Trying to pick a mat from the black hole that is the internet is enough to get your leggings in a twist.
There are so many different types of yoga mat. Do you want padded? Do you want printed? Most people want grippy, some want padded, and well you, you just want a mat that you will enjoy using and that you won’t regret buying, is that so much to ask?
Well fear not I am here to help you find your soul-mat. There are a lot of mats out there and I won’t for one second suggest I am the fount of all knowledge on yoga mats, but I have tried my fair share and so I want to impart my knowledge with you so you know a little more. This is a meaty article, but I have tried to share the information I wish I had had when I bought my mats. The first section tells you about key features and then I review a few mats I have in the second part.
There are 6 main questions to ask yourself when you want a mat.
1. What is your budget? Mats can range from about £15 to £100 2. Do you want a grippy mat? 3. Is cushioning important for you? 4. Do you want an eco-friendly mat? 5. Is pattern or colour important to you? 6. Do you want to travel with it?
Grip is usually on the top of everyone’s list for getting a yoga mat. A grippy mat can save many a faceplant in downward facing dog. A grippy mat, means grip between your hands and the mat not the mat and the floor. Some mats are super slippery, and you’d imagine that cheap mats would be more slippery than expensive ones. But that isn’t always the case. So even if you are on a tighter budget don’t worry. The best grip I’ve ever had from a mat is from my Lululemon Reversible (Un) Mat, which I talk about later. If you only do yin yoga or seldom come into downward facing dog then maybe grip isn’t a major factor, you might be more interested in padding.
If padding is your priority, then you are wanting something between 4-6mm. This is considered a plush mat in yoga. I know it doesn’t sound much but it is enough. Then you have the issue of density, a lot of companies claim that having a denser mat is good because the mat is more stable for your balances and more padded because you don’t completely squash the mat and feel the floor below. Unless you have issues with your balance, then really the difference isn’t anything you can’t overcome and the extra challenge works you a little harder, however I have a lot of students who prefer to step off their mats when we do balances as they feel more stable and obviously that isn’t really possible in vinyasa flow. So, the importance of density may depend on how much you balance and whether you do flow yoga or other styles. The other thing I have noticed about density is it perhaps wears better. The super cheap cushioned mats do not stand the test of time because with some wiping and some yoga the little tiny squares of cushioning start to break and disintegrate and then you get bits of the foam on your hands and feet and it is unpleasant. I have only seen this with mats that get excessive amounts of wear and cleaning like studio mats, however I have had reports from students and friends saying the same of their own mat. Generally, this seems to happen with mats in a lower price range, not exclusively but definitely more common in the £5-£20 bracket so be careful and do some research when you buy a cheaper mat.
Eco has become the new thing for yoga mats in the last few years. My mats are lasting so well I am yet to buy a mat during the eco phase. However, if eco is your top priority then Yogi-Bare are meant to be great mats. I have never sampled one but have heard great things, and I know that a few of the big-time influencers have Yogi-Bare mats. Sweaty Betty have started selling eco-friendly mats as well, and much as I know nothing about them Sweaty Betty is usually on point with their stuff. Cork is also a niche that some people say is great for the grip and the environment.
Pattern and Colour
If you are desperate for a particular look to your mat, this will limit you. Most mats have different colourways but if pattern is your thing that is harder. There are a lot of patterned mats out there, some are just beautiful. If colour is what you want, do some research and ask around, and in then end you’ll just have to take the plunge, you may luck out, there are so many mats out there it is impossible to know what they all will be like.
Travel mats can be the greatest thing, because you can arrive somewhere and roll out your mat and move to you hearts content without worrying when the floor was last cleaned. However, travel mats are a whole industry in themselves. I like to practice outside when I’m on holiday so a travel mat is often too thin, I’ve taken a non-padded mat and it has been fine, I just don’t find lunges as comfortable. If you know you are just practising in carpeted hotel rooms then unpadded is fine and they can be a lot lighter, some even fold. A yoga towel is another choice, one I’ve used for short trips. They don’t allow you a peace free vinyasa flow on carpet because the bunch up a little, but it does allow you some sanity about not just using the carpet, and a good option for trips where a mat is just not logistical, but don’t buy a towel just for travelling, now-a-days there is a good line of foldable travel mats that you could explore instead. To be brutally honest if you love your yoga and movement then my recommendation is to forgo the extra pair of shoes and take your normal mat. It may be a bit heavier and require a clothing sacrifice but it will mean you can yoga as much as you like.
Yoga Mad I have a Yoga Mad Warrior Plus mat, it was the first mat I ever got and as a first mat it has done me well. It is 6mm so is well padded, even though it isn’t dense padding. The stripe dye effect is lovely. The grip has got better over time and the mat doesn’t look worn at all, despite over 6 years of use. When you get this mat it is a little slippery. I found that after uses if I wiped it with warm water and left it to air dry the grip got better and now I’d say it was good enough grip to get you through a vinyasa class but it may not stand up to a super sweaty flow unless you dry your hands a few times. As a guideline it probably took about the equivalent of 2-3 months of daily use to get it to its current grip.
Lululemon I mentioned that the best grip I have ever had in a mat is from the Lululemon reversible (un) mat. Honestly it is unbeatable in my mind, and has two sides, one side is grippier than the other, but really both are so grippy I just use the smooth pretty side unless I’m in hot yoga or on holiday without a towel in which case I use the other side which has more of a texture. My mat is just grip, there is no padding to it at all, which is fine if you are always on carpet. However, if you want padding they sell a 3mm and 5mm version which as far as I know has the same two grippy surfaces as my gem. I haven’t ever tried the padded versions so cannot guarantee them to be the same, but I imagine they will be. The best bit is they have a lot of colourways and both sides are usually different colours which is nice.
Manduka I have a Manduka Pro mat. It is considered a top of the line mat however I must admit I’m slightly disappointed by it. The dense padding is impeccable so I never have problems with added wobble in balances or sore knees in lunges. The colour is beautiful a lovely rich claret/purple which makes me smile every time I unroll it. However, my biggest sadness is the grip, it is better than some cheap mats, better even than my warrior plus mat, but somehow for the price I excepted more. The level of grip doesn’t stand up to sweaty hands unlike my lululemon reversible mat. But the padding is perfection that should not be overlooked. It is a good mat for someone who wants padding and reasonable grip but doesn’t do sweaty classes.
Liforme If you are looking for a top of the line mat, I’ve never heard a complaint about Liforme. Their mats are not cheap, but they have some nice colours, reportedly incredible grip, and are long lasting. I have trialled a liforme mat for about 5 minutes and loved it. Some yogis like to put another mat underneath as it can feel quite thin if you like lots of padding, but some use them on their own. They like the Manduka and Lululemon ones mentioned above are also slightly on the heavy side, but generally I find if you want your mat somewhere you’ll take it, it doesn’t matter how much it weighs.
So, in summary for great grip at a mid-range price the Lululemon reversible mat is the way to go, just pick the best thickness for you. For a starter mat the Yoga Mad Warrior Plus but it does take some work to wear it in so you may prefer to try another mat. For a less purse friendly option but superior padding and adequate grip the Manduka Pro, and if you do hot yoga get a yoga towel. I have mentioned other brands in this article and there are many more that I didn’t mentioned so when buying your new mat ask around, message your yoga teacher, we all have a mat we are attached to….despite practising non-attachment! Everyone likes different mats, and it is very hard to find a mat that excels in every department so take your time picking and don’t just blindly buy one.
Happy mat hunting