I recently got back into yoga as a way to rehab a stubborn trail-running injury. Though I bust out a few DIY poses now and then to keep my legs limber, it had been a few years since going to a real studio class—and my tired old yoga mat showed it. Fortunately, there are stellar new options to satisfy yogis of all stripes. Here are our 12 faves.
Lululemon Reversible 5mm ($68)
The All-Around MVP
Back in the day, the ultimate compliment you could get was being “well-rounded,” meaning you had a lot of different skills that you could do pretty well. That trait may have fallen out of favor with kids, who face constant pressure to focus early on a single passion, but when it comes to yoga mats, it’s the bomb. Why try to cram three mats in your closet when Lululemon’s 5mm reversible handles all poses with aplomb? The textured-rubber side is ideal for low-intensity yin yoga or hatha classes. Flip it over, and the thin layer of smooth polyurethane absorbs moisture and wicks sweat during steamy flow sessions. The smooth side offers the best ground feel of the bunch while still being firm enough that you can engage all your toes in warrior II.
Manduka Pro ($108)
The Go-for-Broke Mat
At 6mm thick and weighing 7.5 pounds, the Manduka Black Mat Pro (available in other colors since 2010) is the heaviest and cushiest of the mats we tested. But you don’t have to be a yoga pro to appreciate its virtues. Made from eco-certified-safe PVC, the Pro is sticky from the get-go, even without the rock-salt scrub the company recommends prior to using. For such a cushioned mat, it still offers stellar stability, enabling one tester to focus fully on his spine rotation during revolved side-angle, rather than worrying about his feet sliding around. The beefy weight translates to impressive durability—this is the only mat we tested that comes with a lifetime guarantee—but it might be impractical if you walk or take the subway or bus to the studio. Is it worth $108? Absolutely, though if you’re brand new to yoga or plan to dabble in it just once a week, it’s probably overkill. Also available in extra-long (85 inches).
Prana Belize Printed Xtra Lite ($65)
The Stow-and-Go Mat
I tend to get claustrophobic in yoga classes, so I started doing backcountry yoga a few years ago, stashing a mat in my running pack and finding a flat spot on a mountaintop to practice. In exchange for fresh air and expansive views, I tolerated pebbles under my palms during upward dog. Prana’s featherweight reversible 1.5mm mat is the super-stowable solution. At 2.6 pounds, it rolls to 2.5 inches in diameter or folds to 9x12 inches, making it easy to lash onto your back for outdoor vinyasanas and providing just enough cushion between you and the ground. Bonus: The multicolor pattern resembles a kilim rug and hides dirt just as smartly. Small enough to stow in your carry-on as the perfect antidote to business travel.
Broga Quiver of Arrows Mat ($58) and Prana Large E.C.O. ($60)
The Man Mat
Real men do yoga. I know because my husband’s been practicing on the playroom floor after we put our daughters to bed. Broga’s manly rubber mat, imprinted with a full-bleed photo of a quiver of arrows straight out of Dances with Wolves, screams “I’m not a sissy.” (Just to be sure, my man kept his chainsaw charging on the floor beside him. Seriously.) It’s made from polymer environmental resin that will eventually disintegrate, though hopefully not while you’re practicing. This tester’s only complaint: while well-cushioned, the surface could be grippier and the mat a little wider. For that, Prana’s double-sided 30-inch-wide E.C.O. mat gives bigger yogis room to spread out. It’s the foamiest mat we got our hands—and feet—on, which makes seated postures and corpse pose a dream, but it got a bit slippery when wet.
Suga (From $79)
The Feel-Good Mat
Founded by a surfer who loves practicing yoga, Suga recycles nonbiodegradable neoprene wetsuits and transforms them into plush 5mm yoga mats. Genius! But Suga (the name combines the company’s twin passions) is more than a good story—it’s also a great mat. Thick underfoot and textured with flecks of recycled, colored neoprene, it has a pleasingly dense and tacky feel. We experience no slippage even in the sultriest of hot flow classes. Despite its thickness, we could still feel our feet rooting to the ground, giving the Suga a stability and earthiness other 5mm mats lacked. The only downside is that its soothing heft makes the mat more work to lug around. Leave this one in your car for easy transport, or make it your home-practice mat. If you surf, Suga will accept your worn-out farmer johns in exchange for a 10 percent discount on your next mat. Available in two sizes.
Magic Carpet Young Yogi ($75)
The Kid’s Mat
Here’s the scenario: You get up before dawn to sneak in a few quiet minutes of yoga before the little ones know you’re awake. The next thing you know, someone’s draped over your back while you do cat cow or wriggling under your stomach while you do downward dog. If this sounds familiar, your kid needs her own mat. MagicCarpet’s Child’s Mat downsizes its glam designs, inspired by global textiles, into a smaller package for kids under eight, but it doesn’t skimp on style. Nontoxic, plus latex- and lead-free, the 24x48-inch mats have a traditional puckered surface that grips well without slipping and could easily pass for an ornate rug until you get up close. The adult mats are just as sophisticated, but one tester found that the intricate patterns were so lovely to look at that they distracted her from her practice.
Best Beginner’s Budget Mat
Proof that you don’t need to shell out big bucks to dial in your downward dog, YogaAccessories’ basic latex-free mat is light (3.5 pounds), thick (just over 6mm), and surprisingly grippy. It also wins the prize for the most colors—25, all made with phthalate-free dyes and inks—to match your mood, including “chamomile” and “soothing sea.” The only downside is that the mat started to shed rubbery crumbs within a month a use (which may have been exacerbated by the tester’s, an avid trail runner, calloused feet). The YogaAccessories mat currently has nearly 1,400 positive reviews on Amazon, and at less than the cost of some studio classes, it’s a no-brainer for those on a budget or for newcomers to yoga who aren’t sure if they’re in it for the long haul.
Jade Saffron Yoga Mat ($70)
The most textured model here, Jade’s 3/16-inch yoga mats hit the sweet spot between grip, cushion, and quality. It’s a weighty mat that makes a thud when it hits the studio floor, assuring you won’t wear it out any time soon. That also means it’s not the best option if you like to travel with your mat. The heavily textured surface does take a little bit to break in—it can be a little rough at first. It rubbed at certain areas of my feet in ways other mats never have. But once there, it retained the best grip in the sweatiest classes. If “environmentally friendly” is one of your checkboxes, Jade uses natural rubber and no PVCs. Bonus: When you buy the saffron-colored mat, $5 of every purchase is donated to promote autism awareness, education, and research. —Ali Carr Troxell
Prana Henna E.C.O. Mat ($50)
Another philanthropic mat is the pink version of Prana’s Henna E.C.O Mat. With each purchase of this mat, 10 percent of its cost will go to the Keep a Breast Foundation. This 5mm pad was thick on the studio floor, cushioning better than any other mat here. But we found it slippery the first few times we used it (the face is pretty smooth), and we would’ve liked a little more texture. Over time, though, the Henna E.C.O. Mat, made from thermal plastic elastomer, will break in and become a great addition to your quiver. —ACT
The Lululemon Unmat ($48)
For someone who likes to bring her yoga mat on every trip for hotel room sessions, the Unmat is the perfect answer. It’s a fifth the thickness of a standard studio mat but very grippy, with two different levels of texture on each side. It won’t sit stashed away when you’re not traveling, though. It’s a nice second layer over your regular mat for extra absorption in heated classes. —ACT
PurEarth 2 Eco Mat Ultimate 3mm ($40)
The medium thickness of the PurEarth 2 Eco Mat Ultimate 3mm makes it very versatile for regular studio practice as well as a potential travel mat. It weighs more than Lululemon’s Unmat at twice the thickness, but it still folds up small enough to squeeze into a carry-on (although it does take up a quarter of the space) and gives you better cushioning on your hotel room floor. The Eco Mat Ultimate also has double-sided traction with two levels of grip—both were incredibly effective—and it’s made from nontoxic chemicals. Of all of the mats here, this was my favorite because it combines cushioning with traction and compactness. —ACT
Magic Carpet Yoga Mats ($85)
When I first saw a Facebook post about these mats, I was instantly intrigued. Magic Carpet Yoga Mats are beautiful, thanks to Northern California–based artist Sophie Leininger, who studied rug and textile design. Her latest project involves hand-painting designs that she prints onto traditional yoga mats. While these aren’t the most technologically advanced mats—they’re similar to what you’ll find for rent in most studios—they are nontoxic. Head to the artist’s website to check out all the designs. They’ll make you want to create equally stunning shapes with your body. —ACT