People often ask me which yoga mat is the best, and while I can answer that question with absolute certainty for me, I think you have to consider all the variables.
My mat of choice is the Jade Fusion, it was an absolute game changer. Given that I have some of the boniest knees on the planet, I tried numerous mat and supplemental padding permutations. When I found the Fusion mat, my life changed. No more folding mats or setting up towels, I could just kneel and focus on the stretch, rather than counting the seconds until I could get back up. I have several of them that I let clients use just so they can see the difference. Check out the Jade Fusion here https://amzn.to/2qKMjsn
This is not to say I think this is the right mat for everyone, it has some downside. First, it costs a small fortune by comparison to other mats. Second, it weighs as much as my cat, so lugging it around can be a burden. And, because of the extra density, it makes balance poses a bit more challenging. But to me, those are prices I am more than willing to pay.
My standard advice when buying a mat is look for density. There are some nice mats out there that won’t break the bank. If you have been practicing for a while and are ready to treat yourself to a premium mat, check out Jade and Manduka. I have a Manduka mat that I use at my office and it is really nice, not quite as dense as the Fusion, but a really good mat at about half the price. Check out my Manduka mat here: https://amzn.to/2H7PqkT
There are good options at places like TJ Maxx and Target. Gaiam is probably best known, they have a premium line which I am seeing a lot of and people seem pleased with them. When looking at mats, try to find a minimum density of 5mm, you can generally tell by the size of the roll how dense the mat is, if it looks like a taquito, it is probably 3mm so move on. Here is a good Gaiam mat: https://amzn.to/2J5ZjjD
Also, consider length. Standard length is 68” which is fine if you are 5’8 or shorter. If you are taller, there are longer mats available, you just may have to order them. For taller clients, I recommend they spend the extra few bucks for the 74” mat, it is a rarely regretted decision. Extra wide mats also exist, so don’t just buy the first thing you see, get what you need. Jade 74″ Fusion mat here https://amzn.to/2J6i2f3 Gaiam also has a nice extra long/wide mat as well: https://amzn.to/2HtgTAR
While there are plenty of mats which will serve you well out there, I have definite opinions about those big puffy “fitness mats.” Stay away from them. They are not designed for yoga, they have no grip, the ends roll up, and they condense to a tissue thin sheet when you press on them. I cannot tell you how many people have bought them thinking the puffiness will make them more comfortable, only to be disappointed and frustrated when they don’t work.
Bottom line when buying a mat, consider how often you practice, if it’s more than once a week, spend a little more for a premium mat. If you practice once a week or less, get yourself a nice quality 5mm from one of the mass retailers. A final word of warning, if you float the idea of getting a mat as a present, be specific about the mat you want, otherwise the decision will be made on color and price and that does not always end well.