Over the past number of years, more and more people have become quite conscious about their health and fitness.
As a result, the popularity of Yoga has skyrocketed, with people becoming endeared to both the relaxing, meditative styles, and the more intense and vigorous ones.
But where exactly did yoga come from, why has it become so popular, and how did an ancient East Indian practice which transcends the physical body transform into a significant method to improve a person’s health?
What is Yoga?
Early literature on yoga describes and defines it as a form of mental rather than physical discipline, while being associated with the Indian subcontinent and the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism.
Yoga is derived from ‘yuj’, meaning to join or to yoke. Hence the term Yoga conveys the sense of union, the linking or joining of the individual with the higher self. In other worlds, Yoga is the linking of the individual soul with the supreme, and the system of Yoga suggests the method of bridging the gulf between the Higher Self and the lower self.
Some theorize the foundations of yoga to date back at least 5000 years, allowing for plenty of time to develop into the rather secular practice of training and exercise which is seen today.
Contemporary yoga, or Sport yoga, is a set of principles and practices designed to promote health and well-being through the integration of body, breath, and mind.
Popularity and health benefits
Yoga has become massively popular in Western culture over the past number of years, with an estimated 300 million yoga practitioners worldwide.
One can only assume that the dramatic increase in its popularity is due to the number of health benefits associated with yoga, both physically and mentally.
One of Yoga’s most important, and well known, physiological benefits is an increase in musculoskeletal flexibility and range of motion.
However, Yoga also has the ability to improve heart health, relieve stress and chronic pain, and can even cure sleep disorders, along with fighting depression and anxiety.
It can also be a rather cheap form of exercise, with the only equipment needed being a yoga mat.
What to look for in a yoga mat?
There are a few things you should consider when choosing a yoga mat.
First of all, where do you practice your yoga?
If you primarily practice at home, the weight and transportability of your mat should not factor much into your choice. But, if you are part of a class or like to practice while travelling, you may want to consider how portable it is.
Also, taller yoga enthusiasts may want a longer mat that will allow you to move through an entire sequence without feeling restricted or having to move off the mat.
Thickness of the mat may be another thing to consider when choosing a yoga mat, especially for people who suffer from wrist pain or knee pain. The extra cushion of a thick yoga mat may protect the joints more than skinnier mats.
Last, but not least, the material may also factor into your decision, as this determines the texture, stickiness, sponginess, and eco-friendliness. Keep in mind that vinyl mats last longer. However, rubber ones are more environmentally friendly, but are less spongy.
With these in mind, we have compiled a list of the 10 best yoga mats on the market.
Manduka Pro Yoga Mat (Best Premium)
Manduka Yoga mats are some of the most popular on the market, and you really can not go wrong with a Manduka.
Here we have chosen the Manduka Pro as one of the best on the market, due to its durability and comfort.
It is also eco friendly, even though it is made from vinyl, rather than rubber.
The 6mm thickness of this mat is what drew us to the Manduka Pro, which provides a very nice cushion. Also, despite the thick cushion, it is not too springy or spongy which gives it a very comfortable feel.
However, it is not a mat without some faults. The drawbacks to this one are the slippery traction, even with dry hands, so maybe not one for the downward facing dog enthusiasts.
Also, at 3.45kg, it is one of the more heavy mats out there, making it more suited to home workouts.
Since this is a premium mat from Manduka, it does not come cheap. You can purchase one from Amazon for £108.
However, with its insane durability, this mat will last you a lifetime making it well worth the money if you are serious about your yoga.
Lululemon The Reversible mat (Best Premium)
The reversible mat from Lululemon is another premium yoga mat designed for those who value the traction of their mat.
This mat is certainly one for those who tend to sweat a lot or enjoy hot yoga. It’s traction, both dry and wet, is second to none, and it’s thickness, at 5mm, makes it very comfortable.
It also comes it a wide variety of really cool colours and patterns
However, it does have a couple of downsides.
It is not as durable as the Manduka Pro, as it scratches very easily and absorbs skin oils.
While not as heavy as the Manduka Pro, it still is pretty heavy for a yoga mat, weighing in at 2.47kg.
With that being said, it is a very good all round mat for its price of $88 from Lululemon.
You won’t be disappointed if you pick one up, that’s for sure.
Jade Yoga Voyager mat (Best for Travel)
As the name suggests, the Jade Yoga Voyager mat is a yoga mat extremely well suited to the yoga enthusiast who likes to travel a lot.
This mat is super lightweight and foldable, so it fits in every bag and is perfect for traveling.
As well as being incredibly easy to transport, it also has excellent traction.
However, as it is so light, it has no padding or cushion so it may be painful to use on a hard floor. An extra mat or towel may be necessary to put under when using it.
Due to its lightweight nature, it is not very durable.
This is a mat dedicated to people who can’t bear to miss a yoga workout while travelling, and is priced at $48-$60 on amazon depending on which colour you want it in.
Even for those who travel infrequently but prioritise traction above all else, this is a solid choice.
Manduka Eko Superlite (Best for Travel)
Another entry from Manduka is the Eko Superlite, which is another super lightweight yoga mat designed for the travelling yogi.
There are a huge number of reasons to choose the Eko Superlite in addition to its super portability.
The tightly woven scrim resists tearing or stretching, making it quite durable for a travel mat.
It doesn’t absorb bacteria, and is made from sustainably harvested tree rubber.
Also, no toxic chemicals have gone into the manufacturing process to soften rubber, so when the eKo mat is disposed of and biodegrades, it will not leave behind a toxic residue.
The eco friendliness of this mat, along with the ultra-portability, is what makes this mat stand out, and it is a lot cheaper than other Manduka lightweight mats, costing €30-€50 from the Manduka website.
Yogamatters Sticky Yoga Mat (Best on a Budget)
For people who enjoy the casual and more gentle yoga workouts, and don’t want to spend a lot of money on a mat, the Yogamatters sticky yoga mat may be for you.
It is pretty lightweight, weighing in at 1.2kg, and rolls up pretty tight so can be stored rather easily.
It also comes in a vast array of colours, so you can show off at yoga class.
What’s more is it is machine washable and actually quite durable given the rather low price.
However, even at 4.5 mm thick, it can be quite dense. So while protecting your joints, you will be able to feel the hard floor underneath.
The traction is also quite poor and can become very slippery when wet.
Although, if you have no interest in more intense yoga sessions or hot yoga in the near future, this mat is a great purchase on a budget.
You can order a mat for just $30 on amazon
Domyos Essential Yoga mat (Best on a Budget)
Another one for those shopping on a budget is the Domyos Essential Yoga mat from decathlon.
Again, this is one for gentle yoga.
It is 4mm in thickness, so therefore can become a little uncomfortable on the joints.
It is very lightweight and very portable for its price, weighing a mere 405g.
The grip on such a cheap mat is not too bad either, although it may become a little bit slippery on hardwood floors.
But you will not find a better mat for under $20. You can find one on the decathlon website here.
Urbivore Natural Cork Yoga mat (Best Eco-friendly)
For those who put eco-friendliness above all else may want to check out the Urbivore all-natural Cork yoga mat.
Since cork is a naturally occurring material, it makes the manufacturing of this mat 100% sustainable, with no use of toxic chemicals or plastics, even in packaging.
There are a lot of things to love about this mat on top of its environmental kindness.
It has a uniquely smooth feel due to the cork, which many will assume can make it quite slippery during use. However, a little bit of moisture really improves the grip, while still making it easy to move around the mat.
The durability of the mat also makes it a really popular choice, along with the cork being resistant to bacteria, mold, and fungus. This, of course, makes it a very clean choice.
The one drawback of this mat is the stickiness, or lack of, may not be suited to everyone. So, if you prefer very sticky mats, maybe this one is not for you.
However, one sticky point of this mat is the price, as it does not come cheap. At $89.54 from Urbivore, this is certainly one of the more expensive yoga mats on the market.
However, with it being so environmentally friendly, it makes the high price almost worth it.
Hej Hej-mat (Best Eco-friendly)
Another mat for environmentally conscious yogis is the German made Hej Hej-mat.
It is 100% recyclable and made from secondary raw materials, making it extremely eco-friendly.
Also, €1 from every purchase goes to the EarthChild Project, an NGO in South Africa that teaches school children yoga and other life skills.
It is 5mm thick, which gives it a nice cushion, making it comfortable to use.
The closed-cell surface does not absorb moisture, making it a rather durable and clean mat.
The structured surface also gives it an excellent grip.
What makes this mat stand out from the rest of the eco-friendly is the return policy Hej Hej has. Once your mat comes to the end of the product life cycle, you can return the mat to the company free of charge so the materials of the old mat can be used to produce new Hej Hej mats.
This is the most eco-friendly mat on the market we have come across, but it does not come cheap.
You can purchase a HejHej-mat from their website for €129.
Gaiam Athletic Yoga series (Best mid-range)
Gaiam is a brand that produces good quality yoga mats for reasonable prices and a good choice for people beginners, who don’t want to spend premium prices for a good, durable mat.
The Athletic DynaMat is a great mat for those who enjoy more intense and athletic yoga, but would still classify themselves as casual yoga people.
It’s 5mm thick and reversible, which suits those who like to throw their yoga mat down anywhere and get straight into it.
This is also extra wide and long compared to other mats which is a plus for people who like to have a bit of extra space at the sides of their mat, or taller yoga enthusiasts.
It is very light, at 1.7kg, so is very easy to take around with you.
You can purchase a Gaiam Athletic dynaMat on Amazon for $33.49.
Heathyoga Eco Friendly Alignment Mat (Best mid-range)
If you are not a fan of the Gaiam series, the Heathyoga is a brilliant alternative, at an even better price.
Similar to the Gaiam Athletic mat, it is designed for taller people, who enjoy the extra space on a mat.
However, it is actually lighter than the Gaiam, despite it being a thicker mat. At 6mm, it has quite a nice cushion, making it very comfortable to use.
It also has a great grip, and has the advantage of having super useful alignment marks which help you stay centered throughout your session.
It also comes in quite an array of colours, which is another big plus in comparison to the Gaiam Athletic yoga mat.
Most importantly, it is very competitively priced at just under $30 on amazon, which makes it a very attractive choice for those starting out with yoga who want a nice, comfortable, good quality mat.