To find the best yoga mat, we first carefully researched and selected 17 of the most popular and highest rated ones available on the market today. We then took all the mats to Omni in South Lake Tahoe and lined them up next to each other for our side-by-side comparison testing. We carefully tested each mat for many practices in varied styles of yoga to see how they held up. Our testers included long-time practitioners as well as certified yoga teachers. Here's how we specifically tested for each metric.
Ease of Care
After all of the sweating and Down Dogging, we had to clean these mats, and we noted how much of a chore that was. We tested these mats in a home with pets, so we could tell which models attracted animal hair and which didn't, and we also used them outside for yoga sessions in the park, which then meant there were grass stains that needed removing.
Traction Dry and Wet
During our side-by-side testing, we spent three hours performing a series of poses on each mat, noting how the different models varied in their dry traction. We did a series of Sun Salutations on each one and noted if our hands started slipping in Downward Facing Dog, or if our feet slid apart during Warrior I or II. Then we sprayed each mat with water (to simulate sweat) and tried to hold Down Dog again. We also took each mat to multiple hot yoga practices to see if the traction was consistent with real sweat.
Comfort and Stability
During our side-by-side testing, we scored for comfort and stability. We gauged how much cushioning we felt, whether the mat moved around on us, and how stable standing poses felt. We tried each mat in a Yin style class and Vinyasa class to see if we still appreciated it as much after a full hour of practice.
After our side-by-side session, we passed these mats out and used them for both studio and home-based practices for over three months. We stretched and sweated on these mats for over 100 testing hours.
After our testing period, we collected all the mats together and noted any damage and wear and tear that had occurred. We also compared older versions of each model to see how they held up to longer-term use.
We weighed each model that we tested and compared that to the manufacturer's stated weight, and we noted how easy (or heavy) they felt when toting them to and from the studio. We also traveled with the travel mats to see which one fit in a carry-on bag better.
Finally, we spent hours researching the different materials that the mats are made of and how they are marketed, trying to wade through some of the hype to figure out which models are really the "environmentally friendly" ones.