I remember meeting a woman named Emily at yoga camp where we bonded over vegan garlic butter, broken hearts and the mutual last minute acceptance into the month-long Aruba yoga teacher training. At 23 years old with 9 years of yoga under her belt, she quit her job at lululemon in order to meet me, become my assistant and of course, a yoga teacher. Just kidding… sort of. Emily is, in all seriousness, the Goddess, Keeper, and Knower of all things yoga mats, yoga clothes, and yoga leggings. Since embarking on The Road Les Traveled, she has schooled me on all the need-to-knows for yoga and is also to blame for most of my lululemon purchases… oops. #NOTANAD
What defines a good yoga mat?
Most mats will vary between 2mm-7mm (that’s in millimeters, y’all). The thicker the mat, the more cushion to protect your joints. A 2mm mat may lead you to a throbbing knee in crescent lunge and a 7mm mat may have you craving more connection with the ground below your mat during tree pose. A pretty safe bet is the middle ground 5mm mat. But do not be fooled…not all 5mm mats are made equal. Read on yogis…
PVC, aka vinyl, is what the old age, tried-and-true yoga mats are made of. The newer eco friendly mats come in everything from recycled rubber to cotton. Natural rubber is great, don’t get me wrong. I urge you to save the ozone if you’re not allergic to latex, BUT air that baby out properly before being that girl in the studio.
Open cell VS closed cell
Go into any luluemon and they will school you on this terminology that sounds straight out of a high school biology textbook. Let me break it down for you. “Open cell” means you can sweat your heart out and the mat can handle/absorb it. In fact, if you opt for open cell tech, your mat will absorb anything that drips on it. So avoid the mat cleaners/oils to wipe down post-flow. Closed cell technology means your mat will not absorb moisture but needs to be wiped clean. Open cell tech is great for hot yoga, but it needs a warm soap and water rinse to refresh. Closed cell tech is great for those who don’t plan on dripping sweat every use and want to spray and wipe your mat clean.
Sticky, grippy, smooth, rough, grainy. All words to describe the texture of the (wind beneath your wings) mat below your feet. I say- to each their own. Personally, though they may seem mutually exclusive, I tend toward a smooth but sticky mat.
Price & Durability
I still have my very first yoga mat stored in my childhood closet for no particular reason other than nostalgia and that it was $20 from Marshalls. It served its purpose as a surface to move on, but let me be the first to advise you… invest in your yoga mat. The surface you move on can affect your practice, and the right tools really do make a difference. A good yoga mat should offer you up to 5 years of a non-slip, supported surface. Invest wherever your heart desires, but here’s my recommendations based on how you like to flow!
Best for: Hot yoga
Project OM: eQua Yoga Mat
- Price: $150
- Highlight features: The eKO mat base is made from sustainably harvested tree rubber, non-toxic, + practice yoga WHILE giving back and flowing for a cause!
Mastectomy tattoo artist David Allen collaborated with Manduka to produce the beautiful mat above with open cell technology where 100% of all net profits from this mat will directly benefit Susan G. Komen until December 31st, 2019. It’s like a yoga towel and a yoga mat had a baby and BOOM! This beauty was born.
Lululemon 5mm Reversible mat
- Weight: 5.24 lbs
- Price: $78
- Highlight features: Open cell technology, natural rubber, reversible, and an antimicrobial additive
Tried and true. It’s never too early to start loving your joints. So say hello to this 5mm thick reversible Lululemon mat. With open cell technology, you can confidently power flow your ass off in a hot room. Bonus – due to the antimicrobial treatment you do not have to wash it every time. Sorry clean freaks, it’s the truth. I would hose mine down with soap and warm water then hang to dry. Note to all dirty hippies out there (hi Emily): throw a yoga towel down for added absorption and you can wait another few sessions before the hose down.
Best for: Travel
To be honest, I haven’t carried a “travel yoga mat” with me in the past year. Since I got certified, I try to practice every day no matter where I am in the world. I lug my 5mm mat around every airport through every TSA check and smile at the flight attendants when I carry it on the plane accompanied by my personal item(s) & carry on.. Half hiding it, half praying they see it and say nothing.
Lululemon 3mm Reversible Mat
- Weight: 3.87 lbs
- Price: $68
- Highlight features: Open cell technology, natural rubber, reversible, antimicrobial additive
Because The Road Les Traveled may take you to a yin class post-Patagonia trek or a power vinyasa flow in a Balinese hut, you can opt for the slightly thinner version of the Lululemon reversible mat. With the same exact reliable characteristics as its 5mm big sis, you can pack an extra few yoga pants with the 2 lb difference!
Manduka eKO Superlite Yoga Travel Mat
- Weight: 2.2 lbs
- Price: $54
- Highlight features: 1.5mm closed cell tech, natural rubber, and 99% latex-free
This mat is thin, but boy is it light. With the classic Manduka grip, you can count on flowing without slipping. Would I practice on this mat everyday for a month? No. But I would suggest it as a packing essential if you don’t want to lug around your 5mm mat.
Best for: Everyday (the committed yogi)
Manduka Prolite Yoga Mat
- Weight: 4 lbs
- Price: $60 (starting rate)
- Highlight features: 4.7mm, closed cell technology, zero waste, 100% latex-free, and a lifetime guarantee
Manduka has become the go-to yoga mat brand worldwide and for good reason. This is one of the most popular Manduka mats you will see. The closed cell technology makes it super easy to clean. If you plan on sweating, you can lay a Yogi Toes towel over your mat to accompany those extra sweaty vinyasas. Plus, it is made from sustainably harvested rubber contributing zero waste to the world in the process.
Best for: Every Other Day (the sporadic yogi)
Welcome Yoga 5mm Mat
- Weight: 2.3 lbs
- Price: $48
- Highlight features: Closed cell tech, lightweight, alignment strip, and eco-friendly manufacturing
Grippy & reversible with an alignment strip down the middle. We gifted this mat to all of our LimitLes in Bali 2018 babes. The lower price point, beginner friendly features, and eco friendly manufacturing will be an investment you can feel good about making. Plus, if your yoga practice becomes more frequent, this lightweight reliable mat can become your go-to travel mat.
Jade Harmony Mat
- 4.76mm thick
- Weight: 5 pounds
- Price: $79.95
For me, the lack of love for this mat is simply a texture preference. It’s a little too grainy for my linking. I’ve never slipped, but I did get calluses on my palms with frequent practice (TMI?!). BUT I love all that Jade is and does. Jade plants a tree for every mat sold and the purchase of certain color mats contributes $5 to charity. Plus, they are made in the good ole USA!
Other brands to check out: Prana, Hugger mugger, Alo, Gaiam.
So yogis, weather you’re a plant eating, daily practicing yogi or your practice is slow, sporadic, and followed by a glass of wine with friends (btw I’m both of these depending on the day)… there’s a yoga mat out there for you.
Are you in a committed relationship with a mat I haven’t mentioned above? Drop a comment below so I can expand my horizons. Happy flowing!