What’s the Perfect Yoga Mat: Gaiam vs. Manduka? Are you new to yoga, or want to up your yoga routine? Selecting the best products for your flow may be just where you’re headed. And guess what? You’ve certainly come to the right place! Many yogis would agree that having a clear, calm yet motivated mindset is all you’ll need to bring to your mat. So, it’s not only about how you get your flow on, but where you get your flow on! Your mat will set the stage for how your yoga, body and mind will unfold.
Photo Credit by Cosmopolitan
As Colin Hall beautifully articulated in an article in Yoga International, “The yoga mat does more than just provide a sticky surface. The mat defines your space. We personalize our mats to more accurately reflect who we are as practitioners.”Gaiam and Manduka mats and products are two of the top rated brands for yoga and pilates. And, we’re about to tell you why. We’re going to break down everything you need to know on how to choose the perfect mat for your yoga or pilates routine. We’ll leave it up to you to decide which mat, Gaiam or Manduka, will be your next symbol of daily inspiration!
Pros and Cons of Gaiam mats vs Manduka mats
To be fair, we’ve decided to approach this competition in alphabetical order and therefore, start with a Gaiam mat breakdown. Just an FYI, so you know we’re not being biased or anything! So, what is it that makes the Gaiam mats such an easy sell? We’re glad you asked.
Gaiam Mat Pros
Gaiam mats have won their claim to fame in the yoga community. How so you ask? Firstly, by designing the best yoga mats at the most affordable prices. If that’s not reason enough to run and order yourself a Gaiam mat, we have a few more excuses for your purchase. Gaiam mats, besides having a high-ranking reputation among yogis, is also thick, yet lightweight. The thickness will offer essential support when you’re trying to get into both simple and complex moves. You’ll appreciate this special feature on your mat during pilates and yoga alike.
This is especially valuable for those with delicate knees, fragile wrists and a tendency towards back pain. The lightweight material is ideal for those practicing yoga outside the home. Especially if you need to carry your mat around with you from one location to the next. Are you living in the city and running around from place to place by bicycle, train or foot? Then yes, we’d recommend leaning towards a lightweight Gaiam mat.
Photo Credit by Amazon Gaiam Store
Gaiam Mats Cons
However, now it’s time to reveal the downside of Gaiam mats. The most notable cons for a majority of the Gaiam mats is their lifespan. This mat is considered a ‘budget-friendly’ mat, which is obviously not a con. However, Gaiam mats aren’t famous for their durability. Because of the material Gaiam utilizes, many of their mats absorb considerable sun damage. There is also a notable reduction in quality over time. Furthermore, if you’re into bikram yoga, a system of hot yoga, or you simply sweat a lot during your yoga stretches and workouts, Gaiam mats are not the best fit for your needs.
Gaiam surfaces tend to be rather smooth and don’t offer much traction. How would this affect your yoga routine? Well, when you’re trying to get into a three legged downward dog, that one foot on the ground will have trouble securing itself into one spot. And as many of us know, security and confidence is key when practicing yoga or any form of exercise.
Manduka Mats Pros
Now onto the highs and lows of the Manduka mats. The brand name, Manduka, was inspired by Peter Sterios’ (founder of Manduka) yoga masters. The name originates from the ancient Hatha Yoga Pradipika pose, Mandukasana, also known as frog pose. What Manduka has to offer which Gaiam doesn’t is a lifetime guarantee for all of their mats. Though according to Manduka, they don’t expect you’ll ever find reason to part with your Manduka mat. Their goal is to design mats which, like wine, only improve with age.
The idea is, the more you use your Manduka mat, the more the mat molds to your body and rhythm. Or so they claim! Furthermore, many of the Manduka mats have a “proprietary dot patterned bottom.” This underside prevents your mat from sliding away from it’s perfectly straight alignment. It can be very frustrating when you need to pause your practice to realign your yoga mat. A straight yoga mat aids in say, a properly aligned triangle pose. And last, but not least, Manduka mats are eco-friendly, made from 100% non-toxic materials.
Manduka Mats Cons
So now you’re wondering what’s the catch right? Some feel the Manduka mats are fairly hard to get their hands and feet into. It’s not that you want to sink your hands and feet into your yoga mat or anything. But you do want a mat that doesn’t feel like a hard block. Otherwise, you may just feel like you’re practicing yoga on the floor! So, yes, the mat takes some breaking into. If you’re on a conscientious budget this year, then you may want to opt for a Gaiam mat to start with. Manduka mats will range anywhere from $60-$100 plus. But you’ll notice the cheaper mats are made for travel. Their travel mats are not famous for their quality. Furthermore, many complain the mats are slippery. This is fairly unsettling when you’re trying to get yourself into a side-plank, or a secure downward dog posture.
Photo Credit by Amazon Manduka Store
The Three Best Gaiam Mats to Get Your Flow On
So, now you’ve come to a decision and have decided that Gaiam might just be the brand for you. But now, you’re wondering which mat to choose from because, yes, there are just too many options! That’s exactly where we come in. Below you’ll find our top rated Gaiam mats, each with their added benefits and perks for your yoga delight.
Not everyone is into funky patterns and hippy designs, right? Or at least not all the time! Firstly, this mat is a little less than $30 a mat. Plus, this classic mat is great for those who want a solid, straight to the point mat. According to Refinery29, the 5MM thickness of the mat may just be the real selling point. The thickness of the mat offers reliable support for the entire body. This selling point is certainly something to consider when searching for your ideal yoga mat.
Now, if in fact you’re all about those colors and designs, then the Premium 6MM might be the mat for your flow. Besides for being a fan favorite, according to Refinery29, this mat is impressively lightweight. Do you plan on jumping from one place to the next with your mat? Then you won’t crave that added weight of your yoga mat around your shoulder. We say opt for this mat. As you may have anticipated, this yoga mat is a tad pricier. The mat hitts the $45 mark (well, technically $44.99, but well, yeah, $45 when those pennies cease to circulate.)
Photo Credit by Gaiam
According to Verywellfit.com this mat is the best yoga mat overall for 2020. Now that’s a bold statement! According to the Gaiam website, this mat is considered to be a ‘performance’ mat. This mat is Gaiam’s top selling mat for yoga and pilates alike. You can trust the mat won’t slide around the floor as your alternating postures. Furthermore, this mat promises to absorb that moisture released during class. This allows you to retain that grip as you explore new and challenging postures. How about crow pose anyone?
Three Best Manduka Mats to Meet the Day’s Challenge
If, on the other hand, you’re leaning towards a Manduka mat for your daily practice, then don’t worry, we’ve got your back (and so does your mat!) After a hefty amount of research we’ve found these three mats were at the top of the league.
If you want a Manduka mat, but they’re a little but above your price range, then this option may be the right one for you. This mat will cost you around $92 in the bank, but don’t forget that lifetime guarantee ta-boot! According to Business Insider, this mat offers just the right amount of padding for all those low lunges and shoulder stands you’ll be achieving during your active yoga routines.
If one of your yoga mat priorities is to have an easily transportable mat, then this one might just be your best option. Manduka Eko SuperLite Travel Mat is made from a woven scrim material (a natural rubber not extracted from the Amazon). This means you can lie the mat over rocky, sandy, or shrubby terrain without having to worry about wearing or tearing the mat. This is the mat of your traveling choice. Bye-bye borrowed hotel mats, hello Manduka Eko SuperLite Travel Mat!
Photo Credit by Bird of Yoga
3. Manduka PRO
According to Yoga Journal, Rod Stryker, founder of ParaYoga® exclaimed, “When I am on the Manduka PRO, it’s almost as if I am not using a yoga mat at all,” he says. “It doesn’t move, stretch, smell, or wear out like many other mats. This is my steady platform that I practice on daily.” The Manduka Pro is really the mat where you’ll get your money’s worth, if it’s in your budget.
Photo Credit by Posh Mark
Most Essential Features When Looking for The Perfect Yoga Mat
Don’t underestimate how important it is to select the perfect yoga mat for your yoga and pilates workout routine. Think about it this way, the mat will make or break your flow and comfort. Though this may not sound like something to make a big fuss over, it most certainly is. When you don’t have the proper support below your balancing body, you can cause serious long term damage to your joints and back. When incorporating yoga into your life, the idea is to improve your life, not cause more problems and pains in the moment or long term, right?
Here are the five most important features when it comes to purchasing the perfect yoga mat:
1. Thickness- The thickness of your mat is up to your personal preference and needs. According to Yoga Fits Studio, “A thin yoga mat is about 1/16-inch thick and ideal for practicing balance postures, giving you a strong connection to the floor… A 1/4-inch yoga mat is considered thick and may be more ideal for back support during core work, inversions, and other postures that cause your bones to dig into the ground. If you would like a happy medium, go for the standard yoga mat labeled 3.3 mm or 1/8-inch thick.” If you’ll be practicing on a carpeted or soft floor, then you probably won’t need an ultra thick mat. If however, you’ll be practicing on a hard floor, it’s a wise option to go for the thicker mats.
2. Portability- If you’re planning on taking up some yoga courses and need to travel with your yoga mat, you may want to consider how portable-friendly your mat is. This feature is especially important if you’re planning on doing yoga while traveling. Yoga is an experience that once you start, it’s hard to give up. Yoga is a lifestyle. As soon as you incorporate yoga into your daily routine, you won’t be able to pass a day without your stretches. For many, travelling without a mat would be like traveling without, well, any underwear! You’d feel its absence all day and all night long, yikes!
3-4. Texture and Traction- A slip-resistant mat is fairly important for those who want to get their sweat on. Whether you’re trying out Bikram yoga, or getting into your yoga routine, you don’t want a mat that will leave moisture on its surface. A slippery mat will make you feel insecure about your posture and take you out of the flow. A slippery mat can also cause minor accidents, which can set you back days or weeks. It’s important to consider whether your mat will slide from under you while you are alternating positions. A mat that shifts positions will interrupt your routine, exactly when you are starting to get into it!
Photo Credit by Shelf
5. Eco-Friendly- Eco-friendly isn’t an essential factor when considering a yoga mat. However, we find eco-friendly options go hand-in-hand with the yogi mindset. Eco-friendly yoga mats tend to be a bit pricier because they have to source their materials from less generic sources, at a higher price. Additionally, you can trust that your eco friendly yoga mat is made from non-toxic materials. So when you’re burying your face into your pleasantly relaxing child-pose, you can inhale deeply without taking in any toxins. There’s nothing like toxic-free breathing right?
What are the user reviews saying about Gaiam vs Manduka?
Of course, when we’re buying any product online, we end up spending hours looking through user-reviews. It may be challenging to discern which user reviews to trust and which ones are hoaxy. So, we have sorted through some of the most valuable reviews. Here’s what we’ve found for both Gaiam mats and Manduka mats.
Gaiam User Reviews
According to featured users, several Gaiam mats have fantastic non-slip surfaces. Many fans rave about the mat’s thickness and cushion. This way you don’t injure your wrists or knees when getting into difficult or common yoga postures. The cushion is key for those who practice yoga over a hard floor in the gym, home or studio. Many beginner users are also very pleased with the length and patterns that some of the Gaiam mats come in. A mat with proper length means when you switch from an upright position to say, a plank position, you won’t have to realign your position. Your feet and hands stay on the mat, rather than the floor. Or when you flip onto your back, you’ll know your head will safely land on the mat, rather than the floor. This is especially valuable when you’re practicing yoga in the gym!
And finally, if you’ve ever heard the phrase, “yoga is for everyone?” User reviews certainly believe Gaiam is true to that phrase. As we mentioned earlier, Gaiam is notorious for having the lowest priced mats with the highest quality. This range makes yoga accessible for all types of yogis. If you want a suitable mat but don’t have the budget just yet for a top quality mat, Gaiam was made for you!
On the flipside, when you’re looking for the best yoga mat, we recommend choosing one that has a ‘sticky’ texture. There are many reviews out there from customers complaining about how slippery their Gaiam mats are. It’s challenging to get into the correct posture and position when your hands and feet start slipping out from under you. And the last bits of information we’ve gathered from Gaiam users is, well, the smell. Some consumers have complained of the odor when ordering their Gaiam mat. Some have complained that the smell didn’t go away after washing, or even after a few years. It’s certainly a challenge to focus on your yoga when a foul smell is hitting your nose. And don’t underestimate all the deep breathing you’ll be practicing on your mat!
Photo Credit by Paul Smith
Manduka User Reviews
Users love that this mat comes with a lifetime guarantee. The mats arrive with a reassurance that they were made to last. The mat is said not to wrinkle or curl under, which is what typically happens to cheaper mats. After you leave your mat rolled up over the weeks or years, the mat tends to curl up at the ends. But not Manduka’s mats. Furthermore, users say the more they use their mat, the more slip-resistant the mat becomes. Plus, users have praised how the mat had no odor on arrival.
Unfortunately reviews tend to be very subjective. It depends on who you ask and which exact product they have purchased. According to Healthy Helper Kaila, who received a mat from Manduka to review, she loved the colors and how the mat didn’t slip from under her; however, she found the mat didn’t absorb moisture very well. The lack of absorption led to slippery yoga and fitness practices. And, like we’ve stated earlier, slipping and sliding on and off your yoga mat can be frustrating and ruin your yoga practice. Especially if you were trying to get into a fitness or relaxed mind-set.
Choosing the perfect yoga mat for your yoga flow is no easy endeavour! If however, you’re on a tight budget this year, know that you’re not alone! You may feel the urge to commit to yoga before you lose the inspiration. If this is the case, then we would recommend going for a Gaiam mat. But are you the type who needs to splurge a little to feel motivated to commit to your yoga or pilates routine? Then it’s not a bad decision to spend a fair amount on your yoga mat. Especially if it’s something you’ll be using daily. With Manduka, it sounds like you’ll really be getting your money’s worth. You won’t have to purchase another mat FOR LIFE! But who knows, maybe that option doesn’t appeal to you.
Maybe you’ll grow attached to your mat. Or, you may also find it’s time to switch to another pattern, texture or thickness. That’s exactly why we think it best to break down each mat for you. This way, when you’re purchasing your next yoga partner, whether it’s for life, or for the next year, you can rest assured that you’ve made a healthy and educated decision. And when your yoga mat arrives, you can finally jump onto your mat! And advance into unbelievable postures and positions. We feel confident that you’ll be able to stretch into postures you never imagined you’d be able to achieve! The sky’s the limit, right? We sure think so!
Tell us which mat you went with and why? What was your experience with Gaiam products or with Manduka products? Was there another brand all together that you found even more suitable for your yoga routine? Tell us about it, we’d love to hear from you!
Other related topics you might like to read:
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- Morning Vs. Afternoon Exercise: What’s the Best Time and Does It Really Matter?
- (Colin Hall, 2020) Yoga Mats: Are They Really Necessary? https://yogainternational.com/article/view/yoga-mats-are-they-really-necessary
- (KARINA HOSHIKAWA, 2020) The Top Yogi-Approved Mats For Getting Your Flow On https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2020/04/9670512/best-yoga-mat#slide-1
- (KARINA HOSHIKAWA, 2020) The Top Yogi-Approved Mats For Getting Your Flow On https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2020/04/9670512/best-yoga-mat#slide-1
- (Chloe Olewitz and Malarie Gokey , 2020) The best yoga mats https://www.businessinsider.com/best-yoga-mat?r=DE&IR=T
- (ELIZABETH MARGLIN, UPDATED:JUL 2019/ORIGINAL:AUG 2018)7 Best Yoga Mats, According to 7 Top Teachers Around the World https://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/7-best-yoga-mats#gid=ci022fb09ca00026a6&pid=manduka
- (YOGAFIT FRANCHISING 2014-2017) HOW TO PICK A YOGA MAT https://yogafitstudios.com/blog/how-to-pick-a-yoga-mat/
- (HEALTHY HELPER Kaila, 2019) MANDUKA YOGA MAT: PROS AND CONS https://healthyhelperkaila.com/manduka-yoga-mat-pros-and-cons/