A yoga mat is a thin piece of rubber or rubber-like material that is unrolled and 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.
Today, due mostly to environmental concerns, we have a multitude of different materials to choose from when it comes to the yoga mat. But the goal of the mat hasn’t changed: to enable more effective yoga practice or other types of exercise. Below, we’ve brought together 10 of the best yoga mats for 2020.
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 surface of the mat. This way you improve faster and reduce the chances of mistake driven injuries.
What we like: We appreciate the aforementioned pattern etched into the surface that helps direct you to proper positioning. We really like how sticky the mat is. Seniors should have no problems with slipping and sliding.
The environmentally conscious will also appreciate that the mat is made from natural rubber and – unlike PVC – is completely biodegradable.
Flaws: The major downside is that natural rubber is considerably more expensive than PVC or some other materials. But if you can make the stretch the environment will thank you.
2. Jade Yoga Voyager Yoga Mat
Jade Yoga makes some of the most popular yoga mats on the market today. That popularity stems from the fact that their mats are durable, lightweight, sticky, eco-friendly and make good travel companions. They’re also attractive and affordable. Older folks who don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on a yoga mat should consider this one.
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. In addition, the natural rubber makes it biodegradable.
This is an outstanding mat for more experienced practitioners. It’s also a good choice for a travel mat due to it being so thin. And because it’s so thin it’s surprisingly affordable, even though it’s made from natural rubber.
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
Like the Liforme mat at the top of our list the Daway Eco Friendly TPE Yoga Mat has guidelines for various yoga positions etched into the surface. This helps prevent injuries and enables the user to get more from their yoga practice. Daway also uses TPE to make their mats. It has a lot of rubber-like qualities but doesn’t cost nearly as much.
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 laudable grip.
For such a thin yoga mat the Daway is surprisingly cushy. Although not so much that it will negatively affect stability. It’s also affordable and durable.
Flaws: The TPE can come out of the box with a fairly unpleasant odor clinging to it. Though it should dissipate over time.
4. Gaiam Athletic Yoga Series Duramat
Gaiam Athletic is another major name in the world of yoga mats. Their Athletic Series Duramat is a good example why they command the respect they do. It’s thick yet firm, provides outstanding grip on the slipperiest floor and is extremely durable. The Duramat is also a wee 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. Those with sensitivities to rubber will appreciate this mat and the fact that it’s free of that rubber smell. Most people will also appreciate how long the mat is.
Flaws: It’s not the lightest mat on our list. And there are none of those spiffy guidelines that can be so helpful to 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. The mat is crafted to provide comfort and stability and can be used for a variety of different yoga styles. IUGA makes environmentally conscious mats that eschew PVC. They also add a few extra inches all around just for good measure.
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 fashioned from 100% natural rubber. And we like how sticky the mat is.
We also appreciate that it’s at least somewhat resistant to bacteria. Which keeps foul odors at bay. And the carry strap is nice to have if you plan to take it camping.
Flaws: It’s probably too thin for many yoga beginners. And it’s kind of expensive.
6. Jade Yoga Harmony Yoga Mat
The second of our Jade Yoga mats is the Harmony. Like their Voyager yoga mat the Harmony is fashioned from natural tree rubber so it’s totally biodegradable. The Harmony, however, is a bit thicker than the Voyager. Which makes it a better choice for absolute beginners. The company also uses a portion of the proceeds from each sale to plant trees.
What we like: We like the 100% rubber construction. It makes for a very grippy mat that grabs the floor and prevents injury. Rubber mats also absorb moisture that prevents slips on the mat surface itself. 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 that your foot doesn’t get stuck and you end up twisting a knee or ankle.
7. Yoga Design Lab Combo Yoga Mat
Yoga Design Lab goes the extra mile to create yoga mats that 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 and really adds a touch of energy to the room when you open it up. From a practical standpoint the Combo is firm but comfy, large and easy to clean.
What we like: Probably the most attractive yoga mats going. 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 you want to be buying a new mat in a few months.
8. Manduka Pro Yoga Mat
The Manduka Pro Yoga Mat is a good choice for any level of yoga practitioner. It also provides a no-slip platform for conventional exercise both indoors and outdoors. It’s a little heavier than some other mats on our list. But that’s because it’s nice and thick. The dense PVC is firm and will hold up to years of regular use.
What we like: We like how thick and firm the mat is without being hard. We like that it is largely resistant to bacteria and that it cleans up easy. And we appreciate that it’s tough enough to last for years. Even with regular use.
Flaws: While the manufacturer touts the eco-friendly nature of their facility the mat itself is fashioned from PVC. Which means recycling will be a challenge.
9. AmazonBasics Extra Thick Exercise Yoga Mat
Sometimes you don’t need a cutting edge yoga mat. 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 right up your alley. It’s light yet it’s extra thick and provides lots of workout space. A great mat at a great price.
What we like: We like that the mat is a full 1/2 inch thick. That makes it a great choice for older folks just getting started with yoga or other forms of exercise. We like that it’s lightweight and that it comes with a carry handle. And, in spite of there being no rubber or PVC involved, it’s actually quite grippy.
Flaws: Not the most durable mat you’ll find. But if you only use it a couple of times a week it should have a reasonable life span.
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. Just for good measure it’s large and comfortable and free of hard to recycle PVC.
What we like: We really like the fact that the Backlash actually does roll itself up when you’re done with it. Lots of seniors are going to love that. 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 that will help you get started.
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 are able to 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. That said, beginners will want a fairly forgiving mat. While those with a bit more experience may want something in between. At the end of the day 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, while 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 that present recycling challenges. Those would be PVC mats. With them, about the best you can hope for is that you find some way to repurpose them when their usefulness as a yoga mat has passed.
Before we list the benefits of the yoga mat it’s important to note that the majority of such benefits are inextricably tied to the practice of yoga. That said, let’s begin.
Yoga mats enable seniors to enjoy the benefits of yoga. This is the first and most obvious benefit of a yoga mat. It’s also one that will pay handsome dividends for older individuals. A good yoga mat will enable an older individual to explore this ancient practice (2) and in the process regain a sense of control over their physical wellbeing.
Yoga mats help prevent injuries. And that’s important because, like all types of exercise, yoga carries with it the possibility of injury (3). Without a solid, non-slip surface beneath you that possibility is magnified. With a slippery floor much of the energy generated by yoga is transferred to the floor as the body tries to keep itself under control. A good yoga mat enables you to perform better by keeping that energy within the body. For the same reason the yoga mat can help you project energy more effectively if you are using it for weight training.
Yoga mats allow you to practice yoga anywhere. As long as you have a good mat available you can practice yoga just about anywhere. And just about any time. Unlike aerobics that require lots of space and noisy hopping around yoga can be practiced in virtual silence. Your downstairs neighbors will certainly appreciate that. Like Thai Chi yoga can, and often is, practiced outdoors too.
Yoga mats help you achieve peace of mind. By enabling older individuals to practice yoga and other forms of exercise the yoga mat becomes the vehicle they ride to greater peace of mind. One of the many benefits of yoga is that it helps improve the practitioner’s outlook and attitude toward life. While it may not be a ‘cure’ for things like depression, it can nonetheless help alleviate stress and other factors that can weigh on a person’s spirit.
Yoga mats help seniors retain good balance. A loss of balance is one of many reasons older people tend to fall (4). All it takes is a single nasty fall to change the course of an older person’s life, and not for the better. It’s believed that each year 1 out of 3 people over 65 in the US experiences a fall that generates a serious injury. With many falls leading to broken bones. Getting down on the yoga mat and exercising can help people maintain strength and balance as they age and help prevent falls from occurring.
Yoga mats help seniors stay flexible. By laying out the yoga mat and practicing on a regular basis seniors are able to retain vital flexibility. As we age flexibility is one of the first things to suffer. This is due in large part to the fact that people tend to become more sedentary as they age. In addition, the movements they do make tend to become narrow in scope and repetitive. Yoga, or any stretching routine for that matter, can help older individuals retain or regain flexibility. That in turn makes them better able to conduct the routine business of their lives (5) without need of assistance.
Yoga mats can help seniors sleep better. It’s well-documented that seniors often have trouble sleeping (6). There are myriad reasons for this including arthritis pain and depression. But yoga has been shown to improve sleep quality in nearly everyone who practices it (7). Including older individuals. Post-menopausal women in particular are believed to benefit from the meditative aspects of yoga which increases melatonin levels and enables better quality sleep (8).
Yoga mats can help reduce arthritis pain. By enabling you to practice yoga at home the yoga mat can play an important role in reducing the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis (9). Joint stiffness is the major cause of arthritis pain. And yoga has been shown to reduce arthritis inflammation which in turn relieves stiffness. The fact is anything that can be done to relieve stiffness is going to make living a little easier for arthritis sufferers. Yoga also helps build and tone muscles. And maintaining strength as you age is one of the best ways to stave off many age-related health complications (10), including fall-related injuries.
Yoga mats can be used to do other types of exercise as well. And that’s important because while yoga is a great way for seniors to stay fit and flexible there are other types of exercise that can be equally beneficial. And a good yoga mat can help you perform them. Weight training for instance, can be extremely beneficial for older folks (11) and is gaining in popularity with each passing year. Having a good yoga mat under you can prevent you from slipping as you work with the barbell or dumbbells. A good yoga mat will also help with pushups, situps, planking (12) and more.
Yoga mats help you stay strong. Strength training is a good idea and is growing in popularity among seniors as we mentioned. But sometimes yoga by itself is all the strength training a person needs. This is especially true if you explore the more vigorous poses. Back, legs, arms, abs, shoulders and more will all end up stronger as a result of a dedicated yoga practice. And staying stronger will help you live longer.
Yoga mats can be used in the shower to prevent slips. For all their benefits yoga mats often present a bit of a conundrum for environmentally conscious individuals. That’s because PVC mats are not typically easy to recycle (13). However, that doesn’t mean you have to just consign your old yoga mat to the landfill. Instead, put it to work in the bathroom. A high percentage of falls experienced by the elderly occur in the bathroom. You can reduce the chances of slipping and falling by using your old yoga mat as a shower mat.
Yoga mats can be donated and used as sleeping mats. Because of limited funding homeless shelters often struggle with providing their guests with comfortable places to sleep. Donating your old yoga PVC mat to a shelter can help ensure that at least one person is not sleeping on the hard, bare floor tonight.
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.
Yoga is also 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 (14).
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 to it 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 and stick to whatever cleaning recommendation the manufacturer suggests.
Q: What’s the right thickness for a yoga mat?
A: The right thickness for a yoga mat depends on the experience level of the user. 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, in order to save space, 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. You can use most yoga mats outside. And practicing yoga in the great outdoors can be an incredibly enriching experience. You need to be aware, however, that if you use the mat outdoors it’s likely to take with it some traces of that experience. What do we mean by that? Well, the outdoors is the playground of the microbe (15). That means that you’re bound to pick up some type of bacteria or other microscopic organisms on the mat. But beyond that, setting your mat down on a nice soft blanket of pine needles is likely to result in sap stains that are nearly impossible to completely remove without damaging the mat. 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: What are yoga mats made from?
A: Yoga mats are made from a variety of materials including cork, rubber, recycled rubber, TPE, cotton and jute (16). Many of the best yoga mats are made using polyvinyl chloride or PVC. Some mats are mostly or entirely PVC while others contain a more modest proportion. PVC produces a wonderfully sticky yoga mat that provides a rock-solid platform for your yoga practice. It’s also cheaper than rubber to produce. The problem with PVC is that it is not easy to recycle due to the chemicals used in its production (17).
For this reason some people have an aversion to mats that contain PVC, even in small amounts. Fortunately, there are alternatives as we mentioned. Cotton mats are a popular choice. But, because they can be very slippery they’re not a good choice for older folks. Cork is another natural alternative. It starts out slippery but tends to get stickier if it gets a bit wet. Cork can be hard to clean though. Jute is a good alternative. It’s typically treated with a non-toxic polymer resin that makes it reasonably sticky. And TPE is a type of plastic that does a reasonable job emulating the qualities of rubber. And speaking of rubber… mats made of natural tree rubber are easy on the skin and the mat itself is completely biodegradable. So why aren’t all yoga mats made from rubber? Cost. A rubber mat can cost twice as much as a PVC mat.
Q: What is a ‘yoga mat towel’?
A: Some folks are confused by the term ‘yoga mat towel’ and buy something they weren’t expecting. 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. This 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 periodically wipe down the mat.
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. That’s basic maintenance. 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 (cold water, gentle cycle). Something that was unheard of not too long ago. Others, however, will still need to be cleaned by hand. But it’s not typically a very involved process.
As we mentioned earlier you should check for cleaning instructions when you get the mat. Most manufacturers will provide them. If your mat came without cleaning instructions just mix a few tablespoons of vinegar with a cup of water and clean both sides of the mat. Then rinse both sides with a clean cloth soaked in hot water and let it air dry. Also, clean or dirty, don’t ever leave your mat sitting in direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time.
Q: What the right way to dispose of an old yoga mat?
A: The right way to dispose of an old yoga mat will depend almost entirely on what the mat is made of. If the mat is made of rubber, TPE, cotton or jute it 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. But there are alternatives to recycling.
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. You can place it over the back seat of the car to protect the upholstery if you need to transport things. Or the mat can be donated to a homeless shelter.
The yoga mat is an indispensable piece of exercise gear for seniors or anyone else who wishes to stay in shape. Yoga itself provides an array of short and long term benefits that include improved flexibility, enhanced strength, better sleep and reduced anxiety. Just to name a few.
But the humble yoga mat is more than just a platform for practicing this most ancient of disciplines. 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.
The yoga mats on our list have all passed muster with our product experts. As such, regardless of the type of yoga or other exercise you want to do you’re sure to find one among them that will make that exercise safer and more effective.
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