When it comes to yoga, there’s only one essential purchase: a great yoga mat. Have one, and you can practice nearly anywhere, at any time. But with so many brands and models on the market, it can seem almost impossible to find the best yoga mat—or the best one for you. Our tester had always used a cheap mat from big-box store—which she thought was serving her just fine. Spoiler alert: She was wrong.
A great mat needs to grip the surface you’re practicing on. It needs adequate cushioning, so knees and joints don’t feel pressed against a rock-hard floor. Hot yoga practitioners will also want one that absorbs perspiration and doesn’t become slippery. Another consideration is materials. Many mats are made of latex or rubber, which works well but irritates those with allergies to such products. On the other hand, natural rubber is recyclable and thus environmentally friendly. PVC is more durable, which means it will last longer, and it’s easier to clean. And there’s weight to consider too. Bonus points for an appealing color scheme or design, should anyone want to stand out in class.
Armed with six top-of-the-line new mats, our staffer went to classes and did solo sessions on wood floors, carpets and even grass for those outdoor classes you know you want to try this summer. She sweated, tried advanced poses, crammed into crowded spaces and contorted in her living room to try to find the most versatile, comfortable, stable mats out there. Below are the best mats, including SI’s pick for the best yoga mat, the JadeYoga Harmony mat, and more favorite yoga mats from Manduka, lululemon, Yeti Yoga and Hugger Mugger.
Our top picks
The Best: JadeYoga Harmony Mat
The Harmony, which comes in a wide spectrum of colors, is simple and versatile. What struck me first about it was that despite being lightweight and not exceedingly thick, the minute I stepped onto it, it provided far more cushion than I’d have expected. Its grip was also superb, especially for those plan do to a wide range of classes, not exclusively hot practice. Another perk: It felt broken-in from day one. I also loved the array of options: The mat comes in an XW model that’s 28” wide (instead of 24) and in three lengths, 68”, 71” and 74”. If you’re tall and consistently find yourself needing more space—or petite and find yourself with plenty of extra mat—this is an amazing option.
The Harmony mat was also easy to clean—crucial, because after I left it out one night it had become a magnet for dust and animal hair—and portable. And it’s easy to forgive its attraction of foreign bodies; it’s that very tackiness that makes it such a perfect surface to practice on, no matter how sweaty your palms become.
Jade mats are all made sustainably out of natural rubber, which is a renewable resource, and the company is clearly committed to the environment and charitable causes. Jade plants a tree for every mat sold, and it donates $5 from the purchase of any teal mat to ovarian cancer charities. Feel good, do good.
The Next Best: Manduka X Yoga Mat
I love that Manduka bills its X Yoga Mat as being a mat for athletes, not just for yogis. I happen to do a ton of workouts that don’t technically qualify as yoga on mats, whether it’s Pilates, work with free weights, or just some good old-fashioned foam rolling. Often I wonder: Is this mat okay for this activity? According to Manduka, yes. Their web page for the X Mat shows a man foam rolling on it and a woman working with a weighted ball.
The X Mat definitely holds up in the sweatiest situations, and like the Harmony, it didn’t feel like it needed to be broken in at all. From first use, it felt similar to, and its texture reminded me of the Jade, although it was a bit more noticeably grooved and bumpy. In fact, the brand bills its “highly textured dry grip” as one of the unique features of the mat, and after just a few poses on it, I could see why.
The fact that I noticed the texture at all was distracting at times, but not prohibitively so. The mat is latex-free and manufactured in an eco-friendly fashion; it’s made out of something called thermoplastic elastomer (TPE), which is essentially a blend of plastic and rubber. That material makes it lightweight, portable and fully recyclable whenever it needs to be replaced.
More yoga mats:
lululemon Reversible Mat 5mm
Available at lululemon.com, $68
The lululemon Reversible Mat has a lot of the same great features as the Jade Harmony. It’s deceptively cushiony with a great grip. However, it’s a shade heavier than the Jade model, and its cushioning was ever so slightly tougher on the knees. That’s in no way to slight this mat, which stayed firm and comfortable throughout class. I also love that lululemon includes an antimicrobial additive to the material of the mat, preventing mold, mildew, and thus odor. For a mat that certainly holds its own in hot yoga, this is a nice perk, although that by no means should make you think it needs to be cleaned less often.
The mat, which is made of polyurethane, does smell a bit rubbery at first, but after a few days of use, that issue disappeared for me. However, some previous reviewers reported needing to wash the mat multiple times with soap before the smell dissipated. Also, having tested the mat over the course of several weeks, it was hard to get a sense for its longevity—or that of any of the mats on this list. A detailed search of reviews revealed that it tends to lose its grip and texture over time, but if you’re willing to invest in a new mat every year or so, that’s not a problem. My mat also became marked-up by regular daily use, so anyone browsing based on aesthetics, should know that it may difficult to keep this mat looking pristine.
Yeti Bowie Yoga Mat
When I got my Yeti Bowie Yoga Mat, I was ecstatic about the design. If you want to be the flashiest person in class—it’s ok, admit it—this is the brand for you. My Bowie model was one of the more subdued, a white background with black squiggles and a golden circle in the center, but there’s a rainbow of other models on Yeti’s website. I loved one mat with abstract toucans in a pink and turquoise palette; another favorite, the Libra, was a beautiful muted abstract pattern.
Yeti mats are made out of PVC and are latex-free, but unlike the other brands reviewed here, Yeti doesn’t tout itself for sustainability, recycling or natural materials—so if you’re looking for eco-friendliness, this may not be the mat for you. That said, Yeti mats seem to be a great option for the more casual practitioner. It was the most cushioned of the mats I tried, more similar in texture to some of the lower-priced mats from Target I’ve used on in the past.
That cushioning felt good, but it lacked the strong grippiness I found in other mats, meaning you don’t want to work up too much of a sweat while practicing on these mats. If you have joint issues and don’t plan on much hot yoga—and are looking for a mat that’s beautiful and bold—this might be the purchase for you.
Most Eco-Friendly: Hugger Mugger Para Rubber Yoga Mat
The Hugger Mugger Para Rubber Yoga mat was, to me, the most aesthetically pleasing of the bunch, with its streaked, abstract but simple pattern. I tried it in Storm, a gray-black, but it’s also available in Lotus (purple) and River (teal). The other thing that initially struck me about this mat was its weight: it’s heavy. Although Hugger Mugger’s website doesn’t provide an official weight, when I popped the mat on my bathroom scale, it came in at more than six pounds—more than I’d want to lug to class daily.
That said, the mat had great grip from the get-go and spectacular shock absorption, and it’s eco-friendly, made of natural rubber from non-Amazon sources—which means you need to avoid this mat if you have a latex allergy. There’s a caveat to that grip, though: I never once struggled with the mat sliding on a wood floor, but when I got really sweaty I slipped on its surface, so I’d hesitate to rely on it for hot yoga classes.
Despite some reported complaints, my mat had no issues with odor. There was a faint smell of rubber, but it wasn’t really noticeable unless I pressed my nose to the mat. I loved the mat for more advanced poses and faster-moving classes; it didn’t budge, no matter what I did. With a price tag of more than $80, though, it’s definitely an investment.
Best Travel Mat: lululemon Reversible (Un) Mat
Available at lululemon.com, $48
It can seem almost impossible at times to find a good travel mat, and the lululemon Reversible (Un) Mat one is the best out there. At 2.32 pounds, it’s about half the weight of some of the lighter non-travel mats out there, which means it’s great for a commute, but it definitely adds heft to a carry-on suitcase. I tried packing it in my nearly-full Tumi bag to see if I could feel a difference, and, well, no surprise, I could. Prepare to heave that suitcase into the overhead!
However, the mat is quite compact. I had no problem at all getting it in that carry-on bag, and I even considered taking it to Europe with me this spring. That said, portability means a sacrifice in cushioning, to the point that I was somewhat uncomfortable practicing on it without additional padding. However, it held its own on hotel room carpet if you’re looking for solo practice, and it also works well layered over a studio rental mat if you’re planning to take classes while on the road.
Like its non-travel counterpart, the Reversible Mat 5mm, lululemon’s travel mat is made of polyurethane and has an antimicrobial additive.
An SI staffer, she has been an on-and-off yoga practitioner for the past decade. She’s gone in spurts where she’s done yoga multiple times a week intermingled with periods of less frequent sessions. She’s also spent many an hour on mats doing Pilates and foam-rolling, too. For this review, she spent months testing all six featured mats in a variety of locations, on different surfaces and while doing different types of practice. She also read and considered reviews by outside experts and customer reviews on a variety of consumer websites.