Yoga is often about building both physical and mental strength. But to achieve that elusive meditative state and hone our muscles, we require a reliable foundation, or, in other words, a brilliant yoga mat.
When choosing what will work best for you, consider what you practice, where you like to do it, and how you like to do it. If you prefer restorative or yin yoga, prioritise comfort. If you have some niggling injuries that will benefit from additional cushioning, choose a thicker mat. Grip and balance might not be so important for you, and this is what you gain with thinner models, which tend to allow for a smoother, nippier flow.
For hatha yogis that tend to practice static poses more regularly, the choice is yours. Some of the thicker mats might make standing or inverted balances more difficult, but too thin and you might not feel able to maintain asanas comfortably for as long as you’d like.
Home-based yoga has been the norm for everyone over the past year, so your mat’s weight may not be as much of a concern as it once was. But if you know you’ll be right back to class as soon as you get the green light, consider a lighter mat (or one that comes with a carry strap). In our experience though, the lighter the mat the less likely it is to uncurl and lie flat straight away.
There’s also a choice of textures, and this mostly comes down to the material the mat is made of. Standard PVC mats are less common these days, and we’ve found some far more environmentally friendly options such as natural or recycled rubber, jute and cork, which all provide different feels, smells and even levels of hygiene – a valid consideration if you’re busy and in need of a practical solution.
And finally – a pet peeve of ours – have you considered the sound your mat makes? While adjusting postures and attempting to gracefully extend your limbs, a squeaky mat may be the difference between consistently achieving zen or just falling short.
All the mats listed below were used regularly over the course of a month for a variety of yoga practices including restorative, yin, hatha, power and vinyasa styles.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
The best yoga mats in 2021
Best for sustainability : Yogi Bare lunar paws: £74.95, Yogi-bare.co.uk
Best for comfort: Willow Yoga Kew tropics yoga mat: £69, Willow-yoga.com
Best for home-based yoga: Lululemon take form yoga mat 5mm: £108, Lululemon.co.uk
Best for thickness: Meglio 10mm premium yoga mat: £22.99, Mymeglio.com
Best for taller yogis: Yogamatters reclaim sticky yoga mat: £30, Yogamatters.com
Best for easy transportation: Pharamond Life terragrip yoga mat with asanaalign body alignment system: £64.99, Pharamondlife.com
Best for easy cleaning: CorkYogis classic aligned yogi: £70, Corkyogis.com
Best for stability: Sundried eco jute yoga mat: £21, Amazon.co.uk
Yogi Bare lunar paws
Best: For sustainability
This mat is a smooth operator. It offered almost everything the other mats did, with no squeak, stretch or curly edges, making it the ideal investment if you’re a committed yogi. The company was founded by British yogi Kat Pither and its mats are PVC-free, made using biodegradable and sustainable rubber instead. It makes sure all its packaging is recyclable, and uses as little as possible, too.
At 4.2mm thick, the mat had that tiny bit more padding, which makes a difference by the end of a longer practice. We didn’t slip once, it’s decently wide (66cm), and we found the mat equally good for vinyasa and hatha yoga. We acknowledge that the alignment system doesn’t compare with the Pharamond Life (£109, Pharamondlife.com) and Lululemon (£105, Lululemon.co.uk) versions – you wouldn’t really call it a system at all. Yet the central guiding line and geometric patterned sections at each end were enough to help us place ourselves perfectly in downward dog time after time.
We also love the elemental colour range. As well as this deep ocean blue, there is an earthy forest green, fiery red and slate grey available (plus black), all with slightly different symbols laser-etched into the surface. If it helps you choose, proceeds from sales of Lunar Paws mats go towards helping marine conservation society Sea Shepherd.
Buy now £74.95, Yogi-bare.co.uk
Willow Yoga Kew tropics yoga mat
Best for: For comfort
If you’ve tried PVC mats and can’t get past their squeaky tendencies, Willow Yoga’s mat, which features a microfibre top, is a silky soft and indulgently silent alternative. The feel is almost more peaceful and intimate than the plasticky textures found elsewhere. Often used as a toweling material, the microfibre layer was as absorbent as might be expected. But it was also grippy – and more so the sweatier we became.
We had no problems with speedier vinyasa sequences. The base is made from 100 per cent natural rubber, and is free from PVC, silicone and phthalates. It’s 4mm thick, yet the microfibre top made it more comfortable than other, thicker options. The mat is on the heavier side, but this means unrolling it is a dream – it can be stored away and released for practice without annoying creases and curls.
What really sets this mat apart is the print. It’s beautiful (and there are other patterns and colours available), the kind of mat that will become a permanent fixture in your living room. When you eventually have to, you can pack it away with the help of a free, good-quality carrying strap.
Buy now £69.00, Willow-yoga.com
Lululemon take form yoga mat 5mm
Best: For home-based yoga
Lululemon may have taken two years to design this mat, but it seems to have had great foresight. Its “take form” yoga mat has the home-based yogi in mind and it has pioneered a special 3D alignment system so that without a teacher at hand, we can learn to adjust postures ourselves. We found that the system of raised, concentric circles were most helpful during sun salutations or other vinyasa flow sequences; we quickly learned where our hands and feet should be and could move them into place without breaking flow or looking down. The circles are soft enough that they won’t interfere with your practice, but obvious enough to provide sensory instruction if required.
The mat is lovely and wide (66cm) and at 5mm thick it feels a lot more cushioned than other mats, but still super grippy. This is because a comfy foam section holding the 3D technology is sandwiched between Lululemon’s polyurethane topper and natural rubber bottom layer. This makes it a great all-round mat, which proved its worth in styles across the spectrum including restorative and power yoga. One slight downside was the little squeaks emitted most times we shuffled our heel or toe into place.
Considering its complex composition, the mat is surprisingly light, and when folded out had a tendency to curl up at one end for the first few minutes. That said we loved the marble effect on our black/white mat, which is unique to each product. In our semi-meditative state, it made us feel as though bright white light was reflecting off water around us. It also comes in a clean green fern, and plain black.
Buy now £108.00, Lululemon.co.uk
Meglio 10mm premium yoga mat
Best: For thickness
At more than double the thickness (10mm) of most of the other mats here, Meglio’s premium yoga mat is great for restorative and yin yoga. We really enjoyed its firm, cushioned structure. It was surprisingly stable, which made balances not only possible but also extremely comfortable. We also think it works brilliantly for core and pilates workouts, as the extra few mm kept our spine especially happy during sit-ups.
The mat comes with an elastic carry strap and is very light, which is perfect if you plan on moving it around a fair bit. It also rolled out smoothly. Of course it isn’t the most sustainable mat on the block, but great value for money, especially if you want more of a hybrid mat that will reduce impact on your joints.
We did find, though, that it had a certain amount of stretch (nothing drastic), was on the narrow side (59cm) and was more likely to shift a little when laid on more slippery surfaces (wood, tiles etc) or during faster flows. That said it was our favourite for a slower, more static practice, and the grip – for the money – was great.
Buy now £22.99, Mymeglio.com
Yogamatters reclaim sticky yoga mat
Best: For taller yogis
This mat is the best value if you’re looking for a grippy, eco-friendly mat for vinyasa or power yoga. It’s made from 16P phthalate-free PVC, but at least half of it is sourced from leftover materials that would otherwise be discarded. This means the mat is one of the lightest (1.6kg) and wouldn’t weigh you down if you had to carry it around all day. It is also one of the longer mats (190cm), so it’s great for taller yogis.
It’s 4mm thick but felt less cushioned than others, so we wouldn’t recommend it for restorative or yin practice, nor if you plan on perfecting your head stand. Still, you can’t deny the grip this mat offers, but the description of the mat as “sticky” is probably closer to the mark. It might curl at one end for a little while after being rolled out, but overall, the mat performed almost as well as the top players and at almost a quarter of the price.
Buy now £30.00, Yogamatters.com
Pharamond Life terragrip yoga mat with asanaalign body alignment system
Best: For easy transportation
This mat usually costs £109 and it’s definitely the luxury option, evident from the way it is packaged to its generous size (183cm x 68cm – the joint longest but widest we tested). We felt very steady and in control on this mat, and at 4.4mm thick it does feel cosy and safe enough for practising trickier balances and challenging yourself.
Pharamond Life’s trademarked “asanaalign” yoga alignment system is easy to understand and start to use straight away – it immediately had a positive effect on how we practised. The 45-degree lines helped to position our heels in mountain pose and other standing poses, while the sun provided a central point of balance and symmetry throughout. Very quickly we found flow and could smoothly, silently and comfortably adjust ourselves using the horizontal lines if our shoulders or hands and feet started wandering.
It’s a little on the heavy side at 2.5kg, but this means it folds out flush to the ground with no wrinkles or kinks right away. It also comes with a high-quality strap to help with easy transportation.
Buy now £64.99, Pharamondlife.com
CorkYogis classic aligned yogi
Best: For easy cleaning
This company’s eco-credentials are possibly the strongest of all those reviewed here. With a recycled rubber bottom, the surface is made from cork, which is carefully harvested from cork oak trees in Portugal every nine to 10 years, without causing harm. In fact, shaving the bark off a cork oak actually encourages the tree to replace it, thus absorbing more CO2 from the atmosphere in the process.
With this in mind, we actually felt more grounded during practice – the material really did feel natural in a way that its rubber counterparts didn’t. It even smelled pleasantly tree-like. As CorkYogis promises, we found that the harder (and sweatier) we worked, the grippier the mat became. On the other hand, with totally dry hands and feet, we didn’t feel so secure in our poses. CorkYogis provides an “extra grip” spray bottle to minimise this effect, and as we hit our stride things improved. If you have naturally clammy palms or regularly enjoy more strenuous sessions, you’ll be fine.
As well as cork being antimicrobial, we found this mat the easiest to keep clean (plus it was the least likely to attract dust and debris in the first place). It also had its own handy alignment lines, ideal for getting your warrior pose on point every time. And if you didn’t already feel good about buying this product from an environmental point of view, CorkYogis give 10 per cent of their profits to the Kolkata-based Destiny Reflection Foundation, which trains and gives work to survivors of human trafficking and sex slavery. The only downside was the length: at 173cm it was the shortest mat we tried. Although it didn’t affect our practice personally, taller yogis might find it frustrating.
Buy now £70.00, Corkyogis.com
Sundried eco jute yoga mat
Best: For stability
Made from jute, a natural fibre, we found the texture of the mat a little harsh at first, particularly in comparison with the rubber options. However as we used the mat more and more, we began to appreciate the balance it hits between cushioning (it’s 6mm thick) and stability: it was more plush than some of the rubber mats without throwing off our balance.
We wouldn’t advise using this mat for hot yoga – or if you tend to get sweaty during practice – though, as this material did get a shade slippier when wet. That said, the mat rolls out flat fairly well, with a hint of a curl at one end that settles quickly, and is light at 1.7kg. It also comes with a strap, which makes it easy to transport. We love how the mat looks, with its natural fibres and blue foam backing, and tended to leave this mat on show.
If you’re fed up of bits getting stuck to regular smooth mats, this alternative is easy to brush clean. We also felt it would be one of the more hard-wearing of the mats, with its slightly tougher surface. If you want a more guilt-free connection to the ground during your practice, Sundried’s jute mat is a steal.
Buy now £21.00, Amazon.co.uk
Yoga mat FAQs
What thickness mat is best for yoga?
Thicker yoga mats are a great option that provide extra support for anyone who suffers from knee pain, sensitive wrists or is looking to practice hatha or restorative yoga.
Most standard yoga mats usually measure 3mm thick, while a thick yoga mat starts at approximately 5mm. However, the most important thing to consider when picking one is your own personal comfort.
How to clean a yoga mat?
Depending on how often you practice and the intensity of your sessions, you can usually go a week or so before your mat needs a thorough clean. But, if you tend to sweat a lot or find that your mat retains an odor, it is best to clean it more often.
For a quick spot clean, you can buy ready-made antibacterial sprays that are designed to be used on both sides of the yoga mat to kill off any germs and eliminate odours. Alternatively, you can mix of a few drops of mild dishwashing liquid and two cups of warm water into a spray bottle.
It is also important to check your mat’s specific cleaning recommendations. While some can be spot cleaned only, others are hand-washable and some can even be put in the washing machine on a gentle cycle.
Is there a difference between a fitness mat and a yoga mat?
While it is fine to use just one mat for all forms of exercise, there is a difference between fitness and yoga mats. Those designed solely for yoga are often thinner, longer and have more grip, while standard exercise mats can be a bit thicker to offer extra support for higher-impact workouts.
The verdict: Yoga mats
If you’re using your mat several times a week mainly for vinyasa yoga, it’s definitely worth investing in a Yogi Bare mat, which will provide everything you need, as well as the aesthetics and alignment lines you didn’t know you did need.
If you like to mix it up, practice at home or appreciate extra cushioning, splash out on the Lululemon take form mat – you won’t be disappointed. For slower-paced yogis, who want to sink blissfully deep into each pose, you can’t go wrong with the Meglio premium mat.
For the latest sport and fitness discounts, try the links below:
Now that gyms have reopened, read our guide to best gym bags for women that will make you want to work out