The Best Yoga Mat Review
What's the best yoga mat on the market today? We've put 10 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, looking for a specialty one for Hot Yoga, or just want to see what's new in the industry, we have you covered here at OutdoorGearLab. Keep reading to see how the different models compared against each other.
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
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 for 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 of 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 Yoga Pants Review.
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. 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. Mats of 4-5 mm 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 6 mm Manduka PRO, 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 as such we did not include any 1/2" models in this review.
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 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.
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, adhesives 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 them. 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 rubber models in this review are the Manduka eKO, Jade Harmony Professional, Prana Revolution, and Lululemon The Reversible Mat.
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 Hugger Mugger Earth Elements and Prana E.C.O. (TPE), the "toxic emission free" Manduka PRO (PVC), and the Gaiam Premium Sticky (PVC but free of harmful phthalates).
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.
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 towel over their mat to collect their sweat. This is sometimes annoying, however, as the towel can bunch up and the underlying mat gets quite stinky without regular deep cleaning. Towel/mat hybrid options solve these problem by bonding a towel upper to a cushioning layer (usually PER), and the whole thing is machine washable. We tested two such options in this review: the Aurorae Synergy and Kulae Elite Hot Hybrid.
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 10 different mats over a three-month period, we rated them on the following categories: Dry Traction, Wet Traction, Comfort and 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.
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.
By far the best two models for Dry Traction were the Manduka eKO and the Jade Harmony Professional. We stuck like geckos to the sticky rubber surfaces and experienced no slipping or need to re-adjust our hands in Downward Facing Dog. Lululemon's The Reversible Mat was a close second for this category, and the Prana E.C.O. and Hugger Mugger Earth Elements were also fairly sticky. One disappointment was the Maduka PRO. This highly rated mat was more slippery than we anticipated, even when the mat and our palms were dry. Manduka states 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 sticking power of the eKO and Jade Harmony models. The towel hybrid models were also not the best when it came to dry traction, as the surfaces felt slick without much give that our palms could did into. This is similar to how a regular towel on top of any yoga mat feels.
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.
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, like Lululemon's The Reversible Mat. 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 traction on the hybrid models also improved when wet. In fact, we now prefer to spray the hand and feet areas of those towels with a bit of water before class as the improvement is so significant. The Jade Harmony Professional still stuck well when wetted and/or with slippery palms, as did the Manduka eKO. Some mats became quite slippery when wet, most notably the Manduka PRO and the Gaiam Premium Sticky. It became increasingly difficult to hold poses like Downward Facing Dog without slipping once we warmed up a bit and our palms got sweaty.
Comfort and 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 it 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.
The best performing models in this category were some of the heaviest. The Manduka PRO and eKO models and the Lululemon The Reversible Mat all had good cushioning, with the weight of the mat helping it stay in one place while we were practicing on it. The Prana E.C.O. and Hugger Mugger Earth Elements were also comfortable, but these lighter mats tended to shift around on us a little bit. The Gaiam Premium Sticky 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 so well in this category either. While their overall thickness was comparable to some of the mats in this review, (4 mm for the Kulae and 5 mm for the Aurorae), that includes the towel which doesn't provide much cushioning. It was difficult and even painful to try some poses on these mats, like Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), in which your weight is resting on your hip bones. The Aurorae is slightly thicker and offers a bit more cushioning than the Kulae, but it still did not have the same plush feel of a traditional yoga mat.
If you need some extra padding for certain poses, like Bow Pose or Camel Pose, but prefer a thinner mat overall, just fold a small section of the mat on top of itself under your hips or knees. This will triple your cushioning and help prevent bone bruising or joint discomfort.
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 three-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 PRO. It showed no signs of breaking down or wear during our testing period. We also examined a tester's personal mat that has over three years of regular use on it and it still looks great. No chunks missing, cracking, or wearing away of the upper surface. 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 of the PRO 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 the towel hybrid models that we tested: the Kulae Elite Hot Hybrid and Aurorae 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.
We did have durability issues with some of the models in this review. We noticed that during the first few times we used the Prana E.C.O. and Hugger Mugger Earth Elements (very similar to each other), little flakes of the TPE were coming off and sticking between our toes. These mats are also prone to creasing and cracking. They ended up at the bottom of the mat pile one day and the weight of the other mats was enough to cause some permanent creases in the mats in areas where they got folded over themselves. We have an older version of the E.C.O. in our gear closet, and noticed that it started to crack and separate a bit after about a year of use.
We also caused some scratches on the Lululemon The Reversible 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 it was 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 significant 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 were impressed with the design of the Manduka eKO, which has a closed-cell layer on top of the rubber to help prevent this issue and increase its longevity.
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 two to almost eight pounds. Carting a heavy eight-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 Hugger Mugger Earth Elements models, along with the Kulae Elite Hot Hybrid, which were all slightly over two 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 Manduka PRO and eKO models. While it wasn't fun to cart such heavy mats around, they were the most stable and comfortable ones that we tested. The Prana Revolution received the lowest score for this category, as in addition to being on the heavier side it was also longer and wider than all of the other mats and wouldn't fit in our regular yoga bag.
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 Hugger Mugger Earth Elements 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.
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 no quick and easy way to do a deep clean, and they often take a long time to dry afterwards. If you don't see yourself doing this ever, then you'll want to consider a PVC or TPE mat, which have closed-cell constructions and won't absorb your sweat and oils as easily as an open-cell rubber mat, thereby not needing a deep cleaning as frequently.
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. (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 Aurorae 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 is no scrubbing or hosing involved, and they come out smelling clean and fresh each time. We had found some stains on the Aurorae at one point, and they easily came out in the next wash cycle with a little stain remover spray and no scrubbing on our part. 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 Maduka PRO and Gaiam Premium Sticky were the easiest ones to keep clean in terms of their regular care. They are "closed-cell" mats, so don't require regular deep cleaning, and the smooth upper surfaces wiped down easily and didn't hold on to lint or stray hairs. We did have some issues with dirt staining on the Manduka PRO though. Our feet left "dirt imprints" on the back end of the mat, and these marks did not want to come off. 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.
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.
The Prana E.C.O. and Hugger Mugger Earth Elements did attract lint and animal hairs, and the textured upper surface of the mat made it difficult to remove those things while wiping it down. We also experienced this with the Jade Harmony Professional. When it came to deep cleaning, rubber mats like the Jade and Lululemon The Reversible Mat took several days to dry out afterwards, and you can't leave them in the sun to help hasten the process as that will degrade the material. While all this cleaning may seem like a pain, it is recommended to help lengthen the life of your yoga mat and prevent the buildup of odors and stains.
Here are some great recommendations for other products that are useful when practicing yoga.
Towels - Hot Yoga Towel, Prana has a Maha Yoga Towel, and we also really like the Jade Microfiber Towel.
Mat Slings - 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 - 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 - Raja Yoga Strap and Manduka has the Reach Yoga Strap.
Blocks - Wonderblock, with a curved top, or Manduka's Recycled Foam Block and Cork Block.
Bolsters - Rectangular airCORE Bolster more versatile than a cylindrical bolster.
Cleaning Sprays - Mat Renew Spray.
The practice of yoga involves many aspects, from physical exertion to deep journeys into your inner self. The last thing you want to worry about during your practice is whether your hands are going to slip out from under you or how uncomfortable your knees or hip bones feel in various poses. It's also a product that is almost impossible to try out first before purchasing it, so we often buy based on the advice and testimonials of others. Hopefully we helped take some of the guess work out of this for you with our comprehensive evaluation and review. Now it's time to hit the mat and put the prose into practice.
— Cam McKenzie Ring
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