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Looking for a new yoga mat? An expert recommends keeping these features in mind

Plus, the best care tips to help it last longer.
Kara Birnbaum / TODAY

Focusing on low impact workouts this year? Whether you're taking a break from running and weightlifting or looking to ease your way into fitness, yoga is a workout designed to help you tap into your inner self.

From hot yoga to classes that incorporate strength to ones that guide you through a meditative practice, your equipment should be the least of your worries.

Linda Fenelon, owner of NuPower Yoga and Barre in Nashville, Tennessee, shared insights on how to find the best yoga mat for you and how to take care of it, whether you're shopping for your first mat or looking for an upgrade.

From Shop TODAY award winners to recommendations from editors that are their tried and true favorites, shop everything from a new mat to the accessories that accompany it with the links below.

Does firmness matter? | How to take care of your yoga mat | Yoga mats to shop | Accessories to shop | How we chose | Meet our expert

Best yoga mats

Does the level of firmness make a difference in one’s yoga experience?

Fenelon says that the entire point of yoga is to "quiet the mind," so placing focus on whether or not your mat is performing will break your initial focus of your breath work, poses and quieting the mind.

"Exercise mats are generally quite thick, too squishy and often slippery," she says. "A good yoga mat will lie flat and allow you to flow through your vinyasa practice without slipping or sliding."

Five millimeters seems to be the norm when it comes to levels of thickness, however some are venturing into half-inch levels to provide more of a supportive base.

"A thicker mat may give a little more grip and also more padding for those with tender knees or wrists," says Fenelon.

How should individuals take care of their yoga mat to make sure it lasts a long time?

You can get creative with how you clean your mat, says Fenelon. Whether it's drenched after a hot yoga session or if you barely touched it thanks to the towel you laid down, spraying or wiping it clean is still important. Plus, it also honors the yogic concept of cleanliness, or "Saucha."

From nontoxic cleaners to concoctions you can create at home, your mat will have a "long life" with regular cleaning. If you want to make your own cleaning solution, Fenelon says you can customize it to include essential oils such as lavender or lemon to get rid of the sterile scent.

Best yoga mats to shop

Amazon Basics Extra Thick Yoga Mat

Colors: 3 | Inches of thickness: 1/2 inch | Materials: Foam

New to yoga? This mat will set you up for success without breaking the bank. This half-inch mat proves to be thick, with a ribbed texture to provide traction between movements.

Plus, it comes with a carrying strap to make taking it to class that much easier.

BalanceFrom GoYoga+ All Purpose Yoga Mat

Colors: 7 | Inches of thickness: 1/2 inch | Materials: Foam

This yoga mat stole the show during the Start TODAY x Shop TODAY Wellness Awards, earning an overall score of 4.8 out of 5. It's easy to see why: Not only does it check all of the boxes to being a sturdy, durable mat, but it also comes with a carrying strap, making it easy to cart from class to class.

Available in a number of colors, this inch-thick mat can help protect your knees, spine, hands and elbows from hard floors.

Gaiam Performance Dry-Grip Yoga Mat

Colors: 3 | Inches of thickness: 5 MM | Materials: PVC

This latex- and rubber-free yoga mat is for those who want superior grip during their hot yoga sessions. Designed with that specific practice in mind, Gaiam created a mat with non-slip qualities and moisture-wicking materials.

PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, is a type of plastic that proves to be durable, meaning this yoga mat should last you for years of hot yoga classes.

Manduka GRP Adapt Hot Yoga Mat

Colors: 1 | Inches of thickness: 5 MM | Materials: Rubber

Weighing in at five pounds, this larger-than-life yoga mat aptly earned the award for best at-home mat during the Start TODAY x Shop TODAY Wellness Awards. Reviewers love this mat because its truly non-slip and easy-to-grip, no matter how much sweat is dripping.

Lululemon The Mat

Colors: 4 | Inches of thickness: 5 MM | Materials: FSC-certified natural rubber base; contains latex

Senior social media editor Kate McCarthy claims this is the "best athletic investment" she's ever made. McCarthy has run countless races, attended numerous workout classes and has been in her fitness era since before that term was around. So what makes this mat stand out amongst the rest of her gear?

It has the perfect amount of cushioning, yet isn't too squishy, allowing it to be a happy medium in terms of support. "With other mats, I’ve struggled with my hands and feet slipping, especially during hot yoga classes, but with this mat I truly never slip," she says. "This makes me enjoy extra sweaty classes even more because I can focus on the workout instead of stressing that I can’t get a grip on the mat."

Bala The Play Mat

Colors: 2 | Inches of thickness: 5 MM | Materials: FSC-certified natural rubber and a polyurethane top coat

Waterproof and non-slip? Sign us up! Commerce editor and producer Julie Ricevuto not only adores those two features of this yoga mat, but also the arc shape at the top, calling it "ideal" for the type of workouts she's completing.

"Plus, I was worried it would be too thin, but the thickness is perfect — it feels sturdy without being too hefty," she says.

Alo Warrior Yoga Mat

Colors: 7 | Inches of thickness: N/A | Materials: Leather top layer; rubber bottom

With a top layer of moisture-wicking leather that's suave enough to keep you from slipping, this yoga mat also works to keep odors away, meaning you won't have to replace it for a long time.

Available in a number of colors, Alo prides itself on providing high-quality yoga products, this mat being no exception, with reviewers going so far as to call it "magic."

Yoga mat accessories to shop

Gaiam Yoga Blocks

These latex-free yoga blocks are made with EVA foam, (the same material some rubber, waterproof sandals are made out of!), making them a soft landing pad for your hands during difficult poses.

Lululemon Lift and Lengthen Yoga Block

Meant to help stabilize your body during different yoga moves or be situated in different spots to achieve a relaxing stretch, this yoga block is made out of dense foam, proving to be comfortable as it serves as the middle man between you and your mat.

Bala Balance Blocks

Thanks to its half-circle shape, you can lay down and curve your back to match the shape of this block for a stretch like none other. Made out of a dense foam, you can rock back and forth between moves by placing your hand on the straight-edge side, or gain stability by placing the arched side up.

Nomadix The Original Towel

Nicknamed "the only towel you need," the brand touts their ultra-soft and quick-drying fabric as qualities that will make this your new go-to. Available in a number of colors, patterns and designs, its versatility is unmatched, with reviewers using it for wiping away sweat post-practice, for laying down during hot yoga, or for toweling off after a dip in the pool.

Manduka Yoga Mat Towel

This yoga towel is "hands down" the best thing associate editor Lauren Witonsky has invested in since she started doing hot yoga. You truly won't slip with this towel, she emphasizes, crediting the "ultra-absorbent" features and its ability to help you remain secure on any mat.

"You don’t need to clean your mat as much since you can just toss this in the washer after class," Witonsky says, adding that it's lasted her over five years.

How we chose

Before choosing products, we interviewed a yoga instructor to discover what to look for while buying a new mat, and we took various qualities she mentioned into consideration (mat thickness, mat material and more). We also included editor favorites.

Meet our expert