The Prana E.C.O. is a great mat for a reasonable price. It's lightweight, has good traction, and is made with a closed-cell technology so that sweat and bacteria cannot penetrate the surface and set up shop inside it. There's enough friction for flow style classes, and the "closed-cell" construction helps keep the funk away if used for hot yoga. If you like to try a lot of different styles of yoga, the E.C.O. ensures you won't need a different mat for each one.
Prana E.C.O. Review
Cons: Bits of the mat slough off on your toes, it retains creases and fold marks
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Prana E.C.O. is made from TPE (thermoplastic elastomer) in a "toxic-free manufacturing process," and is "PVC free, chloride free, latex-free, and uses non-toxic materials in its production." According to Prana, this mat is also recyclable. It's 72" long by 24" wide and 5mm thick. It weighs 2 lbs 1 oz. Note that the E.C.O. is practically the same as the Hugger Mugger Earth Elements (we wouldn't be surprised if they were manufactured in the same factory due to the identical stamping), so if our reviews of those two mats sound similar, it's because they are.
The traction on this mat is great, and it's only slightly less sticky than the Jade Harmony and Lululemon The Reversible Mat when dry. The surface of the E.C.O. has a raised design, and the material itself is slightly compressible and squishy, which let our hands dig in and then stay put. This is an important feature, particularly for oppositional poses like Downward Facing Dog, where your hands and feet are pushing away from one another. It's annoying to have to constantly re-adjust your hands in that position, and sudden slips can even lead to injury. Luckily, the dry traction on this mat is good enough to help you stick when you want to.
When our palms got sweaty during a vigorous class, we did start to experience some slipping on this mat. This seems to be the norm with most mats — they get slippery when wet. The few exceptions were the Lululemon The Reversible Mat, as well as the towel/mat combos, the Aurorae Synergy, and Kulae Elite Hot Hybrid. Those three mats' traction improved with added moisture. While the wet traction on this mat wasn't as bad as some others, like the Manduka PRO, if you do sweat a lot, you'll want to consider using a towel on top.
Comfort and Stability
This mat is comfortable to lie on, but it's not as stable as the Manduka eKO. It was slightly more challenging to work on one-legged balancing postures on this mat, compared to the heavier Manduka PRO or eKO models. This mat is so light that it occasionally moved around on us during vinyasas as well. It's always a little surprising to try and jump up to standing from Down Dog only to have your mat come with you! This mat skews a little too much on the side of comfort while neglecting stability. While the "squishy" material does feel nice on your hipbones and knees, it is not so good for balancing.
If you have trouble keeping your balance when standing on one leg, say in Vrksasana (Tree Pose) or Natarajasana (Dancer's Pose), try stepping off to the side of your mat to see if that helps. A squishy mat underfoot makes maintaining your balance more challenging than doing the pose directly on a wood floor. Conversely, if you are looking to improve your balance and challenge yourself further, try doing these poses with your foot on a block.
The one area that concerned us about this mat initially was its durability. When we first started using it, little flecks of the TPE were coming off and sticking to our feet. Thankfully, that stopped after six or seven uses. The material is supposed to be UV resistant (unlike rubber mats which degrade if left out in the sun), but creases and folds tend to stick in the material. We carefully examined a year-old version of this mat that had seen regular use (on average, two times a week). No chunks were missing, but there were some deeply embedded creases and cracking. If you want this mat to last, avoid folding it and store it loosely rolled so that it doesn't permanently take on a rolled shape.
Weighing only 2 lbs 1 oz, the Prana E.C.O. is the lightest regular yoga mat that we tested in this review. The travel mats that we tested, the Gaiam Foldable and Jade Voyager, are lighter than this one at only 1 and 1.5 lbs, but they are very thin and not nearly as comfortable. The E.C.O. mat is not the most portable, though, as it doesn't roll up very small, nor does it like to stay rolled up.
Ease of Care
The Prana E.C.O. was not as easy to care for as some of the other mats in this review. Small pieces of lint and animal hairs stick to the surface of this mat and are hard to remove. You can't just throw it in the washer like the Kulae Elite Hot Hybrid and Aurorae Synergy models either. The closed-cell technology means that the mat doesn't absorb much water and is quicker to dry than the rubber models that we tested, but you have to be careful how you lay the mat out to dry. Even hanging it over a chair can cause permanent grooves and folds in it.
At this price, the price of the Prana E.C.O. is pretty good. While you can purchase some other mats, like the Gaiam Premium Sticky, for less, they don't have near the same level of traction, cushioning, and comfort.
The Prana E.C.O. mat is a relatively inexpensive mat with a lot of great features. It's lightweight, comfortable, and has good traction. The closed-cell" construction of the mat makes it a good option for heated classes where you'll be sweating a lot, and even after a year of use in a hot room, it has yet to acquire the funk that makes us want to throw our mats in the garbage. You can go to some big-box or discount retailers and find a mat for super cheap, but it won't be nearly as high performing and versatile as this one. This mat is a great low-cost option that will help, not hinder, your practice.
— Cam McKenzie Ring
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