my quest for the perfect yoga mat.

I have been practicing yoga for nearly 7 years.
In those 7 years I have practiced yoga at the gym (24hr fitness & LA Fitness), the Bikram Yoga studio in Silverlake, at Santa Monica Yoga, at Moksha Yoga, and of course, at YogaWorks. I have also completed my 200hr teacher training (through YogaWorks) and am currently in the midst of my 300hr Professional Program (also through YogaWorks).
My experience with yoga has been a blend of hot yoga, vinyasa flow, and Iyengar… and here I am years later and I have yet to find a yoga mat that I truly love that I can use for any class of any style.

Gaiam Yoga Mat, $29

My first yoga mat was a purple Gaiam mat that I purchased at Target for $29 when I first moved to Los Angeles. I kept that mat for nearly 4 years. I never remember having any particular issues with it (but I was also brand-new to yoga, so I didnt know what to look for in a mat either). It was getting old and starting to crumble and fall apart. And while it had been a good mat, when it was time to replace it I decided to pursue a “better” mat than one found on the athletic aisle at Target.

For my birthday one year (2009, I believe?) my parents gave me some yoga stuff for my birthday.
(quick tangent: that year my parents offered to buy me a pair of Jimmy Choo’s OR some yoga stuff at lululemon…. and I picked the stuff from lululemon! that’s when I knew I was hooked). In addition to some new yoga pants, I picked out 2 yoga mats: The Manduka PRO and the lululemon Align Ultra Mat.

Manduka PRO

The Manduka PRO is about as heavy-duty as a yoga mat can get.
First of all, it weighs 7 lbs. Secondly, it is backed by the Manduka lifetime guarantee.
Its an incredible mat that could probably survive the apocalypse.

“The legendary Black Mat PRO (formerly known as the Black Mat) is celebrating 15 years as the world’s finest yoga mat. There is a reason the Black Mat PRO inspires such passion in its users – this denser, thick yoga mat has unparalleled comfort and cushioning. With the superior non-slip fabric-like finish you expect from high-performance yoga mats, and simple, elegant design, the Black Mat PRO will revolutionize your practice. And best of all, it now comes with a Lifetime Guarantee. When you want the very best yoga mat, the mat chosen first by yoga teachers throughout the world, there really is only one choice – the Manduka Black Mat PRO, for your practice and for our world.” 
 – description from the Manduka website

Their description is pretty accurate. It is comfortable. Its weight and design makes it where it doesn’t stretch out while you’re in down-dog and it also doesn’t move when you jump during your vinyasas. If you go to a yoga class in Los Angeles you’re guaranteed to see dozens of these exact mats. My only major complaint with the mat is that, while it states that its “non-slip”; I have issues with slipping after about 10 minutes of practicing. The only way to fix this issue (which is a pretty major one, in my opinion) is to use a YogiToes towel on top of the mat. I typically fold the towel at the top of my mat before class starts so that when I need it I can quickly unfold it without disrupting my practice too much.

The Manduka PRO is a great mat, its durable, comfortable, a little bulky (but in a durable sort of way) and easy to clean… but since I cant use it without also depending a YogiToes towel; it doesnt quite qualify as my “perfect yoga mat”.

lululemon Align Ultra Mat

I started out loving the lululemon Align Ultra Mat. Its lightweight and textured so that it prevents slipping. I never really had to use a YogiToes towel over it unless I went to a super sweaty vinyasa class or to a hot yoga class (Moksha or Bikram); and even then it was more to absorb the sweat rather than preventing slipping. The Align Ultra Mat quickly became my mat of choice during my 200hr YogaWorks teacher training because of it being comfortable, lightweight, and not giving me an issue with slipping. However, after a few months of using it, the bottom of the mat began to lose grip with the floor. If I was in down-dog I could feel the mat stretching beneath me and if I chose to jump during my sun salutations, the mat scooted along the floor. This problem appeared to happen over night, and there was no way of fixing it. It just couldnt hold up during class or my teacher training so I got rid of the mat shortly after because I no longer felt that the mat was usable. If it wont stick to the floor and moves around on you during class, who cares of if your palms stick to it?

I went to find the mat on the lululemon site so that I could post a link to it and it was no longer available. Maybe I wasnt the only one that had issues with this mat.

Gaiam Meadow Mat, $22

I decided to go back to Target and try out a Gaiam mat again. I figured, why not? I chose the Gaiam Meadow mat that claims that its texture “delivers non-slip performance” (quote from the Gaiam website). I think I used the mat a handful of times before getting rid of it. It was flimsy, the top layer of the mat IS textured; but its also extremely glossy and does nothing to prevent slipping. You HAVE to use a YogiToes towel on top of it in order for it to be usable in any regard. I was extremely disappointed in it, but for the cheap price point it wasnt a big deal. I ended up giving this mat to my brother who needed something to lay on while he was doing the stretching regimen that his chiropractor gave to him. So at least its being used for something!

While I was working at the YogaWorks in El Segundo I became good friends with one of our members. She was actually in the process of designing her own yoga mat that suited her needs in the asana room. Her project went from designing a mat just for herself to becoming something that people were asking about and now she is manufacturing them!  I tried out a couple of her prototypes and about a year ago was grateful when I was able to get one of her finalized mats.

The Vernice Vita Mat, $99-$119

The Vernice Vita (“paint life” in Italian) mat is amazing. Racheal designed the mat after adding a layer of memory foam to her previous mat to relieve discomfort during her practice. The result was a hit, thus the idea of her mat began.

“The (Cadillac mat) is our original three layer memory foam yoga mat. The bottom layer is a skid proof EVA material that stabilizes your mat and prevents slipping/sliding on studio floors. Middle layer is 1/2″ memory foam that aids in support while providing comfort to your practice, and the top layer is a textured, water resistant neoprene to help stabilize your hands and feet. Large and luxurious, this mat will help eliminate pain from your practice and provide support and comfort.”
– description from the Vernice Vita website

The mat is wonderful. Its a tad bulky, but not any more bulky than the Manduka PRO. The cushion from the layers of memory foam is utterly amazing and the added comfort is a really great touch during savasana. The textured top layer is great for preventing slipping and the mat is easy to store and clean. I turned to this mat for my practice and teacher training when I had to retire my lululemon Align Ultra Mat and after I gave up on the Gaiam Meadow mat and it held up quite well. I would say that the only downside of the mat is that I found it did move a bit during downdown and when I jump during my sun salutations. Not a lot of movement (like the Align mat) but enough to notice. Perhaps this is because the wood floors at the Larchmont YogaWorks studio are glossy? I am not sure.

I think this mat is PERFECT for an Iyengar class or a level 1 or 1/2 yoga class. During these classes you are not doing as many (or any) sun salutations so the aspect of needing a mat to stay put when you jump to Uttanasana from down-dog isnt really an issue. I have not tried this mat during a hot yoga (Moksha or Bikram) class; but I am sure it would do lovely. The Vernice Vita mat is an excellent mat, and one that I use regularly… but, like I mentioned, I think its best suited for a lower level yoga class or an Iyengar style class.

A few of my fellow 200hr teacher trainees were using the Jade Harmony Mat. I was able to try out a few down-dogs on them and was really impressed with the texture of the mat.

Jade Harmony Mat, $70

The mat itself is fantastic. Its heavy duty, sticks to the floor, prevents slipping, and is an all around impressively designed mat.

“Jade is made with open cell, natural rubber, you can say goodbye to slipping on your practice mat – even if it gets wet with perspiration. Natural rubber has long been used where safety demands non-slip performance. Jade takes advantage of the non-slip properties of natural rubber- resulting in the best slip-resistance on the market.”
– description from the Jade Yoga website

They’re description is right on. I have done MANY super sweaty vinyasa classes with this mat without ever having to use a YogiToes towel. This mat is all-around amazing. I love it! I thought I had finally found my perfect yoga mat….but….
Due to the “open cell, natural rubber” this mat is SO hard to keep clean! The rubber is extremely porous (which is the essence of it being such a grippy, wonderful, non-slip mat) but it also allows for dust, dirt, etc to get into the pores and makes it nearly impossible to completely clean! I have cleaned it with mild soap and water, Simple Green, I have rinsed if off in the shower, and I have even gone as far as to lint roll the entire thing and THEN wipe it down. And still, during class I will look down and realize that my legs, arms, hands, etc are covered with specks of dirt/dust coming out of the pores of the mat. I wanted to love this mat so badly (and I did!) but the inability to keep this mat clean has vetoed its amazing ability to stick to floor and be grippy enough to not need any additional help.

So, my quest for the perfect yoga mat continues.
For now, I rotate between the Manduka PRO + YogiToes and the Vernice Vita mats for my practice and for my 300hr Professional Teacher Training program.
They are both working well and I am grateful that I have two wonderful options for my practice.

However, I will continue to keep my eyes peeled for my perfect yoga mat.

The one that currently peaks my interest is the lululemon The Mat.

lululemon The Mat, $68

I am debating whether or not to go grab one and test it out for TT this weekend.
It gets great reviews and several of my fellow 300hr teacher trainees actually use this mat.
Who knows, maybe its my perfect yoga mat?

*Note: obviously I love and adore YogiToes skidless towels. I cant recommend them enough!
I find them to be a vital addition to any yogi’s practice. Regardless of how amazing my mat (or future mat) may be; I will always have a YogiToes towel with me during each and every practice.
They are essential and are a lifesaver!

One response

  1. You're blog design looks great! I love it! I've been using the manduka pro-lite for a couple of years now and while I really love it, I have to use my yogitoes towel sometimes too. Also had a lulu align mat that I loved for a while and then it just started falling apart! Weird for lululemon to have that problem…I'll be curious to hear how 'the mat' does if you end up trying it! Hope your 300 hr is going great Tanis!!

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