If you’ve been trying out yoga, you probably fall into one of two main camps when it comes to owning a yoga mat. (If you’re not aware of our Yoga Challenge and want to check that out for context, start here).
Maybe you ran out and bought one soon after your first class (the male stereotype is that we do love our gear, after all). Or, you might have figured you’ve got other stuff to worry about — like surviving challenging yoga practices — and using borrowed or rented mats seems fine for you.
In either case, if you’ve been stringing together some weeks of yoga and intend to continue in the new year, now’s a good time to think about a mat. Either your first one, or the one you wish you’d known to buy the first time around.
“What’s the big deal?” you might ask. What’s so great about the “right” mat? This is one of those things that’s best understood in the reverse. As in, what issues does the wrong mat bring? So let’s start off there — hopefully to motivate you, man. Then we’ll identify a number of mats that might have your name on them.
Why the Wrong Yoga Mat is Bad News
While a mat may seem like one of the more-basic pieces of fitness gear, there are a bunch of ways a mat can be wrong for you. And they all kind of suck, so why suffer through them?
A mat might be too small…
I’m 5’ 8’’ and even for me, the standard-sized yoga mat is a bit small. After all, the industry has mainly designed these things for women who are on average shorter and narrower. Having no margin either front/back or left/right means feet or hands will end up half-on / half-off the mat, or all the way off…or you need to keep paying attention to this and adjusting where you are.
Why deal with that? There are mats for men that are six inches or so longer, and three or four inches wider, and this makes all the difference.
…it might have the wrong amount of cushioning…
Too little cushioning and your knees might hurt in knee-to-floor poses. Too much, and it’s harder to balance (which can be hard enough as it is). Obviously, how sensitive your knees are and how balance-challenged you feel will differ by person…so there’s no one “right” amount of cushioning. It also depends on how hard the floor is where you practice yoga, by the way.
…and it might be too slippery when you sweat.
Guys sweat. Especially when the room is heated, which many styles of yoga do. Having hands and feet fail to gain grip on the mat is a big problem that will ruin any “fun” you’re having in the practice, I guarantee. And not all mats are built to be anti-slip, because a lot of gals don’t sweat nearly as much (thankfully).
One option here is to use a yoga towel on top of your mat (discussed below). But if you’re not doing that, you need a serious anti-slip mat, man.
Finding the Right Mat
Any one of the drawbacks mentioned here would make a new / better mat very well justified. And you might suffer from more than one of those problems. So get into mat acquisition mode, dude! It will be a good use of your money.
Here are some specific mats to check out, and also two recent yoga mat reviews you might like.
First — Are You Going to Use a Yoga Towel?
A yoga towel is designed to be used on top of your mat. It has little grippy bumps on the bottom (the part that contacts the mat), and very short/tightly-looped towel material on top. Imagine it this way: as a putting green is to normal grass, a yoga towel is to a regular towel.
The towel material becomes more and more anti-slip, the more it gets wet from your sweat. (Or from the water you can spray on it before you start, which makes it anti-slip from the get-go). A towel will be more anti-slip than any mat, in my experience. But, it can move around and get bunched up underneath you, which is a pain. And it needs to be washed all the time.
If you do use a towel, then that reduces or eliminates your requirement that the underlying mat be super anti-slip.
One scenario is to have a yoga towel you take with you if you need to visit yoga studios mat-less and rent once there (like when traveling). Then you also have your own anti-slip mat for times you can show up with a mat, on your home turf. Here’s a link to the top-rated yoga towel on Amazon (I own one that’s similar).
Note, these towels tend to be just the size of standard, not large, mats. But if you’re borrowing or renting a mat at some studio (which you’ll use your towel with), it’s likely to be that size anyway.
Mats I Can Recommend
I’ve personally used these mats and think they’re great.
Yoloha Cork Mats. Cork absorbs and diffuses sweat, rather than letting it pool and make you slip. And it provides a certain degree — though not a huge degree — of natural cushioning. I used one of these mats for a year or so, and really like it.
Legend by Yoga For Men. This is the mat I currently use…but it’s listed as not currently available on both the company site and Amazon. So I guess I’ll be changing mats next time I need a new one, unless something changes. But if you find this somewhere, it’s a large-size mat with good cushioning, and fairly impressive anti-slip characteristics.
Lululemon Reversible Mat. I know, this seems like a fashion-y yoga brand you may associate the mainly-overpriced stores at the mall. But this relatively-affordable mat gets rave reviews, online and from numerous people I’ve spoken with directly. Especially for staying “sticky” (that’s a good thing) when you sweat on it. The link is to a “big” version of the mat that may be best for taller/bigger guys, but for $10 less there’s also a standard size. I’ve borrowed this mat at studios a couple of times and been impressed!
Other Mats That Look Good
I haven’t tried these, but from what I can see, they look worth investigating. I will definitely check them out for my next mat purchase.
Manduka Eko Mat. Manduka has other more-expensive mats. But this one gets high marks for (again, it’s a male thing) being non-slip when you sweat.
Yellow Willow hybrid mat/towel combination. This idea — a rubber mat as the bottom layer and towel-like surface on top — may be the best of both worlds. You’d need to wash the towel part reasonably often, though (they say you can throw the whole thing in the washing machine). These come only in various patterns, not solid colors, and they don’t have a large size. Both of these things suggest the company is — understandably — focused on women as their first main target customer group. But the “stardust” pattern doesn’t look too girly, at least.
Here are two 2017 mat reviews you may want to check out, to see what they say about mats I’ve described here, and a few other candidates to be Your Next Mat.
If you’re still reading, I guess you’ve gotten over both hesitations of “will I do yoga?” and “will I do yoga enough to actually own my own yoga mat?” Nice. Your future self will thank you.
I hope one of these mats accelerates your path to further fitness and happiness, man.