Yoga Mats: A Beginner’s Guide

If you’re a beginner starting out in yoga, you might ask yourself whether you need a yoga mat. Read on for all of your burning yoga mat questions, answered.

Do I need a yoga mat?

If you’re starting out in beginner yoga classes, you might ask yourself whether you need a yoga mat. It’s totally fine to lay down a towel or blanket on the floor, particularly while you’re learning simple yoga poses and building your practice. This can be a good move while you’re figuring out whether you enjoy yoga (we reckon you will!) and how many times a week you’d like to practice.

Once you’ve developed a regular yoga practice, you’ll probably realise that investing in a yoga mat is the most valuable purchase you’ll make. A decent yoga mat will stop your hands slipping in poses like downward dog, and allow you to hold these poses much more safely and comfortably. And the best thing is, it doesn’t have to break the bank!

If you’ve started looking at how to buy a yoga mat, we’ve got you covered. Read below for your burning questions, answered.

How thick should a yoga mat be?

Out there in the universe of yoga mats, you can find everything from teeny-tiny slivers of 1mm, to super thick knee-cushioners of 15mm. The best thickness for your first yoga mat is about 3-5mm, which will give you enough cushioning to be comfy while in Savasana, but enough contact with the floor to make you stable while you’re in balancing poses. If you have joint problems you can either go a little thicker, or use a rolled up blanket as a bolster.

Can I use an exercise mat for yoga?

Exercise mats tend to be a bit thicker than yoga mats and without the same level of grip. Having said that, you can always purchase a yoga mat and use it for both yoga and other forms of exercise.

How long should a yoga mat last?

Thicker mats tend to last longer than thinner mats, but really there is no rule of thumb for this because it will totally depend on how often you use it. There are a few tell-tale signs that you need a new mat though. For example, if it’s going bald in places, or totally uneven and worn in others then you should start thinking about replacing it. Also, if it starts shedding on the floor or if you start losing grip and sliding around in Downward Dog then it could be time for a new one.

What’s the best material for a yoga mat?

Yoga mats can be found in a range of materials. The most common is PVC, which is highly durable and offers a secure grip, but it is not at all environmentally friendly. Although they’ll last a long time, PVC mats are usually non-recyclable and will end up in landfill.

Then there are also yoga mats made from TPE (a type of non-synthetic rubber). These tend to be more waterproof, more hygienic (they don’t absorb as much sweat!) and easier to clean than other mats. They are usually more responsibly made than PVC mats, but are not always recyclable. This can be checked on the manufacturing label.

Mats made from natural materials offer a wide choice, from sustainably sourced rubber to organic cotton and jute options. We’ve put a list of some low-cost, environmentally friendly yoga mats at the end of this article, so read on for more tips!

How to clean a yoga mat

Well this is the magic question! No method is 100% foolproof – of course, it partly depends what material your mat is made out of – but here are some of our top tips on cleaning your yoga mat:

  • Fill a spray bottle with warm water and a drop (a tiny drop!) of shampoo or washing up liquid. Concentrate on spraying the ends where your feet and head spend the most time. Then, scrub with a clean cloth or flannel. Hang over the shower or outside to dry out. There are yoga mat cleaners and yoga mat sprays that you can buy, but it’s not necessary to spend money when you can make your own from things you probably already have in the house

  • An alternative spray bottle method is to, use equal parts water and white vinegar. Spray and clean the mat with this solution. White vinegar is sure to kill the bacteria build up on the mat, but try adding a drop of essential oils to neutralise the vinegary smell! We particularly like lavender. Savasana will never smell so good!

  • Soak the mat in the bath or spray with a hose outside. Both of these methods will drench the mat so it may take a while to dry!

Although you can put some mats in the washing machine, we recommend against it unless the instructions specifically say that you can.

How to travel with a yoga mat

Taking a yoga mat on holiday with you is great for stretching after a day walking around a city or in the mountains. If you’re considering how to take a yoga mat on a plane, you may want to purchase a specific travel yoga mat, which are incredibly lightweight and foldable, meaning that you can simply fold them up and easily put them in your check-in luggage. These are good options if travelling with a yoga mat is going to become a regular thing.

If you’d prefer to take your existing mat with you, then you have two options – put it in your check-in luggage (fine if you’re not packing very much), or take it as a carry on. Taking a yoga mat as hand luggage is technically not allowed, as most mats are longer than the dimensions of a normal check-in bag. However, as a company of yoga travellers we’ve never had a problem with taking ours on board with us. Use a simple strap or a yoga bag to carry it, or, if you like, you could attach it to the front of your rucksack.

Where to buy yoga mats

In the magical world of the internet you can find yoga mats for all kinds of different budgets. Yoga is all about how it makes you feel – not looking the best while you’re doing it. So don’t feel you need to spend a ton of money on the most expensive mat out there!

We want to recommend some of the more environmentally-friendly options, so here’s our pick of the bunch at £20-£40. There are lower-cost mats out there too.

  • This M Life Mendhi mat is a steal at only £20 and also has a central line running down it so that you can check your alignment

  • The Complete Unity Collective do a lovely, lightweight eco-friendly yoga mat at £39.99

  • This mat from YogaClicks is made from 50% recycled materials and at £19.95 is also very reasonably priced!

  • These £40 yoga mats from the Evergreenyogi are all 100% recyclable and biodegradable, and they also offer a yoga mat recycling scheme where they organise donations of used mats (of any type) to a homeless shelter in their local city of Southampton

So there you have it! Our beginners guide to yoga mats. If you have any other questions don’t hesitate to let us know on

Ready to create a little bit of space for you? Why not try our Live Online Yoga classes, bringing you accessible yoga for all, from our living room to yours? Sign up now for 15 days of free unlimited classes.


Carmel Hendry

Carmel is a travel professional and lover of literature and Latin America. In her day job at a tour operator she whisks people away to far off destinations, while in her spare time she moonlights as a freelance copywriter. You can find her portfolio here While not writing, or dreaming about travel, she can be found playing the piano, cycling or practising yoga. She’s spent the last year learning how to do a headstand, but mostly can be found relaxing in child’s pose! Join her and the Frog Project Community with 15 days of free unlimited classes. It’s just yoga.

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