A yoga mat is a thin piece of rubber, TPE, jute or other material that is laid on the floor and enables a safe, effective yoga practice.
Yoga mats are versatile, affordable, portable and require very little maintenance. They can also be used for strength training, thai chi, stretching before or after a workout, and a variety of other purposes.
There are a lot of yoga mats on the market today vying for your attention. We sifted through the contenders and determined that the following are the best yoga mats of 2020.
1. Gruper TPE Yoga Mat
Gruper makes their yoga mat from eco-friendly TPE, rather than PVC or latex-heavy rubber. TPE is flexible, durable, does not have that rubbery smell and can be completely recycled when the mat reaches the end of the line.
This particular mat is 72 inches long by 24 inches wide and is 1/4 inch thick. At 1 3/4 pounds it’s light enough to take anywhere and it cleans up easy with a damp cloth. The Gruper TPE Yoga Mat looks great, feels great and comes with its own handy carrying sack with shoulder strap. It is also guaranteed for a full year, with a 3 month unconditional refund if you are not completely satisfied.
2. Heathyoga ProGrip Non Slip Yoga Mat
Learning the various yoga positions is not always easy. In fact, without proper guidance it can take years to perfect your technique. The people at Heathyoga understand this and are here to help. The ProGrip Non-Slip Yoga Mat comes with alignment markings etched right into the surface of the mat.
That way you can be sure you are assuming the correct pose right out of the gate. You’ll save time and energy and reduce the likelihood of poor technique causing an injury. The ProGrip Yoga Mat is made of recyclable polyurethane that provides excellent grip, and is 26 inches wide to give you a little more room to move.
3. Yoga Design Lab Combo Yoga Mat
The folks at Yoga Design Lab have gone out of their way to make a yoga mat that is as eco-friendly as it is effective. The mix of natural rubber and special microfibers produced from recycled materials makes this a mat that won’t wind up leeching chemicals into a landfill. But that by itself is not enough reason to buy it.
Fortunately, it also provides a good grip regardless of how much you’re sweating, so there is no need to drag a yoga towel around with you everywhere. It also happens to feature some beautiful patterns and, to top things off, it is machine washable.
4. Bobo Banana TPE Yoga Mat
The Bobo Banana TPE Yoga Mat is good-looking, eco-friendly, bacteria-resistant and priced to bring a smile to your face. Overall, it is 6 feet long, 2 feet wide, 1/4 inch thick and features a no-slip surface that reduces the chance of injury.
This is a great choice for beginner to intermediate yoga practitioners, although experienced yogis will find plenty to like as well. It rolls up tight, does not have that rubber smell, cleans up with a damp cloth and the back has a laser-engraved texture that prevents the mat from slipping on hard, slick surfaces.
5. Lottus Life Jute Yoga Mat
Rubber mats are eco-friendly and provide a nice, slip-resistant surface, but they can sometimes smell like rubber. PVC mats don’t soak up sweat and last a long time, but they cannot be recycled. Jute yoga mats, on the other hand, are eco-friendly, durable, comfortable and all-natural.
This Jute Yoga Mat from Lottus Life is all of those things, plus it’s 3/8 inch thick to provide an extra bit of cushioning if you are dealing with sore, stiff joints. The Lottus Life Yoga Mat is also reversible, handsome and comes with a convenient shoulder strap for carrying.
6. Jade Yoga Harmony Yoga Mat
Jade Yoga Mats are simple, comfortable, durable, eco-friendly and American made. Jade uses only natural rubber in their Harmony Yoga Mat. That ensures you always get a nice solid grip, regardless of how much you sweat.
It also ensures that when it is time to move on to another mat, this one can be completely recycled. Or, if need be, disposed of without any worries that it will leech chemicals into the environment.
7. Hugger Mugger Rubber XL Yoga Mat
Standard yoga mats tend to be 72 x 24 inches. And while that is fine for some people, if you are tall you are going to wind up hanging off the ends and sides on a regular basis as you go through your routine. Hugger Mugger understands this and makes their Rubber XL Yoga Mat a pleasing 78 x 28 inches.
Being rubber this mat also extremely durable and provides a rock-solid grip, even on the most challenging poses. Lastly, because it is natural rubber, it is also eco-friendly and can be safely disposed of or completely recycled.
8. Blissful Living Cork Yoga Mat
One material that does not get a lot of press when it comes to yoga mats is cork. And that is a shame because cork actually makes for outstanding yoga mats. Cork mats produce excellent grip, do not get slippery when you sweat and are very light, compared to rubber and some other materials.
Cork is also easy on the joints, versatile and long lasting. And let’s not forget that it is also far more affordable than natural rubber, while being just as eco-friendly.
9. Sivan Health and Fitness 1/2-Inch Yoga Mat
Older individuals often find the idea of yoga attractive, but find thin yoga mats to be too painful for their taste. Fortunately, the Sivan Health and Fitness 1/2 Inch Yoga Mat is here for them. This mat is made of synthetic NBR foam that feels great and bounces back to its original shape even after months of continuous use.
The Sivan yoga mat will not slide around on the floor and has a ridged surface that prevents slipping even during the most challenging poses or exercises. Comes with a handy shoulder strap too.
10. Manduka Pro Yoga Mat
Make no mistake; the Manduka Pro Yoga Mat is made for those who have their technique down and are unlikely to make the kind of rookie mistakes that might lead to slipping and hurting oneself. The closed cell surface keeps sweat from soaking in and promoting bacterial growth. But it also makes for a mat that is slipperier than most.
There is no doubt about the mat’s durability, however, and it cleans up quickly and effectively with just a damp cloth. It’s also comfortable, rolls up tight and comes with a lifetime replacement warranty. Which is important given the price.
What Is a Yoga Mat?
A yoga mat is a piece of rubber, cork, jute, or TPE (1) that is rolled out on the floor or ground and used as a platform for practicing yoga. The mat provides a non-slip surface that enables the practitioner to assume the various yoga poses without the danger of injury. Some yoga mats have various hand and foot positions etched into their surface as a guide to help beginners. Yoga mats are light and durable and typically last several years, even with regular use.
What are the Benefits of a Yoga Mat?
Yoga mats enable your yoga practice – Yoga requires the practitioner to assume a variety of positions that, when done correctly, increase flexibility and strength, enhance feelings of wellbeing, restore balance and more. But practicing yoga without a safe, comfortable platform is not advised, especially for the beginner. And that is where the yoga mat comes in. The yoga mat allows the newcomer to get off on the right foot with their yoga practice. A practice that will pay handsome dividends for years to come.
Yoga mats are really all purpose mats – Despite their name, yoga mats are really all-purpose mats. You can place them under you while doing situps or pushups or planking (2). They are great for doing stretching exercises prior to running. And if you are a fan of free weights, a yoga mat is indispensable in making sure you don’t slip while performing your various lifts. A yoga mat under your sleeping bag can also make your camping experience a lot more enjoyable.
Yoga mats prevent injuries – Yoga is deceptively strenuous and, as is the case with all strenuous activities, there is always the risk of injury. While nothing can remove 100% of the risk, having a good yoga mat underneath you is a great way to eliminate most of the risk. Your joints will not come into direct contact with the hard surface of the floor. You virtually eliminate the risk of slipping. And, because of its non-slip qualities, you are able to direct your energy in the most efficacious manner, reducing the risk of pulled or torn muscles.
Yoga mats enable better quality sleep – According to the CDC as many as 1/3 of Americans do not get enough sleep (3). The reasons range from stress, to illness, to shift work, relationship problems and more. A good yoga mat enables you to get the exercise you need (whether that be yoga or something else), to work off excess energy and set yourself up for a good night’s sleep.
Yoga mats can help alleviate arthritis pain and stiffness – Arthritis strikes millions of Americans (4) and can make even simple tasks a painful ordeal. Stiff joints caused by inflammation are the major cause of arthritis pain. While OTC medications can help reduce some of the inflammation and pain, they cannot by themselves improve flexibility. You have to actually work the joints to do that. Yoga is a great, low-impact way to improve overall flexibility.
Old yoga mats can be repurposed – Just because you have moved on to a new yoga mat that doesn’t mean you have to dispose of the old one. Old yoga mats can be repurposed to fill a variety of rolls. You can place them in the bathroom to prevent slipping getting in and out of the shower or tub. You can place them directly in the shower or bathtub. They can be used to protect the inside of your car when moving things. They can be placed under the bed in your RV to enhance its comfort. The possibilities are endless.
Yoga and yoga mats can help reduce falls in seniors – Falls are a major concern for older folks. Every 19 minutes in the US an elderly person dies from falling (5). It’s an appalling reality and people who work with seniors have been searching desperately for ways to reduce that number. One of the main reasons older folks fall is that they lose their sense of balance. Yoga is a great way for an older person to restore strength and balance and reduce the risk of a debilitating fall.
Yoga mats make good sleeping pads – Homeless shelters often struggle to provide comfortable accommodation to all their guests. If you have moved on to a new yoga mat there is no point is simply consigning it to a landfill. Donate it instead.
Is There an Optimal Thickness for a Yoga Mat?
How thick or thin a yoga mat is depends entirely on the preferences of the practitioner. Some people want a mat that does little other than stop them from slipping around. Others want a mat with some cushioning to accommodate their arthritis.
The bottom line is that you are free to choose whatever mat you feel comfortable with. As a general rule, mats tend to get thinner as people get more experienced. Beginners will often start with a 1/2 inch thick mat, and after a while switch to 1/4 inch. It’s not unusual to see experienced yogis with a 1/8 inch thick mat.
How do I Maintain a Yoga Mat?
Yoga mats are typically low maintenance affairs that need nothing more than a regular wipe down. The trick is to wipe it down with the right product. If you have a mat that is either entirely or partly rubber commercial cleaning products will be absorbed by the rubber and cause it to break down on a molecular level. Essential oils will also damage a rubber mat. The best thing to do is check the instructions that came with the mat. But when in doubt, just wipe it down with a clean, damp cloth and let it air dry.
Is Yoga Good for Seniors?
Those over 60 often have a difficult time getting or staying in shape. And there are a lot of reasons for that. Many have spent decades working in an office. By the time they retire, 40 years behind a desk may have caused so much damage (6) that getting in shape seems like a bridge too far.
In other cases, arthritis or other chronic conditions may prevent them from engaging in vigorous exercise. Yoga is an ideal form of workout for older folks. It improves flexibility, increases muscle and bone strength and alleviates stress while enabling restful sleep.
Is There Latex in Yoga Mats?
It depends on the yoga mat. Any yoga mat made from natural rubber is going to contain some latex. How much depends on how much rubber is in the mat. Some mats are made with 100% natural rubber.
If you have a latex allergy you should avoid this type of mat. Others are made with a highly processed form of rubber that contains only tiny trace amounts of latex. And still other mats are made using a small amount of rubber, or no rubber at all. If you have a latex allergy you should opt for a mat made of jute or PVC or some other non-rubber materials.
How Much Does a Yoga Mat Cost?
Like just about everything else on the market yoga mats range from the dirt cheap to the expensive. You can pick up a perfectly serviceable yoga mat for $10 or $20 online that will provide a year of regular use if you’re lucky. Or you can splurge and spend $200 on a yoga mat made from all natural materials, with a pleasing surface and position guides etched into it that will last 10 years.
It’s entirely up to you. Although it must be said that, while there is likely to be a significant difference in quality between a $10 mat and a $100 mat, the difference between a $100 mat and a $200 mat is bound to be minimal.
How Do I Dispose of an Old Yoga Mat?
That depends on what material was used to create the mat. If a biodegradable material like rubber or jute (7) was used then it can be put out with the regular trash. Or better yet, recycled. That goes for TPE as well. If, however, your mat is fashioned from PVC things get a bit dicey (8).
PVC is notorious for leeching chemicals into the soil as it decomposes. Not good. If you try and have it incinerated, the gas it produces contains hydrochloric acid. Another ‘not good’ moment. The best thing to do is repurpose it. Use it under your sleeping bag or donate it to a homeless shelter.
Can I Take a Yoga Mat Camping?
You can, and many people do. Some bring their yoga mat to continue their practice outdoors. Others bring it to use as a pad under their sleeping bag. And still others use it as a sleeping pad at night and yoga mat during the day.
Be mindful, however, that taking your mat into the great outdoors is going to expose it to the wide world of microbes, tree sap, mud and other contaminants. So go ahead and take your yoga mat camping. Just be prepared to give it a good washing once you get home.
Is a Yoga Mat Towel the Same as a Yoga Mat?
People often get the two confused but they are not the same. A yoga mat towel could just as easily be called a plain old towel because that’s what it is. Yoga is far more physically intensive than most people think it is. In addition, there are certain forms, like Bikram yoga (9), that are meant to be practiced in searing heat.
If you do not have a towel to soak up the sweat on your mat things could get very uncomfortable in a hurry. Any good towel will do the job. But yoga mat towels are specifically designed for soaking up sweat.
Can You Take a Yoga Mat on a Plane?
You can, but it can be tricky. Especially with a standard size yoga mat. A standard yoga mat is typically at least 24” wide. This means it is going to butt up against the size regulations regarding carry-on luggage.
If you are not able to carry it on the plane with you, you’ll need to check it. That will entail either carving out enough space in your suitcase by leaving other things behind, or checking it separately and hoping it does not get lost. Some people purchase a separate yoga mat for traveling that folds up nice and small. You won’t get the same padding, but you will get it on the plane.
The Bottom Line
Yoga mats are essential if you are to obtain maximum benefits from your yoga practice. They help you avoid injury, minimize painful contact with the floor or ground, can be rolled up and taken just about anywhere, and some have helpful positional diagrams etched directly into the surface.
But yoga mats are more than a yogi’s best friend. They also enable a slew of other types of exercise from thai chi, to weight training, to calisthetics and more. They can help in the recovery process from injury, they can help older folks regain and retain flexibility and they make nifty sleeping pads when you go camping.
The above listed yoga mats are high-quality products made by reputable manufacturers that enable you to achieve better overall health without breaking your bank. Any one of them will serve you well for years to come.