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.
Today 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 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.
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. If the floor is slippery, much of the yoga energy is wasted 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 is virtually silent. Your downstairs neighbors will certainly appreciate that. Like Thai Chi, yoga can be, 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. Many of those falls lead 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 regularly, seniors can retain vital flexibility. As we age, flexibility is one of the first things to suffer. That is due in large part to the fact that people tend to become more sedentary as they age. Also, 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 relieves 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, other types of exercise 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 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.
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 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 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 remove completely 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: Why aren’t all yoga mats made from rubber?
A: Rubber is recyclable, biodegradable and delightfully sticky. It’s also soft and forgiving, making it a good choice for older individuals with arthritis. In addition, rubber maintains its shape in hot weather and doesn’t crack when it gets cold. 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. As do most natural materials, regardless of the product. And third, people will latex allergies (x) will often have a hard time using rubber mats.
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. 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 (16). 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(17).Fortunately, there are alternatives. Cotton mats are a popular choice. But they can be very slippery. Cork is another natural alternative. But it tends to get sticky if it gets wet. Jute is another alternative. It’s 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.
Q: Does it matter what side of the yoga mat I use?
A: In the vast majority of cases it does not matter which side of the yoga mat you use. 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 on a yoga mat. 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. After all, if you plan to use it to provide a stable platform for strength training, you don’t need to spend extra to get one with the fancy yoga guidelines.
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, or if you are just starting out on your exercise journey.
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. 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 (14).
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.
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. 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.
For cpoe.org’s #1 recommended yoga mat, click here.