My love affair with hot yoga began earlier this year, and I haven’t looked back since—dedicating at least two hours each week to my practice at my favorite local yoga studio. Although hot yoga in a studio setting is my preference, I also roll out the mat at home each week to refocus my energy and tune in to my body. While I would still consider myself a beginner student, I have tested a variety of yoga mats on my journey thus far—trying everything from a paper-thin clearance mat from a local sporting goods store to the most expensive mat I could find at lululemon. Along the way, I’ve had many classes filled with slippery Downward Dogs and frustrating moments, but I’ve also learned (admittedly the hard way and through online research) which features I desire most in a reliable hot yoga mat. To save others from this slippery struggle, I spent the last month sweat testing three of the most popular and highly recommended hot yoga mats. To keep the playing field as level as possible and avoid any bad feelings from awkward first impressions, I used each mat during two separate 60-minute hot yoga classes at my favorite local yoga studio. This specific class is a heated Vinyasa flow in a studio that offers high humidity and temperatures ranging from 100 to 103 degrees. I also want to note that the floors at my studio are textured, antimicrobial mats (not wood) so please keep this in mind if you practice at a studio that has a different flooring material. In addition to my hot yoga classes, I used each mat during one at-home flow guided by the wisdom of Yoga With Adriene. I also washed and air dried all three mats and documented as much as possible throughout my various tests. Although it was a tough decision, one hot yoga mat did outperform the others—and you’ll soon know why.
Criteria I Considered While Testing the Hot Yoga Mats
Before I can tell you which yoga mat was my favorite for heated flows, let me first explain how I judged each mat. During my testing process, there was some important criteria that I homed in on and made sure to note. First and foremost, I focused on each mat’s comfort and durability. Since I practice hot yoga weekly, durability is critical. I need a mat that is supportive and able to cushion my joints while withstanding weekly use without flaking into pieces or losing its integrity. Sustaining a yoga practice can be expensive enough as is, so it’s important to most of us that we choose a comfortable, quality product that is worth the $60 to $100 investment you’ll be making in a hot yoga mat. Another key factor that I tested throughout this process was the slip and grip of each mat, as we all know there’s nothing worse than straining to prevent your hands and feet from slipping out of position or trying to focus on your breath as your yoga mat slowly slides across the studio floor. To help you avoid these annoyances, I documented how each mat gripped the studio floor and if it stayed in place throughout the entire 60-minute heated flow or required readjustments. Since floor grippage is just half the battle when it comes to hot yoga, these mats also had to withstand the slip test during my 100-degree Vinyasa flows to win a place in my heart. If I didn’t feel secure and grounded in my poses, you’re definitely going to hear about it in my reviews. As much as I love hot yoga, it involves a lot of sweat and can become a wet, smelly experience without the proper equipment. For context, I would consider my perspiration level moderate to high, with the majority of my sweat formation occurring around my hands, feet, chest (aka boob sweat), and hairline. Throughout my mat-filled month, I documented which yoga mats had sweat wicking and antimicrobial properties that were effective at preventing mold and mildew from forming. With that being said, some hot yoga stench is unavoidable, which is why properly caring for your yoga mat is important both in terms of cleanliness and extending the life of your investment. In each review, I discuss the care process I used to clean each yoga mat—and if it was effective. The final factor that I kept in mind during this process was versatility. Despite the fact that hot yoga is my favorite way to practice self-care, I do still want the flexibility to pursue a non-heated flow should the opportunity arise. Therefore, I tested each mat in a non-heated setting (aka my home) using Yoga With Adriene as my guide. Since this was ultimately a test to find the best hot yoga mat, I did not let the versatility component alter any of my final rankings, but I did include it in my review so that you can take it into consideration if you too desire a mat that can be used for a variety of different types of yoga. So which hot yoga mat was my winner? Read on to find out. [sol title=”Gaiam Sol Studio Select Dry-Grip Yoga Mat” subheader=”Mat Dimensions: 68” L × 24” W × 5 mm | Weight 4.25 lb”] Upon my initial inspection, the Gaiam Sol Studio mat felt both sturdy and supportive with the right amount of cushioning. The top of this yoga mat has a smooth rubber-like finish despite being made of PVC and features an appealing geometric pattern in the center. While this mat may not be reversible, it performed well both in and out of the studio setting. One of my favorite things about this yoga mat? It comes with a lifetime guarantee, which can put any budget-conscious buyer (me included) more at ease.
From my first Downward Dog to Tree Pose to Savasana, this mat outshined my initial expectations. I felt grounded and secure in my postures—my hands and feet felt almost like they were stuck to the mat (but without the unpleasant sticky sensation). Although the instructions on the mat said to wipe it down with a damp towel prior to class to make it stickier, I chose to test the mat without doing so and truthfully didn’t feel that this was necessary (especially once I began to sweat). If your perspiration level is on the lighter side, however, you might consider wiping this mat down with a damp towel prior to your hot yoga class per the instructions. The Gaiam Sol Studio Select Dry-Grip Yoga Mat also stayed in place on the studio floor from the moment I put it down. I didn’t need to readjust the mat at all during my practice and felt no need to use a mat towel. As mentioned previously, I also tested this mat in a non-heated setting during my home yoga practice. Despite the change in scenery, this mat maintained its dry-grip promise as my hands, feet, and the mat itself stayed firmly in place throughout my flow. After using this mat on three separate occasions, there was no flaking or noticeable damage to the mat. In terms of care, I followed the instructions, which advised using cold water and mild detergent to clean the mat before hanging it to dry. I hung the yoga mat over my shower curtain and wiped it down with a clean washcloth, cold water, and my beloved Caldrea detergent, then hung it to dry on a wooden rack in my laundry room overnight. The following morning, the Gaiam Sol Studio Select Dry-Grip Yoga Mat was completely dry and ready for another flow.
The first thing I noticed about this mat upon opening its package was its strong chemical-like smell, despite the fact that this product is rubber-, latex-, and 6P-free. I let the mat sit out for two days prior to my first use, but this still wasn’t enough time. The odor was so strong that it stung my nostrils during Child’s Pose—so much that I wound up eager to make my way to Warrior I to gain some distance from the mat. It even made my car smell during my 15-minute ride home from class! This strong scent made it difficult for me to determine if the mat developed any other odors during my first use. Because of this experience, I laid this mat out for four more days and washed it before testing it again. I’m happy to report that my second experience was significantly better in terms of smell. If I could turn back time, I would air this mat out for five to seven days and wash it once prior to using it for the first time. While not as offensive as the odor, the stickiness of this mat did result in the appearance of lint, dog hair, and other small items from the studio floor and my body during my practice. This wasn’t a huge deterrent by any means, but something I felt was worth noting if you have furry friends who love practicing yoga by your side. Finally, to be as forthcoming as possible, I also wanted to share one moment in class where my foot awkwardly brushed into the mat as I was moving from a Three-Legged dog into a lunge. I know it’s a totally beginner-yogi move but hey, I’m still learning. This is worth mentioning because when my foot brushed into the mat the sensation was similar to that of a pencil eraser burn because of the material the top of this yoga mat is made of. Although it was more of an odd sensation than a painful one, it is still something worth keeping in mind if your transitions aren’t yet fluid.
It’s worth mentioning that this yoga mat’s product description states that it can show more signs of wear and tear if left exposed to the sun for extended periods of time, so this might not be the best choice if you prefer to dry your yoga mat outdoors. While this wasn’t my winner as the best mat for hot yoga, the Gaiam Sol Studio Select Dry-Grip Yoga Mat was the most budget-friendly of the mats tested and it delivered a slip-free performance across the board. I would gladly welcome another hot yoga class on this mat.[sol title=”Manduka eQua Hot Yoga Mat” subheader=”Mat Dimensions: 68” L × 24” W × 4 mm | Weight 5 lb”] If you’re looking for an eco-friendly hot yoga mat, the Manduka eQua could be the perfect fit for your practice. According to Manduka, the bottom layer of this hybrid mat is made from “sustainably harvested natural tree rubber,” and no toxic chemicals are used to soften the rubber during construction. The microfiber-towel top layer is soft to the touch and features a limited edition artist design by the talented Brent Broza (@brozaphoto), meaning this yoga mat is easy on the eyes. For a point of comparison, the Manduka eQua mat is just slightly heavier than the Gaiam mat, but the Manduka is thinner and able to be rolled into a more compact shape during transportation. Similar to the Gaiam mat, the Manduka eQua mat is not reversible. I also feel the need to disclose that I felt like a total badass during my hot yoga class when I realized that my instructor had the same Manduka eQua mat featuring a different artist’s design. Eco-friendly and aesthetically appealing are definitely positives, but would this mat withstand 100-degree temperatures and Taylor sweat?
Although this mat is 1 mm thinner than the other two mats that I tested, my wrists and feet still felt supported and I did not notice any other aches and pains during class. This mat did provide a bit less cushion compared to the other two mats tested, but I didn’t mind the firmness and was still comfortable throughout my flow. I was also extremely impressed by the sweat-activated microfiber top layer, which absorbed my perspiration during class. I was truly mind blown to see that the multitude of sweat spots that has accumulated on the mat during class had dried almost completely during my short 15-minute ride home. The bottom layer of this hybrid mat features a textured pattern that is designed to grip the floor and keep the mat in place. During my studio experience, this hot yoga mat stayed firmly in place throughout the duration of my practice and did not require any adjusting, nor did the tree rubber flake or break at any point. I followed the care instructions, which indicated the mat should be cleaned using cold water and a mild detergent (again, I used Caldrea). Compared to the other two mats tested, this mat was the heaviest when wet. I also hung this mat to dry on a wooden rack in my laundry room. When I checked the mat about six hours after washing it, it was only slightly damp. By the following morning, the Manduka eQua mat was fully dry and the design didn’t show any signs of fading after washing.
Although not quite like the strong chemical scent of the Gaiam mat, the Manduka eQua mat had its own unique scent when I first opened the packaging. If I had to describe the scent it would be a combination of pine trees and rubber. While this odor wasn’t as unpleasant or intense as the Gaiam mat, it did take about three days of lying out and a cleaning session before the scent began to dissipate. Due to the higher price point of this mat, I was disappointed to see my hands slipping forward on the mat during my first few Downward Dog postures. I didn’t slip to the point of falling out of any poses, but the unwanted movement did make my practice more difficult as my focus was on my sliding hands instead of connecting with my body. I noted that my slipping hands did pull the microfiber top layer slightly, but this was not severe enough to result in any bunching. Although my hands were slipping in certain poses, I did not feel that using a towel was necessary with this yoga mat after applying some water near the hand and foot areas. Unfortunately, I noticed the same slipping issue when I tested this mat outside of a heated studio setting. While the Manduka eQua mat design held up to the recommended cleaning process, I was saddened to see that the top edge of the mat had begun to fray slightly after I washed and air dried it once. Though the fraying was relatively minor, I was disappointed to see this happen after one wash due to the higher price point of this yoga mat.
I didn’t personally experience this, but some other users of this hot yoga mat have reported their Manduka eQua mat slipping and sliding on certain studio surfaces like wood flooring, which is worth mentioning since not every studio has a mat floor like mine. Though I completely respect the eco-friendly nature of this product, I would’ve expected a less-slippery hot yoga mat for this price tag.[sol title=”lululemon Reversible 5mm Mat + Towel” subheader=”Mat Dimensions: 71” L × 26” W × 5 mm | 5.24 lb”] Although this mat was the same thickness as the Gaiam mat, the lululemon mat had a few unique features. First and foremost, this mat is reversible—with one firm, sticky side ideal for hot yoga and a softer side for non-heated flows. This mat was slightly larger than the other two mats that I tested but at my height of 5’5”, I did not find this mat to be too much to handle and enjoyed the extra room during Savasana. Out of curiosity, I arrived at the studio about 10 minutes early the first time I used this mat to determine if the softer side of this reversible mat would be suitable for hot yoga. I quickly realized that the soft side was a bit too slippery to be a good fit for my heated practice, so I only tested the smooth, firm side of this mat during my hot yoga classes. To test the effectiveness of this lululemon mat and microfiber towel combo, I used the mat for 30 minutes without the towel and then placed the towel on top for the remainder of class.
I’m not quite sure how lululemon does it, but in my humble opinion, this reversible mat is the perfect combination of cushion and support for hot yoga. This mat was durable and showed no signs of wear and tear throughout my testing process. This yoga mat also features a polyurethane top layer that absorbs moisture in addition to antimicrobial properties to keep mold and mildew at bay, which is what I like to call a win-win. This mat also exuded the least amount of odor upon initial opening. I only laid this yoga mat out for one day prior to use and while it did have a faint rubber-like smell, it was nothing close to that of the Gaiam or Manduka mats. In a perfect world, I would’ve laid this mat out for two to three days prior to my first hot yoga class. During my hot yoga classes, this mat stayed in place on the studio floor and did not require a single adjustment. Much like my mat, I felt supported and stable throughout my practice. My hands and feet never slipped on this mat—with or without the towel. Speaking of the mat towel, this microfiber addition wasn’t necessary due to the impressive performance of the mat. However, it was an added bonus. The towel is very soft and smooth to the touch and fits the mat perfectly, covering every inch. There was no fraying around any of the edges of the towel before or after use. Much like the lululemon reversible mat, the towel stayed in place throughout class and absorbed my sweat without becoming slippery or bunching. The care instructions for this mat said to wash it with warm soapy water, which is very vague, in my opinion. I pondered whether I should use dish soap or body soap, and since I was feeling uncertain, I asked a friend who is a former lululemon educator how to clean this reversible mat. She suggested a warm water and baking soda mixture and wiping the mat down before hanging it to dry, which is exactly what I did. I was amazed by how fast this mat dried, as it was almost completely dry in under six hours. Note: I did not fully submerge this yoga mat in water. I thoroughly wiped it down with the mixture until both the front and back were damp.
Although this mat was my favorite hot yoga mat during practice, it did have one noticeable flaw. The moment I placed my forehead on the mat for my first child’s pose, I raised my head to discover a dark circular mark on the mat. As I continued through class, I noticed more dark marks on the mat concentrated in areas where I sweat the most, like my feet and hairline. These darker spots did not fade during class and I was relieved when 30 minutes had passed and I could cover them with the mat towel. I’m still uncertain whether this was an odd reaction between the material and the oils on my skin or if this mat creates these dark markings when it comes in contact with sweat. Hoping the marks would fade once I had removed the mat form the humid classroom, I laid the mat to dry at home and checked it two hours later. I was bummed to see that the dark spots were still on the mat. After washing the mat twice with a baking soda and water mixture (don’t forget to use a little elbow grease), I was pleased to see that the dark spots had finally faded and were hardly detectable. While this isn’t the most visually appealing outcome, it did not detract from my practice—other than shifting my mental state for a few brief seconds—nor did it make the mat slippery in any way.
This lululemon mat is indeed reversible, but I would not recommend using the softer, grooved side of this mat for hot yoga because it does become pretty slippery in a heated setting. By now it’s probably obvious, but the lululemon reversible 5mm mat is my winner for the best hot yoga mat due to its durability and comfortable, no-slip performance through my 100-degree tests and unheated flow.