how to choose a yoga mat

If your yoga mat is starting to look a little worse for the wear or if it's just not meeting your needs, it's hard to know what type of mat to choose. There are many options and accessories out there from $20 - $100+, but does price always indicate quality? Do you need to spend over $50 to get a good mat? It's not a simple answer and there are lots of pros and cons to think about, depending on where and how you practice. Below is some info I wish I had known before buying my first few mats!
how to choose a yoga mat : wholehearter yoga
Mat texture, grippy, sweat-absorbing towels, various brand names, weights, colors...where to start!?

How often do you use your mat? If you're only rolling out your mat once a week, a $10 mat from Target or Marshalls might last you about a year. But beware, if you're new to yoga, you might be making it more difficult on yourself. Certain poses such as Down Dogs can be greatly effected by the texture and grip of your mat, possibly adding or removing a bit of struggle when you're first adjusting to the pose.

Do you care about the environment? Well, you should. It's tempting to lean toward a cheap plastic mat, but when you need to pitch it in 8 months, Mother Nature is stuck with your crappy old mat. At least know what your mat is made of before you buy.
"Mats made from natural or recycled rubber easily break down in landfills and aren’t harmful to the environment, unlike those made from PVC (like the traditional and often much cheaper yoga mats)." -Source
Where do you practice? Are you looking for something you can drag around outside and not worry about? Do you lug your mat a few blocks in the city and need something lightweight or are you mostly only toting to and from class? Depending what they're mad of, sometimes even thin mats can be surprisingly heavy.

What type of yoga? Think about why you want or need this mat. If you have sensitive joints or you're practicing at home in your basement on concrete, you might be looking for a thick, cushy mat. Hot yoga-ers or those with healthy sweat glands will definitely want something grippy and probably also cover it with a towel to avoid slipping.

What's your favorite color? Though not an imperative factor, color can still effect your yoga practice and your mood. I can't say I would recommend choosing a mat based solely on color, but I would definitely take it into consideration.


For Those on a Budget:
Gaiam mats, $10-$20. You can find these mats all over the place, and they’re relatively inexpensive. I would recommend these thin, lightweight mats for people who don’t plan on making flow-focused or heated classes a part of their practice. They don't offer much grip or support.
For Those Not Afraid to Make an Investment:Manduka’s Black Mat Pro, $94. This mat is thick and heavy (a whopping 7 pounds!) But it does come with a lifetime guarantee, which makes it a good investment if you've shredded through a few cheap mats.
For Hot or High-Intensity Yogi:
Hot yoga lovers, rejoice. Lululemon’s The Mat, $68, is designed to soak up moisture without becoming slick. I've never personally tried this kind, but I hear that they stay sticky without having to use a towel, even during the drippiest of hot classes.
For Yogis on the Go:One option for jet-setting yoga lovers is to buy a travel mat, but travel mats need to be thin and lightweight to be worthwhile. "Yoga-Paws” Mini-Mats, $30, are made for travelers...or keep them on you for that impromtu yoga session!
For the Nature, Eco and Yoga Lover:
Lots of mats are eco-friendly nowadays, but Hugger Mugger mats have a great Nature Inspired Collection, for about $30. They use really cool colors and designs inspired by nature and they're all natural with no heavy metals or phthalates. The texture is not woven or super-grippy, but if you love nature anyway, this would make a great outdoor mat!
For Everyone! (especially the Eco-Conscious):

Jade’s Harmony Professional Yoga Mat, $70, is made with USA rubber, is sustainable and sweat resistant and offers the best all-around texture and grip. Endorsed and used by many world-famous yogis, you're not just paying for a brand-name with Jade. It's real quality and a great company you can trust.
Regardless of what kind of mat you go with, know how and when to clean your mat.

As with anything, try before you buy, if you're able. (I made the mistake of ordering a mat online that I despised the second I touched it.) Many teachers or studios would be more than willing to let you test out their mats for a few poses or a class!