If you’re a beginner yogi and aren’t sure you’ll even stick with your practice, the Gaiam Premium Yoga Mat is a great starting point. With its grippy surface, perfect cushion, and wide range of designs and patterns to suit every taste, this mat was deemed by our testers as the “certified cool girl” of the affordable price range — and the fact that it’s under $30 only adds to its appeal. The downside? PVC isn’t the most eco-friendly material, and it’s not quite sticky enough for us to recommend to anyone with a vigorous practice.
There are certainly stickier mats on the market, but compared with others in this price range, our testers gave this mat a five out of five for its grippable surface. It features textured grooves throughout, meaning your hands and feet won’t slide, nor will the mat slip around on the floor. But take this baby to heated yoga and you may be telling a different story. The thing about PVC is this: When it’s dry, it’s extremely grippy, but when it’s wet, we found it loses grip. So if you typically take shorter, less aerobic classes, this mat is a solid choice. But in order to find an unbeatable grip, you’ve gotta shell out a little more moola.
On that note, if you’re in the market for a budget mat, chances are it will be made of PVC, a plastic otherwise known as polyvinyl chloride. In recent years, yoga brands have attempted to make PVC a little more environmentally friendly by stripping it of its more harmful chemical additives (like phthalates, which this Gaiam mat is free from), but a zebra can’t change its stripes. Toxic emissions are a byproduct of PVC manufacturing, and the material isn’t biodegradable. Long story short: If being eco-friendly is your number one priority, this is not the product for you. If your wallet is up for it, though, it’s worth noting that Gaiam does offer more eco-friendly options.
But don’t discount the Gaiam mat just yet! There are more upsides than down. First of all, it’s very affordable, and sometimes you spend too much on your daily oat milk lattes to splurge on a mat. We get it, and we don’t judge. Secondly, the mat boasts 6 mm of supportive cushion, which is close to the thickest you can get (the thinnest falls around 3 mm). The trick to finding a mat that perfectly suits your needs is determining the importance of protecting your pressure points versus feeling rooted to the floor. A thinner mat allows a stronger root and thus a more stable balance. But sometimes our poor hips and knees deserve some love! Because of the PVC material, which is springy, not dense, this mat provided us with the thickness we craved without throwing us off balance.
If there’s a silver lining to PVC, it’s durability. Many of our testers felt confident that this mat would stand the test of time better than others, which included picks from brands like Aurorae and YogaAccessories. If you’re worried about the Gaiam yoga mat ending up in a landfill, know that PVC actually holds up super well, and theoretically it should stand up to years of use.
Another important feature Gaiam ticks off is mat design: Out of all the mats we tested, Gaiam offered the most options. It’s available on Amazon in a whopping 35 different color schemes and patterns, so you’re sure to find something that appeals to your style. Ash leaves, peacock feathers, blue, pink, purple, black — you name it, they’ve got it.
At the end of the day, this mat surprised us. If you’re just getting started with yoga, or you know yourself enough to admit you’ll be a casual practitioner at best, we think the Gaiam Premium Yoga Mat will definitely suit your needs.