by Outside Expert, Jeff Grace
How much of a difference can a yoga mat really make? When starting my yoga practice, I didn't think much, but after almost 20 years of experience, I now know better.
One of the biggest reasons I began practicing yoga was to supplement my sporting pursuits. Being a climber at the time, I spent a lot of money on pricey climbing gear and had no interest in paying top dollar for a yoga mat.
But several experiences slowly changed my view: a down-dog-turned-plank, because I couldn't keep my hands from slipping; joints that I was trying to preserve started to ache because of a lack of cushioning; an inability to relax in savasana because my mat smelled like it was well past its expiration date.
So I decided that investing in a good mat was a wise idea.
A high quality mat can increase the enjoyment of your practice in many ways. The six eco-mats that I outline in this review are at the higher end of the cost spectrum, but they are priced there for a good reason. So let's take a look at some of the best brands out there on the market (in alphabetical order) and help you decide which mat might be best for your needs.
It's worth noting that you can't go wrong with any of these and ultimately your mat decision should be based on what's best for you and what price you are looking to spend.
Halfmoon Earth Grip Yoga Mat ($80.00)
Grip: The Halfmoon Earth Grip Yoga Mat is true to its name, since it has a very strong grip. This mat is contoured, which is one of the reasons the mat is so sticky, but I found also negatively affects its grip when wet. However, just like the Jade mats in this review, it does not affect its grip to a point where it compromises the enjoyment of my practice.
Feel: The feel of this mat is outstanding. Although it is contoured it was fairly unnoticeable. Because of how thin the mat is, I found the sense of grounding incredible. For some folks that's a real positive.
Cushioning (3mm): Not much to say about cushioning, there really isn't any when you're dealing with a 3mm mat.
Durability (4.4lbs): The weight and size of this mat when rolled is fantastic. It is the perfect mat for travelling, because it so lightweight, but I found it to be more durable than many mats specifically designed for travel. It is also very easy to clean.
This mat is great for the travelling yogi that wants a strong sense of grounding and does not have sensitive knees or joints.
Pros: Feel, durability and weight
The Grip: The Hugger Mugger Para Rubber Yoga Mat has a strong grip right from the get go. I found that when the mat was wet it took a couple of poses to adjust to the feel, but the threat of slipping went away quickly and it was definitely one of the biggest positives for this mat.
Feel: I love the feel of this mat, as it is not contoured nor is it overly-textured. Despite being well cushioned, I had a strong sense of grounding, which allows for great alignment and ease of balancing.
Cushioning (6.35mm): At this thickness, you'd expect this mat to provide great cushioning and it does not disappoint.
Durability (7lbs): This mat is extremely durable and easy to clean. The mat is quite heavy and thick when it is rolled.
I found the Hugger Mugger Para Rubber Yoga Mat to be the best all around mat of the six in this review. It is perfect for almost any style of yoga and definitely has advantages for those who may sweat a little more and have a hot or more dynamic practice.
Pros: Grip, cushioning, feel and durability
Cons: Price, heavy and strong smell of rubber
Grip: The Jade Yoga Harmony Professional Yoga Mat lives up to the reputation Jade mats have set when it comes to grip. In fact, using this mat requires an increased awareness when doing dynamic movements, because it can almost bring you to a dead stop. The grip of this mat was effected once it was wet, but not to a point where it compromised the enjoyment of my practice.
Feel: The material that Jade mats are made of does have a rough feel, but neither the thickness of the mat nor the material affected my sense of grounding.
Cushioning (5mm): The mat does have the standard amount of cushioning of a mat in its category. It doesn't feel incredibly cushy, but does not feel like it has a lack of padding either. Right down the middle.
Durability (4.14lbs): This mat is very durable and is also on the lighter side for its size and thickness. Because of the texture of this mat it is a little tricky to clean, which should be noted.
This mat is great for the majority of practices and especially good for those who may sweat a little more. If you factor in the fact that Jade plants a tree for every mat sold, I would bump them up to an A.
Pros: Grip, weight and feel
Cons: Hard to clean and rough texture
Jade Yoga Fusion Yoga Mat ($124.95)
Grip: This Jade Yoga Fusion Mat has a very strong grip. When wet, the grip is not as strong, but because of the thickness of this mat, there is a feeling of sinking into it, which does limit the loss of grip.
Feel: The same sense of sinking into the mat that helps it keep its grip when wet greatly affects feeling of grounding, but that's going to happen with a thick 8mm mat any way you cut it.
Cushioning (8mm): There is no competition for this mat when it comes to cushioning. Once in savasana standing back up again was not a desirable action. It's so comfortable!
Durability (6.5lbs): This mat is very durable. Jade has also been able to keep this mat fairly light when you consider the thickness of the mat. That thickness does not make this mat easy to transport or store. Just like the Jade Harmony Professional Yoga Mat, the Fusion is on the harder side to clean compared to other mats.
Because of its superior cushioning this mat is perfect for yin and restorative practices. Another use might be for those that do yoga outdoors on cement patios or pavement that is unforgiving. One cool thing I've always like about Jade is that they plant one tree for every mat sold. That would bump their grade up to a B+.
Pros: Cushioning and grip
Cons: Price, grounding, bulky and hard to clean
Manduka eKo Yoga Mat Standard ($88.00)
The Grip: The Manduka eKo Yoga Mat Standard has a good grip, but definitely was not up to the standards of the Hugger Mugger or Jade mats in my opinion. When the mat got wet the grip did not hold, as well because of this contoured design.
Feel: The contouring definitely gives this mat a different feel. Although it did not affect the feel of the mat on my feet, it did in poses where I was on my hands such as down dog.
Cushioning (5mm): The mat has a solid amount of cushioning and actually feels a bit thicker then other mats with the same thickness.
Durability (7lbs): The mat is on the heavy side, but it is definitely durable and easy to clean.
This mat has the appropriate grip and cushioning for yogis who have a hatha or a more flowing practice, but not the best for those who sweat a lot or practice in a hot environment.
Pros: Grip and durability
Cons: Slippery when wet, heavy and a little bulky
Prana E.C.O Yoga Mat ($48.00) *Back in Stock in July
Grip: The Prana E.C.O. Yoga Mat has a strong grip. It is also reversible and although the contour on either side is very different, they both have a comparable feel. The grip of this mat was not greatly affected when it got wet.
Feel: This mat feels like you are sinking into it much like the Jade Fusion mat, which I feel takes away from the sense of grounding.
Cushion (5mm): Soft and subtle cushioning that is very effective. Because of its comfort just like the Jade Fusion mat coming out of savasana was not all that easy.
Durability (2.2lbs): The weight of the mat is amazing and it is easy to clean, but I found it to be very flimsy for the price. When using it a couple of times and not rolling it up perfectly it started to have some indentations and lost a bit of its form.
This mat has the look of many of the mats that you traditionally find at studios and is less expensive. Because of this, I had some reservations and made some assumptions that were quickly proved incorrect. This is a great mat for those who want a strong grip and cushioning at a lower price. Although the grip is good, I don't think this mat is geared for those practicing hot yoga. I bumped up its grade a touch because of the more affordable price.
Pros: Price, grip and cushioning
Cons: Feel and durability
Editors Note: The YO Review is a monthly independent review by outside experts of top yoga products carried on YogaOutlet.com. The outside experts do not work for any of the brands or YogaOutlet.com and have provided their unbiased opinions on the products in return for sample product. It's worth it to point out that every yogi has different needs and unique opinions when it comes to feel, fit, comfort and functionality. A review should only be one point of information in any purchasing decision.