What is the Ultimate Yoga Mat?

Please don't buy a cheapie yoga mat and hurt yourself. I completely hate the entry level mats that people buy. They smell like BPA (a poisonous plastics additive) while not providing enough cushion to ensure a safe and productive yoga workout. I'm told by a few trusted yogis that people hurt themselves on these crappy mats and then quit because they blame themselves. Don't let that be you! In this very article, we'll advise you regarding the best possible yoga mat at various price points, as well as the best in other key yoga accessories. 


The Ultimate Yoga Mat: The Manduka Pro

The Manduka Pro is the Rolls Royce of yoga mats. Think of it as precision German manufacturing applied to the yoga mat market. The first time I got on my Manduka Pro, I was amazed. My hands griped the mat like they were sticky. It's a thick mat which provides a nice cushion. There is also an option to get a longer than standard mat (the extended version is 85" rather than the usual 71"), which is great for tall people like me. The Manduka Pro has a lifetime guarantee. I can see why because the whole mat is one precisely engineered piece. I can't imagine a way to damage this mat aside from taking scissors to it. 

The Best Yoga Mat Made From Eco Materials: The Maduka eKO

The Manduka eKO is another great option for your yoga mat needs. I strongly prefer a mat constructed out of organic materials that also performs well under the strenuous pressures of my consistent yoga practice. The top side has a very comfortable, non-slip surface which I actually prefer over the Manduka Pro. The eKO model has a good amount of cushion, although slightly less than in the Pro model. In comparing the eKO versus the Pro, the eKO is slightly less rugged. If you are a yoga teacher who plans to use this mat all day every day, you should probably go with the Pro. For most other people, it seems sufficiently well constructed to last for years. As far as my personal practice, I use my eKO at home and then I use my Pro when I'm doing yoga outside or when I'm traveling. The eKO is noticeably cheaper than the Pro, so if you are highly sensitive to price, you might want to consider starting with the eKO and then upgrading in a few years once you wear it out. 

Best Option for Super-Cheap: A Beach Towel Outside on Soil

To be clear, I did not start my yoga journey with some super nice yoga mat. Instead, I practiced outdoors using a beach towel which I already owned. Yes, the towel was more slippery than a high-end mat, but it got the job done. This really only works outside because a towel would slip around if used inside, for example on a hard wood floor. If you are inside, though, you might be at a yoga studio, in which case you should probably just rent a nice yoga mat for your one-time use. That way you can save up for a nice mat which will actually serve you in the long term. 

Other Mats We Considered

I had been using a yoga mat made of cork before I started doing the product testing for this article. Cork actually produced the most organic feeling out of all the materials when I touch it, but cork also has some problems when used in a yoga mat context. First, cork absorbs dirt, so it's virtually impossible to clean. My old mat looks like a dirty dish rag at this point. Secondly, cork is a slippery surface which does not work as well as the mats described above. Cork is fine for yoga blocks because you can grab on, but it just doesn't work that well in mat form. Lastly, cork tears easily, so my old mat has rips in it.

Most trusted Yogis I know do not like the Lululemon mat (and there seems to be widespread consensus on that). Another mat that often gets mentioned is the Jade Harmony mat. Based on my internet research involving reading many, many product reviews, people seem to almost universally prefer the Manduka mats and the eKO model is in a similar price range anyway. I did not personally test the Jade Harmony mat, so if you use it please let me know about your experience with it here

Best Yoga Blocks: Cork

You're going to want two yoga blocks and I would personally very strongly recommend going with a version made out of cork. One option is the Manduka yoga blocks + yoga strap set. I have no connection with Manduka, it just turns out they make really nice stuff. For some reason, cork blocks do not seem to have the same staining issue as cork mats. My cork blocks still look clean and new. 

I had previously experimented with some yoga blocks made from plastic (which is unfortunately fairly standard) and they smelled horrible. I assume the stench was the plasticizers in the plastic going airborne and poisoning me. I vowed never to use those monstrosities again. 

Best Bolster: Your Choice

A bolster is basically a specialty yoga pillow which provides more support than a normal pillow while being shaped in either a cylinder or a rectangle. I find that most yoga bolsters are fine as long as you choose cotton or hemp rather than vinyl for the outside material. I suggest clicking here for a variety of bolster options and then selecting your favorite color and shape.

Until you can afford a bolster, you can substitute with either firm couch cushions or pillows. These are not as good but they are free and totally acceptable. 

Closing Thoughts

Yes, it will take a bit of an investment to get really nice yoga equipment, but ultimately you are going to save yourself the aggravation of injuring yourself and hopefully you will be reusing this equipment on a daily basis. From that perspective, these purchases average out to a very small per-use price.

We hope this has been a helpful introduction to navigating the yoga accessories market. If you think we should consider another product which we haven't included in this article, please get in touch with us and we will add it. 

Yoga Workouts From Home

If you want to start learning yoga for free at home, click here. Keep on practicing! Namaste. 

We are searching for the best yoga mat, which can also serve as an exercise mat if you wear yoga socks. We discuss the lululemon yoga mat, although we don't really get into looking at yoga towels or yoga mat bags. A yoga bag and a yoga strap are useful yoga equipment, but in this article we are focusing on the core yoga supplies, which mainly include finding the best yoga mat.

Additional Note

I've now tried out these yoga mats for over a year. My overall favorite is the Manduka eKO, the one which uses natural materials. It is easier to damage than the Manduka Pro, though. I would go with the Manduka Pro if you expect to do a lot of yoga outdoors or in other conditions where a less rugged mat could get damaged. The Mandula Pro is virtually indestructible.