab Yoga Mat is a beautiful, eye catching and eco friendly mat that maintains a high level of functionality especially for hot environments and more petite or sweaty yogis.
3. Lululemon Reversible 5mm Yoga Mat Review
Experience: This mat feels stable and comfortable and has excellent grip.
Pros: The 5mm version offers great cushioning for your joints. It feels sturdy and grounded on hardwood floors so doesn’t slide around. Has excellent grip in both wet and dry conditions. Reversible sides offers a nice variety.
Cons: Strong odour. Scratches easily and absorbs oils from hands & feet.
Final Score: 5/5 ⭐
The lululemon reversible yoga mat is my favourite yoga mat! It’s affordable and offers an ideal balance of cushioning, stability and grip.
4. Jade Harmony Yoga Mat Review
Experience: Has a lovely texture and and organic natural feel.
Pros: Excellent grip in dry environments. Open cell construction, means it’s springy and malleable and moves with you, allowing you to feel deeper into poses.
Cons: Absorbent porous material absorbs bacteria and is difficult to clean. Open cell construction leads to quicker wear and tear and can slide around on hardwood floors. Contains latex so not suitable for those with allergies. Only a moderate grip when wet so not the best for hot yoga. Expensive at $120
Final Score: 4/5 ⭐
5. Manduka Pro Yoga Mat Review
Experience: This mat has a nice texture and feels really comfortable with decent grip.
Pros: Easy to clean, and sturdy so you won’t slide around on hardwood floors. Is 2 inches wider than the average mat. Rubber and latex free. Provides good cushioning for joints. Durable closed cell fabric and has a lifetime guarantee.
Cons: Takes time to break in and experience the better grip. Is heavy for carrying to and from the studio. Expensive $227
Final Score: 4/5 ⭐
The only reason the Manduka Pro doesn’t get a 5 star rating is the exceptionally high price. Otherwise it’s an excellent quality mat for both regular and hot yoga classes.