Once upon a time a yoga mat was a yoga mat.
Then yoga got popular. Now it’s super popular. So popular that yoga mats alone are an $11 billion business.
Along with popularity comes all different types of yoga gear, props and apparel, including a huge variety of different types of yoga mats for every conceivable situation as well as for the different types of yoga.
Below we set out your mat options based on a variety of factors, needs, preferences and of course yoga style.
- 1. Traditional or Standard
- 2. Round or Oval
- 3. Hourglass
- 4. Square
- 5. Child-friendly
- 6. Extra Long
- 7. Extra Wide
- 8. Extra Thick
- 9. Extra Thin
- 10. Travel-size
- 11. Smooth
- 12. Textured
- 13. Sticky
- 14. Acupressure
- 15. Reversible
- 16. Printed
- 17. Natural
- 18. Synthetic
- 19. Hybrid
- 20. Eco-friendly
- 21. Hypoallergenic
- 22. Yoga Mats for different types of yoga
- Alternatives to Yoga Mats
1. Traditional or Standard
Historically, many Indian yogis would practice on bare earth or animal skin rugs. As comfort, expense and environmental concerns arose, modern fabric and synthetic materials grew in popularity. The standard measurements for the average yoga mat are 72 inches and the typical width is 24 inches. An average thickness is usually between 4-5 millimeters. Non-slip material helps prevent injury, especially during sweaty sessions.
2. Round or Oval
Yoga-lovers choose round yoga mats if they want to have a full range of movement that isn’t confined to the usual rectangular style of mat. Larger diameters typically aren’t suitable for large class settings or travel due to their size and bulk. With oval-shaped mats, yogis have more padded protection focused in the center of the mat. This is a benefit for sessions that include a lot of centered, seated poses or meditative cooldowns.
Yoga practitioners may prefer a mat with an hourglass shape since it follows the form of the human body more naturally. These mats have wide, rounded ends and a midsection that tapers to a standard mat’s average width.
These mats measure as wide as they are long, which makes them a perfect choice for partnered or parent-and-child yoga practice. Yoga instructors may also prefer these larger mats for leading a class by showcasing a pose in various angles.
Mini-mats made specifically for children are usually shorter than a standard mat and may be 60 inches long or shorter. Lightweight materials with a good amount of padding are also popular choices for children, as well as mats printed with guideline markings or examples of certain poses.
6. Extra Long
The average yoga mat’s 68-72 inch length is best suited for yogis under 6 feet tall. If you’re taller, look for yoga mats that measure longer than 72 inches in order to practice in with plenty of space and comfort.
7. Extra Wide
Given the many styles of yoga and the variety of positions each one teaches, some practitioners may want a wider-than-average yoga mat. Pregnant women or those who may need assistance can also prefer a wider mat for more comfort and stability.
8. Extra Thick
High-impact yoga is popular for its intensity and the endurance necessary to perfect its forms, so yogis who love this style opt for more padding in order to protect their heels, palms and joints from getting sore. Seniors and those recovering from injury or dealing with chronic physical limitations also benefit from mats that exceed the average 4-5 millimeter thickness.
9. Extra Thin
Situations that call for thinner yoga mats include sessions on soft surfaces like grass, carpet or in studios with already padded flooring. Any thickness that measures under 4 millimeters would be considered thin by average standards. Yogis who walk or bike to classes may also appreciate their lighter weight.
Mats made to travel as a carry-on or in suitcases are often made of lightweight material and may be soft enough so they fold instead of roll up. Others may include built-in straps and clasps so you can attach them to backpacks or bikes.
Smooth-surfaced yoga mats can make cleaning easier than the textured kind and can be a comfortable fit if you practice yoga that requires slow, fluid transitions between poses. Restorative or vinyasa yoga styles both focus on holding forms or switching positions carefully.
These mats offer a rougher feel that may be made of synthetic or natural materials. They can be preferred if you want extra grip while holding poses that extend the body and depend on exact postures and steady balance.
Despite the name, a sticky mat isn’t literally sticky like glue, but it does prevent skidding due to its specific formulation and unique surface. Sticky may also be used to refer to how a mat performs on a given floor surface in addition to the friction on top.
A specialized mat like this could help if you want to add the principles behind acupuncture and acupressure practices to your yoga routine. Ergonomic knobs that cover the mat give yogis a chance to target important pressure points through each pose.
If you’re the kind of yogi who likes to switch between different styles of practice, a reversible mat may save you time and money. Mats made to be used on either side often have a microfiber surface and a sticky surface so that you can switch between traction and comfort needs.
Several brands offer whimsical, fun or energizing design options for their different mats. With the rise in yoga’s popularity, many print-on-demand companies now offer customizable yoga mats, as well. You can also choose to hand-paint a mat, though the paint may wear over time and with vigorous use.
Natural materials include cotton fabric, woven grass fibers, cork bark and even rubber. Yogis favor these materials because they can biodegrade and reduce their waste impact. However, this means they may show wear or fray faster than synthetic or hybrid options.
Many yoga mat manufacturers have phased out their use of certain synthetic materials, like PVC, due to potentially harmful effects, though they can still be found on the market. Opt for mats that have easy to read material lists which clearly state they are non-toxic.
Yoga mats with a blend of natural and synthetic materials typically last longer than all-natural mats. You may prefer a hybrid mat with a thermoplastic elastomer underlay if you put your yoga mat through a heavy workout frequently but still want the organic feel of natural materials and biodegradable components.
When it comes to eco-friendly mats, yogis with environmental concerns can encounter some manufacturers that use a loose interpretation of the term or omit important factors. Not only should an eco-friendly mat be biodegradable at the end of its use, but its materials should be manufactured in a sustainable way.
Not only should yoga practitioners be aware of potentially toxic materials in their yoga mats, but they should also be careful of exposure to allergens. Natural rubber yoga mats may trigger a latex allergy. Carefully reading material lists or shopping for mats that specifically state they are hypoallergenic can prevent a reaction like this.
22. Yoga Mats for different types of yoga
Since each type of yoga is different, in some cases a different type of mat is recommended.
This evolution of the classic Hatha yoga style focuses on how each yoga posture connects with the next towards what is called the Universal Principles of Alignment. Props and off-mat work may be a part of each class, so a durable but standard mat should do the trick.
Whether as a class or one-on-one, an Ashtanga yoga session is quick-paced and each pose ends after five breaths and a half a sun salutation form. Because of this, you may want a mat that offers plenty of stability and stickiness and is long enough to accommodate the length of your body comfortably.
Bikram or Hot Yoga
The official Bikram method follows a strict set of 26 poses in a heated room that is typically kept between 95 to 104 degrees. It may be listed as Hot Yoga if the instructor chooses to deviate from the scripted poses, but these sessions get sweaty, so choose a non-slip and absorbent mat.
When you think of yoga, the Hatha style of yoga is usually what comes to mind. This gentle practice typically incorporates a series of classical forms and some new positions. While you may still break a sweat, the point of these classes is on breathing and alignment, so a comfortably padded mat that suits your dimensions works well.
Because the focus of the Iyengar style is the precise execution of each pose, there isn’t as much focus on speed or power behind each position. Some props, such as yoga blocks or straps for stretching, may be used. Choose a thinner mat with a good grip if you need help keeping your balance.
With a mixture of spiritual teaching and physical conditioning, the Jivamukti practice typically paces a session with poses and chanting as a breathing technique. Eco-friendly mats match the Jivamukti philosophy of connection with the Earth but choose one that’s comfortable for seated chanting.
Known for its physical and mental intensity, the Kundalini yoga style combines repetitive pose forms with singing, chanting and meditative breaks. These high-impact sessions demand a lot from a yoga mat, so a durable hybrid or thick natural rubber mat can stand up to the test over time.
The focus of a prenatal yoga class typically centers on building a mother’s strength and flexibility as her body develops and changes through pregnancy. A mat that offers stability and non-slip grip will help to prevent accidents given that a growing belly changes a woman’s balance and her center of gravity over time.
Restorative or Yin Yoga
While many people use these terms interchangeably, there are subtle differences between these two styles. Both are gentle and meant for recovery and balance, but Restorative yoga encourages relaxing into a pose while Yin promotes a healthy sense of strain. For either one, the same thick or wide types of yoga mats allow the most range of movement with protection.
Fluidity and flow are the keywords that matter most for Vinyasa yogis. Not only does this style focus on seamless transitions between poses, but it also incorporates timed breathing with each. Many yoga-lovers like to combine this style with a reversible mat that gives them a smooth surface which they can turn over for an absorbent one to take to hot yoga sessions on other days.
Alternatives to Yoga Mats
If you’re looking for a quick fix in a pinch, a towel, an area rug or even a piece of carpet underlay could work as an alternative to a formal yoga mat. There are also non-slip fingerless gloves and toeless socks that mimic the grip of a yoga mat for working on slick surfaces without padding. Additionally, some studios may have special flooring that serves the same purpose as a yoga mat by being padded and non-slip, therefore eliminating the need to bring your own.
Related: How to clean a yoga mat