A yoga mat is a thin piece of rubber or rubber-like material that is placed on the floor to provide a no-slip surface on which to practice yoga or other forms of exercise.
While yoga mats have existed for centuries, rubber-based rollup mats didn’t appear until the 1980s. A decade later, PVC mats appeared. Like rubber, they were very sticky. But unlike 100% rubber mats of the time, they were extremely durable.
Below, we’ve brought together 10 of the best yoga mats for 2023.
1. Liforme Original Yoga Mat
Those just starting out with yoga, regardless of their age, often struggle to achieve the proper alignment of hands and feet required by different poses. The Liforme Original Yoga Mat addresses that issue by etching guidelines into the mat surface.
What we like: We appreciate the pattern etched into the surface. It does encourage proper positioning. Also, we like how sticky the mat is. Seniors should have no problems with slipping and sliding.
Flaws: Natural rubber is considerably more expensive than PVC or some other materials.
2. Jade Yoga Voyager Yoga Mat
Jade Yoga makes some of the most popular yoga mats on the market today. Their mats are durable, lightweight, sticky, eco-friendly, and make excellent travel companions. They’re also attractive and affordable.
What we like: We like that the mat can be rolled or folded, depending on your needs at the moment. The way the mat grips even the slipperiest surface is also admirable. Also, the natural rubber is biodegradable.
Flaws: The fact that it’s so thin (1/16 inch) means it’s not really a good choice for beginners.
3. Daway Eco Friendly TPE Yoga Mat
The Daway Eco-Friendly TPE Yoga Mat has guidelines for various yoga positions etched into the surface. That helps prevent injuries and enables the user to get more from their yoga practice. Their TPE mat has a lot of rubber-like qualities.
What we like: The engraved guidelines on the mat will be a big help to beginners trying to perfect their poses. The fact that the TPE plastic is highly recyclable is also a plus, as is the fact that the TPE provides a firm grip.
Flaws: The TPE can come out of the box with a somewhat unpleasant odor clinging to it. It should dissipate over time, however.
4. Gaiam Athletic Yoga Series Duramat
The Gaiam Athletic Series Duramat is thick yet firm, provides outstanding grip on the slipperiest floor, and is extremely durable. The Duramat is also a bit larger than some other yoga mats. And to top it all off, it’s genuinely affordable.
What we like: The PVC is very grippy and incredibly durable. It’s also easy to clean and firm but agreeable. And most people will appreciate how long the mat is.
Flaws: It’s not the lightest mat on our list. And there are no guidelines for beginners.
5. IUGA Pro Non Slip Yoga Mat
The IUGA Pro Non Slip Yoga Mat is large and light and provides an ideal platform for all types of exercise. It’s crafted to provide comfort and stability. IUGA makes environmentally-conscious mats that eschew PVC.
What we like: We appreciate that it’s eco-friendly, easy to clean and doesn’t have any objectionable odors. We like that the core is 100% natural rubber. And we like how sticky the mat is.
Flaws: It’s probably too thin for many yoga beginners. And it’s kind of expensive.
6. Jade Yoga Harmony Yoga Mat
The Jade Yoga Harmony. Like their Voyager mat, the Harmony is fashioned from natural tree rubber, so it’s completely biodegradable. The Harmony, however, is a bit thicker than the Voyager, which makes it a better choice for absolute beginners.
What we like: The 100% rubber construction makes for a very grippy mat that grabs the floor and prevents injury. Rubber mats also absorb moisture and prevent slips. We also like that it’s a bit cushier than some other mats.
Flaws: The mat is so grippy that you need to be careful when turning your feet. You could get stuck and you end up twisting a knee or ankle.
7. Yoga Design Lab Combo Yoga Mat
Yoga Design Lab yoga mats are more than just pieces of rubber you lay on the floor. Their Combo Yoga Mat is available in a dizzying array of patterns and colors that adds energy to the room when you open it up. It’s also large and easy to clean.
What we like: We like that the Yoga Design Lab Combo is fashioned from natural rubber, which means there are no recycling issues. We also like that it’s machine washable.
Flaws: While the mat is machine washable, you shouldn’t be throwing it in the washer after every use. Unless, of course, you want to be buying a new mat in a few months.
8. Manduka Pro Yoga Mat
The Manduka Pro Yoga Mat is an excellent choice for any level of yoga practitioner. It provides a no-slip platform for conventional exercise both indoors and outdoors. It’s a little heavier than some other mats on our list.
What we like: We like how thick and firm the mat is without being hard. We like that it is resistant to bacteria and that it cleans up easily. And we appreciate that it’s tough enough to last for years.
Flaws: This is a PVC mat. Which means recycling will be a challenge.
9. AmazonBasics Extra Thick Exercise Yoga Mat
Sometimes you just want something comfortable and affordable to lay under you while you exercise. If that sounds like what you’re after, the Amazon Basics Extra Thick mat is for you. It’s light yet thick and provides lots of workout space.
What we like: We like that the mat is a full 1/2 inch thick. We like that it’s lightweight and that it comes with a carry handle. And, despite there being no rubber or PVC involved, it’s actually quite grippy.
Flaws: Not the most durable mat you’ll find.
10. Backslash Fit Smart Yoga Mat
The last of our best yoga mats is this curious number from Backlash. Curious because, when you’re done with it, you simply turn it over and it rolls itself up nice and tight. It’s also large and comfortable and free of hard-to-recycle PVC.
What we like: Lots of seniors are going to love that the Backlash rolls itself up. And while it’s not as thick as the Amazon Basics mat, most will still find it plenty cushy. It also comes with some basic yoga routines in the form of digital audio files.
Flaws: You’re going to pay extra for that nifty self-rolling capability. But there are plenty who will think it’s worth it.
Who Needs A Yoga Mat?
Yoga mats are ideal for those wishing to explore yoga in any of its various forms. But yoga mats can serve a multitude of other purposes as well. It’s great to have them under you when doing situps, pushups, or working with free weights. They’re easy to carry and can provide a nice comfortable surface for sitting on at the park. And yes, you can even put an old yoga mat on the floor in the shower to prevent you from slipping and hurting yourself.
How We Ranked
There are a lot of different yoga mats on the market, all claiming to be the best for one reason or another. To determine which ones were worthy of inclusion on our list and which earned a pass, we applied a variety of criteria.
First of all, we considered the various levels of firmness. A mat should never be rock hard, but it will need to be pretty firm if it’s to be used by those doing more advanced poses. Beginners will want a reasonably forgiving mat. Those with a bit more experience, however, may want something in between. We included a variety of firmnesses for this very reason.
We also looked at things like size, whether the mat would work well for someone doing ‘hot yoga’ (1) or whether it needed to be kept more or less bone dry. In addition, we considered the thickness of the various mats we tested. While beginners will often want a thicker mat, it should never be so thick as to be spongy. That would compromise stability and undermine the ability to project force.
Finally, we always have our eyes open for companies that are environmentally aware. So in some cases, we gave preference to mats that were easily recyclable over otherwise equivalent mats that were not. But, in the spirit of offering you a representative cross-section of the best mats, we included a few PVC mats that present recycling challenges.
Q: Why should older people try yoga?
A: Older people should try yoga for a variety of good reasons. Aging presents a multitude of physical, mental, and emotional challenges. These include reduced flexibility, muscle loss, stiffening of the joints, arthritis, reduced memory, reduced respiratory function, and more. Yoga can address all of these while improving balance and stability, which will help prevent destructive falls.
Q: How do I maintain a yoga mat?
A: The first rule of yoga mat maintenance is to resist the urge to use commercial cleaning products on it. The same goes for essential oils. Many yoga mats are either all rubber or contain a fair percentage of rubber. Cleaning products and essential oils will break down the rubber, causing it to dry out and crack. Before you know it, the mat is no longer usable. We recommend wiping the mat down with a damp cloth once a week. If you use the mat every day, then you should probably do a deeper clean once a month. Check the instructions that came with the mat.
Q: What’s the right thickness for a yoga mat?
A: Newcomers to yoga are usually best served by a thick mat. Perhaps as thick as 1/2 inch (about 12 mm). Any thicker than that, however, and you’ll be asking for stability problems as you try and hold various poses. Those with more yoga experience will want something thinner. Say, 1/4 or even 1/5 of an inch (which equates roughly to 4 – 5 mm). If you want to take your yoga practice with you when you travel (always a good idea), be advised that travel mats are usually very thin. Perhaps as thin as 1/8 inch (about 3 mm).
Q: Can I use my yoga mat outside?
A: Yes. Yes, but you need to remember that if you use the mat outdoors it’s likely to take with it some traces of that experience. For instance, the outdoors is the playground of the microbe (2). That means that you’re bound to pick up some type of bacteria or other microscopic organisms on the mat. Also, setting your mat on a nice soft blanket of pine needles is likely to result in sap stains that are nearly impossible to remove completely. And if you set the mat down where salt water can get at it, you’ll likely pick up salt stains that will become permanent additions to the mat.
Q: Why aren’t all yoga mats made from rubber?
A: Rubber is recyclable, biodegradable and sticky. It’s also soft and forgiving, making it a good choice for older individuals with arthritis. So, why aren’t all yoga mats made from this remarkable natural material? First of all, because it has an odor a lot of people find objectionable. Second, rubber mats tend to cost more. And third, people will latex allergies (3) will often have a hard time using rubber mats.
Q: What is a ‘yoga mat towel’?
A: Yoga mat towels are just that, towels used to soak up sweat from your yoga mat. These are particularly popular with those who practice Bikram yoga. Otherwise known as ‘hot yoga’. As you can probably surmise, people tend to sweat a lot when practicing this type of yoga. That can turn the yoga mat into a slippery mess. To keep things dry, comfortable, and safe, we have the yoga mat towel. Some people lay them on top of the mat while they practice. Others just use the towel to wipe down the mat periodically.
Q: What’s the best way to clean a yoga mat?
A: The best way to clean a yoga mat is to wipe it down with a wet cloth and allow it to air dry after every use. And remember never to use commercial cleaning products on it. Depending on how often you use the mat it should be given a more thorough cleaning every 1 to 2 months. Some yoga mats today can be popped in the washing machine. Others, however, will still need to be cleaned by hand. Check for cleaning instructions when you get the mat. Most manufacturers will provide them. Finally, clean or dirty, don’t ever leave your mat sitting in direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time.
Q: What materials besides rubber are yoga mats made from?
A: Yoga mats are made from a variety of materials besides rubber, including cork, TPE, cotton and jute (4). Many of the best yoga mats are made using polyvinyl chloride or PVC. PVC produces a wonderfully sticky yoga mat. It’s also cheaper than rubber to produce. The problem with PVC is that it is not easy to recycle(5). But there are alternatives. Cotton, cork, jute and TPE (a type of plastic) are also used to make yoga mats.
Q: Does it matter what side of the yoga mat I use?
A: The only time this will become an issue is if one side is covered with a particular material, like jute, and the other side isn’t. Then you may want to stick with the jute side to enjoy the pleasant feeling it generates. Also, some mats have guidelines etched into or printed on the surface of one side. These lines help beginners get in the habit of using proper form. In which case, they will likely want to stick with the side that has the guidelines on it. More experienced users, however, will probably be find with flipping this type of mat over too.
Q: How do I know that it’s time to replace my yoga mat?
A: There are several signs to look for that indicate it is time for a new yoga mat. If you notice it is no longer providing adequate cushioning, it’s time for a new mat. If you find yourself slipping while practicing yoga or exercising, it’s time for a new mat. Likewise, if it leaves little pieces of itself behind on the floor, or if it has developed bald spots you should replace it. Finally, if the mat is emitting a foul odor it is harboring bacteria and it’s time to move on to a new mat.
Q: How much do new yoga mats cost?
A: Unless you are an experienced yogi or have some other compelling reason to get the world’s best yoga mat, there is little justification for spending $200 or more. In fact, you will find many high-quality, durable yoga mats for less than half that price. And quite a few reasonably good yoga mats for less than $50. How much you spend is up to you, of course. But before you drop top-dollar on a mat, ask yourself how often you envision using it and for what purpose.
Q: Are thin yoga mats a waste of money?
A: That depends on the type of surface you exercise on, and the type of exercises or yoga poses you do. For instance, if you will be placing your yoga mat on a carpeted floor, there is no reason to have a thick mat. Also, if you do a lot of yoga or other exercises that require a high degree of balance, a thin mat will be better. That said, if you plan to exercise on a hardwood floor, or other hard surface, you will probably want a thick mat. Likewise if the surface under the mat is cold or you suffer from arthritis.
Q: What the right way to dispose of an old yoga mat?
A: Rubber, TPE, cotton, or jute mats can be disposed of or recycled. Preferably recycled. Jute is particularly recycle-friendly. If the mat is made of PVC, recycling will be a much more significant challenge. Some people use their old PVC yoga mat as a camping mat to put under their sleeping bag. If RV-ing is more your speed, you can use the mat under the RV mattress. It can be placed on the floor of the shower to prevent slips. Or you can place it over the back seat of the car to protect the upholstery if you need to transport things.
Q: What are the health benefits of yoga?
A: Yoga is capable of producing significant pain relief for those suffering from osteo or rheumatoid arthritis. Yoga can build overall strength, and yoga can help reduce anxiety and promote peace of mind. Yoga’s emphasis on breathing techniques also helps alleviate various types of respiratory distress. And there is compelling evidence that yoga practice can also help lower high blood pressure in some individuals (6).
The yoga mat is an indispensable piece of exercise gear for seniors or anyone else who wishes to stay in shape.
While it is vital to facilitating the practice of yoga it’s also great to have on hand for more conventional forms of exercise like situps and planking. And it provides a nice stable, non-slip surface for those engaged in weight training.
For cpoe.org’s #1 recommended yoga mat, click here.