How to choose a yoga mat: 6 features you need to get the most out of your workout

Knowing how to choose a yoga mat is all about understanding the key features of this fitness essential, the experts reveal

A selection of yoga mats, highlighting the key varieties and points to consider when learning how to choose a yoga mat
(Image credit: Liforme/Kingdom GB/Manduka)

Wondering how to choose a yoga mat? In the sea of options out there, it's tricky to know exactly what to look for, especially if you're new to the practice or looking to change your routine. 

With most of us shopping online for our fitness accessories, knowing which of the best yoga mats to buy can be a challenge. Once it’s been delivered and you’ve unwrapped it, it’s an inconvenience at minimum to send it back, if you can return it at all. So, it's better to know what to look for in advance. 

Needless to say, getting the right mat for you can make a world of difference to your routine. "Your yoga mat helps support you in your practice, especially providing cushioning for the back and joints, and creates a softer landing should you have a wobble," says Kira Mahal, a personal trainer and yoga specialist. 

Whether you're looking for a classic choice that'll stand the test of time or one of the best thick yoga mats, we've got you covered. Here are the key features of yoga mats that teachers and experts recommend you look for before making your final choice. 

How to choose a yoga mat 

1. Materials and texture

The material and texture of a yoga mat are the first factors to consider before buying your yoga mat, says Mahal, who is also the founder of MotivatePT. "You can buy mats in a variety of different materials such as foam, PVC/vinyl, rubber, jute or cotton. When deciding on the type of material, you should consider if it’s nonslip, wipe clean, easily portable, breathable and decide if eco-friendly is important to you."

Here's a short guide to help you make a quick choice:

  • Foam: Best for stretching workouts and yoga nidra where you're lying down as this material offers more cushioning than others for the joints and lower back
  • PVC or vinyl: One of the cheaper materials but loses stickiness when it hasn't been cleaned regularly and doesn't absorb moisture, so can become slippery 
  • Rubber: Grippier than many other materials, perfect for HIIT workouts and doing yoga as a workout intensely, like hot yoga sessions
  • Jute: A strong and sustainable material best for hot yoga and sweaty workouts as the fibres absorb moisture and it's very grippy
  • Cotton: Soft underfoot, absorbent, and breathable, cotton yoga mats are suitable for almost any workout and they can be thrown in the washing machine for easy cleaning, but they may not be as cushioned as other materials

It's also worth considering the background of your material of choice when looking at how to choose a yoga mat, given that most good yoga mats are ethically sourced, packaged, and made from sustainable materials, Mahal says. 

Also, buying a biodegradable yoga mat (such as one made of natural tree rubbers or cork) can help you out when it's time to buy a new one. Instead of sticking it in your recycling or a bin bag, you can bury many of them in the garden and they will often decompose within a year.

Kira Mahal, personal trainer and founder of Motivate PT
Kira Mahal

Health expert and fitness fanatic Kira Mahal created MotivatePT to be a woman-focused, women-led personal training business that allows women to connect with female trainers for a tailored exercise program. Whether they want to be the best CEO or the best mum, Kira's expertise means that fitness and female empowerment go hand in hand as she helps thousands of women across the UK ignite their passion for exercise.

2. Thickness

The thickness and quality of a yoga mat will also make a huge difference to your workout. For example, if you're doing Pilates every day or core exercises at home or meditation then a thicker yoga mat may be a better choice as your lower back will be supported with extra cushioning. However, it won't be such a good choice for those dedicated to improving their balance or coordination as the extra material between yourself and the floor can make you feel unstable.

"4mm mats are thinner and ideal for balance poses while thicker 8mm mats are too thick to balance on but great for laying on," says Mahal. "A 6mm mat provides enough support for the back when laying, whilst also being able to do balance postures when standing, so that’s a good place to start."

3. Grip

Whatever your activity, whether you choose to do yoga for beginners or HIIT workouts, a mat with a good grip is going to be key. Those doing more intense workouts where a lot of sweat will fall onto the mat - like a hot yoga class - will need more grip than those stretching or doing light work, however. 

"A high-grip mat stops your feet slipping apart in lunge and warrior poses," says Laura Pearce, a senior yoga teacher and the founder of Kin Yoga Mats. "For many of these poses, you need to activate your abductors and glutes, which is done through the feeling of ‘tearing your mat in half’ with your feet. It's a common cue you may have heard your yoga teacher use. This activation keeps the hips stable and safe, and means you can maintain control moving into other shapes." 

For those needing an ultra grippy mat, rubber is the best material to choose but jute and cotton can also be good, sustainable alternatives. 

If you find over time that your mat has lost its grip and you're struggling to know how to clean a yoga mat without destroying the grip, combine a teaspoon of salt with water and spray it on, leave it for between 12 to 24 hours and then wipe the mat down well with regular water, it should feel better.

Laura Pearce

Laura Pearce has been a yoga instructor since 2006 and is the founder of Kin Yoga Mats. She is also a breathwork, Pilates, and mindfulness instructor, and a freediver.

4. Size

This will largely depend on how tall you are, but every yoga mat should be a little longer than the person using it. When considering how to choose a yoga mat, it's worth considering how much space you need.

"Your yoga mat should be a little longer than you are (around 7ins longer). If the standard mat size is not long enough for you, you can find an extra-long mat that will support both your head and feet adequately or you can add cushions and blankets to either end when in laying positions, to support the head and feet," says Mahal.

Opting for a larger mat can also help you out if you're in a busy space and need a little room to breathe. While it's important to be aware of others' personal space, a yoga mat can help mark out yours. "It tells people in the gym or studio: 'this is my practice space'. It also creates awareness, so that everyone can be mindful of each other’s bodies and directions when doing certain postures. When practising at home, it helps you focus on the space and your postures, and not all the other things in your environment," says Mahal. 

Liforme XL Yoga Mat - £159.95

Liforme XL Yoga Mat - £159.95

One for the extra tall yogis, this comfortable, sleek and stylish yoga mat measures an extra 10 inches length and an extra 0.5 inches in width above standard. It's wonderfully grippy, made from eco-friendly materials, PVC free, and non-slip so it's suitable for any standing workout.

5. Weight

A slightly heavier mat will provide more stability as you practice and you'll be less likely to slide around, which can be helpful if you're practising a more dynamic or fast-paced workout. At around 1kg on average, these also tend to be the thickest yoga mats on the market as well. 

However, heavy mats don't come without issues. If you plan to carry your yoga mat between home and the studio, having a heavier mat can accidentally give you a strength training workout before you even arrive. A lighter mat, while not as sturdy, will be much more suitable for carrying around.

6. Personal style

Having the right mat on paper is essential but so is having a yoga mat that you actually enjoy using and looking at. "The right mat will convey who you are and inspire you," says Mahal. That especially goes for if you're buying a yoga mat for someone else, as these accessories sit among the best self-care and wellness gifts.

"Find a mat in a colour or print that you love, so that every time you see it, you just want to get into the downward dog! Let your mat inspire you with mandalas or other beautiful patterns. You can even get personalised and customised ones."

Why you should always aim for the top of your budget

There are plenty of good, affordable mats on the market. However, the saying 'you get what you pay for' is often true when it comes to knowing how to choose a yoga mat. Those on the lower end of the price spectrum are normally lacking in some qualities. "It's worth going up a price point to find a mat with superior grip and composition," advises Jamie Kent, a certified yoga instructor and the founder of Yoga Download. "Plus, a quality durable mat usually won’t need to be upgraded often.”

New to yoga? “For most people, buying a mid-range mat is an ideal place to start your yoga practice,” says Kent. "If it becomes a regular part of your life and you develop a routine, such as doing Pilates or yoga every day, investing in a nicer, top-of-the-line mat could be worth it." 

Jamie Kent

Jamie is a 200 hour Yoga Alliance certified Power Yoga instructor and the founder of

Yoga mat materials to avoid 

The main material to try to avoid when purchasing a yoga mat is PVC, which stands for polyvinyl chloride, says Kent. "Many everyday yoga mats are made from PVC, which is a toxic plastic. PVC has been classified as a human carcinogen and is harmful to the planet. This material does not break down easily and its toxins can be bioaccumulative, meaning tiny pieces build up in our bodies."

While there's no evidence that this material can make us unwell, many practitioners recommend avoiding mats made of PVC, especially as there are so many others around to choose from. 

At the end of the day, when learning how to choose a yoga mat, the experts agree that having one you actively enjoy using is the most important thing. There are so many benefits of yoga to our mental and physical health, but if you don't welcome the practice then chances are you'll miss out on these as you simply won't get on the mat. "In the end, yoga is more about what you do with your body, and a good mat takes itself out of the equation and allows you to immerse yourself in the practice,” says Kent.

Grace Walsh
Health Channel Editor

Grace Walsh is woman&home's Health Channel Editor, working across the areas of fitness, nutrition, sleep, mental health, relationships, and sex. She is also a qualified fitness instructor. In 2024, she will be taking on her second marathon in Rome, cycling from Manchester to London (350km) for charity, and qualifying as a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach. 

A digital journalist with over six years experience as a writer and editor for UK publications, Grace has covered (almost) everything in the world of health and wellbeing with bylines in Cosmopolitan, Red, The i Paper, GoodtoKnow, and more. 

With contributions from