You might think that choosing a yoga mat is a simple task. But you’ll quickly find that there’s an abundance of different types and brands to choose from which can be a little daunting, especially if you’re new to the practice.
Luckily, I’ve put together this complete yoga mat buyers guide which covers all the key things to consider when choosing your next mat. So, how do you choose a yoga mat?
Look for a yoga mat that is about 15cm (6”) longer than your height. It should have a sticky, textured surface that provides a good grip. Mats are usually 4-5mm thick, but if you prefer restorative yoga, look for a thicker mat that provides more cushion when holding poses for longer.
In the rest of this article, I’ll go into detail on how to choose the size, thickness, material, color, and key features when buying a yoga mat. Plus, I’ve put in a few recommendations at the end too.
- What NOT to Buy
- Yoga Mat Buyers Guide
- What is the Best Yoga Mat?
- Related Questions
What NOT to Buy
Before I go on to talk about the things you should look out for, it’s worth making a note of what you shouldn’t buy.
Don’t buy an exercise mat – A yoga mat is different from an exercise mat. Yoga mats have a sticky surface which helps you keep a good grip during poses, whereas exercise mats tend to be smooth and have too much cushion for keeping steady, balanced poses.
Don’t buy a camping mat – Whilst you could use a yoga mat for camping (if it’s not too cold), it doesn’t work the other way around. Camping mats retain a lot of air which helps keep campers insulated from ground chill, whereas yoga mats need to be firmer for staying balanced.
Don’t skimp on your yoga mat – Although I do recommend cheap yoga mats in some articles, it’s always with the caveat that you get what you pay for. If you’re just starting out, then by all means get a budget mat to try it out, but if you use your mat regularly, it’s worth buying a more expensive mat that will last a lot longer and be better for your body and the environment.
Yoga Mat Buyers Guide
What Size Yoga Mat Do I Need?
When choosing the size of your yoga mat, the general rule of thumb is to ensure it is about 15cm (6”) longer than your height.
This will allow you to lie down fully on the mat without your head or feet protruding on the floor, for example, when reaching shavasana (corpse pose) at the end of your practice.
The second key consideration related to size is thickness. Yoga mats vary in thickness from around 2mm up to 6mm or even as thick as 15mm in certain materials.
As a general guide:
- 2-3mm mats are thinner than normal and designed for transporting to classes or when traveling. However, they will wear more easily and provide less support.
- 4-5mm mats are your typical size, ideal for both home use and transporting short distances. They are great all-around mats that provide firmness for balance with enough padding to support seated poses.
- 6mm+ mats are above-average thickness, they provide additional cushioning which is ideal if you prefer restorative yoga where you hold your poses much longer. However, they can be heavy to carry around and, if too thick, they can be unstable for standing poses.
The thickness will vary depending upon the material. For example, NBR tends to be very thick whereas rubber can still be effective in thin mats.
You don’t need to be concerned with width as this will usually increase relative to length.
Which Material is Best?
This table breaks down the most popular yoga mat materials and when they would be useful:
|Yoga Mat Material||Pros + Cons|
|PVC or Vinyl||Very affordable, lightweight, and durable. But also very unsustainable.|
|TPE||Also affordable but more sustainable than PVC. Great for beginners or as a latex-free alternative to rubber.|
|Natural Rubber||Durable, sustainable, and well-cushioned. Often paired with a polyurethane or cork surface. Rubber is expensive and contains latex.|
|Synthetic Rubber or NBR||Another affordable material. Generally a lot thicker than TPE or PVC mats, this reduces stability in standing positions. Comes from non-renewable sources.|
|Cork||The benefits of cork yoga mats are that the grip improves as you get sweaty and they are antimicrobial. 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. See related questions for more about yoga rugs.|
For a full review of the pros and cons of each material, see my dedicated article on which yoga mat material should you choose.
Open vs Closed Cell Mats
When choosing the yoga mat material, you’ll come across the terms open-cell and closed-cell which refer to the surface of the mat where you practice.
Here are the benefits of each:
- Open-Cell – The material has small air pockets which provide a nice amount of cushion. These pockets are absorbent too so it will stay grippy when you sweat a lot.
- Closed-Cell – There are no air pockets in the material. This means that it is more durable and easier to clean. However, it is much firmer which might not be so easy on your knees and can become slippy when wet.
What Color Yoga Mat?
The color of your surroundings can have a big impact on your mood as you perform yoga and meditation. If you’re planning to set up a regular home yoga practice, I would recommend you take the time to create a dedicated space in your home.
When creating your home yoga space, consider the color scheme used including the color of your yoga mat. Here are some of the popular colors and how they might make you feel:
- Red – Energetic, Empowerment
- Orange – Playful, Enthusiastic, Confident
- Purple – Wisdom, Divinity, Royalty
- Blue – Calm, Soothing
- Green – Natural, Positivity, Renewal
- Pink – Love, Devotion
- Yellow – Happiness, Joy
- Black – Elegance, Mystery
- White – Purity, Balance, Cleanliness
To learn more about the emotions that are triggered by different colors during yoga practice, see my full guide to choosing the right color yoga mat.
Other Features to Look For
I’ve broken down the main variables that you will need to consider when choosing your yoga mat. However, here are a few other features that might be worth looking for:
1. Alignment Lines
If you’re a beginner, you might want to consider a yoga mat with alignment lines. These feature markings in strategic places that help you place your hands and feet for correct posture. They can be useful in large classes so you can self-correct when your instructor is busy or when doing yoga at home.
If you plan to carry your mat around a lot, then this will be a key consideration. You’ll want to ensure a thinner mat so that it can be more compact when rolled up and weight will be important too. Some come with a dedicated strap that can double up for carrying your mat and as a regular yoga strap.
If you plan to do yoga on vacation or are visiting a retreat, look for a dedicated travel yoga mat. These are usually around 2-3mm in thickness and not too wide so they can fit snuggly in your backpack or suitcase. However, keep in mind that these thinner mats can wear more quickly.
Yoga mats that easily fold over have two main benefits, firstly you can add extra padding for certain poses which avoids the need for a knee pad. Secondly, you can fold them up to pop in a suitcase for travel as mentioned above.
Both the thickness of the mat and the material used will affect foldability with rubber or PVC mats being among the best. The Jade Harmony mat is one of the best for this. Typically, cork yoga mats don’t fare well when repeatedly folded over in the same spot.
What is the Best Yoga Mat?
Now, that I have broken down all of the key things to look for when choosing a mat, here’s a selection of the best yoga mats that I highly recommend:
Best Overall: Liforme
I’ve reviewed a lot of yoga mats and in my view, the best yoga mat as of 2021 is the Liforme mat. They are made from natural rubber with a polyurethane surface which is soft and absorbs water so it doesn’t get sticky when you swat.
At 4.2mm thick, they are a great all-round mat for home use and light enough to carry to class with you. The mats are fairly wide as well, so you can ensure you have plenty of space between you and the next yogi.
Eco-Friendly: Jade Harmony
The best eco-friendly yoga mat is the Jade Harmony mat. Unlike the Liforme which uses polyurethane, the Jade Yoga mat is 100% natural rubber which is a sustainable material. The mats are recyclable, biodegradable, and they plant a tree for every mat sold.
The mats are firmer than the Liforme which is great for balance although less cushioned on your knees. The Jade Harmony mat rolls up well and can also be folded easily making it great for travel.
Budget Pick: Gaiam
Earlier in the article, I cautioned about choosing a cheaper yoga mat over a more premium brand as the quality and durability will slip. However, if you MUST choose a more affordable mat, Gaiam is a great brand to look at.
Their mats are made from PVC which means they are highly durable and easy to keep clean since they do not absorb moisture or odors. However, PVC is not very sustainable as it comes from non-renewable sources and does not biodegrade. It’s also prone to becoming slippy when wet as the material is closed-cell.
Should I Get a Yoga Mat or Yoga Rug?
An alternative to a yoga mat is a more traditional yoga rug. These are usually made from cotton or jute and don’t have the sticky texture that you’d find on a mat. Instead, they feel more natural. Yoga rugs were used long before mats were invented and favored by Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, considered to be the father of modern yoga.
My dedicated guide on yoga rugs vs yoga mats breaks down the similarities and differences between the two.
Are Yoga Mats Unisex?
Yes, men and women can use the same yoga mats. However, when choosing a yoga mat for men, you may want to consider something longer and thicker as males are, on average, taller and heavier than women.
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.