After sifting through hours of video, pages of articles and multiple reviews, it is clear that the discerning yoga practitioner is inundated with choice when it comes to selecting the right yoga mat. Clearly there are specific features important to you revolving mainly around price. We categorised yoga mats according to price ranges and found that the Lifeforme yoga mat was the best mat in the $75 plus category. In the mid range between $30 and $75 the elegant Sweaty Betty Eco yoga mat comes out on top, while the best budget option was the Yoga Rat mat for less than $30!
The construction of yoga mats has gone beyond just getting any soft surface to enjoy practising on. There are a number of factors to consider when designing a yoga mat and when purchasing one and we have highlighted 9 of them. Our extensive research and experience of different forms of yoga enables us to assess the mats according to these 9 attributes Time to put the reading glasses on or just save this in your reading list for later.
These are the 9 key attributes of a yoga mat that should influence your choice
- Material and eco-friendliness
The best yoga mat
We have to come to the conclusion that the best, all-singing, all-dancing yoga mat is the Liforme yoga mat designed by British yoga enthusiast and ex-lawyer, James Armitage. This mat pioneered the incorporation of alignment lines to help guide one’s practice and is made from materials that have taken years of research and development to give you the best, most comfortable and effective practice. The brand also boasts a lighter travel option so all bases are covered. You even get a high-quality carry-case for your investment.
The mat does come with a hefty $100 dollar plus price tag but we believe that the textured alignment lines are a game-changer and give it the edge over rivals such as the Jade Harmony yoga mat and Manduka Pro. We will go through some other options at a lower cost as well some more specifics about the lifeforme. We also have some great options that are good for some of the particular sub-disciplines of yoga.
For those on a budget still looking for something of decent quality the challenging task was to differentiate between something with little durability from a product that was genuinely value for money. We felt that the Yogarat mat had a really great price-tag for its relative quality. The mat is lightweight and made of recyclable TPE and scores very high on design.
For those mid-range options it was a difficult decision but at $50 the Eco yoga mat from Sweaty Betty got the edge over the less-textured (but elegant) Prana ECO and more slip resistant Gaiam Sol.
Do I need my own yoga mat?
Are we still dwelling on this question? Well, think about it; the one issued to you by your local studio; imagine how many times it has been used, whose sweat has poured all over it and how many veruca-laden feet have been on it before. You don’t really think they have invested in the best possible mats that money can buy. Can you guarantee it has been thoroughly cleaned after use?
You probably will never use a studio yoga mat ever again. Much rather use the wooden floor I bet. Well, that’s an option but holding poses like warrior without any grip for the feet and still having enough cushioning to make child’s pose comfortable enough requires a specialised surface that you can take anywhere, clean easily and last a long time, maybe a lifetime.
I have practiced hundreds of hours of yoga and while not a yoga instructor, I have been a personal trainer and reformers Pilates instructor. Someone like me, not so gifted in the flexibility department can only perform a crab on the most grippy surface and a low-quality mat just isn’t good enough.
A good yoga mat is your connection to the ground, to the earth, so it is really important to put some time into choosing the right one for you. Think about running shoes; you can find a cheap pair of shoes (that are labelled as such) but you can guarantee the materials will be low in quality and might not protect you over miles and miles of pounding the road. Durability will also be questionable as will be the comfort. In addition, specificity is a key factor. Just like you have different shoes for different runners there are different yoga mats available depending on the style that you practise.
The easy option
The simple solution is to visit your local budget sports store and pick up any sort of mat. I remember when I first took my personal training outdoors and bought the cheapest thing around. Then again I only needed it to do some basic abdominal exercises with my clients. A budget yoga mat will not adhere to many surfaces. They will be made from cheaper materials like EVA or PVC. They may be textured to enhance grip but that will allow dirt and grime to collect in the grooves. Once the sweat lands on it the surface will begin to feel a little slimy and of course slippery.
How much should you be prepared to spend?
Having sifted through different brands and types and gone through a variety of vinyasas and inversions myself, as well as hundreds of hours of reading articles, reviews and videos, I would say that £30 is the bare minimum you should expect to spend on this precious purchase. On the other hand you will see that the very best ones will be in excess of £75 and we will soon learn why that is. Having said that I believe that we have uncovered a gem in the budget-choice department with the Yogarat mat.
What to look for: the essentials and specifics
Quality of material and eco-friendliness
There is a simple test to determine this called the ‘pinch-test’. If when pinching the mat with your thumb and forefinger you can feel the fingers coming together then the mat is made from cheaper forms of PVC or EVA. And bare in mind that you can get a thick mat that fails the pinch test and a thinner mat that passes it. It is totally down to the quality. The better ones are made from more premium and technical materials such as TPE (a rubbery plastic alternative) or different forms of rubber. Other materials that can be used in the material are jute (vegetable fibres), cork or cotton. Eco-friendliness is a big factor for a lot of yogis that firmly believe in the importance of social responsibility which is why many companies use the ‘PVC-free’ banner as a selling point.
Yoga mats can be as thin as 1.5 mm and as thick as 16mm. Remember also that the type of material as well as thickness need to be considered. There may also be a conception amongst people that the softer the cushioning the better (I see this a lot with running shoes). Yes, soft cushioning is nice on the joints but there are mechanoreceptors in the hands and feet acting as interfaces with the ground. Too much cushioning can take away some sensation. Also, during handbalances you don’t want the hands to just sink into the mat. So to an extent it may be wise to stay within that middle-range of between 4 and 6mm.
The standard dimensions of a yoga mat are 24 inches by 68 (70cm by 172cm). Obviously taller guys are going to prefer something longer, even wider. A general rule is that anyone over 5ft 8 may need to consider the longer lengths. Therefore, a lot of mats will have larger sizes available. Remember that size doesn’t have to be as specific as it does for running shoes but no one wants to run out of space especially when you change to a horizontal orientation, so a wider mat can do no harm except increase a little bit of weight.
For me weight is a secondary consideration to the ability of a mat to give you the best possible experience. While yoga mats can weigh as much as 3kg even that is no heavier than a lot of your grocery shops. If you have a decent carrying case, weight should not serve as a main influencer behind your choice unless you intend to do a lot of travelling and commuting.
Most yogis will say that your mat depends on the type of yoga you do. If you are more into the relaxing forms then you want one with nice thick cushioning. More dynamic forms of yoga with plenty of inversions require a good grip so a textured surface and not too thick as you need to be able to feel a little more firmness to enhance the bio-feedback from the hands to the brain. You can actually get reversible mats with two different surfaces.
So let’s begin with the Lululemon reversible mat; this has a non-slip polyurethane side that is smooth and sticky. The other side is a spongy rubber one with a textured surface. This surface will have a little more give to help with some of the flows in between poses like when transitioning from warrior to a horizontal orientation. The spongier side may be better for more relaxing forms of yoga and slower moving classes like hatha yoga. The mat is 5mm thick and weighs 5lbs so an average weight perhaps requiring a carry case. This mat is on the bigger side at 70 inches long so around 2 inches (5 cm) longer than a lot of mats. For us, and unlike with other reviews, we could not ignore the worrying large number of negative reviews mostly centred around its strong rubber smell. Thus, the lululemon reversible may pass the versatility test but scores low on material due to its pungent odour.
Two different surfaces offering something different according to the style of yoga you practice.
Pungent odour that strong it has brought a worrying number of negative reviews
This mat is in the mid-range category at around $75. Lululemon often collaborate with local yoga studios so the members and instructors may receive a discount on their items.
Another versatile mat is the Aurorae Synergy 2-in-1 mat. This one is perfect for people that sweat a lot and perform both regular and heated yoga. One surface is a latex and phthalate free PER material. The other surface is their popular and patented micro-fiber towel surface that is superabsorbent. As a bonus this mat is light at only 1.4 kg. On the downside durability will be an issue due its permeability meaning that air-drying is essential in between classes.
Versatile and light
Durability as if it absorbs sweat from hot yoga it will carry moisture and bacteria.
The price of this investment is $70 dollars.
Versatility is an important attribute for a yoga mat and reflects the trend in the yoga community to diversify their practice according to specific needs during the week. This is why we highlighted the Lululemon and Aurorae for their high scores with respect to this feature.
Back to our original price-based reviews…
…It is clear that price is the key factor influencing choice so we categorized three different price ranges and found the top yoga mats in each.
Premium yoga mats (above $75)
The Manduka brand is a standout one in the yoga world. The black mat pro is truly a mat for life and even comes with a lifetime guarantee. This is because it is made of PVC?! A big no no with most yogis, as the production of this polymer releases emissions harmful to the environment and it is not bio-degradable or recyclable (although latex free). The thinking then is that because it is a mat for life you will not need to dispose of it in the first place. In addition, the foam is a closed-cell construction so not permeable, meaning it will not hold bacteria from your sweat. This does however mean that very sweaty people might end up slipping a little on this mat, thus requiring a companion towel for hot yoga classes.
The standard Manduka pro is 71 by 26 so a little larger than average. The thickness is 6mm so good cushioning yet very dense and firm, sometimes requiring a bit of a break-in phase. This is a heavy mat at 7.7 lbs (3.5kg). That’s heavy so a carrying case essential. A lighter version is also available but the spec won’t be the same level.
The Manduka Pro retails at around $100 depending on the design many of which are available.
No yoga mat review is complete without some sort of face-off between Manduka and Jade. Like Brooks and Asics in the Running Shoe department these are the best-selling mats in the world. The contrast is also very apparent largely because of its rubber open-cell construction. This makes it more permeable and better at wicking away moisture. It is therefore less slippy and even has a little more give which helps some transitions like from chaturanga to up-dog and warrior to the horizontal orientation. Rubber also means PVC-free and more natural, although natural rubber will always contain latex (that’s usually in the small print). What’s more, Jade will plant a tree for every mat purchased.
The specs are also quite impressive with a price-tag very much on the lower-end at $75, a much lighter 2.2 kg although this would still get uncomfortably heavy on commutes so get that carry-case.
For the price, durability is low but by now you should understand that that is by consequence of the really advanced other specs. Another con is the pungent rubber smell but that can go after a few weeks depending on how much you let it bother you. The reviews do not suggest that the smell is as strong as that for the Lululemon.
This mat tops the list and is a game-changer in the market with its textured alignment lines. If yoga is about balance and restoring one’s symmetry then markers to show you where to position your limbs almost turn your mat into a secondary instructor. Now that is cool and for us a deal-breaker. The hefty price-tag might be the only con but you get the carry-case included.
The mat is PVC-free with a more eco-friendly polymer top called Polyurethane. This provides a great slip-resistant surface to practice on without the pungent rubber smell. Alignment lines are textured so that grip can be maintained and practice more enjoyable. The bottom is made of rubber which adheres to the floor. Sandwiched in-between is a soft-felt material to provide extra-cushioning.
At 73 by 26 (185 by 26) it is larger than both a Jade and Manduka premium but at 2.5 kg only marginally heavier than a Jade.
Apart from the price the other drawback is the biodegradable nature of the materials giving it less durability.
The top 3 mid-range mats
Originally an outdoor clothing brand they branched into premium yoga wear with a strong ethos in sustainability. Hence their mat is made of a polymer called TPE, so PVC and latex free. The result is no rubbery odour and better on the environment. Closed-cell construction so more durable but will not absorb moisture so will have a substantial slip.
The mat is super light at just 1kg and at 72 by 24 (183 by 61) has a lot of length. 5 mm thick and really cushioned so perhaps a great choice for restorative and hatha yoga. You’ll need to double up with a towel for those sweatier sessions.
There are enough good qualities in this mat for the £48 price tag.
This is one of the best yoga mats for grip. ‘Dry as the dessert’ according to some of our yoga experts. It is almost the perfect mat for the sweaty, more dynamic folk. The material is a very good quality, pthalate free, PVC.
It must be noted here that PVC being toxic is a subject of intense debate between the Green Community and others. The middle-ground on the matter is that the materials used to soften PVC plastic, called pthalates, are in fact toxic and now you can find ‘Pthalate-free PVC’. This mat and the Manduka is made from such a material so still remains an eco-friendly option although some may still choose to refrain from it.
The mat is the standard 68 by 24 in size, thickness is 5mm. Like other absorbent materials durability is questionable but amazingly, Gaiam offer a lifetime warrant However, read the smallprint and the website says that normal wear and tear is not covered. The trouble is the lack of clarity in determining the amount of time needed before a mat should breakdown the way you may have with running shoes. So this is a grey area. Fair to say that if the mat begins to break down within a year that should come down to manufacturers fault but time will tell on that.
The price tag is close to the premium figure at $64. For its impressive stickiness it only weighs about a kilogram.
The best mid-range mat
Sweaty Betty Eco yoga mat
Sweaty Betty deserve a mention as a great and loved premium yoga brand and this mat with its reasonable price and versatility gets selected as the best reasonably-priced offering. A popular UK brand with stores mainly in London. Its mission was to ‘Inspire Women to find Empowerment through Fitness’. This is one of their three signature mats and the cheapest of them.
The material is TPE like the Prana mentioned earlier; TPE unlike PVC is not listed by Greenpeace as a toxic plastic. Nevertheless it is still petroleum-derived so some yogis will not see it as a sustainable solution.
This mat gets the edge over the PRANA with its versatility; it has both a textured-side and a smooth side to suit both warm and classic yoga. Weight and and size are the same also but a millimetre thicker for that extra cushioning making hand-balances less sore.
Great price point at $50, like Lululemon they often collaborate with local centres so find out if you are entitled to a discount. UK students automatically get a 20% reduction via Student Beans so a no brainer for you guys.
The best budget yoga mat
The Yogarat mat comes out top from the budget range. This mat is a huge winner in the design stakes. There are over 20 designs with tattoos that are all calming in different ways. It’s a return to the nontoxic PVC so free of the rubbery odour.
This is super light at just 1kg and standard width of 68 x 24. 6mm thick so really cushioned and ideal for the classic yoga styles. It’s one major complaint is slippiness so for hot yoga, better to go up a level to something like a Sweaty Betty yoga mat.
This mat can be picked up in places for as little as $20 but retails more at $30. Again, a lifetime guarantee is offered but that again is subject to debate due to the ambiguous nature of not accepting returns due to natural wear and tear.
For less than that $20 do not expect anything of reasonable quality. The only benefit would be the hygiene aspect for sure but expect little in the way of the attributes constantly mentioned here.
As a bonus let’s go through some options with slightly different surfaces to plastic and rubber
This stands out from the rest due to its unique cork-based surface. Designed by a paddle-boarder who realised that cork was totally slip-resistant it will be perfect for hot yoga and those that can’t do a crab-pose on anything non-grippy (like me). Cork is 100% sustainable as no trees are cut down for it. It is even self-cleaning and naturally eliminates odours and bacteria so super-durable. Even the base is made of recycled tyre.
The standard model is longer at 72 inches and the thickness is 6mm. The weight is on the heavy side at 6lbs (2.7kg). The big thing for this is the price at a whopping $119. However, it comes with a 60-Day no quibble money-back guarantee (yes 60). As a brand that comes out on top for customer service and aftercare.
Jute fibre is made from natural vegetable fibres that are interwoven. They are also used in carpets and curtains. A yoga mat made from jute is going to be fully sustainable but may lack grip and durability so better to get one slightly cheaper and use a companion solution to deal with the grip. So while the original eco yoga mat from barefoot yoga is a good option, it is quite pricey at $90. Better to go for the EcoYoga Jute Mat at $50. Reviews are actually not bad at all but it is harder to get the ideal level of feedback on products that are relatively new on the market.
Summing up – The Winners
All round yoga experience – Lifeforme
Durability- Manduka Pro
Cushioning- Jade Harmony
Design – Prana ECO
Grip – Yoloha yoga mat
Versatility – Aurorae synergy 2-in1
Bargain – Yoga Rat Mat
Sustainability – EcoYoga Jute mat
Affordability – Sweaty Betty ECO
Must Try – Gaiam Sol Dry-Grip
Time to look passed the figures and try them out. Hopefully you now have some guidance before making your choice but always better to try the mat out before you buy it.
NAMASTE – NICE ASSANA
The fighter’s choice
Fighters do a lot more strength training than your average yogi so chances are there is a lot of tightness to resolve and with the extra difficulty there will be a lot of sweat.
The need then is to get something very grippy that can still handle the sweat. Look no further than the Yoloha yoga mat. The cork based surface is perfect to get the safest, most effective and hygienic practice. If you need something a little more cushioned for some relaxing sessions then rotate with the Yogarat mat.
At that cost and with many only doing one yoga session a week, a cheaper option would be the Gaiam sol dry-grip mat. Even this is quite costly but believe me, getting into a challenging position like crab needs the best grip and for some ground-fighters getting the mobility for a crab can be the difference between tapping out or getting tapped.