Buying your first yoga mat? Your 10th? Whether you’re just getting on the mat or looking to replace your tattered but well-loved piece of rubber, our experts agree that’s it all about stickiness, knee support, travel- and eco-friendliness. Below, five of our favorite yogis reveal what they look for in a mat and why—plus, the brands they love.
Kristen Dollard, Yoga Journal’s Brand Director and author of The Yoga Body Diet: Slim and Sexy in 4 Weeks (Without the Stress)
Stickiness is the absolute most important. If you slip, you've thrown money out the yogic window. Also travel-ability, because I am always on the go. I throw it, fold it, flip it…but I carry it and I don't want it unraveling or smacking other people so I tend to go thin. Normally, style is #1 on my list, but when I am in yoga, I'm not there for show. But your mat says a lot about you: Is it uber-eco (I like to make sure my mat didn't destroy a forest and won't create carcinogens), hipster, pretty, worn out (that's how I prefer mine—well-loved!)
Recommended brands:Baron Baptiste let me use his Jade mat in the sweatiest yoga class I ever took. The next day, I bought mine. That was 10 years ago, and I still have it. I'm terrible with attachment...but I'm working on that in yoga!
I also own the Manduka PRO original mat. It costs $100, and it's like brand new. It's like owning a vintage Porsche. I love it more and more each time I practice.
Lauren Imparato, NYC-based yoga teacher and owner of lifestyle company and yoga studio I.AM.YOU.
I look for a mat that is not glossy, of medium thickness, with no rubber smell. Not slippery but not super grippy. A natural feel without endless squish at the bottom.
Recommended brands: I love Jade. It’s standard, durable, easy to clean. Lole just came out with a travel mat I love—it folds up into a tiny square, so it’s ideal for travel and major days of schlep. Light and compact!
Amy Ippoliti, Boulder-based yoga teacher and co-founder of 90 Monkeys, an online professional development school for yoga teachers
My favorite mats are sticky, like the name “sticky mat” implies! Soft enough to pad the knees and elbows but not so soft you feel like you're on a piece of foam and start sinking in.
Recommended brand: prAna’s mats are my favorite, because they do all of the above and are made from biodegradable materials and are constructed in an eco-friendly way. Even so, they totally hold up and stand the test of time. With how much time we spend breathing on our mats, I appreciate the toxic-free manufacturing as well. My favorite is the Indigena Natural Yoga mat.
Masumi Goldman, co-founder of wellness company Two Fit Moms
Goldman, like most of our yogis, looks for a mat that prevents slipping and has just the right thickness.
Recommended brand: I find that my hands slip on most mats, but with the Gaiam Sol Dry Grip mat, I've never slipped. I love the thickness of the mat, too. I can practice outdoors and not feel any stones or unevenness in the pavement underneath me. I also love the black-on-black design. It's visually interesting and beautiful, but not overly feminine. (Note: Gaiam sponsored Two Fit Moms’ recent Yoga FamJam event in NYC.)
Rina Jakubowicz, owner of Rina Yoga studios in Miami and presenter at Yoga Journal LIVE!
The mat needs to be thick enough to support my joints when placing them on the floor. In addition, the mat must not be slippery, must be durable and must grip to the floor because this creates a stable environment and foundation for my practice.
Recommended brand: My favorite mat is the Manduka Pro. I have had it for 10 years and it is still in the same stable condition as when I got it. [It is] sustainable and eco-friendly, which is a plus! I use a Manduka carrier with a zipper because I like to enclose my mat for protection from outside elements and from the sun . I also put other things in it like a towel, headband and a water bottle.
--Jennifer D’Angelo Friedman