From backing you up in savasana to balancing you out in bakasana, a yoga mat is so much more than just a thin sheet of rubber. It becomes your personal space – a kind of mini-studio – that you trust doing everything on from the first few seconds of child’s pose to trickier inversions.

Thanks to the rise and rise of online yoga and home practice, the mat market is flourishing. No longer dominated by mass-produced mats pitched wholesale at studios, modern designs are premium, thick and luxurious, with alignment grids that become stand-in teachers.   

Your major decision when buying is whether a mat with a smooth surface or a mat with a textured surface is appropriate for your practice. Smooth-surfaced mats, counterintuitively, have better grip, so are perfect for practising hot yoga, ashtanga or any kind of vigorous vinyasa where you might build up a sweat. They can lack the comfort of textured mats, though, and we found they seemed to show dust and dirt much more easily. 

Textured mats are perfect for a gentler hatha yoga practice, if you tend to do a lot of restorative or yin yoga. Thick or thin, they seem to give a bit more padding, which is welcome if you’re holding a pose for a long time but not necessarily working up a sweat – as in yin. 

As well as texture, consider whether you plan to travel with your mat – if so, look for something lighter – and whether you need extra padding for knees and wrists, so need a thicker mat. 

We really put these mats through their paces, with hours of home practice and classes. We tried most with a variety of styles, unless that was obviously unsuitable: each mat was tested with at least one vigorous practice (bikram, ashtanga or vinyasa) and a more soothing practice (restorative, yin or yoga nidra).  

Making allowances for style and intended use (travel or home), and preferring mats that were eco-friendly in material and production, we tested for grip, portability, comfort and style.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Liforme yoga mat: £100, Liforme 

The first mat to convert our reviewer to a smooth surface, this ingenious, spacious offering from Liforme is as balanced as a good tree pose. The surface is really grippy, even in the most intense hot yoga class our reviewer tried, and it is longer and wider than most (at 185cm x 68cm) and it sits right at the sweet spot for thickness (4.2mm). What makes it so unique, though, is the grid system laid over the top to help you align yourself in poses.

This is brilliant for anyone with a home practice, who doesn’t have a teacher on hand for adjustments. The lines are very slightly textured and they do take a bit of getting used to – particularly if you have a set shape for downward dog, for example – but it’s worth playing with. The mat comes with its own carry bag but is heavy; if you plan to mostly use it at home, that doesn’t matter. 

Buy now

Lululemon the reversible mat 3mm: £58, Lululemon 

Supremely stylish and with superb grip, Lululemon’s reversible mat is a fabulous one to split across a home and class practice. The grip was excellent, even in hot yoga, and we really appreciated how light the mat was. That does come at the expense of thickness – at 3mm, you don’t get a huge amount of padding, so this mat is better for a flowing practice like vinyasa or ashtanga than for a restorative practice, unless you layer it over another mat or carpet.

It’s ideal for yogis on the go: light enough to carry to class, and (because it’s reversible) easy to roll up and run with. That doesn’t sound like much, but some of the thicker, one-sided mats we tested were a bit of a hassle to pack. We found that water left dark patches on this mat: these fade very quickly, but is worth considering if you sweat a lot in class – a darker colour would show up stains less. 

Buy now

EcoYoga jute mat 4mm: £42, EcoYoga 

The most beautiful mat we tried, and one of our absolute favourites, these are designed and handmade in the UK by a small team dedicated to producing high quality, environmentally-friendly mats. The natural fibre hessian top looks beautiful – textured, like carpet – and the rubber underside is superbly sticky and stable.

While unusual, we found the hessian was fantastic for yoga: grippier than we expected, but also comfortable – so comfortable our reviewer found herself lounging around in child’s pose more than was really necessary. The mats also roll up tightly and come with a pretty cotton bag, making them excellent for travel. They come in a variety of thicknesses: we thought 4mm was the sweet spot, and although slightly heavy, that wouldn’t stop us carrying it to class – where it would definitely be a talking point. 

Buy now

Manduka pro yoga mat: £87.95, Alpine Trek 

The one your yoga teacher uses, Manduka’s pro mats are legendary in the yoga community. Thick, stable and with extra length (180cm x 66cm), they somehow manage to suit both active vinyasa classes and gentler, restorative practices.

The grip wasn’t quite up to the smooth-surface mats we tested – after a few sweaty sun salutations our down dogs were a bit more slidey than we would like – but, oddly, the mat actually gave us more confidence in transitions, like jumping through in an ashtanga series – perhaps because, while sticky, the mat also has a smoothness that encourages flow.

It was also our favourite mat for inversions, both because of the padding and the real sense of stability. Because it’s so long and wide the mat is quite heavy – Manduka makes a lighter travel version – but this really is an excellent all-rounder that deserves its great reputation.  

Buy now

Prana henna eco yoga mat: £47.42, Prana 

One of our reviewer’s long-time favourite mat-makers, Prana creates the kind of mats you’ll be familiar with from class: textured, dependable, and with some of the smartest looks on the market. This is a classic all-rounder, ideal for a vinyasa class, but we found it lacked grip so wouldn’t suggest it for hot yoga. One of the lightest mats we tried, it still does a great job of cushioning poses, even on a hardwood floor.

Prana prides itself on its sustainability, and this mat is no different: the manufacturing process is non-toxic and all the materials are sustainable. At the price point, this is a fantastic mat for beginners and we loved the look of our henna mat which really stood out from some of the block-coloured ones. Prana mats also last forever: our reviewer still practices with one that’s a decade old and still sticky. 

Buy now

CorkYogis premium cork yoga mat: £85, CorkYogis 

Almost all yoga mat makers strive to ensure their products are eco-friendly, but Cork goes a step further, teaming up with Destiny Reflection, a Kolkata-based charity that supports and trains survivors of sex slavery and human trafficking. For every mat that’s purchased the company pays for a training course for a survivor of human trafficking, and survivors also make the beautiful bags – from recycled sarees – that the company sells. The mats are splendid, with good grip and a secure grasp on the floor. Cork is environmentally-friendly, naturally antibacterial and – to an extent – self-cleaning, making it an ideal material for a yoga mat. The texture is particularly lovely when lying down or practising in a cold room – it feels snugglier and warmer than a rubber mat.  

Buy now

Sweaty Betty super grip yoga mat: £65, Sweaty Betty 

This insanely grippy map topped our testing for hot yoga: it was grippier than any other mat we tested, extremely lightweight, and rolled up easily and tightly for easy transportation. It’s also very reasonably priced for a premium mat, and because of its phenomenal ability to absorb sweat would work really well for other sports like pilates and cross fit. At 4mm in thickness, it ticked our box for the kind of padding that you would look for in a mat for restorative or yin yoga, and managed to do so without being too heavy (2kg).

Made from biodegradable latex, it has a bit of give for ease on your wrists, but not at the expense of a stable hold on the floor. This would be a perfect mat for any really active kind of yoga, like ashtanga, where you need the mat to stay in place while you spring through transitions. 

Buy now

Form pro round mat: £79, The Form 

Our reviewer has been a fan of these game-changing circular mats for a long time. Sticky yoga mats are a modern invention – they certainly weren’t around when Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras in 400 CE – so there’s no reason bar tradition for them to be rectangular. A round mat makes a lot of sense: for reclined twists, for example, where you want padding on a horizontal and vertical plane, or for standing wide-legged forward bends and other poses where you usually need to change orientation on the mat.

Our reviewer found it took a bit of time to orientate herself, but really got into it. The mat has good grip and padding and, like the Liforme mat, a helpful grid to help with alignment. This is a brilliant mat for teachers, who can demonstrate poses without moving their mat around, or anyone with a committed home practice. 

Buy now

The verdict: Yoga mats

Liforme’s luxury mat was the best all-rounder and tested well with everything from the most chilled out, restorative practice to vigorous ashtanga. For something a bit unique and with impeccable eco credentials, we adored EcoYoga’s jute mat.  

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

Black Friday 2019 is nearly here. Find out how to get the best deals here