If you are anything like me, when you start something new you are excited and all in. Part of that with yoga might be finding a good fit in your mat because it is something you are hoping to spend a lot of time with over many years.
HOWEVER, keep in mind that the mat is NOT something that should keep you from starting. I have mats at my studio that are free for anyone to use when they attend. Most studios have mats available (some will charge a small rental fee). Don’t let not having a mat be something that keeps you from coming to class.
In fact, I have some clients who have practiced with me for years who always borrow a mat from the studio. I also have others who want to borrow until they find the right mat for them. I was the later — I wanted to wait and investigate and safe up to make sure that when I bought a mat I had the one I really wanted.
When I started yoga and all the way until the mid-point of my yoga teacher training I was practicing on a mat that had a Pilates logo on the top right corner. I STILL have that mat and love it because of all the work I did for myself and within myself on that mat. Plus, no one batted an eye at what I was bringing. Don’t feel like you need to rush out and buy the most expensive mat. Yoga is about the practice, not the mat.
This blog post, though, is about the mat. 🙂 So let’s get to my tips and suggestions regarding a mat purchase. To keep things simple, I am going to only mention my three favorite brands and a few tips about where you can sometimes score a deal on these brands. I am also going to include links for these mats just to give you a starting point, and — in full disclosure — these are affiliate links, so if you purchase through my link you get a new mat, and I get a few pennies as well. 🙂
Brand #1 – Manduka
Brand #2 – Jade
Brand #3 – Gaiam
Now that we got the reveal out of the way, let’s delve into why these are my favorites and for whom I recommend each.
Manduka is a well-respected brand for mats and for good reason. Their symbol is a frog in the corner of the mat (often red and white as you see below), and these mats hold up well and will last you many years. They are, though, sometimes more of an investment (or a great gift idea!)
The mat that I ended up splurging as a gift for myself was a Manduka Pro mat. It is thicker than most mats (6 mm), which I really like, and carries a lifetime guarantee. So far on that mat, with classes I have taken, my yoga training, and classes I have taught, I have put in over 1,250 hours on that mat, and it is going strong. I can tell where my hands and feet go on the mat, but that is it. There is no fraying or molting of the mat.
Things to remember with Manduka mats — They often take a while to break in. The Pro mat, for example, took quite a while for me to feel like I was not slipping. They will sometimes recommend a salt scrub to break it in more quickly, and while I didn’t find that very helpful, practicing in the sunlight and leaving my mat in the sun worked wonders. My Pro mat is also very heavy — around 8 pounds — and doesn’t fit in most of the regular-sized yoga mat bags.
They do make other styles of mats as well that are lighter and thinner. For example, they now have a yoga mat named “Begin” that is thick (5mm) and has an alignment line down the center that is also reasonably priced compared to some of their other mats (under $50). They also have varying lengths for those of us who are taller yogis.
As far as thickness recommendations — for most beginner’s I recommend not getting a mat less than 4 mm in thickness. ** HOWEVER — Do not purchase a thick, foam fitness mat. Those will spread and stretch on you as you move from pose to pose. **
Jade mats are not slippery from day one. The Harmony mat is their most popular (pictured above), and they provide great support/stickiness. Additionally, the Jade brand is eco-friendly, and the company plants a tree with each mat purchase. I also really appreciate the variation of sizes/lengths that they provide. I have multiple Jade mats, including an extra long travel mat that, despite the extra length, is super light and easy to travel with.
The sticky-factor of the Jade mat is something I really enjoy and can be great for those who want some extra support. Additionally, the Jade mat doesn’t require “breaking it in” for the stickiness and support, like the Manduka Pro might. It is not slippery, even on day one.
Some people do not like the “rubbery” smell of the mat when they first unroll it. I have never minded it. MY biggest disappointent with the Jade mats are the lack of fun designs. The mats are all solid colors.
One other high point of my Jade travel mat is that it can be machine washed (on a very gentle cycle), which came in EXTREMELY valuable when I used it for goat yoga. 🙂 They do say to not leave your Jade mat out in the sun or use alcohol or essential oils in the cleaning of your mat, which is something to keep in mind with how and where you like to practice.
The Gaiam brand is my favorite recommendation for a great product at a low price. When people are first starting out, this is usually the brand I recommend first.
It’s price-point is much lower than the Jade and Manduka, buty ou can get a good thickness and good stickiness with this mat. They have great durability and are much higher quality than the cheapest mats you can find for not much more.
The other thing I, personally, love about the Gaiam mats is that they have a lot of fun designs, some that are even reversible. Just look at all of the design options — here. They also have a nice selection of kid mats as well that I got for my own children.
In the end, get the mat that fits you and your budget and your goals. The most important thing is to practice, and, like I said earlier, I have mats with me at my classes. I just need you!
Also, if you are starting a practice, besides the mat, you also want to be in possession of tips that will help keep you safe. Download my 5 Tips for Starting and Maintaining a Safe Practice.