There are so many different yoga mat material types to choose from nowadays. The benefits of having such a wide selection to choose from are immense, with a greater variety of mats for all needs and for all budgets. But not all yoga mat material types are created equal, so in this article, we are going to look at the yoga mat materials of the most popular mats on the market and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each.
There are 7 popular yoga mat materials on the market. PVC yoga mats are the most durable and long-lasting, with the Manduka Pro being the most popular example. Rubber, cork, and jute are great eco-friendly options. Finally, TPE and EVA are also popular options for more affordable yoga mats.
For more information on how to find your ideal yoga mat, here is How To Choose the BEST Yoga Mat in 8 Steps.
In this article, I intend to explain what I think are the top seven yoga mat materials at the present. Also, why they should appeal to you, or why you should look at something else. As with many things, it depends on your budget and what type of yoga you practice.
|Yoga mat material||Best on the market||Star quality|
|PVC||Manduka Pro||Lifetime guarantee|
|Rubber||Jade Harmony||Sustainable and good for sweaty practices|
|Jute||Gaiam Jute Yoga Mat||Sustainable and lightweight|
|Cotton||Yogasana yoga mat||Best as a yoga mat top|
|TPE||Gaiam Yoga Mat Performance TPE||Affordable|
|EVA||Adidas EVA Yoga Mat||Lightweight|
|Cork||Luxury Cork Yoga Mat||Sustainable and good for sweaty practices|
PVC: The Mat for Life
The best PVC yoga mat on the market is the Manduka Pro.
PVC, or vinyl, is a strong material that is resistant to moisture and abrasion. One example of a PVC mat is the very popular Manduka Pro, which comes with a lifetime guarantee. It is considered sustainable as its longevity helps to reduce the number of yoga mats thrown out into landfills.
Pros: A PVC yoga mat easily beats every other yoga mat material in terms of longevity by a wide margin. It is not uncommon to buy just one Manduka Pro and never buy another yoga may. I bought my Manduka Pro almost 11 years ago and even with daily practice, there is almost no wear and tear.
This is an incredible advantage to people who want a mat for life.
PVC is resistant to water, and so a PVC yoga mat is considered a closed-cell yoga mat. This means that if yous sweat during your practice, the mat won’t absorb any of the sweat. This, in turn, means that you can simply wipe down your mat after every practice. This is an excellent choice for people who sweat a lot, as it may help make the mat more hygienic.
Cons: Not all PVC yoga mats are made equally. As a general rule, PVC is considered to be toxic. For example, from an environmental perspective, according to Livestrong, the “production of PVC mats also emits chemicals, including chlorine gas, mercury, and vinyl chloride, into the atmosphere”.
From a physiological perspective, PVC may be toxic. More specifically, when manufactured, it is treated with phthalates, lead, and cadmium. All have potential health risks, in particular with excessive exposure.
And so if you are reading this wondering why PVC is even used in yoga mats, considering this is something we may be using on a daily basis, then here is my suggestion.
Go for a premium PVC mat that ensures that no harmful substances will be used and emitted during the manufacturing process. SO you get all the benefits of using PVC without the harmful materials.
One such brand to go for is Manduka. This is what Manduka says on their website:
“We consider a PRO™ purchase an environmentally conscious choice. In general, PVC is not environmentally friendly, as it seeps toxins into landfills, and toxins are often released during the manufacturing process. However, we are happy to report that our PRO™ mats are free of toxins (specifically phthalate-free) and that the PRO™ manufacturing process is certified emissions-free. Additionally, OEKO-TEX, a European association for textile industries, certifies the Manduka PRO™ Series mats are safe and free of harmful substances.”
Best for: At least regarding the Manduka Pro, this is the preferred option for Ashtanga yoga practitioners or anyone with a dynamic yoga practice. The reason is that it is durable has great grip, has good cushioning, and will last a lifetime (did you know it comes with a lifetime guarantee?).
As a side note, I did a survey of Ashtanga practitioners where an incredible 73% recommended the Manduka Pro.
I highly recommend the Manduka Pro if you are interested in buying a PVC yoga mat.
Rubber: The Sustainable Mat
The best rubber yoga mat on the market is the Jade Harmony.
A rubber yoga mat is a great sustainable option. One example of a natural yoga mat is the very popular Jade Harmony. As it is made of natural rubber, it offers exceptional grip. Plus, because it is an open-cell yoga mat, it will absorb your sweat, making it a great mat if you sweat a lot.
The Jade Harmony was developed in 2000 and aimed to address the key problem yoga mats had at the time; that they were slippery. And so by using a material like natural rubber, they were able to fill that gap in the market.
The result was that they offered sustainably made yoga mats that we also able to promise great grip, regardless of how sweaty you became.
Pros: A rubber mat is porous making it great at absorbing sweat. And so if you are looking for a yoga mat for sweaty hands, then this mat may be perfect for you as there will be no sweat puddles! This is good for a dynamic practice like Ashtanga, however, one downside is that it can be hard to clean and become a bacteria playground.
It is also an excellent choice for more grounding practices like yin yoga or restorative yoga, as it provides great cushioning. It has a spongy texture and this, in turn, makes it provide great cushioning.
The price is another advantage of a rubber yoga mat, with the Jade Harmony being just under $80. And so this makes this type of yoga mat a good option for those who want premium and sustainable mat, yet are on a budget.
Cons: The key advantage of rubber yoga mats is also its key disadvantage.
More specifically, rubber mats are great because they are porous and spongy, making you not need a towel during sweaty practices. However, because it is porous and spongy, it is also more susceptible to wear and tear. And what this practically means is that if you use your rubber yoga mat consistently, you will most likely have to replace it within a few years.
As a side note, I did a video review of the Jade Harmony, so be sure to check it out if you’re interested.
I highly recommend the Jade Harmony if you are interested in buying a rubber yoga mat.
Jute: The Rough Mat
A great example of a jute yoga mat is the Gaiam Jute Yoga Mat.
A jute yoga mat is a perfect option for anyone looking for a budget eco-friendly yoga mat. It is lightweight meaning it is easy to travel with and it is great at absorbing sweat, especially if you sweat a lot. Just keep in mind that the surface is rather rough, in fact, too rough for some people.
If you are wondering what jute is, it is “a natural fiber derived from plants. The long, soft and shiny fibers are spun into coarse, strong threads that are then put to a multitude of uses” (source).
Jute is seen as a sustainable and eco-friend option for a yoga mat.
Pros: Similarly to rubber yoga mats, a jute yoga mat is great at absorbing sweat. And so if you like practicing hot yoga or if you generally have a rather sweaty practice and you are looking for a sustainably made yoga mat, then perhaps a jute yoga mat is worth considering.
Additionally, it is lightweight, meaning that you won’t need an extra travel yoga mat if you are interested in traveling. And last but not least, this is a very affordable yoga mat, coming in at under $40.
Cons: The biggest negative associated with a jute yoga mat is that the surface can be a bit too rough for some practitioners. And so if the silky smooth surface of a PVC yoga mat was on one end of the spectrum, then this is certainly on the other end. And so keep this in mind when considering this yoga mat material.
Cotton: To Place On Top
Cotton yoga mats are also referred to as traditional yoga mats or even mysore rug in the ashtanga community. You will most likely see them in an ashtanga class, where it is very common for ashtanga practitioners to place a mysore rug on top of their normal yoga mat, so as to absorb any sweat.
Pros: As was mentioned above, the Manduka Pro PVC yoga mat is a very popular mat amongst ashtanga practitioners. As it is a closed-cell mat, any sweat is left on the surface and this, in turn, makes it very slippery as we sweat.
And so what is commonly practiced, is to place a cotton rug about halfway through the practice (generally as we start the seated postures). This ensures the cotton mat will absorb the sweat minimizing any slipping.
The last time I was studying with my teacher, Sharath Jois, in Mysore, India, all students were asked to have a cotton mat with them. Why? Well, in extreme heat, you can imagine how much we all sweated. So having a cotton mat to place on top of our yoga mat helped absorb that sweat!
Cons: The biggest downside of a cotton yoga mat is that it isn’t really a yoga mat you can use by itself. That is, if you have a dynamic yoga practice. Additionally, because it is made of cotton, if you were to practice with just that on a hardwood floor, you’ll be sliding all over the place.
Additionally, if your hands are dry when practicing, you will most likely be sliding all over the place. And so if you want to practice with a cotton mat at the very start if your practice, you may have to slightly wet your hands to ensure good grip.
One cotton yoga mat worth considering is the Yogasana yoga mat.
TPE: The Rubber-like PVC
TPE is a rubber-like material that has both the advantages of rubber and the easy processing of plastics. It is a common material used for yoga mats and is considered to be biodegradable. It has the advantage of being rather affordable, however, it may become slippery if you sweat a lot.
“TPEs are a family of rubber-like materials that combine the characteristics of rubber with the recyclability and processing advantages of plastics” (source)
Pros: TPE is considered to be a sustainable option Indeed, according to the Manduka website: “The Manduka X mats are made from TPE, which is an eco-friendly material made from non-toxic, recycled, biodegradable materials. Hypoallergenic, recyclable and free of chemical solvents, toxic glues, and harmful substances.“
Additionally, TPE yoga mats are closed-cell, meaning that your sweat won’t be absorbed by the mat, making it a very easy mat to clean after practice.
Lastly, TPE yoga mats are generally considered quite affordable. For example, the Gaiam mat mentioned below is under $40.
Cons: As a general rule, TPE yoga mats don’t perform well when you sweat a lot. This means that as you sweat the surface will become very slippery.
Additionally, though similar to PVC mats, TPE yoga mats aren’t considered to be as long-lasting.
One example of a TPE yoga mat is the Gaiam Yoga Mat Performance TPE which is made from eco-friendly TPE, it is 6mm thick ensuring good cushioning for your joints and it even offers two different textures and designs.
EVA: Light and Foam-like Mat
A great example of an EVA yoga mat is the Adidas EVA Yoga Mat.
Ethylene-vinyl acetate, EVA is a synthetic material more popularly known as expanded rubber or foam rubber. EVA foam is used as padding in equipment for various sports (source).
EVA yoga mats have a foam-like texture. This means that they will be lightweight and affordable. Additionally, the more popular options are rather thick, making them great for providing cushioning for your joints. However, one key drawback is that an EVA yoga mat may not be very longlasting.
Pro: Many yoga practitioners may like the fact that it is lightweight, meaning that it will be very easy to travel with. For example, the Adidas EVA mat mentioned above weighs just 0.5 Kilograms.
To put this into perspective, the PVC Manduka Pro mentioned above weighs almost 7 times more at 3.4 kilograms!
An additional advantage of an EVA yoga mat is that it is moisture-resistant, making it very easy to simply wipe clean after your practice.
Cons: An EVA mat may be best for grounded practices like yin yoga or restorative yoga, given that they tend to offer exceptional cushioning. Additionally, if you do use it for more dynamic practices it may need replacing sooner rather than later.
Cork: A Beautiful looking Sustainable Mat
A great cork yoga mat is the Luxury Cork Yoga Mat.
Cork yoga mats are a sustainable option with many advantages because cork is both water-resistant and durable. This means that cork yoga mats are great options if you sweat a lot or practice hot yoga. Plus, it also means that they will likely last more than most yoga mats on the market.
Indeed, according to Eve Cork: “cork products have very little or no negative impact on the environment. As originally harvested from the bark of cork oak trees, it showed that without chopping down the actual trees, people can still make use of their products into industrialization.”
Pro: One great advantage of a cork yoga mat is that it gets even grippier with sweat. And so if you sweat a lot or if you practice hot yoga, it is worth looking into getting a cork yoga mat.
The Luxury Cork Yoga Mat in particular is an incredible 6.5mm thick, meaning that it will provide exceptional cushioning for your joints. Plus, it also comes with rave reviews from Amazon customers!
Cons: Cork yoga mats tend to not offer good grip when your hands are dry. And so similarly to a cotton rug, you may have to wet your hands slightly before practicing to ensure good grip.
Which yoga mat material is best?
As a general rule, aim for a yoga mat material that matches your practice, budget and lifestyle. If you want a durable yoga mat, go for a PVC mat. If you want an eco-friendly yoga mat, go for rubber, cork or jute. If you want an affordable mat, go for a TPE or an EVA yoga mat.