To begin practicing yoga, there’s a singular “must-have”: a mat.

The yoga mat defines your personal space during practice. But it’s so much more. When you roll out your mat and step on . . . something shifts. Your mat becomes a place of refuge.

The yoga mat is like a magic carpet to the self. When on it, you’ll discover places within that were previously unknown.

Your mat is much more than a rolled-up piece of rubber. It’s a valuable partner to your yoga practice.Your mat can possess qualities that support your goals for your practice, or not.

Choose wisely.

This article is for you if you’re a new practitioner or if you’ve been practicing yoga for a while but aren’t sure you have the right mat.

Below you’ll find my top three recommendations for THE MOST VERSATILE yoga mats for practicing any style of yoga.

I also list the features I believe are important and why.

I’m a yoga teacher. I’ve spent the last fourteen years testing and wearing out mats. I’ve had countless students ask for recommendations on mats. My top picks are guided not only by my own experience but also by feedback from yogis who have transitioned to the mats I recommended.

Why does your mat matter?

When I started practicing yoga, I assumed that mats were mats. A mat is a piece of rubber. What differences could there possibly be among the various overpriced brands? I couldn’t immediately think of why it made sense to spend a lot of money on it, and yoga classes were expensive enough. When it came to a mat, I went cheap.

It wasn’t until much later, when I was deeply committed to my practice, that a yoga teacher asked me about my mat. It took a few questions from a teacher I respected to get me to realize that my mat might matter. I did some research and invested in a high-quality mat. It had an immediate and significant effect on my practice.

The top four features I consider when buying a mat:

1. Cushion and support. (How thick should my mat be?)

I’ve had students show up for class with thick Pilates mats. If you’re doing standing balancing poses in your yoga class, you’re at a big disadvantage with a thick mat. Maybe you like a disadvantage for the challenge. If so, knock yourself out. Pilates mats are generally 8mm-15mm thick. Yoga mats are generally 3–6MM thick.

The styles of yoga you’ll practice should directly influence the thickness of your mat. If you intend to stick with Yin and/or Restorative yoga, you could use a Pilates mat because a thicker mat is nice when you’re spending all your time in seated or reclined/prone postures (no standing poses).

If you’re just getting started and you’re not sure what styles of yoga you’ll be practicing, then choose a mat 4–6mm thick. If you’re already practicing Hatha or Vinyasa and you have sensitive knees, steer towards a thicker (6mm) yoga mat.

2. Grip & Traction

I teach and practice a lot of hot vinyasa, so grip is seriously important. Maybe you don’t practice heated yoga, but you practice a more vigorous style such as Ashtanga, or you’re just generally prone to sweat. In this case, you need to prioritize grip because slipping gets frustrating. No one wants to be fighting to stay in downward-facing dog. Personally, I prioritize grip whenever I buy a mat, because I want my mats to be multifunctional.

If your yoga styles of choice are Yin, restorative, and Yoga Nidra, you don’t have to worry about grip. Prioritize cushion instead.

If you’re doing Bikram (Hot 26) yoga and use a yoga towel over your mat to catch the sweat, mat grip is irrelevant because you’re covering the surface.

3. Portability/Weight

If you’re in and out of the yoga studio, you might want to consider portability. Obviously, thicker mats are generally heavier. I find that my B Mat Strong is quite heavy, but it’s my mat of choice. Lululemon’s The Mat is a good 2 lbs. lighter. It doesn’t sound like much, but it can make a difference when it’s dangling off your shoulder as you’re getting in and out of the studio, so it’s good to be aware of it before you buy.

If you like to practice yoga when you travel, consider a travel mat.

4. Color

Why would color matter? Because: appearance and cleanliness. Or, more aptly, the appearance of cleanliness.

If you’re doing hot yoga, you need a sticky (grippy) mat. Sticky mats collect everything. It doesn’t matter how clean you are when you step on your mat . . . if you buy a light-colored sticky mat, it will quickly start to look atrocious. One day, after just a few classes on the mat, you’re going to roll it out and notice dark spots where your hands and feet connect with the mat. You might think you can properly clean your mat. You might soak it in your swimming pool, scour it in the bathtub, scrub it with baking soda, use the mat spray you purchased. I wish you luck removing visible signs of dirt from any sticky mat. When you continue to use the mat, the problem quickly gets worse until your mat looks as if you roll around in a pig pen before you practice. I can’t adequately explain this phenomenon, but it’s real.

Simple trick: if you don’t want someone to look at your mat and think you have poor hygiene, buy a black mat. At least save yourself some grief and choose a very dark mat color.

Top 3 Picks for the most versatile yoga mats:

1. B Mat

I own two variations of the B Mat — Strong and Everyday. I collaborate with b.halfmoon. If you use this link, you’ll get 15% off your order.

B Mats are 100% rubber and measure 26×71″.

This mat has serious grip. And I mean serious.

The good news: you can sweat like a beast and you won’t be slipping and sliding around. Most importantly: the grip doesn’t seem to wear off, which makes this the best all-around mat for any style of yoga.

The bad news: the sticky surface that keeps you from sliding around will also collect lint, hair, dust, etc. If you choose a darker color, you’re less likely to be bothered by this fact.

B Mat Strong: 6mm thick (about 5 lbs). The strong mat is my chosen mat for my home practice and for studio teaching. Current price: $114

B Mat Everyday: 4mm thick (about 4 lbs). A great all-around mat, but 2mm thinner and a pound lighter than the Strong version. Current price: $96.

2. Lululemon — The Mat 5mm

Lululemon’s The Mat is 26×71” (the same size as the B Mat) but lighter weight at 3.3 lbs.

Current price: $98

This mat has a rubber base and a “grippy top layer” (Lululemon doesn’t reveal the exact contents of the top layer).

The good news: the top layer has a nice grip when purchased (although it’s not as sticky as the B Mat). Nice grip but less sticky is fantastic, particularly when we’re talking about cleanliness. The Lululemon mat wipes down very nicely and is much easier to clean than the B Mat.

The bad news: Lululemon mats lose their grip over time. Typically after 9–12 months of heavy use, I notice that I’m starting to slip around.

If you aren’t practicing daily, you’ll experience a longer life from this mat.

Lululemon has a quality promise, but it doesn’t cover usage beyond an item’s “practical lifetime”. What does Lululemon deem as the practical lifetime for their mats? I haven’t been able to get a consistent answer.

I’ve lost track of how many Lululemon mats I own and have owned. I keep them in various locations, such as my parent’s house out of state.

Lululemon’s The Mat is the one I drag in and out of the local studio where I teach.

The Lululemon mat is less than one pound lighter than the B Mat Everyday and less than two pounds lighter than the B Mat Strong. The weight difference doesn’t seem relevant, but these minuscule details can “make or break” a mat for me. I notice.

When my mat is dangling off my shoulder from a mat strap, and I’m in and out of my car and in and out of the studio, I want it to be as lightweight as possible.

3. Gaiam Dry Grip Long & Wide

The Gaiam Dry Grip Long & Wide is indeed longer, but it is the same width as the B Mats and Lululemon mat above. Gaiam dimensions: 26×78”

The Gaiam is 5mm thick (same as Lululemon The Mat), and 5lbs (same as the B Mat Strong).

Material: PVC

The good news: This is the most economical option. The Gaiam Dry Grip Long & Wide is a great combination of size, cushion, weight, and price and still offers an excellent grip for sweaty practices. The 78″ length is a big plus.

Current price: $75

The bad news: It’s made of PVC — Polyvinyl Chloride. I encourage you to do your own research research on this topic. I’m not an expert, but I believe there are environmental risks in the manufacturing and disposal of PVC products.

If you have concerns about PVC, consider the B Mat. As noted above, Lululemon’s The Mat has a rubber base, but the contents of the top layer aren’t disclosed.

With any new mat, I recommend airing it out for several days before practicing on it. Hang it outside on your deck or covered porch, preferably out of the sun.