The Best Yoga Mat Review

Click to enlarge
What's the best yoga mat on the market today? We've put eight of the highest rated models to the test in our updated review. We stretched, sweated and Down Dogged on these mats for over 100 testing hours to help you find the best one, no matter what style you practice. After testing them side-by-side for over three months we rated each model on its Dry and Wet Traction, Comfort and Stability, Durability, Portability, and Ease of Care. Whether you are purchasing your first ever yoga mat or are looking for a specialty mat for traveling or Hot Yoga, we have you covered. Keep reading below to see how the different models compared against each other.

Read the full review below >

Test Results and Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 8 << Previous | View All | Next >>

Analysis and Award Winners

Review by:

Senior Review Editor

Last Updated:
November 3, 2015

Best Overall Yoga Mat

Jade Harmony Professional

Editors' Choice Award
Jade Harmony Professional
Price:   $75 online
Compare at 2 sellers

Read the review

The Jade Harmony Professional won our Editors' Choice award during our first review and it's kept the top spot in our review update. This was hands down our testers' favorite mat to practice on. It's comfortable and stable, and not so heavy that you'll hurt yourself toting it around. It has a slight rubber smell to start, but the odor quickly dissipated (unlike some other rubber models). Best of all though, is its traction. It has the best Dry Traction of any of the models that we tested in this review, and even when our palms got sweaty we stuck to it just fine. As it's made of rubber, it is not the easiest to clean; the "open-cell" structure means that your sweat and oils will absorb into the mat and it'll occasionally need a deep clean. Other than that, this mat scored at the top for every category that we tested it in, and as an added bonus Jade plants a tree for every mat that they sell over 950,000 at the time of writing.

Best Bang for the Buck

Prana E.C.O.

Best Buy Award
Prana E.C.O.
Price:   $48 online
Compare at 6 sellers

Read the review

The Prana E.C.O. was one of the top scoring mats in this review, and also the least expensive. It's a lightweight and comfortable mat with great traction and a "closed-cell" design, which inhibits sweat and bacteria from penetrating the surface and taking root inside. This is key if you practice Hot Yoga and/or tend to sweat a lot. The Prana E.C.O. works great for flow style classes as well, so if you like to do a variety of classes you'll be all set with just this one mat. That boosts the value of the E.C.O. even further, and for this (and the $48 price tag) we've given it our Best Buy Award.

Top Pick for Hot Yoga

Kulae Elite Hot Hybrid

Top Pick Award
Kulae Elite Hot Hybrid
Price:   $72 at Amazon
Sale - 18% Off

Read the review

If you regularly practice a Hot Yoga style you know that no matter how often you rinse your mat off in the shower or spray it with "rejuvenating" cleaners, once the funky smell sets in it's there to stay. You are also probably tired of schlepping a mat and towel to class everyday, only to have that towel bunch up on the mat and be a distraction. The Kulae Elite Hot Hybrid solves all these problems and more. It's a microfiber towel bonded to a PER bottom that you throw in the wash after each use. It comes out smelling clean each time. It doesn't have as good a traction level as some sticky mats alone, however, the traction is better than some other towels that we've used and if you practice the Bikram style of Hot Yoga then this isn't an issue anyway (there aren't many oppositional poses in that style that require good traction). This mat costs $88, but since it's a towel and a mat it's actually a great value. Finally, it's really well made and durable. We had one tester complete 30 classes in 30 days with it and it still looks and works great. If you practice in a heated room this innovative hybrid mat is the best option out there, and our Top Pick for Hot Yoga classes.

Analysis and Test Results

There seem to be more mats on the market today than there are styles of yoga, and that's saying something! From $20 mats you can pick up at a big retailer to specialty ones that cost $100 or more, the options are staggering. You might think that anything will do; after all, people have been practicing yoga for over 5000 years, long before the advent of sticky mats. However, with the current trends towards more vigorous and flow-style classes, having a yoga mat with great traction makes a huge difference in your comfort and safety. Selecting the right one for you often comes down to the style that you practice. Flow yogis want sticky mats, Yin yogis prioritize comfort first, and if you've joined the Hot Yoga craze you want something that won't absorb all your sweat and get too stinky.

Selecting the right one for you might also involve considering what it is made of. Many yoga practitioners also have deep rooted environmental sensibilities as part of their practice of Ahimsa, which involves compassion and "doing no harm" unto others, whether it's people, other living things or the planet. If you're concerned about what your mat is made of and how it's manufactured, you'll be happy to know that some companies have gone a long way towards ensuring their mats are non-toxic and eco-friendly. We'll cover all that and more below; we've put our decades of yoga knowledge and practice to the page to help you find the right model so that it's one less distraction during your meditative practice. If you're also in the market for clothes to wear to your next class, check out our new Yoga Pants Review.

Click to enlarge
Our side-by-side comparison testing process. In addition to dozens of home and studio-based classes, we lined all eight mats up next to each other and performed the same series of poses on each of them.


There are now more options for this product on the market than ever before. We've broken down the different types of yoga mats available into two categories: thickness and materials used. First we'll discuss the different thicknesses available, and then we'll look at what the mats are made of and how that differentiates them.


The thickness of your mat is a key consideration. This is where specifically designated "yoga" mats get separated from other types of mats used in gyms for ab work or Pilates classes. Most yoga mats are typically between 3 and 5 mm thick, or (1/8 to 3/16 inches), with some thinner 1-2 mm "travel mat" options as well. There is a very specific reason for this thickness. In most styles of yoga, except for Restorative or Yin classes, a large portion of the class is spent in standing postures. When standing on a yoga mat, you need some cushioning for your joints, but too much cushion is detrimental to keeping your balance. (Try standing on one leg on top of your bed and you'll see what we mean.) You also want some cushion for the seated or lying down portion of your classes. Knees, hips, and sit bones are all much happier when properly cushioned from hard wood or poured cement floors. 4-5 mm mats are by far the most popular thickness used, as this strikes the perfect balance for most people. Some people require or prefer extra cushioning, and there are a few yoga-specific thicker mats out there for them, like the 5/16" (8 mm) Jade Fusion Mat, which is thick but not too "squishy." Another option often seen in class is to simply double up and layer two mats on top of each other. Those that prefer a thinner mat usually opt for a 3 mm version, and most brands manufacture a 1-2 mm travel mat that rolls up tightly and/or folds up to fit in your suitcase or duffel bag.

There are also thicker 1/2" (13 mm) mats out there. You'll see these mats in many gyms for stretching or doing ab work on. While they offer great cushion for your back, they are challenging to do yoga on, and we did not include any in this review update.


Yoga mats are made from a variety of materials. We all heard about the Subway incident, where consumers were upset that a chemical used in some yoga mat manufacturing processes was also used to bleach and condition bread dough. While Subway sandwich eaters were upset that they were ingesting this chemical (Azodicarbonamide), many yogis were also upset that they may have been in close contact with something that was potentially toxic. We'll cover the basic different types of materials used here, and for a more in depth look at this topic, check out our Buying Advice guide, where we go over some of the fun (and scary!) materials used in yoga mat construction.

Click to enlarge
Some mats are made from rubber tapped from rubber trees (a similar process to how sap is collected from maple trees). These products are labelled "all-natural," although they still use some dyes, adhesive and other bonding agents in the manufacturing process. Rubber mats are known to have a strong odor, which may, or may not, dissipate with time, and are typically on the heavy side. Rubber mats also have an "open-cell" structure; water, oils and sweat absorb into it. This can help the mat retain its stickiness when wet, but also requires more frequent and "deep" cleaning to keep it fresh and clean. The three rubber models in this review are the Jade Harmony Professional, Prana Indigena Natural, and Lululemon The Mat.

Click to enlarge
While we'd need a chemistry degree to completely understand all the different products and compounds that go into a yoga mat, the common ones are: PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride), TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer), and PER (Polymer Environmental Resin). Don't let the "chemical" designation scare you away; many manufacturers go above and beyond to ensure their products are zero-waste, toxin free, made with recycled content, or are biodegradable or recyclable. In this review we tested the recyclable Manduka LiveON (TPE-based "PLUSfoam"), the "toxic emission free" Manduka PROlite (made of PVC), and the recyclable Prana E.C.O. (made of TPE).

Click to enlarge
Cotton Rugs
If you want to steer clear of all chemicals or heavy duty manufacturing, you can go "old-school" with a cotton rug. While we didn't test any rugs in this review, they are an option for gentle yoga and/or meditation, though they don't have the traction and cushioning provided by a sticky mat. Some popular models are the Yogasana Cotton Rug and the Barefoot Yoga Practice Rug.

Click to enlarge
Towel-Mat Hybrids
With the recent surge in popularity of heated classes, manufacturers are now designing options specifically for this style. Typically, people in a heated classes layer a Hot Yoga Towel over their mat to collect their sweat. This is sometimes annoying, however, as the towel can bunch up and the underlying mats get quite stinky without regular deep cleaning. Towel/mat hybrid options solve the problem by bonding a towel upper to a sticky backing, and the whole thing is machine washable. We tested two such options in this review: the Kulae Elite Hot Hybrid and the Prana Synergy.

Regardless of what type you buy, you'll want one that keeps you rooted in your poses and supports your joints and bones, while being easy to tote around and clean. After testing these eight different mats over a four month period, we rated them on the following categories: Dry Traction, Wet Traction, Comfort & Stability, Durability, Portability and Ease of Care. Keep reading below to see how the different models fared in our tests and compared against each other.

Performance Comparison

Click to enlarge
Leici Hendrix testing out the traction of the Kulae Elite Hot Hybrid in this Vashistasana variation (Side Plank Pose).

Traction Dry

We've broken traction down into "Dry" and "Wet" sections in our scoring because most of the models that we tested had a difference between the two. Also, Wet Traction is a more important consideration for those who practice heated styles or who know that their palms get sweaty as soon as their bodies start moving. Depending on the style of yoga you practice, however, traction might not be that important at all. Yin classes don't rely on any traction, as you are not actively engaging in poses but instead allowing gravity and time to deepen your stretch. And some styles, like Bikram, do not involve any oppositional moves on your mat, as the few postures that do benefit from good traction (Separate Leg Stretch, Triangle, and Separate Leg Head to Knee) are usually done sideways off the mat and on top of slippery carpet. Conversely, a "Flow" style class has multiple Sun Salutations and a vinyasa between each pose, and also includes many poses that require you to push apart with your feet or out with your hands. These classes are easier (and safer!) with a mat that helps your hands and feet stick to it.

Click to enlarge
Karolina Gil in One-legged Down Dog. We need good traction in these types of poses so that our hands don't slip forward, which puts us out of alignment and makes us have to continually re-adjust our position.

By far the best model for Dry Traction was the Jade Harmony Professional. We stuck like geckos to the sticky rubber surface and experienced no slipping or need to re-adjust our hands in Downward Facing Dog. Lululemon's The Mat was a close second for this category, and we also found the towel upper of the Kulae Elite Hot Hybrid surprisingly sticky for a towel with better traction than some of the mats in this review. The towel on the Prana Synergy was a different story, though. That surface was slick and we had a hard time even doing a basic Sun Salutation on that mat without slipping and jarring ourselves. Another surprise in this category was the Maduka PROlite. This highly rated mat was more slippery than we anticipated, even when the mat and our palms were dry. We'd heard reports that the stickiness improves with use, and we did find a slight improvement in traction by about the tenth class, but it still had nowhere near the gecko-like sticking power of the Jade and Lululemon models.

If you want to test out your own mat for stickiness, two minutes in Down Dog tells you most of what you need to know. If your hands and feet start sliding away from each other and you need to re-adjust even the slightest bit, your mat is not that sticky.

Traction Wet

Wet traction is an important criteria if your palms sweat in any way (and most of ours do) and/or you practice in a hot room. Even if you aren't shedding big drops of sweat on your mat, the smallest layer of perspiration on your palms can cause you to slip if your mat does not have good wet traction. While most of the models that we tested had a decrease in traction when wet, there were a few that actually improved. Lululemon's The Mat has great wet traction. We even went so far as to dump a cup of water on it and then tried a vinyasa, and we still stuck with no problems or slipping. The slippery-when-dry Prana Synergy was much improved when wet, and the traction on the Kulae Elite Hot Hybrid went from good to great as well. The Jade Harmony Professional still stuck well when wetted and/or with slippery palms. Some mats became quite slippery when wet, most notably the Prana Indigena Natural. The "practice" side has a smooth surface which offers ok traction when dry, but as soon as we wet it, it was like practicing on a Slip and Slide. We even went so far as to flip it over to see if the "bottom" side, which has some surface texture, would be better, but it too was slippery.

Click to enlarge
Lululemon's The Mat has great traction even when wet. The water quickly starts to absorb into the mat and we didn't have to re-adjust our hands in Down Dog.

Comfort & Stability

This category rated how supported we felt and how stable the mats were to practice on. The whole reason we use a yoga mat is to cushion our body from the floor and protect our joints and bones. But if a yoga mat shifts around underneath you and does not provide a solid surface to practice on, then this defeats the purpose. So we evaluated each mat based on the cushioning provided as well as its stability. If you have knobby knees or pointy hips, cushioning is a crucial criteria as it will make the difference between a happy pose and a painful experience. There is a problem with too much cushioning though. As we mentioned above, once a mat is thicker than 5 mm, it is harder to balance on.

Click to enlarge
Leici pressing up into Headstand. Good cushioning helps protects your knees, hips, sit bones, and even your head, in various poses. Stability provides the confidence you need to go upside without worrying that your mat will shift underneath you.

The best performing models in this category were some of the heaviest. The Jade Harmony Professional, Lululemon The Mat, and Prana Indigena Natural all had good cushioning and the weight of the mat helped it stay in one place while we were practicing on it. The Prana E.C.O. and Manduka PROlite were also comfortable, but these lighter mats tended to shift around on us a little bit. The Manduka LiveON was the "jumpiest" mat that we tested. While it has decent cushioning, it did not stay put and shifted underneath us every time we tried to jump from Downward Facing Dog to standing.

The towel hybrids did not score well in this category either. The Prana Synergy is only 1.2 mm thick (compared to the 4-5 mm traditional models that we tested) and it was difficult and even painful to try some poses on it, like Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), in which your weight is resting on your hip bones. The Kulae Elite Hot Hybrid is thicker than the Synergy (4 mm) and provided more cushion, but it still did not have the same plush feel of a traditional yoga mat.

Click to enlarge
Patrizia Beltran is trying to not say "Ow" in Mountain Pose on the Prana Synergy. This thin mat provides little cushioning or comfort.


Durability is an important consideration when purchasing a yoga mat. Many companies tout their "green" cred via "toxic-free" manufacturing processes and "zero waste" factories. While that's all well and good, the most "green" option is to buy nothing, so if we can get a model that lasts through years of use we are doing a far better thing than if we purchase something that is recyclable but falls apart in six months. While we weren't able to achieve six months of regular use with each mat during our four month testing period, our team of testers practiced at least a dozen times on each model to see if any obvious flaws showed up. We then compared older and well-used mats that we had in our closets to see what a year or two of use did to it.

The model that scored highest for Durability was the Manduka PROlite. It showed no signs or breaking down or wear during our testing period. We also examined a tester's personal mat that has almost two years of regular use on it and it still looks great. No chunks missing, cracking, or wearing away of the upper. This mat is made of PVC (Polyvinyl Cholride). While PVC is not the most "eco-friendly" compound (it's a known carcinogen that releases toxic dioxins when burned) and many manufacturers like to tout that their mats are "PVC free," Manduka asserts that the durability and longevity of this mat outweigh the negative aspects of the material. We'll leave that one up to you to decide but if you do purchase one the PROlite mats make sure to pick a darker color (the lighter color that we tested marked up easily) that you won't get bored with since you'll be using it for a long time.

We were also impressed with the durability of towel/mat combos that we tested: the Kulae Elite Hot Hybrid and Prana Synergy. These mats are meant to be thrown in the washer after each use (if they get drenched with sweat) and we were skeptical that they could handle repeated washing. However, even after multiple washings there was no separation of the two layers or cracking and flaking of the backing in either of them. Both of these models are clearly well constructed and made to withstand dozens of trips through the washing machine. One tester went so far as to complete a 30 Day Challenge with the Kulae mat (30 classes in 30 days!), and at the end of it the mat still look virtually brand new. This is good news for the Hot Yoga lovers out there who practice daily.

Click to enlarge
The bottom of the Kulae after over 40 classes and washes. No scratches or gouges, cracking or flaking.

Some mats were clearly not so well designed. The biggest failure was the Manduka LiveON. This mat is made with PLUSfoam, a TPE-based recyclable foam. While this foam mat is lightweight and easy to tote around, the surface was scratched and gouged during our testing process. One tester used this mat for a Vinyasa style class where you roll over your toes repeatedly going from Upward Facing Dog to Downward Facing Dog. Her toenails were slightly long that day, though she had used the PROlite mat the day before with no ill effects, and by the end of class she had created multiple deep and permanent gouges and scratches in the mat.

Click to enlarge
One class with long toenails and the Manduka LiveON mat was permanently damaged. This did not occur with any other model that we tested.

We also noticed that during the first few times we used the Prana E.C.O., little flakes of the TPE were coming off and sticking between our toes. This was particularly noticeable since we tested a black colored mat. Though we didn't gouge the E.C.O. during any of our testing, one of our testers has been using that mat for a little over a year and we found some cracking had occurred over that time.

Click to enlarge
Some cracking in a year-old Prana E.C.O.

We also caused some scratches on the Lululemon The Mat when we were trying to learn how to jump through from Downward Facing Dog to sitting (we can't actually do it so we ended up dragging our toes against the mat repeatedly). By the end of class The Mat was also permanently scratched, though just on the surface. When trying this maneuver on the Jade Harmony Professional, we couldn't tell that any scratching of the surface had occurred. However, the Jade Harmony does eventually show signs of wear where your hands and feet typically lie, due not only to the friction of your hands against the mat but also because of the "open-cell" design of a rubber mat. The sweat and oils from your body penetrate the mat in the spots where they usually press the most (top and bottom) and eventually stain the mat. We also observed this on older versions of the Lululemon mat.

Click to enlarge
Foot imprints on an older Jade Harmony model.

While no yoga mat lasts forever and some wear and tear is expected, you'll definitely want to purchase for durability first if you have a daily practice. If you practice only once a week, then a model that is slightly less durable but fits other criteria that you value is fine.


Portability is an important metric to consider if you use public transportation or walk/bike to get to and from your studio. The models that we tested ranged in weight from 2 to 6.5 pounds. Carting a heavy 6 pound mat from your car to the yoga room is not too big a deal, but you'll start to notice the weight if you're carrying it on your back for long distances, in addition to a towel or two (if you practice Hot Yoga), change of clothes, showering essentials, etc. Some days our yoga bag feels like a 20-pound survival kit! The lightest models that we tested were the Prana E.C.O. and Synergy mats, along with the Manduka LiveON and Kulae Elite Hot Hybrid, which were all slightly over 2 pounds. The advantage of the Kulae model is that it replaces your mat and towel, saving you weight and space. The heavier mats that we tested were the Lululemon The Mat and Prana Indigena Natural. While it wasn't fun to cart such a heavy mat around, they were the most stable mats that we tested.

Sometimes you can't have it all in yoga mat. Heavier models are a pain to tote around, but they're more stable and often more comfortable too. Lighter mats are great for travel, but tend to move around the floor during your practice.

In addition to weight, the way that a mat rolls up and stays that way (or doesn't) affects how portable it is. The lightweight Prana E.C.O. and Maduka LiveON models do not roll up tightly or compactly, and they quickly unroll if not held together with a wrap or strap. Check out our Key Accessories section below for some wrap and tote suggestions. Even though those models are lightweight, they take up the same amount of space (or more) in our bags as the heavier ones do.

Click to enlarge
The Manduka LiveON (right) does not roll up tightly like the Jade Harmony Professional (middle) and Manduka PROlite (left). Even though it is a lightweight mat, it is still bulky to carry around.

Portability is also a key consideration if you are looking for something that can travel with you in a suitcase. Both the Prana Synergy and Kulae Elite Hot Hybrid are foldable, and the Synergy is so thin that it nestles neatly in the bottom of a carry-on suitcase and take up little overall volume.

Click to enlarge
The Prana Synergy folds up nicely and fits in the bottom of a carry-on suitcase, which is nice for travelers who like to stretch out after long flights but don't like lying directly on hotel room floors.

Ease of Care

When it comes to cleaning a yoga mat there are two levels of care involved: regular surface cleaning and occasional deep cleaning. For surface cleaning, most manufacturers recommend wiping it down with only water or a non-abrasive cleaning spray after each class to remove residual sweat and oils. This helps prevent sweat from building up in your mat and making things stinky. Deep cleaning a yoga mat is often an awkward endeavor. Whether you rinse it out in the shower, soak it in a bathtub or hose it off in the backyard, there is often no quick and easy way to do a deep clean, and they often take a long time to dry afterwards.

We evaluated the Ease of Care based on all of the steps needed to keep the different models clean and in good shape. We used these mats in a home with pets, and noted how easy it was to remove the animal hairs from the surface with a regular cleaning. (Yoga mats are a magnet for little hairs and pieces of lint.) We also noted how easy it was to remove dirt and stains from the surface, or if they stayed there no matter how hard we scrubbed.

The easiest ones to clean were the hybrid towel mats. The Prana Synergy and Kulae Elite Hot Hybrid go in the washing machine after use and hang to dry, and if hung in 70-75 F room they dried out overnight. There was no scrubbing or hosing involved, and they came out smelling clean and fresh each time. The downside to this system is that you might need more than one mat if you have a daily practice but don't like to run your washer after each class.

Of the traditional models we tested, the Lululemon The Mat and Maduka LiveON were the easiest ones to clean. The smooth upper surfaces wiped down easily and didn't hold on to lint or stray hairs. The textured surface of the Jade Harmony Professional was another story; while dirt washed right off with only a spray of water and some gentle scrubbing, we could not get the animals hairs off this mat with a towel. Instead we had to pick them off one by one. The Prana E.C.O. and Indigena Natural models were also a magnet for lint and hairs, and we had to scrub pretty hard to get dirt and stains off.

Click to enlarge
Cat + Dog + sticky yoga mat = a pain to keep clean. Some models, like the Jade Harmony Professional, attracted and hung on to more animal hairs than others.

The model we had the hardest time cleaning was the Manduka PROlite. The bottom was easily marked up with dirt which would not come off. Our feet also left "dirt imprints" on the back of the mat, and these marks did not want to come off either. In this mat's defense, we did choose a lighter color, and if we had purchased it in black we might have never even noticed the dirt. However, it was disappointing to have to practice on dirty looking mat.

Click to enlarge
Smudges and stains on the bottom of the Manduka PROlite. It was hard to clean the dirt off this model, and we learned a valuable lesson - don't buy a light colored yoga mat!

While you might be bored with black and dark purple mats and be tempted to buy a "pretty" colored lighter mat, it's best to avoid lighter colors. Your mat is going to get dirty and stained, even with regular cleaning, and a darker color will mask some of the discoloration.

Key Accessories

Towels -
Click to enlarge
Towels are useful for Hot Yoga classes or for people who sweat a lot even in unheated classes. They tend to have good traction when wet, so that your feet aren't slipping around, and by absorbing your sweat they prevent a lot of it from soaking into your mat, which can lead to some unpleasant odors. Kulae makes a zuSKa Premium Yoga Towel as well as a Hot Yoga Towel. Prana has a Maha Yoga Towel and Manduka sells the yogitoes Skidless Yoga Towel. We also really liked the Jade Microfiber Yoga Towel.

Mat Slings -
Click to enlarge
Slings help keep your yoga mat rolled up and easy to take from your home to the studio. Some are just a wrap of fabric, like the Prana Yoga Mat Rap, and others have a strap that slings over your shoulder, like the Prana Tantra Mat Holder and Tote Mat Holder. Manduka makes the Go Play 2.0 which also includes a small zippered pouch for your wallet and phone.

Bags -
Click to enlarge
If you prefer to cover your mat completely when carrying it around so that is doesn't get dirty or wet if the weather is bad, you can purchase a bag that's roughly the size and shape of your mat, like the Prana Steadfast Mat Bag and Bhakti Yoga Bag or the Manduka Go Steady 2.0. You can usually fit a few more items in this bag, though if you are bringing a towel, toiletries and change of clothes with you you'll need a separate duffel or gym bag.

Straps -
Click to enlarge
Straps help you get into some poses that your natural flexibility does not easily allow. Straps are typically between 6 and 10 feet long, made of cotton, and come with a buckle that allows you to make a loop and secure it to itself. Prana makes Raja Yoga Strap and Manduka has the Reach Yoga Strap.

Blocks -
Click to enlarge
Blocks also help you keep good alignment in poses where you need to bring your hand to the ground but you don't (yet) have the flexibility to do so, like Revolved Triangle or Side-Angle Pose. There are many different types and thicknesses out there, like the Prana Wonderblock, with a curved top, or Manduka's Recycled Foam Block. Manduka also makes a Cork Block and Jade has the Balsa Block made of wood.

Bolsters -
Click to enlarge
Bolsters are great tools for meditation and Savasana. They come in various shapes, such as cylinders or rectangles, though we find the Manduka Rectangular airCORE Bolster more versatile than a cylindrical bolster.

Cleaning Sprays -
Click to enlarge
Many manufacturers recommend using only water on your mat and non-abrasive biodegradable soap. You can also put of few drops of vinegar and tea tree oil in spray bottle full of water to "freshen up" the mat a bit, or purchase a pre-made spray, such as Manduka's Mat Renew Spray.


Yoga began in India over 5000 years ago but exact dating is not clear due to a lack of historical text; ancient yoga techniques and practices may have been transcribed on leaves and stones for many years. Translated, yoga means to yoke or to join together. It has always been a practice of bringing physical and mental awareness together through breathing, focus, movement, and meditation. Four distinct eras define the evolution and innovation of the practice.

Vedic or Pre-classical yoga was based on the Vedas, a collection of text, chants, and mantras. Veda translates to knowledge; this practice sought to join the material world and the spiritual world through sacrifice and ritual based on knowledge acquired from the Vedas. Many pre-classical schools of thought developed to achieve the ultimate meditative experiences where one could transcend between the physical and spiritual realms.

During the era of Classical yoga, the Yoga Sutras taught non-dualism and are still the basis for much of modern yoga. The eight-limbed path, as taught from the Sutras, guided the individual toward enlightenment.

The Post-Classical era shifted yoga from a meditative experience to a practice that incorporated physical movement. Yoga, as practiced today, was born from this physical and spiritual joining. Prior to this era, yoga focused on transcendence to a spiritual realm through meditation and ritual. Moving the body through sequences, with technique, offered a cleansing effect that was thought to assist in the transcendence and spiritual practice.

It is only during the last 100-200 years that yoga ventured out of India. During the late 1800s and early 1900s traveling yogis shared their practices across the western world. Modern yoga is constantly evolving. There are over one hundred styles of yoga, all unique to their founders and followers.

When we put into perspective how long the timeline stretches back, we realize how new this product is. Historically, yoga was practiced on bare ground, grass, and animal skins (for the affluent). Cotton rugs designed specifically for practicing are considered to be the first mats although, other than shape, they don't resemble the current sticky options we are now fond of. Cotton rugs are still used today, either by themselves or to layer on top of a yoga mat, adding a degree of padding and keeping the mat dry.

Angela Farmer is accredited for inventing the first sticky yoga mat. As a young woman, Farmer had nerves removed from the sympathetic nervous system, eliminating her ability to sweat, particularly in her arms, hands, feet, and legs. This presented a challenge in her practice; she tried using foam mattresses, much to the dismay of her teachers, and even splashed water on her feet to mimic the moisture of sweat for traction on the ground. While teaching in Germany in 1967, Farmer tried using a carpet underlay during her practice. The sticky rubber material, intended for stabilizing rugs in place, successfully offered the traction she had been seeking in prior experiments. Interest increased around her innovative mat that soon birthed the first 'yoga mat' business. Angela began transporting body length cuts of underlay from Germany and then her father distributed them from their home in the United Kingdom. They named them "The Original Molivos Mat." For many years, the Molivos mats were distributed throughout the world in 2 mm (standard) and 4 mm (professional) thicknesses.

As a response to high export costs to the United States and throughout North America, Sara Chambers, creator of Hugger Mugger, developed the Tapas Yoga Mat in the 1990s. This was the first model designed specifically for yoga and commercially produced. It wasn't long before German designers followed suit. They wanted to create something that was more durable than the rug underlay. The Manduka company, creator of the Black Mat Pro, started up in the late 1990s and continues to offer top of the line options today.

Jade Industries, the manufacturer of our Editor's Choice winner, also evolved from carpet underlay. From the 1970s, Jade Industries made non-slip natural rubber underlays to stabilize area rugs. Like Angela Farmer, select yogis used the rug underlay for maintaining traction and Jade Industries distributed them for this purpose upon request. Jade Yoga began in 2000 with the design of the first all-natural rubber yoga mat. Prior to this, most models were made of PVC, which proved to be slippery. Jade's models were developed as an all-natural, sticky alternative to synthetic materials and are considered the first environmentally friendly mats ever made.

The continually innovating practice of yoga utilizes mats as it has for decades to achieve traction and added padding so that the movements are not limited by the practicing surface.

Ask an Expert: Babsi Glanznig

Babsi Glanzing is an instructor, blogger, world traveler, and co-Founder of RE:treat Elevated Lifestyle Adventures, a company that organizes luxurious adventure retreats around the world. Glanznig has practiced yoga for 11 years, and taught traditional Ashtanga method for the last two. As a traveler, she practices up to six times a week in all sorts of environments. From the floors of crummy hotel rooms to the tops of mountains, this young lady has put her mats to the test. This Austrian native has traveled to many countries including India, Kazakhstan, Australia, and all over Europe, for yoga, hiking, and skiing adventures. We sat down with Babsi and asked her a few questions about what to look for in your next purchase and what special considerations should be made when considering this dizzying market.

Click to enlarge
Barbara "Babsi" Glanznig is an expert on yoga mats.

In your opinion, what are the most important features to consider before purchasing a new mat?
You want something that's made of a natural and durable material. Natural, because you will roll all over it and you don't want unnatural, nasty, smelly, or any chemical substance over your skin, hands, feet, and/or face! Durable, because you will spend a lot of time on it. You will sweat, scratch it, and you want it to last and not fall apart after a week.

Also, it needs to be thick enough to comfortably support your joints. Another important factor is that the material needs to be non-slip. There is nothing more disturbing than having your feet slide when you are in a wide-legged-forward-bend, or you need to adjust the position of your hands in Downward Facing Dog all the time.

How often do you clean yours?
I usually clean mine once a week. When I am in hotter climates, and I sweat more than usual, I may clean it more often like 2-3 times a week. It all depends on the environment and the style you practice. I also use a Mysore rug on top. This is just a cotton rug that protects it from natural body oils, dirt, and other small particles.

Any tips for cleaning?
When it comes to cleaning, I have never splurged for specific cleaners or other fancy cleaning products. I use a sponge and clean the surface with vinegar from the supermarket. Then I wash it with Dr. Bronners (I love Peppermint) to get rid of the vinegar smell. Finally, I rinse it with water and let it dry. So far, this has worked wonderfully and the natural detergents don't affect the rubber in a negative way.

How do you like to tote it around? What carry products to you use?
My ultra-thin yoga mats fit into my handbag, which is always a perk with thinner models. Though, for my heavier and thicker ones, I usually carry them in a bag. I have a large mat bag that has separate compartments where I store some spare clothes, my bandanas, my chakra cards, incense and whatnot. It is super handy and I can keep everything in one place.

How important is cushioning?
This always depends on the yogi. I have seen what I call "hard-core yogis" who don't use mats at all, while others stack three on top of each other before they begin their practice. In general, I think your bones and joints should feel protected and well-cushioned, especially when you practice on firm ground, tiled floors, or concrete. So try different thicknesses out. Whatever you think works best for you, will be your best fit.

Do you think that fancy expensive models work as well as the cheaper ones?
I think it really depends on how much time you spend on it. If you go to classes a few times a month or maybe twice a year, you probably won't notice too much difference, and a top-of-the-line model is not necessary for you. If you practice every single day, you want something that works very well for quite some time.

How important is weight to you?
The weight and quality have to be in relation. Of course, a thicker one will be heavier, therefore, I prefer a mid-weight yoga mat that has enough cushion to feel comfortable during my practice. But I do want something that is not too heavy when I have to carry it around traveling.

Anything else you think a consumer should consider before purchasing one?
Just like with everything else, this purchase can feel a little overwhelming because the offers are endless and there are options for every price range and every style of practice. My advice is to talk to fellow practitioners at your studio and maybe chat to the studio owners before spending money. You can always rent one from the studio and try it out for a class or two. It is always best to get a true feel for the material. Every student and practitioner has different preferences.
Cam McKenzie Ring
Helpful Buying Tips
How to Choose a Yoga Mat - Click for details
 How to Choose a Yoga Mat

by Cam McKenzie Ring