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Hands-on Gear Review
Manduka PRO Review
Cons: Heavy, bulky, slippery when dry and wet.
Bottom line: This beefy mat is comfortable and stable, but has poor traction with both dry and sweaty hands.
Manduka has a great reputation in the yoga mat industry and makes a variety of popular mats. They are best known for their original Black Mat PRO and the lighter PROlite series. We've retested the Manduka PRO in our updated review, and have given it our Top Pick for Comfort award. While it came up short compared to Manduka's own eKO mat, our Editors' Choice winner, we still liked it for gentle Yin classes or times when we felt like we needed some extra padding. The PRO doesn't have great traction, dry or wet, and comes with a long break-in period, so if you do a lot of Down Dogs in your practice this might not be the best option for you. This mat has a closed-cell construction and shouldn't absorb oil and sweat like open-cell rubber mats do, making the ease of care somewhat easier. This mat costs $108 though, and though they use some laudable manufacturing processes, you could always just buy two $30 PVC mats and stack them on top of each other if you were looking to save a few dollars.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Manduka PRO mat is made of polyester and PVC (polyvinyl chloride), a plastic polymer. While there are more "eco" materials used to make mats that are biodegradable, like natural rubber, PER (polymer environmental resin) or TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer), Manduka considers this line of mats an "environmentally conscious choice," as the PVC is eco-certified as zero-waste and they design their mats for durability. They also say that their mats "rarely end up in landfills like inexpensive sticky mats," though we're not sure how they can actually attest to that! This mat weighs a whopping 7 lbs 13 oz and measures 71" long by 26" wide and 6mm thick. This mat currently comes is many color choices, including Black, Fortitude, Black Magic, Black Sage, and Opa.
While this mat didn't receive a very high overall score, due to the traction issues and lack of portability, it did still stand out for its great comfort and stability.
The dry traction on this mat felt similar to that of the yoga towels in this review, which is to say not very good. Even at the start of class, when our hands were still dry and we hadn't even started working up a sweat yet, Down Dogs felt a little slippery and insecure.
Manduka advertises that this mat needs a break-in period, and it's true. When we first unrolled this mat and compared its wet and dry traction to the Jade and Lululemon mats, it came up far short. We wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt, though, so we kept using it and by around the 10 class mark we did notice the dry traction improving slightly. That said, it was still nowhere near as sticky as the other top models. Apparently you can also sprinkle sea salt on your mat, wet it down and scrub it with a stiff brush to hasten the break-in period. Realistically though, most of us barely have time to clean our mats, let alone prepare them for use, and it's a hard sell when you can purchase other mats that are sticky straight off the shelf, including the Manduka eKO, our Editors' Choice winner.
While the dry traction on this mat was not stellar, the wet traction was downright slippery. We had to stop and wipe our hands on a hand towel even in a non-heated class to prevent ourselves from slipping, and our feet felt slightly insecure as well.
Manduka recommends using this mat for Hot Yoga classes, as its closed-cell design keeps the sweat and bacteria out, but if you do, you'll want to use a towel with good traction on top of the mat to minimize slipping.
Comfort and Stability
This mat scored at the top of the pack for comfort and stability.
The 6mm thickness provides ample cushion for even the boniest yogis, but the overall effect is still stable and not squishy. This mat is so heavy that it won't move around on you when jumping from Downward Facing Dog to standing, and you can feel secure performing head and arm balances on it.
Durability was another standout area for this mat.
Manduka touts this line as having excellent durability, and we can attest that these mats do have a long life. One of our testers has been using this mat for almost three years with little sign of wear or deterioration. When the apocalypse comes, all that will be left will be the cockroaches and this mat.
This mat weighs almost 8 lbs, making it the heaviest model in this review.
While it rolls up fairly tightly, it is a noticeable brick in your yoga bag. However, if you're the kind of person who regularly drags two mats to class for extra cushion, then using just one of these mats instead might lighten your load a bit. If you need something lighter, say for commuting to your studio on a bike, the 2 lbs 1 oz Prana E.C.O. and Hugger Mugger Earth Elements are better options.
Ease of Care
The Manduka PRO was relatively easy to care for. This mat has a closed-cell construction and doesn't require the deep cleaning that a rubber mat needs. Simply wipe the mat down with water after a sweaty class or use some Mat Renew Spray to freshen it up a little.
As easy as the regular cleaning is, we did have to knock a few points off, as we tested this mat in a lighter color and found it challenging to keep it clean. It marked easily and eventually the back of the mat where our feet usually are started to turn darker and dirty, and it stayed that way. It's lovely that these mats come in a variety of bright and light colors, but we've realized there's a reason for the standard black or dark purple mats — it's harder to see the dirt.
This mat works well for most styles of yoga, though if you practice a Vinyasa style you'll be better off with something with more traction, like the Jade Harmony Professional or Lululemon's The Reversible Mat. If you're love Yin classes or other styles where you are mostly seated or prone, then this is where the PRO mat shines, as it will cushion your bones and support your joints.
The Manduka PRO mat costs $108, making it the most expensive mat in this review. If you've been replacing cheaper mats every year or so, then maybe this will save you money in the long run, but it does feel like a lot of money to spend on a mat, particularly when it doesn't have the best traction. If you are looking for a better value, the Prana E.C.O. has slightly better traction than this mat for less than half the price ($48).
The Manduka PRO was the most comfortable mat in our review to practice on. It doesn't have the best traction and wasn't our favorite overall, but is a great option for those looking for some extra padding.
This mat also comes in a PROlite version, which is thinner (4.5mm) and not as wide (only 24 in) for only $80.
— Cam McKenzie Ring
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