Hearst Newspapers participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may get paid commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites.

How to choose the best yoga mat

The first step to keeping pain at bay in yoga is finding a mat.

Gaiam Essentials Premium Yoga Mat for $17.56

Gaiam Essentials Premium Yoga Mat for $17.56

Credit: Mireya Acierto

“Avoid pain” seems like an obvious rule for day-to-day life, but it’s often overlooked. “Push through the pain,” “fix the pain later,” “live with the pain” – these mantras are not only ineffective, they assure you that maybe pain is actually unavoidable. But while pain is always there, lurking, waiting, it doesn’t have to catch you at all. The first step to keeping it at bay in yoga is your foundation: a mat that works for you.

Your best policy when searching for a yoga mat is to know thyself. This is the foundation underneath you, and it needs to support you, so being interested in what your body needs to hold a healthy practice is crucial. The ideal yoga mat is non-intrusive, but always sturdy – so your best option might vary from what others are looking for.

Best yoga mat for yoga at home

Manduka PRO Yoga Mat for $99.87 - $259.99

Manduka PRO Yoga and Pilates Mat, Odyssey, 71"

Restorative yoga requires a traditional, soft but firm mat, and especially for those practicing at home, a non-fancy standard mat that can stand the test of time is your best option. For those with knee injuries, a lot of padding can help you get through the more lunge-centric standing movements – but you might find that you’re happier with a folded mat of average bulk instead. Trial and error is expected, but in general you’re looking for about 5mm and a standardized surface. The goal with an at-home mat is ease and comfort, so pulling out for a stretch at any time of the day is just as easy as preparing for a full coordinated session. You’ll want something that cleans easily, so avoid too many crevasses – go for smooth, so one quick wipe after each use is enough. The Manduka Pro comes in a few different widths – start with a standard if you can – and will make it through any home practice.

Best yoga mat for classes

JADE YOGA Harmony Yoga Mat for $69.89 - $119.95

JADE YOGA - Harmony Yoga Mat - Yoga Mat Designed to Provide A Secure Grip to Help Hold Your Pose
Jade Yoga

When classes do open up everywhere, the ideal mat should hold up in a room where you’ll sweat as much as everyone around you.. For those who sweat quite a bit in flow-centric practices like Vinyasa, an eco-friendly mat with a sweat-proof grip is the gold standard, and the Jade Harmony has mastered the art of keeping you from sliding around. You need a mat that’s almost impossible to slip out of in Downward Facing Dog, even when it’s the final pose of your class, and you are literally dripping a small moat of sweat around you. On a properly surfaced mat, you’ll be safe.

Best yoga mat for hot yoga

Gaiam Essentials Premium Yoga Mat for $17.56

Gaiam Essentials Premium Yoga Mat with Yoga Mat Carrier Sling, Navy, 72"L x 24"W x 1/4 Inch Thick

For truly hot yoga, like when the room is 98 degrees and you have to ask permission to leave, stick to something basic. Practicing in a heated class is meant to make you sweat, and it’s best to use an inexpensive mat paired with a sturdy towel, instead of over-sweating into something you’ll want to use again soon. Try Gaiam’s Standard Essential mats in 4mm, which keep your sturdy for your standing and floor series in the sweat. Pair with a Shadali Stickyfiber Yoga Towel to keep your grip; the web-grip on the bottom of this fan favorite will keep you melded to your mat.

Whatever your choice, make sure you factor in your own height – all the mats here have lengthier options for those with a little more need for stretching room – and decide on your own which thickness suits you best. Before shopping, play around with cushions from your own towels or comforters at home if you’re unclear how much support you’re looking for. But try not to overthink the choice: your mat is your foundation. As long as it’s keeping you from a hard landing, it’s doing its job.