Choosing a yoga mat can be quite confusing with so many different types of material available, luckily I’m here to help. So, which yoga mat material is best?
Natural rubber is the best all-around yoga mat material because it’s durable, eco-friendly, and very grippy. However, it’s also quite expensive so alternatives include TPE and PVC. Cork is the best mat material for hot yoga because it’s absorbent and cotton yoga rugs are great if you want a traditional feel.
Keep reading for a full breakdown of the pros and cons of each type of yoga mat material and when I’d recommend you use them.
Which Yoga Mat Material is Best?
Here is a yoga mat material comparison and best use-case for each:
|Yoga Mat Material||What’s it Good For|
|PVC or Vinyl||Very affordable and lightweight but the most unsustainable material.|
|TPE||Also affordable and slightly more sustainable than PVC. Great for beginners or as a latex-free alternative to rubber.|
|Natural Rubber||Best material due to durability and being highly sustainable. However, most expensive and contains latex which may cause reactions.|
|Synthetic Rubber or NBR||Another affordable material. Provides much more cushion than TPE or PVC, but this reduces stability in standing positions. Comes from non-renewable sources.|
|Cork||Chosen because it is absorbent and the grip improves as it gets wetter. Best for hot yoga and people who sweat a lot.|
|Cotton or Jute||Used in yoga rugs before yoga mats were invented. More traditional and makes you feel closer to nature.|
However, keep in mind that there are other factors when choosing a yoga mat. For example, you’ll want to get the right size yoga mat for your body (recommend at least 15cm/6″ longer than your height) and a thickness that is right for your needs.
Best Yoga Mat Materials
Below is a detailed explanation of the best yoga mat materials and the full pros and cons of each:
PVC (also known as Vinyl)
PVC is primarily used in budget to mid-priced yoga mats since it has a naturally sticky surface and is quite affordable. This is important if you’re a beginner and don’t want to invest a huge amount. Although, I’d always advise getting a decent mat if you’re in for the long haul.
However, the biggest downside of PVC (also known as vinyl) is that it’s not very environmentally friendly which goes against Yama. This is the first of the eight limbs outlined in the Yoga Sutra which specifies to not harm others and is considered to include the environment.
These days, TPE is more popular than PVC as it’s slightly more sustainable, more on this later.
- PVC mats are affordable
- It has a naturally sticky surface
- Lightweight compared to rubber mats
- Comes from non-renewable sources
- Not biodegradable
- Not recyclable (source)
- Can irritate skin
As mentioned before, TPE (thermoplastic elastomers) seems to be the favored material for cheaper priced mats. It has similar properties to PVC in that it is affordable and naturally sticky.
Like PVC, it comes from non-renewable sources, however, it consumes less energy during production, is recyclable, and biodegradable so can be considered better for the environment than PVC (source).
TPE yoga mats are usually chosen for price reasons, however, it may also be chosen by people who are looking for a latex-free yoga mat due to allergic reactions.
- TPE mats are affordable
- Great latex-free alternative
- Lightweight compared to rubber
- Can be recycled
- TPE is biodegradable
- Comes from non-renewable sources
Premium yoga mats are usually made with natural rubber. This has many benefits compared to cheaper materials, for example, it is more durable and provides a good level of cushioning which supports your knees during asanas such as child’s pose.
Natural rubber is also chosen for yoga mats due to its sustainability. Whilst no product will ever be 100% sustainable, it’s better for the environment than other yoga mat materials because it comes from a natural, renewable source
The biggest downside to natural rubber is that it is more expensive, this is why it is usually only found in the best yoga mats on the market from brands such as Liforme and Manduka. It’s also heavier so if you have a thick rubber mat, it isn’t very portable.
- Comes from renewable sources
- Well padded which provides cushioning for your knees
- Very durable
- Lots of variety in terms of size, thickness, brand, etc.
- More expensive
- Contains latex which can cause allergic reactions
- Rubber yoga mats are heavier than equal-sized alternatives
Synthetic Rubber (NBR)
If a yoga mat says it’s made from ‘rubber’, you need to do some further investigation as they may be referring to synthetic rubber but attempting to fool you into thinking it’s natural rubber.
There are several different synthetic rubbers, but NBR is commonly used in yoga mats.
One of the reasons why people like NBR is for its cushioning. The material is very soft and often found in thicker yoga mats. This means it’s very comforting on your joints which is great for those with sore knees or anyone who is plus size.
You might find that a slight hand or footprint is left in the mat temporarily before it retorts to its usual shape, however, this is nothing to be concerned about.
- NBR yoga mats are affordable
- Very cushioned which is great for seated yoga poses, especially if you have bad knees
- Easy to clean
- Leaves a temporary imprint
- It comes from non-renewable sources
- Not very firm so isn’t great for standing poses
If you practice hot yoga and are wondering whether you should get a cork yoga mat, the answer is a massive yes! The benefit of cork yoga mats is that they are very absorbent and provide more grip as they become wetter which is perfect for hot yoga where you will sweat considerably due to the room being warmer than usual.
Typically, a cork yoga mat won’t be made entirely of cork. It will have another material such as TPE or natural rubber underneath. The firmness and softness of the mat will vary depending upon the ratio of cork to base materials. This will also impact the price so they can range from affordable to very expensive.
I also think they look quite cool too and many have laser etched designs on them, although be prepared for these to fade over time.
Cork itself is generally quite eco friendly as it comes from natural sources, but the base material will have an impact on the overall sustainability of the mat.
- Very absorbent
- Become more grippy when wet
- Look quite cool (lots of great designs)
- Cork is eco-friendly
- Lighter than other mat materials
- Wears more easily than other materials
- Grip isn’t great when the cork is dry (easily resolved by wetting your hands)
Cotton or Jute Yoga Rugs
For a more traditional approach, a yoga rug might be a better alternative. These are usually made from cotton or jute which is a more natural material that helps you feel closer to nature when you place your palms on it.
Yoga rugs have been used in yoga since the early 1900s, long before the modern-day yoga mat was introduced.
As well as the benefit of feeling more traditional, they’re also great for certain movements such as jump backs, jump forwards, and upward dog, as you can more easily scoot your feet.
- More traditional than a yoga mat
- Feels more natural on your palms
- Comes from a sustainable source
- Best for certain movements
- Easy to clean (put in the washing machine)
- Provide less cushion for your knees and hips
- Less grip than a material like rubber or TPE
For more information on yoga rugs, see my full guide to yoga rugs vs yoga mats to see which is best for you.
PVC vs TPE Yoga Mats
PVC and TPE yoga mats are similar in their price and how suitable they are for yoga. However, TPE tends to be slightly more sustainable because it is biodegradable and recyclable. For this reason, I would recommend a TPE mat over a PVC mat.
PVC vs NBR Yoga Mats
PVC yoga mats are better than NBR mats when it comes to firmness. This makes them suitable for all types of yoga poses. However, NBR mats are more cushioned than PVC mats which are ideal for doing poses that put a strain on your knees.
Both are quite hard to get hold of these days as many manufacturers now use TPE.
Rubber vs Cork Yoga Mats
For most people, a rubber yoga mat will be better as it provides better grip and padding than a cork yoga mat. However, if you’re doing hot yoga or tend to sweat a lot anyway, a cork mat might be a better recommendation as it is very absorbent and becomes grippier as it gets wet.
The YogaMad is founded by Mila, an avid yogini who is passionate about inspiring others to live their best lives while finding mind-body-soul balance. She has a background in business consulting but has left the corporate world in her quest to live out her dreams as a yoga nomad.