Out of all the fitness purchases to be made in 2021 perhaps it’s as simple as choosing the best yoga mat? The actual opposite of intimidating workout gear adorned with pulleys, stirrups, and confusingly springy things, it’s inherently designed for “any person, no matter the level of experience,” says Mia Gholar, a Chicago-based yoga instructor who’s spent the past year leading virtual sessions with brands like Outdoor Voices, FP Movement, and Essie. As a preteen, she started practicing at a nature camp in northern Wisconsin, then developed techniques by screening DVDs rented at the library. Now certified in Kemetic Yoga, she’s used to spending time on the mat at home—alone—and relies on it for Pilates, kickboxing, or a comfy seat while zoning into her many art projects.
Good for a little of everything, experts consider it a no-rules multitasker. “I use my yoga mat for my nightly routine of foam rolling and stretching,” says Jamia Fields, the soccer star who won 2020’s NWSL Challenge Cup with the Houston Dash. She carries hers around to “provide extra support” for lifting and band exercises whether inside or outdoors—the latter offering yet another realm of possibilities. “The yoga mat serves as a wonderful beach mat, and there is no better place for Savasana than under the brilliant Maldivian sun!” says Sharath Ram, resident yoga and Ayurvedic specialist at Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas, where guests like Demi Moore and Kate Moss bask on natural, “not man-made like a lot of other islands,” white-sand shores. Born and raised in Kerala, India, Ram was introduced to yoga by his father 20 years ago and has since mastered multiple styles like Ashtanga, Vipassana, and ultra-chill Yoga Nidra.
Beyond the specifics of yoga, mat-based cyber-fitness is thriving, according to supermodel Nina Agdal. She launched The Agdal Method, “inspired from my background in sports and competitive dancing,” via the Playbook app to offer recipes, playlists, and workouts revolving around “a routine mixing aerobics with low-impact movement to create lean muscle and long lines.” Holistic movement expert Chrissy Sundt, whose client roster includes Hugh Grant and Emily Blunt, spent childhood weekends “chanting for my food” at the yoga center with her yogi parents, and later trained as a classical dancer at The Royal Ballet School. Now the founder of Silver Linings retreats at Kamalame Cay in the Bahamas and The Falcon hotel in the English countryside, she’s gone digital with her new wellness platform Silver Linings @Home. “All you need is a mat,” Sundt promises. “Which is why the choice of mat is so key!”
Below, models, yogis, and athletes on the best yoga mats to add to your routine—in any form:
The Expert Favorite
“This mat is a bit pricey, but it has one of the best grips—even in the most challenging positions, your feet or hands will not move if you’re dripping in sweat,” says Agdal. “It is a little heavier for travel compared to others, but an excellent option to have for home workouts or to leave at your favorite studio.” Sundt agrees. “Great grip, which, if you have a tendency to get sweaty or you love hot yoga, is really important. A slippery mat can really make for a bad class experience.”
“This is my outdoor mat. The tough bottom is durable against grass, concrete, and my back deck,” Gholar shares. “Additionally, the material absorbs sweat (yes, it needs to be washed often)—great if you don’t want to slip and slide. What makes Yoga Zeal mats unique are the printed designs; I have one with moon phases and one with sunset clouds.”
“When we were choosing the mats for our retreat homes, the Super Grip was the obvious choice,” says Sundt, who’s been a brand ambassador for more than a decade. “It has great grip, is super durable in any climate, and it’s great for outdoor use so you can get out in nature (which increases the efficacy of your training by something like 20%).”
“I use JadeYoga mats in my practice—they are made sustainably from natural rubber tapped from rubber trees, a renewable resource that contains no PVC, EVA, or other synthetic rubber,” says Ram. He points out that the brand plants a tree for every mat sold: “They have planted over 2 million trees so far!”
“Manduka’s Yogitoes yoga towel mats are great too—especially in hot climates like the Maldives, as they absorb moisture and sweat, but they have no-skid silicone nubs on the back to prevent slipping,” Ram adds. “Plus, they are eco-friendly, as they are made from recycled plastic bottles.”
“The central line helps you to keep your body in alignment, and the lines across are great for ensuring that your hands and feet are aligned,” Sundt explains of the power of visuals. “If you are training a lot at home, then it’s essential to have these guiding lines, as over time we can get out of alignment and you may not have a teacher there to adjust you.”
“I recently bought this mat and have been pleasantly surprised! The price is great, and the grip is good,” says Agdal. “I love the detail of the body alignment system, which is nice for yoga flows to keep your form in check but also a solid mat for a Pilates routine. The cushion is just right—not too thin and not too thick.”
“The first mat I had when I was 11, and I still have it,” Gholar says with a laugh. “This mat is a classic. I love it because it’s easily accessible at Target, Walmart, etc., only $15–25, and it is ultra durable!”
“I have had this mat for a long time!” Agdal enthuses. “The durability has been incredible. The cushioning is on point for both yogis and people that just need a mat for workouts. Not too thin, but not too soft either. Perfect for yoga flows, Pilates movement, or just a quick ab burnout—mega plus that it folds itself up.”
“One of my favorite mats is Nike’s Mastery yoga mat!” says Fields. “It’s built to stay fresh with its anti-odor construction technology. I’ve been doing yoga and Pilates for years; it helps me as a professional athlete to stay limber and fine-tune the little muscles, in an effort to prevent injury.”
Thinner than the traditional yoga mat, this works best “if you are looking for a great alternative ‘all-rounder,’” says Sundt of the alt version from The DB Method, the fitness brand gaining devotees like Tracee Ellis Ross, Hailey Bieber, Martha Stewart, and Ayesha Curry. “This has a great high-shine finish and will be perfect for any functional training or HIIT sessions. If you have two or fold it in half, it’s great for any ab or Pilates exercises as well.”
“Woven mats are great for when I want to feel connected to earth,” says Gholar. “The natural material is cozy, sturdy, and perfectly compact for travel to fit in a suitcase. This mat also features stunning adinkra symbols, which is a cultural reference to the Akan people of Ghana, Ivory Coast, and the surrounding regions.”
The brand’s extra-long, extra-wide version is designed for taller athletes who need some room to roam securely. “Lululemon’s Reversible mat is perfect for hot yoga!” says Fields. “Its polyurethane top layer absorbs moisture, so I can still achieve poses as I sweat.”
If a scene exists for mats, this one got dressed for it. “I use this mat primarily when I’m attending studio classes and for my daily practice at home,” says Gholar. “It is extremely soft and cushiony, which is great for harder surfaces. The little notches make for great grip. Overall, this mat is a conversation starter, extremely stunning, and I always receive so many compliments and questions on it!”
Just to market, YogiFi’s Smart yoga mat is powered by artificial intelligence and Computer Vision. In layperson’s terms, this Bluetooth-connected device senses movement to create a virtual experience that mimics an IRL class. Instructors can offer real-time feedback on poses for those who love a critique, and, of course, its AI skills track the daily progress of factors like flexibility and balance.
The Editor Favorite
As a nonexpert who mainly uses mats for lazily stretching between episodes of romantic Korean dramas, there’s something soothing about a cork surface. It’s nonslip for reading subtitles upside down, and, apparently, cork is naturally antimicrobial (so I don’t worry as much about laying my face on it during an extended dance remix of Child’s Pose).