Best Yoga Mat Reviews of 2017 Video Edition

 

Yoga mats are just rectangles of raw material.  Which yoga mat RAW MATERIAL is best for you? The three major raw materials on the market are:

1. Plastic PVC ($10-15 retail)

2. Plastic TPE ($35-45 retail)

3. Natural rubber sapped from rubber trees ($55-75 retail)

 

WHICH YOGA MAT LAYS FLAT?

Let’s first look at plastic yoga mats.  The video shown above is a bit exaggerated.  This is a TPE mat that has been rolled up for weeks.  But the point remains.  All of the plastics I am familiar with exhibit what is called aptly “plastic memory.”  This plastic memory causes those frustrating curl ups at the end of your mat when you are trying to lay it out at the studio to begin your practice.

Now let’s look at a natural rubber yoga mat.  Rubber is heavier and natural rubber is sapped from rubber trees.  One of the nice functional benefits of rubber is rubber tends to lay flat when you roll it out.  Please note, there will SOMETIMES be little curl ups and crinkles if you leave a yoga mat rolled up for a long time but in general they tend to lay much flatter than plastic.  Watch the ripples in slow motion as the rubber mat is rolled out.  This rippling effect says a lot.

 

A QUICK INTERLUDE TO INTRODUCE THE AUTHOR

Before we get into the other videos and experiments I just wanted to introduce myself as you must be wondering “is the author credible?”, “why does he claim to know so much about yoga mats?”…

My name is Rob.  I am the owner of a yoga mat company called Tomuno which for a couple years was the #1 rated yoga mat on Amazon (please see screen shot to prove this below).  Tomuno is NO LONGER IN BUSINESS and no longer sells yoga mats.    

(Please note: even though Tomuno is no longer in business, going forward, I will always still do my best to honor any warranty/guarantee claims by customers in the future.  I tried to run Tomuno in an ethical way to the best of my ability and the business closure does not change that.)

Since I am NOT in the business anymore, I am hopeful I can provide an informed “behind the scenes” but more importantly unbiased recommendation on which of my competitors you should buy.  I hope this helps!

number-1-review_20140516

 

Also, please note this yoga mat review is for the yogi who practices in an unheated room.  For thoughts on what is best for hot yoga please visit my blog post on hot yoga!

 

WHICH YOGA MAT CUSHIONS THE BEST?

Answer: The best yoga mat cushion is offered by rubber yoga mats followed by TPE yoga mats and the worst were PVC yoga mats.

Many customers would ask me, “Rob, what is the difference between a plastic mat that is 5mm thick and a rubber yoga mat that is 5mm thick.  Since they are both 5mm thick don’t they provide the same cushion?”

The answer to this question has to do with the DENSITY of the material not the THICKNESS of the material.

To demonstrate how different materials cushion your knees and wrists in different ways I conducted an experiment.  I stacked 40.6 pounds of books onto 3 ballpoint pens.  Then I placed three different yoga mats underneath this ‘book/pen’ compression simulation press.

First let’s look at a $12 PVC mat bought at a discount superstore.    Notice how the pen almost sinks into the wood table.  Imagine the pen is your knee.  Or if you have a nerve condition or bone spurs, imagine this pen is your bone spur grinding up against the wood table.

cushion_pvc

Now let’s look at a $38 plastic TPE mat bought at a specialty sporting goods retail shop in Boston.  Notice how the pen does not sink as much into the material.

cushion_tpe

Now let’s look at a $70 natural rubber mat.  The rubber looks like it barely even notices it has close to 40 pounds of books on top of it.

cushion_rubber

 

As an addendum to this analysis we now take a look at some videos of a yogi standing on her mat.  If the mat provides adequate cushion you won’t see footprints when she steps away from her mat.  Why?  If you see footprints it shows the mat material was highly compressed under her weight and hence unable to maintain a cushioned buffer between her joints and the hardwood floor…

First the $12 PVC mat…

Second the $38 TPE mat …

Third the $70 rubber mat…

 

 

 

WHAT YOGA MAT GRIPS THE BEST?

Answer:

Rubber was the grippiest with a relative score of 100%

TPE was second grippiest with a relative score of 79%

PVC was the least grippy with a relative score of 71%

When performing this analysis I was reminded why in real science, scientists submit their experiments to ‘peer review,’ i.e., they allow other scientists to attempt to reproduce their results.

I apologize but this analysis is the one that I feel most unsure about.  The reason for this is I do not think I had the right equipment and hence I had to use some judgement and make some assumptions.  If anyone has suggestions for how to do this analysis better I’d welcome your feedback in the comments section?

Videos

Methodology and Concerns

The goal of my experiment was to determine the grip of PVC, TPE, and Rubber on a ’relative’ basis… not absolute basis.  In other words I was seeking to determine what percent more grippy PVC is than TPE for example.  I was not attempting to say that PVC exhibits X grippiness in terms of force (measured in grams) required to move mass Y.   A reproducible absolute analysis would require equipment much more advanced than what I had.

The setup of my experiment was as follows:

  1. On a wooden table I laid down the mat weighted down by books to keep it stable.
  2. I used a tubular spring scale (please see videos to see what they look like).  These are not Thermo Scientific quality instruments.  But I do feel they get the job done and are commonly used in school science classes.
  3. I attempted to measure the force required to budge a small stack of books.
  4. I performed multiple experiments, took the average of each set of trials, and randomized the order each yoga mat was measured to account for spring fatigue.

The main complication I ran into is the PVC mat is so soft, the books sank into the mat creating a trench which the books had to climb out of to move.  I attempted to correct for this complication by reducing the load and increasing the surface area of the book object but my observations definitely were more difficult in the case of PVC hence my uncertainty.

Please note: this yoga mat review is for yogis who practice yoga in a room temperature studio.  For my thoughts on what to buy for hot yoga please read my blog post here!

 

WHICH MAT STICKS TO THE FLOOR

This next evidence is at best a tiny step above anecdotal.  It is not very scientific, not very reproducible, and the construction of the experiment is obviously vulnerable to sleight of hand and unconscious bias.

With all that said, I do think it acts as a nice non-scientific illustration of my grip experiment detailed elsewhere.

Has your mat ever stretched on the floor during downward dog, shifted when you changed pose, left you feeling unstable during your yoga practice?  The reason why is the mat did not stick well to the floor. As simple as that.

First, the $12 PVC mat…

Second, the $38 TPE mat …

And finally, the $70 natural rubber mat …

 

 

SUMMARY

What really is the best yoga mat?

Are you confused about which yoga mat to buy? Some cost $10 others $100…

When I was running my yoga mat company which for a couple years was the #1 rated yoga mat on Amazon, our smartest yoga studio partners offered sample mats so yogis could try PVC, TPE, and rubber yoga mats before they bought.

The purpose of the above videos and experiments is to help you ‘virtually’ find out everything you would have found out on your own testing the mats for yourself.

In the yoga mat business there are several key performance measures:

Cushion

Durability

Flatness (The mat does not rollback when you roll it out.)

Grip

Weight

Ease of maintenance

Odor

The tricky thing is each yogi prefers different combinations of these performance measures.  For example,

1) Restorative yoga practitioners sometimes care more about cushion and don’t really want or need to pay for extra grip.

2) City yogis sometimes want grip but are unwilling to carry heavy mats (the grippiest mats tend to be heavy), etc…

So which yoga mat is the best yoga mat for you?  In the chart below I have ranked each type of mat by performance measure.  Why not take a look and find the right mat for you?

If you want personal advice please leave a comment and I can do my best to answer your questions!

Yoga Mat Raw Material Performance

(1= Bad, 10 = Good)

mat-performance-chart

 

WHICH BRAND TO BUY?

Disclosure:  Please note these links below are “Amazon Affiliate” links.  Amazon provides us a referral fee when goods are purchased on Amazon using these links.  I just wanted to make sure readers understand this.

 

Rubber Mat Recommendation

If you are interested in rubber mats I’d recommend Jade Yoga.  But please peruse Jade’s Amazon reviews and ask yourself, ‘how long are these Amazon reviewers saying Jade Yoga rubber mats last?’   I found that many yogis did not realize that rubber mats are natural and hence wear down (like rubber shoe soles or rubber erasers).  Many yogis expected rubber to last for a lifetime like some plastic mats and were duly disappointed.  I just want yogis to go in ‘eyes wide open’ and understand that rubber mats wear down.  You can buy Jade Yoga mats on Amazon, see their reviews, etc. by clicking here:

JADE YOGA ON AMAZON

 

TPE Recommendation

I apologize but I really do not recommend TPE.

 

PVC Recommendation 

I recommend Gaiam.  You can purchase Gaiam yoga mats, see their reviews, etc. on Amazon here:

GAIAM PVC MATS ON AMAZON

 

 

 

Want me to test a different mat? Want me to perform a different experiment on all the mats?  Leave a comment and and tell me what you are looking for!  I’ll do my best to help.

Disagree with my analysis?  Leave a comment please!  I anticipate over time I will have to redo experiments to make them more rigorous and reproducible.  Your criticism, advice, notes would be much appreciated.

If you found our video reviews useful, please share, tweet, reblog this post!  Just click your favorite social media button below.  Thank you!

QUESTION: WHAT DO YOGA STUDIOS LEARN THROUGH TRIAL AND ERROR ABOUT SELLING YOGA MATS?

My name is Rob. I am the owner of Tomuno, an eco-friendly, community-focused business located in Boston, MA. I have literally spoken with every single yoga studio with three or more classes per day from the top of Maine to the bottom of North Carolina and as far west as Ohio (excluding NYC and Philadelphia).

Breaking even as a yoga studio owner is tough. Yoga mats are typically the #2 revenue source for a studio. The following is a summary of what yoga studio owners have said they have learned about selling yoga mats over time…

Typically a new yoga studio owner will be scared to spend too much money testing yoga mat sales and they will start out by trying to sell the cheapest mat possible. This is a very normal instinct which every cash-strapped small business owner would understand…

However, this strategy unfortunately usually does not work. Students want to support their teachers by buying mats. But they must be met halfway…

Plastic mats do not tend to sell well for a few reasons…

a) The Smart-phone Effect: The issue to understand is that in this day and age every yogi in your studio has a smart-phone. If they see a PVC or TPE mat in your studio they just Google it online and see that Target offers the same for a 30-50% discount.

b) Eco-Friendly Yogis: Yogis tend to be eco-friendly and try to avoid plastic mats.

c) Students Rely On Their Teachers to Know What Are The Best Yoga Mats: Yoga students rely on their teachers to know about yoga mats the way tennis students rely on their pros to know about rackets. They want you to stock and recommend quality mats. Many plastic mats are not the best yoga mats; they tend to slip, curl, bunch up or wear down quickly.

How would you feel if your tennis pro recommended and sold you a substandard tennis racket?

Quality mats on the other hand tend to face less price competition from Walmart type retailers…

For a variety of reasons related to economies of scale, Target/Walmart type retailers are able to purchase PVC and TPE mats at huge discounts but have more difficulty sourcing quality mats at similar discounts. In addition quality yoga mat makers tend to steer clear of big box retailers.

The chart below shows one product offering array for a major national retailer. Why not compare the price you can offer PVC mats to the price this big box retailers offers the same mat?

National Retail Chain Yoga Mat Price / Quality Matrix

National Retail Chain Yoga Mat Price / Quality Matrix

Download this chart here: National Retail Chain Yoga Mat Price / Quality Matrix

CONCLUSION
While it is scary to make the initial investment in stocking higher quality yoga mats it does generally make more sense.

As a yoga studio owner it is important to look at it from the perspective of one of your students…

Would you as a student want to purchase a lower quality PVC mat from your studio when you could get the same mat at Target for 30% less? The service your student is seeking from you as a studio owner is guidance about which yoga mats are actually the best and highest quality. And they want you to provide these mats at a competitive price.

Knowledge about quality yoga mats is the advantage you have over Target.

I’d love to hear your thoughts?

Yoga Teacher Training 1-2: Yoga Mat Buying Guide

PVC, TPE, Rubber Tree Sap… Which is the best yoga mat for your student?

Yoga students rely on their yoga teachers to know about yoga mats kind of like the way tennis players rely on their teachers to know about tennis rackets.

Yoga mats are made of several different types of raw materials and each has a trade-off. Which is the best yoga mat for your student?

The chart below shows the different ‘major’ types of yoga mats and which problems each solves for an individual yogi based on our own testing.

Yoga Mat Buying Guide

Yoga Mat Buying Guide

Download here: Yoga Mat Buying Guide

The best yoga mat for your student depends on what problems your student is trying to solve…

CONCLUSIONS

PVC YOGA MATS are great for students who are:
a) Beginners: Is your student new to yoga and not sure if they want to make an investment?
b) Value-Conscious: Is your student looking for a mat that will last a lifetime?
c) Commuters: Does your yogi need a lightweight mat for commuting?

RUBBER TREE SAP YOGA MATS are great for students that are:
a) Committed Yogis: Is your student committed to yoga and now ready to invest in a ‘good’ mat?
b) Eco-friendly: Does your student want to buy an eco-friendly alternative?

TPE YOGA MATS are great for students that are…
I personally do not recommend TPE mats for any student. I tested TPE mats and my main issue with them is (at least in my biased opinion) they do not seem to solve any problems that PVC mats don’t already solve but at the same time they are not very durable compared to PVC mats. And on top of all this they cost more.

In addition to the ‘major’ types there are many ‘minor’ types of yoga mats: polyurethane, jute, memory foam, etc. Some have issues with durability, others with slipperiness.

An obvious question is “Tomuno makes natural rubber mats… why should we trust what they say about other types of mats?” My name is Rob. I am the owner of Tomuno. When we started Tomuno we did not set out to sell rubber yoga mats. We actually did the reverse. We tested every yoga mat raw material available, asked yoga teachers, did our research trying to find the best yoga mat for one particular market which happens to be the biggest market… ‘experienced yogis who do unheated yoga.’ We chose natural rubber to fit this need. But we recognize other raw materials are best for other types of yogis. And we might create yoga mat lines using other raw materials in the future to meet these needs?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this buying guide?

temporarily SOLD OUT

(temporarily) SOLD OUT. My name is Rob. I am the owner of ‪#‎Tomuno‬. It is with sincere gratitude to our very important yoga studio retail partners that I regretfully have to report that we are sold out. I apologize to our studio partners for this service disruption. But I am hopeful it might be viewed as a sign that yoga students enjoy their ‪#‎yoga‬ mats and are telling their friends? Sales exceeded forecast and we are temporarily out of stock.

I am hopeful we will be back in stock by late-March. I apologize again for the service interruption.

Sincerely and with regret,

Rob
Owner, Tomuno

yoga mats sold out

Tomuno is temporarily SOLD OUT.

Check out Tomuno at Amazon today: Amazon.com/Tomuno

Yoga Teacher Training Video Tutorial Series Launch! Everything a yoga teacher should know about yoga mats for their students.

Yoga Teacher Training: Best Hot Yoga Mats vs. Unheated Yoga Mats

Yoga Teacher Training: Best Hot Yoga Mats vs. Unheated Yoga Mats

Yoga students rely on their teachers to know about yoga mats. As a service to our yoga studio retail partners we just launched a video tutorial series! In this video we explain the difference between the best ‪#‎hot‬ ‪#‎yoga‬ mats and unheated yoga mats. We’d love to hear what you think? ‪#‎yogamat‬ ‪#‎yogamats‬

Brought to you by Tomuno. Check out Tomuno at Amazon today: Amazon.com/Tomuno