As a yoga teacher, one of the questions I get asked the most (besides “do I have to be flexible to start yoga?”) is “what mat should I buy?”.
Back in the good old days, there wasn’t much choice – you had one size (small), style (purple) and material (PVC). It was a simpler time when yoga was only practised by skint hippies with humble tastes in church basements. But while this sounds fabulously esoteric, it was hardly practical. Old-school mats were sticky, environmentally hazardous and non-supportive for those with joint pain.
Nowadays, for better or worse, the yoga industry is worth £74bn globally, and every company wants their slice of the pie. As well as the standard blankets, bolsters, blocks and straps, you can buy inversion stools (a ridiculous contraception which students use to balance on their heads), charcoal-infused water bottles (gross) and yoga hammocks (essentially the same as regular hammocks, but spiritual).
Anyway, this isn’t a blog about my grievances with props – it’s a guide to buying the perfect yoga mat. Because, for all the stupid inventions that have come with the wellness boom, the development in mat technology has been very much-needed.
Now, there’s a mat to suit everyone, which is lovely, but also confusing, much like choosing dinner at an all-you-can-eat buffet. You need to think about the material, colour, shape, thickness, weight, price and environmental impact. It’s overwhelming at the best of times, but especially for beginners.
With this guide, I hope to give you a little direction. I’ll run through details to consider before you make a purchase and provide a few personal recommendations*.
* I’m not sponsored by any of these companies because I’m quite literally a nobody.
Six things to consider before buying a yoga mat
There is nothing less relaxing in this world than slipping and sliding in your sweat during a yoga class. Firstly, it’s disgusting. Secondly, it makes it impossible to balance, hold postures and stay focused, which leads to dangerous alignment, injuries and death (just kidding).
In all seriousness though, a mat can make or break your practice, so it’s worth finding one that’s slip-resistant. Rubber, jute and cotton yoga mats tend to be good options because they have a slightly textured surface for improved grip.
As well as affecting grip, the material you choose is important if you’re trying to reduce your environmental footprint (as we all should be).
Most standard yoga mats are still made from PVC, a type of plastic that’s not recyclable, whereas newer, more earth-friendly options include natural tree rubber, cork, eco-friendly foam, jute, and organic cotton.
Padding is pretty controversial (this is the kind of stuff we argue about in the yoga world).
Some people hate thick and foamy mats because they lose the connection with the floor and find it harder to balance. Others, especially those who have knee or back pain, can’t get enough of padding because it provides much-needed, marshmallowy support.
The amount you need depends on your unique body but, for reference, a standard yoga mat is usually around 1/8 inch thick.
This one’s straightforward – if you’re lanky, buy a longer mat! You should be able to lie on it comfortably during savasana, so find one that’s at least several inches taller than you are.
Butterflies, tie-dye or block colour? There’s not much else to do other than choose a design you love.
It might sound superficial (if you’re a total killjoy), but style plays a massive part in making you want to practise. Your mat becomes a space away from it all, a kind of mini-studio, so choose something that inspires genuine joy.
Some high-end yoga mats, admittedly, cost an absolute fortune. So, how do you decide if the price is right?
If you have a regular practice, it’s worth investing in a more expensive mat because they tend to last longer. If not, there’s no need to break the bank – a decent value mat (and I recommend some below) will do the trick.
Six amazing yoga mats on the market
Now we’ve covered the basics, here are some personal recommendations spanning all price ranges.
Just remember, you’re a free-thinking and wonderfully unique adult human, and the following products are only suggestions. They aren’t the only fabulous mats available, and you can always broaden your options by asking what your local studio, teachers and friends use.
I’ve been using a cotton Mysore rug (also known as an Ashtanga rug) for several years now, and it’s completely revolutionised my practice.
They’re plastic-free, dyed using natural pigments and often handmade. Plus, they’re handy if you practise a dynamic and sweaty style of yoga such as Ashtanga, Bikram or power yoga. Rather than collecting moisture like a Slip ‘N Slide, they absorb sweat like a sponge, which is kind of grim but very handy at improving grip. Luckily, these mats are mostly washing machine friendly and quick to dry.
The best place to find reasonably priced Mysore rugs is on Amazon. Try the Yoga Mad Organic Cotton Yoga Rug (£22.99), Elephant Yoga Organic Cotton Yoga Rug (£49.95), and Shiva’s Trident Yoga Mat (£29.00).
Yogamatters Sticky Yoga Mat (£20)
If you’re new to yoga or attending classes infrequently (I’m not judging, modern-life is very demanding), you don’t need anything too flashy or expensive.
The Yogamatters Sticky Yoga Mat is the best-value non-slip mat around, which is why most studios stock them. They’re padded enough to protect knees and backs from hard surfaces without being overly plushy, and, much like vintage cheese, the grip gets better with age.
Just because they’re budget mats doesn’t mean they’re not beautiful – they come in a kaleidoscope of original colours, including seafoam, grapefruit and wisteria (very posh).
Yogamatters Eco Everyday Yoga Mat (£60)
The Yogamatters Eco Everyday Mat is one of the best earth-friendly options available. They’re made from sustainably harvested natural tree rubber and recycled material, which is biodegradable and free from toxic chemicals and dyes. Plus, the textured surface provides unbeatable stability.
There is one downside (which isn’t really a downside, because #environment) – you can’t machine wash the mat, submerge it in water or use soap when cleaning. Instead, just wipe it down frequently with a non-chemical spray.
Liforme Yoga Mat (£100)
It seems like owning a Liforme mat is right of passage for yoga practitioners everywhere. They’re ubiquitous, for good reason – according to the Liforme website, mats are made from “the grippiest material currently available on earth”. It’s an embarrassingly egotistical claim but, to be fair, they’ve delivered.
This magical material is natural rubber with a specially engineered eco-polyurethane which is biodegradable and free from nasties. Somehow, it defies the sweatiest of conditions, despite being relatively smooth and texture-free.
Mats are slightly larger than standard size and sport a distinctive pattern, dubbed the “AlignForMe System”, which helps students arrange their limbs with precision.
Jade Yoga Fusion Mat ($134.95)
Looking for something a little thicker? Choose the ultra-plush JadeYoga Fusion Mat.
Weighty, dense and stable, they’re perfect for floor-based styles of yoga including restorative, Yin and Hatha. Plus, they contain no PVC, EVA or other synthetic rubber, and the company plants a tree for every purchase.
Manduka PRO Yoga Mat (€110.00)
Manduka Pro mats are often praised for their durability. Their closed-cell surface keeps moisture and bacteria at bay, which increases longevity and prevents disintegration (a common problem with foam mats).
They’re sufficiently cushioned and exceptionally versatile, so you can use them on a variety of surfaces including carpet. With a medium grip, you’re able to flow between postures effortlessly without sticking or catching your feet (which is an issue when you start jump-through practise).
Manduka stands out for their brilliant customer service. If your mat wears out from regular use, they’ll replace it under a lifetime guarantee.
Now you’re ready
Don’t let choosing a mat overwhelm you because nothing to do with yoga should ever be stressful – that defeats the point?! You can’t go wrong by sticking to the suggestions in this blog but, if you need more convincing, always read the reviews before making a purchase.
Image credits: Adobe Stock, Adobe Stock, Unsplash, and Unsplash.