The Kulae Elite Hot Hybrid is a great mat for hot yoga enthusiasts who don't want or need too much cushion underfoot. The total thickness of the mat is 4mm, which is perfect for standing poses and practicing on a carpeted floor, but when it came to floor poses and/or wood floors, we were left wanting more cushion underneath us. The new Aurorae Synergy, our Top Pick for Hot Yoga, provided that with 5mm of cushion, and our hipbones and sacrum thanked us for it. The towel layer of this mat floats independently of the backing, which resulted in some weird bunching when practicing a Vinyasa style of hot yoga. If you're only into the Bikram series and always practice on a carpeted surface, then this mat might do you just fine — but for those who like to mix it up with increasingly popular hot Vinyasa classes, this Aurorae Synergy is a better bet.
Kulae Elite Hot Hybrid Review
Cons: Not a lot of cushion, not as versatile for other styles of yoga
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Kulae Elite Hot Hybrid combines a mat and a towel. It is made of ECO PER (Polymer Environmental Resin), microfiber, and bamboo carbon. It weighs 2 lbs 11 oz, and measures 72" by 24" with a 4mm overall thickness. This mat is 100% biodegradable and free from what the manufacturer calls the "6 most toxic phthalates: DEHP, DBP, BBP, DINP, DIDP, and DNOP." To learn more about phthalates and yoga mat construction, check out our Buying Advice article.
From a pure "slippery" perspective, this mat does not have the best dry traction. The upper towel surface does not have the same "stick" factor as our Editors' Choice winner, the Manduka eKO, or another top favorite, the Jade Harmony Professional. We felt reasonably secure doing a series of vinyasas on this mat in a non-heated room, though we'd still prefer a traditional sticky mat over this one for a "flow" style class. This mat was made with the Bikram style of yoga in mind. If you practice Bikram or similar style classes, then you know that there are no Down Dog poses or vinyasas in that practice, and your mat or towel does little but cushion your joints and absorb your sweat.
When this mat gets wet, the traction improves a little bit. This was not the case with some of the traditional mats that we tested, like the Prana Revolution and Manduka PRO, which became slick when wet. This improved traction is a nice benefit of the microfiber top. All this to say that as your hands get sweaty with exertion or your sweat begins to accumulate on the mat, you won't have to worry about slipping and potentially jarring yourself. The top towel layer does move around a bit when wet though, and as such we preferred the bonded Aurorae Synergy's traction over this one.
The one weird thing about using a mat/towel combo for Bikram-style classes is Sasangasana (Rabbit Pose), the only time you are "allowed" to use your towel for traction while holding your heels and curving your spine forward. This towel is so thick that it makes this move harder. You could bring a separate hand towel into class to use instead, though we can't guarantee you won't get yelled at for doing so!
Comfort & Stability
The combined thickness of this mat/towel is 4mm, and we could feel the difference comfort wise between this mat and a cushier one like the Clever Yoga Better Grip. The plus side to a thinner mat is that it tends to be more stable and easier to balance on one leg on. The downside is that it makes prone backbends and Savasana more uncomfortable. When practicing on this mat in a carpeted room, there was enough padding that Danurasana (Bow Pose) was not too painful on our hip bones — but it was too thin to be comfortable on a wood floor.
We have to admit we were pretty skeptical about the durability of this mat — not because it seems cheaply made but because we've seen what putting a regular mat in the washing machine does, and we know that we have to wash our towels after every hot yoga class. So we used it a few times, and it seemed fine, and then we used it a lot. One tester even completed a 30-day challenge with this mat (that's 30 classes in 30 days folks!), and it still seemed fine. There was no delamination of the backing and only minimal pilling on the upper towel. All told, we used and washed this mat over 40 times for this review, and it still looks and works great. All products have a lifetime, but we're happy to report that this one will withstand regular heavy use.
This mat is lightweight and rolls down compactly. Though it weighs a bit more than the Prana E.C.O. and Hugger Mugger Earth Element models, its final rolled diameter is smaller than those models, making it easier to tote around. This model gets bonus portability points because of what it replaces; you no longer have to tote around (and remember) your mat and towel. Our gargantuan yoga bag was noticeably lighter with this mat onboard vs. the heavyweight Manduka PRO.
Ease of Care
If you've practiced hot yoga regularly, you know that no amount a dragging your mat into the shower with you afterward or spraying it with a cleaning spray keeps the funk out for long. Gagging on the smell of your mat in between sets during the Backbending series does not help you maintain your sanity in the heat. The design of this mat helps eliminate the odor issue and makes the overall ease of care easier! The whole mat goes in the wash after class and then hangs to dry, ready for the next day. With repeat and thorough washing, the padding on the back of this mat does not seem to develop the "funk" that other hot yoga mats do. The one downside is you do have to remember to wash it after every use, and if you have a daily practice, you'll want to buy two if you don't plan on doing laundry every day.
This mat is best for hot and sweaty yoga classes where you would normally use a towel on top of a mat. For gentle Yin or Vinyasa classes in a non-heated room, we still like a regular mat, like the Manduka eKO or Lululemon The Reversible Mat, over this one.
The Kulae Elite Hot Hybrid mat costs $68, which is slightly more than what the Aurorae Synergy is usually available for ($50-59). Considering that they are both a towel and a mat, they are a surprisingly good value. Even when purchasing a TPE mat like the Prana E.C.O. ($48), a yoga towel will set you back at least another $30, making this mat a pretty good deal in the end.
If we had any skepticism about this towel/mat combo when we first started this review, it was quickly erased once we started using it. The Kulae Elite Hot Hybrid has good traction relative to other towels, and it is lightweight and portable. It provides just enough cushion without impacting your balance, and it's a breeze to clean. If you practice any type of heated yoga or Pilates on a carpeted floor, switch to this mat, and your nostrils will thank you. If you need a little more padding though, then the Aurorae Synergy is a better choice.
Kulae has the following mats in their line: a non-toxic PVC Jivana mat (4mm) made with closed-cell technology to prevent bacteria and moisture from penetrating the surface of the mat; a 100% Biodegradable and 100% Recyclable tpECOmat (3mm), tpECOmat Plus (5mm), tpECOmat Ultra (8mm); and the EASYmat Travel (3mm). They also manufacture a microfiber zuSKa Premium Yoga Towel and a Hot Yoga Towel.
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