Black business owners are leading a revolution in a Virginia market haunted by its ties to the slave trade

A group of people in masks wearing headphones outside at night
UnlockingRVA’s silent party.

  • Richmond was the second-largest slave-trading hub in the United States.
  • Black business owners are reclaiming the city’s 17th Street Market with events and commerce.
  • “Our whole role is to restore the energy” while “honoring the past,” a yoga therapist and CEO said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

“Richmond is the root of oppression.” That’s one of the ways Ashley J. Williams described the city she’s called home for 10 years.

She said she was speaking of the Virginia capital as a whole, as well as specifically the neighborhood of Shockoe Bottom and the 17th Street Market.

The 17th Street Market has been a site of commerce since the 1700s. Depending on whom you ask, that commerce included enslaved Africans, with the 17th Street Market being the site of an auction block. (Others say it was close to an auction block.) A few minutes away at Lumpkin’s Jail, or Devil’s Half Acre, enslaved people were jailed and tortured before being sold.

Richmond, with a prime location on the James River, was the second-largest slave-trading hub in the United States and the largest on the East Coast.

Today, less than a five-minute walk from the open-air 17th Street Market, you’ll see a few markers for the Slave Trail, but these are easy to miss if you’re not keen on the history.

But for Williams, a yoga therapist and the CEO of BareSOUL, who’s been with the studio since 2015, “there’s energy that’s very present.”

Ashley J. Williams
Ashley J. Williams, the CEO of BareSOUL.

“Our whole role is to restore the energy there and reenvision what it looks like to bring more life and vibrant energy while acknowledging and honoring the past,” she said.

The wellness space, especially yoga, can feel extremely white, she added. BareSOUL employs a dozen Black instructors, and each 17th Street practice begins with a brief history of the space that was once a source of pain.

“The 17th Street Market was a place where Black families were split up. It’s where the Black life was devalued. So the practice of yoga is a practice of connection. And it’s a practice of liberation of our minds,” Williams said.

A group of people on yoga mats in the street
BareSOUL yoga on 17th Street.

Williams isn’t the only small-business owner bringing new life to the space. After being approached by Richmond Parks and Recreation to host an outdoor, COVID-19-friendly event in August, Faith Wilkerson, UnlockingRVA‘s owner and founder, who’s run the event-planning company for five years, lined the concrete and cobblestone walkways with partyers donning neon-lit headphones playing old-school and current tunes.

“Every single moment I step foot on that market, it’s done with authority and purpose because it’s what the ancestors would want us to do. Black Americans have this special gift of turning tragedy and pain into triumph and longevity. You see so much joy in our guests’ faces as they dance the night away, and it makes the moment even more special,” Wilkerson said.

Faith Wilkerson
Faith Wilkerson, the founder of UnlockingRVA.

Participants in yoga or the silent disco usually work up an appetite, so Williams and Wilkerson do their parts to support and promote food vendors, especially Black-owned ones, in the area.

But the women acknowledged initial hiccups in businesses not exactly embracing their audiences, which tend to be predominantly Black.

Williams even recalled one business owner calling the police on a homeless yoga participant. Both women chalked it up to establishments adapting to new faces, new spaces, and a COVID-19 world.

Adrienne Cole Johnson and Melody Short, the cofounders of the Richmond Night Market, also experienced the same blowback from some owners in the area when they brought their nighttime affair to 17th Street two years ago. They said that quickly blew over once they introduced themselves.

The Richmond Night Market
The Richmond Night Market.

Johnson and Short described the work they and the Night Market do as reprogramming and reclaiming the space. The market operates on the second Saturday of each month in the summer to early fall.

Though they’re open to all vendors, Short acknowledged that the market naturally attracts a majority of Black businesses.

“I think people feel safe. It’s different when you’ve got Black women leading the charge because we welcome everybody – versus sometimes when it’s led by other groups. Black people, sometimes, we don’t feel welcome,” Short said. Being heavily invested in the businesses and the people behind the businesses is what she said keeps vendors returning year after year.

A kid selling food outside
A chef at the Richmond Night Market.

For their first in-person event since the pandemic, the market hosted about 20 vendors selling everything from art to handmade goods and food.

“We’re often, as Black people, putting our money in other communities,” Short said. The market allows them to flip the script, she added.

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Yoga experts debunk 12 yoga myths

  • Two yoga teachers debunk 12 myths about yoga. They explain ways pregnant people can safely practice.
  • They also debunk the idea that yoga is a religion and isn’t a way to convert people to Hinduism.
  • They even mention how you don’t have to be flexible to do yoga. It’s something everyone can do.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Tejal Patel: “You shouldn’t do yoga if you’re pregnant.”

Jesal Parikh: Ugh. Really?

Parikh: “Yoga is a religion.”

Parikh: Ooh, this is a controversial one.

Patel: “You have to be flexible to do yoga.”

Patel: Eh. Can we just, like, rip that up, throw it away, and never remember that was ever said, ever again?

Patel: My name is Tejal Patel. My pronouns are she, her, and hers. I am a yoga teacher, I’m a community organizer, and I’m a podcaster. I started learning about yoga my whole life, and I’ve been teaching for about seven or eight years.

Parikh: Hi, my name is Jesal Parikh. My pronouns are she, her, and hers, and I’m a yoga teacher, a podcaster, and an industry disruptor. I’ve been doing yoga since I was a kid, but I started teaching about 10 years ago.

Patel: Yoga is an ancient living tradition, and it’s also a spiritual practice.

Parikh: But it’s become a fitness program and a fad.

Patel: We’re trying to change that by dispelling some myths about what people think is yoga and what yoga really is.

Parikh: “Yoga is just exercise.”

This is the biggest myth of them all, I think, for sure. This is the change that’s come with time and translation over to the Western hemisphere. It’s definitely not just an exercise, it’s a spiritual practice with ancient traditions. It’s an eight-limb path.

Patel: Yoga can include breath work. It can include learning how to meditate. It can include being better towards yourself, being better towards others. There’s so many things that yoga practice can teach us that calling it “just exercise” is a huge disservice to the actual practice, the culture it came from, and to you as a person practicing yoga.

Parikh: “This pose is Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog).”

Patel: So, many people know this pose translated to be Downward-Facing Dog Pose, but you can also translate this pose to be Mountain Pose. You can explore so many different lineages in yoga. And when you do that, you’ll find that different poses or poses that look the same have different names depending on the lineage. And that’s kind of the beauty of yoga.

Patel: “You should try to keep your back straight.”

Parikh: I see this cue given all the time in Seated Forward Fold, so Paschimottanasana. I see it given in Uttanasana, Standing Forward Fold. I also sometimes hear it in Downward-Facing Dog as well. Unless you have an acute back injury that prevents you from rounding your back, I would say try it both ways. Try it with a straight spine and a rounded back, because both skills are valuable. The straight spine is often equated to the hip hinge, which a lot of people don’t necessarily understand how to do in their body. It allows you to use some of your inner core muscles to stabilize, and that’s a good thing, but it’s also a really good thing to learn how to use flexion in your spine and also start to load that over time so that when you do bend over to pick up your groceries and your back is rounded, you don’t throw out your back. The only unsafe movement or alignment for your body is the one you’re not prepared for.

Patel: “Your shin should be parallel to the mat in Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose).”

You can take this pose in any variation, in any way that feels OK for you. When I cue this pose, I offer as many props as possible, and you know what? You don’t have to lay forward in this pose. You don’t have to turn, you don’t have to backbend. You can do what feels right to you.

Parikh: What is this pose supposed to accomplish? For some people, that might mean finding some flexibility in their hips, and for others, it’s more of a spiritual, deeper practice, in which case it doesn’t really matter what the pose looks like.

Parikh: “You should twist as far as you can in Parivrtta Utkatasana (Revolved Chair Pose).”

You’re not gonna reach nirvana just by twisting as far as you can. This pose, in the way that it’s cued, going into the twist as much as you can is definitely not going to be appropriate for people who are experiencing SI joint pain or for pregnant women, but for everyone else, it’s OK. It’s just a matter of, you know, what’s their history with their spine?

Patel: This is a really complex pose. Asking someone to do a more complex pose that has a lot of different actions to it, for the hips, for the spine, stabilizing in the legs, you’re going to want to know what those students are working with. And generally in flow classes, you don’t get all that information before you start. So what I would say to teachers is to be cautious about how you cue this pose, give all the options you can, give everyone the out if they need it, and also create some space for people to come in and out of this shape if they need it.

“When your legs are straight (in a pose), your knees should be locked.”

Parikh: You can lock your knees. It’s more muscularly engaging to not lock your knees and to keep them a little bit bent, but for those people who lack strength, maybe, in a pose and need to rely a little bit more on their joint position, locking the knees can really make the pose a little bit easier for them.

Patel: I hear this cue given a lot when people are being asked to forward fold. And I would say in that pose in particular, definitely micro bend or just go ahead and really bend your knees.

Parikh: It’s just a better idea to start with bent knee and then see how it feels if you want to move towards a straighter leg.

“You should keep your knees stacked over your ankles.”

Parikh: Ah! I loathe this cue so much! It’s one that’s given for “safety reasons,” which, there’s a really backward logic to this.

Patel: I find it puts people back into the mindset of doing something perfectly or poorly, with nothing in between, and when, really, everything in between is where you want to be, in the exploration of it. Some poses you hear this cue used a little bit too often, in my opinion, are any of the standing poses, like Warrior II, Side Angle Pose, revolved variations of any of those poses. I think we can definitely move into more exploration within these poses and in more mobility and more testing things out, because that’s what we do in real life anyway. Like, when we walk up the stairs, we’re not conscious of keeping our knee stacked over the ankle, are we?

Parikh: Yeah, and if we look at pictures of other yoga masters doing this pose, their knee goes way past the ankle, so I don’t know where this cue came from or why, but it’s just wiggled its way into the yoga industry.

Patel: “You shouldn’t do yoga if you’re pregnant.”

Parikh: There’s a whole genre called prenatal yoga filled with great low-impact asana, poses, that you can do if you’re pregnant.

Patel: I think this myth might be around because in certain elements of a yoga practice, you can hold your breath for some of the breath work, or pranayama, practices, and in prenatal, it’s kind of advised not to hold your breath.

Parikh: So, poses to avoid might be deep spinal twists, laying flat on your back, inversions, any breath retention that is vigorous or too aggressive.

Patel: Poses that might feel really nice could be Cat and Cow, in the way that your spine can move. It could be a wide-legged forward fold. Also supporting yourself with a wall, supporting yourself with props in poses, squatting, because that helps you prepare for labor and delivery. Also being in Tabletop and just circling and swaying your hips. Loud breathing, exhalations and sighs. You can, if you want to, ask someone in the medical field whether starting a yoga practice during your pregnancy is a good idea. Maybe some things you haven’t tried before in your yoga practice you might not want to implement while you’re pregnant.

Patel: “You have to be flexible to do yoga.” Eh. Can we just, like, rip that up, throw it away, never remember that?

Parikh: This myth comes from the idea that yoga is just a bunch of poses and that it’s just a fitness practice, when the reality is you can do yoga every day without doing a single pose ever.

Patel: It’s also assuming that you did some prep work to start your yoga practice. Yoga is the entry point. And I think it just prevents people from thinking that yoga is for them, when the reality is yoga is for everybody. You can start at any point, at any age, and you can keep going, no matter what your flexibility level is.

Patel: “Sukhasana, aka The Easy Pose, is easy.”

Parikh: Definitely not an easy pose, definitely misnamed pose, I think in many people’s opinions.

Patel: People use their bodies really differently. They might be sitting on the floor to eat, they might be squatting to sweep, and, culturally, we just don’t do that as much. So I recommend a lot of support and a lot of preparation before attempting this pose.

Parikh: “The more advanced the pose, the better it is for you.”

Patel: You might see on Instagram, all over the place, “handstand yogis,” quote, unquote. All they’re doing is very strong, muscularly focused posturing. If that’s your cup of tea, great. But it doesn’t make you a more advanced yogi. Sorry to burst the bubble on that.

Parikh: The most advanced yoga pose is sitting quietly and meditating. So if you can manage to block out your thoughts and focus inward and just breathe and sit without anything going through your mind, that, I think, is like, all hail to you if you can do that.

Parikh: “Yoga is a religion.” Ooh, this is a controversial one, with lots of opinions out there. Yoga itself is not a religion, but it is a spiritual practice.

Patel: Everyone wants to know if yoga is Hindu or not. And the answer is yes and no.

Parikh: Hinduism and yoga are both rooted in the Vedas. And so the relationship between the two is that they both have a Vedic lineage.

Patel: And, yes, modern-day Hinduism includes yoga, but modern-day Hinduism is also very different from Vedic Hinduism. It has evolved. And so has yoga. Yoga exists both within Hinduism and outside of it. Basically, it’s both Hindu and non-Hindu.

Parikh: So if you’re not choosing to be Hindu, you can still respect the culture from where this comes from, which is the Vedic culture, which is the Indian culture.

Patel: Just because you’re chanting “om” or sitting in a cross-legged seated position, that doesn’t make you Hindu. I think to be a good yoga teacher, there has to be relationship building with the community that you’re giving the yoga practices to. And I also think to be a good yoga teacher, you have to remember that yoga is a rich cultural tradition and a spiritual practice. Learning about the practices that come from South Asia can look like taking classes with teachers who are South Asian. It can look like starting to diversify your yoga bookshelf by seeking out authors that have South Asian heritage or backgrounds. It could start to look like thinking about the music you might play. If you play music as a teacher in your yoga classes, can you start to diversify your playlist? We have a lot of options, and we’d love for you to take us up on the workshop to learn more.

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The best yoga pants in 2021, according to a yoga instructor who’s tested dozens

  • As a yoga teacher and decades-long practitioner, I live in yoga pants.
  • I went on a proper search for the best yoga pants and the top choices on the market.
  • I’ve rounded up my favorites, including my top maternity leggings, below.

There are few clothing items as versatile as the yoga pant. They’re not only great for yoga class but also ideal for running errands-and sprints. This is why they’re a staple in so many of our wardrobes. All yoga pants aren’t created equal, though. And the difference between poorly and expertly-made leggings can determine whether your yoga practice is distracted and fidgety or calm and blissful.

As a yoga teacher and decades-long practitioner, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of yoga pants with my fair share of ill fits and too-thin see-through fabric. These years of informal testing led me to know exactly what to look for when formally sampling the yoga-pant market. Specifically, the material’s comfort and cut are the two most important factors.

As a yogi watches their breath and tackles challenging physical postures, a nagging fold of fabric that needs to be adjusted (and readjusted) can take them right out of the peaceful moment that they were working so hard to achieve. That’s why the best yoga pants are the kind that you don’t notice you’re wearing.

The ideal material, on the other hand, can vary based on what you want your yoga pants for. For example, the ideal hot yoga pants won’t be made from the same fabric as those for a fall outdoor class. And maternity yoga pants’ material won’t compress as a performance pair might.

With these considerations in mind, we scrutinized some of the most popular and newest pants on the market. The details on our testing process are below.

How we tested

To assess how the cut and fabric felt and moved in different situations, I wore each for a diverse range of activities. I sported each pant for three yoga sessions and one non-yoga workout. Each pant was also my attire for one full day of varied activities, from running errands to watching Netflix. Each bottom was washed twice.

The best yoga pants in 2021:

The best yoga pant overall

Best yoga pants   Best Overall Yoga Pant   Everlane 4x3

Everlane’s Perform Legging is comfortable for all-day wear, yoga, and other workouts. Its high quality and relatively low price distinguishes it from comparable pants.

Pros: Comfortable, ethically made, affordable

Cons: Thin material, so these aren’t great for outdoor yoga (or wear) in cold weather.

When most people think of yoga pants, Everlane isn’t among the first brands that come to mind. But since discovering this legging, I have been recommending it widely.

As a nod to their focus on ethical production, the bag that housed the leggings announced that it “is made from recycled plastic,” and the tag on the pants invited me to visit their website to learn more about the “ethical manufacturing process.” I took them up on the offer and the site took me to a factory in Sri Lanka and told their story. Yoga is more than a physical practice. It’s also a philosophy and way of life, which has a strong focus on ahimsa, or non-harming. It felt good to know that the pants’ production was aligned.

But it wasn’t just the backstory that made me fall in love with these pants. They’re thin and sleek with few seams and made from recycled nylon and elastane. The light compression from the extra-high waist, reminded me to use my ab muscles, even in simple poses like tadasana (mountain pose). And, most importantly, when I put them on, they felt so good that they made me want to get on my mat and practice yoga. Not all pants can inspire a workout.

During my yoga practice, the leggings checked all the boxes. They were flexible, so easy to move in, and they were comfortable. They lived up to the hype of being made from a “premium performance fabric from a renowned Italian mill.” 

I also appreciated that these pants have no visible logo. My yoga practice is a time to step away from the material world, and the absence of a small symbol of consumer culture was a nice touch. They’re also well below the $100+ yoga pant price point at $58 per pair, leaving more cash to fit in the cute pocket in the waistband.

The best outdoor yoga pant

Best yoga pants   Best for Outdoor Yoga   Alo 4x3

The Alo High-Waist Lounge Legging is ideal for outdoor yoga classes in cooler climates, or for indoor low-intensity yoga classes and workouts. 

Pros: Warm, soft

Cons: Not great for indoor high-intensity yoga or exercise

As the pandemic has shuttered studios, many teachers have moved classes to parks and parking lots with socially distanced mats. This has been great for those of us who need to practice with others so can’t just Zoom a class. But what do we wear? Thin yoga pants are great for feeling free and agile during practice, but they’re not great for winter walks or outdoor classes in cooler weather. 

Of all of the pants that I tested, the Alo High-Waist Lounge Legging was the only one that had a level of thickness to provide strong protection from the wind chill of cold days. They’re still flexible, though, with Alo’s signature four-way stretch. 

When I wore these outside, they were perfect, and for lounging indoors or doing light movement, like restorative yoga or stretching, they were also great. But when I wore them indoors for more intense workouts, they were too hot for my comfort. 

Overall, these pants with Alo’s “velvety” Alosoft fabric are a dream. As the name would suggest, they feel incredibly soft against your skin, and the ribbing at the waist and ankles make them even cozier and more flattering. 

The best non-legging yoga pant

Best yoga pants   Best Non Legging Yoga Pant   Sweaty Betty 4x3

The Sweaty Betty Gary Yoga Pants are a great alternative to leggings on days when you don’t want to feel constricted.

Pros: Comfortable, great for modesty

Cons: The thin material is not great for outdoor classes or colder climates

While you may be questioning your decision to ever wear skin tight jeans after months of quarantine, the question about why we wear tight pants is especially relevant in yoga. When I went to India to study with my yoga school, they warned us Americans that our idea of “yoga pants” wouldn’t be acceptable attire there. Looser pants were the norm. 

But the problem with baggy yoga pants can sometimes be that the fabric flies all around and makes movements clunkier. And in inversions, loose trousers may even succumb to gravity and fall down from your ankles to your hips. 

I love Sweaty Betty’s Gary Yoga Pant because they’ve thought of all of that. These pants are loose, comfortable, and lightweight, but they also work well for practice. They’re tapered at the ankles, so they didn’t fall when I was upside down. Plus, the polyester/elastane blend fabric was roomy and stretchy enough that I could move into deep poses carefree. As Sweaty Betty advertises, they’re “100% squat proof.”

When in-person yoga becomes the norm again, I’ll probably mostly wear traditional leggings, but on days when I want to feel less constricted, these would be my go-to pants.

The best pant for hot yoga

Best yoga pants    Best for Hot Yoga   adidas x Karlie Kloss 4x3

The adidas x Karlie Kloss Primeblue High-Waist Long Tights‘ thin and airy design make them perfect for sweaty sessions. 

Pros: Light weight, affordable price, sustainably crafted

Cons: Prominent branding, too thin and airy for cold weather, can’t be tumble dried

Even with most hot yoga studios temporarily closed, many aficionados find ways to get in a heated practice at home by blasting space heaters and shoving blankets underneath doors. For these steamy classes, the right yoga pants can make a big difference. When drenched, certain fabrics’ compression and thickness leads to too much weight and cling to be comfortable. The adidas x Karlie Kloss Primeblue High-Waist Long Tights are a great thin option that avoids those pitfalls.

The pants are great for any workout, but especially good for sweaty activities like runs and heated classes. They’re made from primeblue, a material partially made of upcycled plastic, which would have otherwise ended up in oceans. They also have elastane.

These pants were comfortable for cardio workouts and unheated yoga as well. But they were less ideal for outside wear, at least in the fall and winter. Each leg has six small holes about half way down, and there’s a thinner, ribbed fabric interspersed with the main material. These touches made the leggings ideal when my heart was pumping but less so for running errands on a windy day.

Also, the branding made these pants feel less able to switch from a workout to a dressier engagement. The branding, a small “Aeroready” on the back waist, and 10 inches of “Karlie Kloss” and the Adidas logo down the hip make it clear that these are exercise leggings.

The best high-waisted yoga pant

Best yoga pants   Best High Waisted Legging 4x3

If you love high-waisted yoga pants, the Alo High-Waist Airlift Legging is a great pick for comfort and style. 

Pros: Versatile, comfortable

Cons: Have to be hand washed separately

When I first tried on the Alo High-Waist Airlift Legging, I felt like I was getting dressed up. The double-knit Airlift fabric’s silky sheen and high waist made them feel more sophisticated than the yoga pants I had been wearing every other day. 

High waists vary. Some land below my belly button while others nearly reach the bottom of my sports bra. I appreciated that these pants were of the higher variety. Having a higher waist supports my yoga practice because the touch of pressure on my stomach nudges me to engage my core. I’m not sure if it was that engagement, the micro-performance fabric, or both, but the pants did smooth my mid-section. And with the higher high waist, I didn’t have to worry about the pants rolling down during forward-folding poses like uttanasana or paschimottanasana. 

Another advantage of these pants is that they’re thin, but not too thin. The light fabric and its four-way stretch is great for postures that call for deep stretches, like split pose, but they’re not so light that they expose what’s under them — in other words, no visible underwear lines. The front smoothing panel is great for that protection or, as Alo says, “commando comfort.” 

The best maternity yoga pant

The Best Maternity Yoga Pant - Beyond Yoga

If you’re a yogi with a bump, these pants will give you a fit that rivals those of your pre-pregnancy pants. 

Pros: Soft, comfortable and great fit

Cons: Limited duration of usability; the extra high waist is great for a bump, but with this extra fabric, they may not be ideal far beyond pregnancy

Maintaining my yoga practice during pregnancy was crucial, not only because I’ve been practicing daily for years and wanted to keep up my strength and flexibility, but also because a prenatal practice has been shown to reduce labor pain and length. As my bump grew, however, my yoga classes—and pants—had to change. Traditional vinyasa flows became too intense, and the waists of my favorite leggings kept getting lower and tighter. It was time for prenatal classes and new yoga wear. 

Of the maternity pants that I tried, the Beyond Yoga Spacedye Love The Bump Midi Maternity Legging stood out as the best. Most yoga apparel companies don’t make maternity pants, but Beyond Yoga is one of the exceptions. Their expertise in the space showed. 

These leggings are buttery soft and fit exactly like my favorite pre-pregnancy pants. The one exception, however, is the super high waist. This top portion can be worn up, reaching just below your bra, or folded down for a more traditional yoga pant look. Personally, I preferred wearing the waist up, so that during practice, the pants would stay in place perfectly.

As I sat in squats and reached my limbs into bird-dogs, the leggings’ Spacedye fabric, which delivers on its promise of an “ultra soft feel,” stretched with me like a second skin. And as my belly has expanded over the past few weeks since I first wore them, the fit has remained just as good. I’m excited to have these pants see me through the rest of my third trimester and beyond.

What else we considered:

Best yoga pants 4x3
  • Lululemon Groove Pant Flare Super HR ($98, sizes 0-14): As expected from Lululemon, these pant’s Nulu™ fabric is light and soft. They’re great for all day wear, and the high waist adds to their comfort. They weren’t a top choice, though, because their flare cut makes them less ideal for a fast-paced yoga practice. In inversions and seated forward folds, the excess fabric was a bit distracting.
  • Outdoor Voices Springs 7/8 Legging ($78, sizes XXS to XXXL): These were the only yoga pants that I got compliments on. Outdoor Voices’ signature color block design helps these leggings to stand out from competitors and is a creative way to have their pants be immediately recognizable as Outdoor Voices without needing a logo. I was comfortable in these leggings working out, running errands, and practicing yoga, and I also loved how they looked. But they didn’t make the top list, because I found the textured polyester and spandex fabric less comfortable than that of the other pants.
  • Beyond Yoga Heather Rib Jogger ($110, sizes XS to XL): These are another great option for a non-legging yoga pant. They’re very comfortable, and when I put them on I didn’t want to take them off for days. That said, they didn’t make the top choices, because they’re more fitted than I would like when I’m looking for a non-legging pant. A large part of the appeal of the non-legging pant to me is to not have a form-fitting shape, and these felt a little too close to leggings for me.
  • Seraphine Maternity Activewear & Yoga Power Leggings ($59, sizes XS to XL): At nearly half the cost of the other maternity leggings we tested, these are a great option if you want to invest less in pants that you’ll only be wearing for a couple of trimesters. Though I didn’t find the fit as ideal as that of the top maternity pic, these were comfortable and held up across activities. The pant legs are made of a sweat-wicking material, which made it feel like there’s some distance between me and the fabric. (This was nice at a time when I’m already feeling constricted enough!) And, the belly band is made of soft jersey material, which was comfortable to wear over my bump all day long.
  • HATCH Before, During, and After Legging ($98, sizes XS to XL): I loved these leggings. Made of 92% modal and 8% spandex, the fabric is super soft. Though they feel as cozy as pajamas, they don’t look like them, and can be easily dressed up with a nice top and non-athletic shoes. These aren’t explicitly yoga pants, but they worked well in maternity-style yoga classes, which exclude sweaty, vigorous sequences. What these pants lacked in yoga-pant-perfection, they made up for in their versatility.
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The 7 best yoga mats of 2021, including sweat-resistant, eco-friendly, and travel options

  • Yoga is one of the best ways to improve flexibility, center your mind, and achieve a sense of relaxation and calm. 
  • A solid yoga session starts with the quality of the mat under your feet. 
  • The best yoga mats offer grip, sweat-resistance, and cushion under your joints. 
  • Our top pick, the Manduka ProLite Yoga Mat, is sweat-resistant and textured to keep from slipping.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Whether you’re brand new to the ancient practice of yoga and looking into your first ever mat, or you’re a seasoned yogi on the hunt to replace your worn-out asana surface, a new yoga mat is one of those purchases that seems simple, yet quality and details can make all the difference.

If you’ve ever practiced yoga, you know that not all yoga mats are created equally. Each style and material caters to a different set of needs, goals, and specific types of yoga. Those who favor heart-pumping flow classes, or who work up a sweat easily, will enjoy their practice a lot more if their mat has special sweat absorbing properties, for example. Meanwhile, those who travel often will benefit from an easily packable, lightweight mat for maintaining a daily practice on the road. Subtle design changes between mats can even help or hurt your unique movement patterns and may cause unusual aches or pains in any pose.

Read more: The best yoga accessories to elevate your home practice in 2021, according to yoga instructors

You probably never knew there was so much to consider. To help make your purchasing decision easier, we sweat-tested a number of the top yoga mats on the market and compiled this guide to find the best mat depending on your priorities, from perfect pose alignment to eco-friendly materials. Read more about how we tested, as well as what you should look for when shopping for a yoga mat, at the end of this guide.

Here are the best yoga mats:

Best yoga mat overall

manduka mat

The Manduka ProLite Yoga Mat provides just the right amount of padding without being too thick and clunky, and the price stays low even with its sustainable materials and no-slip grip.

Pros: Ideal padding cushion your body,  no-slip grip texture, eco-friendly materials, lifetime guarantee, multiple length options

Cons: Expensive

We love this mat’s thicker sister, the Manduka Pro’s 6mm, but it can be a bit bulky and hard to roll-up. The Manduka ProLite Yoga Mat is a perfectly padded mat to keep your hands, knees, and feet cushioned against any hard floor and support your back as you relax into savasana without being too thick a roll under your arm.

It’s a bit pricy, but the Manduka ProLite mat doesn’t deteriorate over time like others, and if it does flake, peel or fade, the brand offers a lifetime guarantee on their mats.

What’s more, my 13 years of practicing yoga have taught me the importance of a mat that doesn’t just absorb sweat. The Manduka ProLite‘s closed-cell surface repels moisture which keeps it more sanitary and makes it easier to clean and treat. But at the same time, you want a non-slip surface and Manduka’s “proprietary dot patterned bottom” prevents the mat from sliding across the floor, no matter how hot your yoga room gets.

Manduka makes the ProLite mat in two lengths so that more height-gifted yogis can stretch out without fear. Plus, the mat is completely non-toxic, 100 percent latex-free, and even promises a clean manufacturing process.

Best affordable yoga mat

Gaiam yoga mat

The Gaiam Print Premium Yoga Mat is highly affordable and features a ton of fun design options to bring a smile to your face while you practice.

Pros: Affordabile, fun designs, trusted brand, widely available in-store

Cons: Less durable, will degrade over time

The Gaiam name is respected and trusted in the yoga community. Made from PVC material (free of the six specific kinds that have been linked to health risks), the Gaiam Print Premium Yoga Mats has great cushioning under-hand yet is still lightweight and portable. This mat comes in a variety of fun colors and prints which can definitely make your practice more enjoyable.

The main benefit of this mat is the price point makes it very affordable compared to some of the other top-ranked yoga mats out there.

One downside: This mat won’t last forever. In addition to your basic yoga mat wear and tear, both the material and the printed design are susceptible to sun damage. 

The Gaiam Print Premium Mat’s non-slip surface works well for most casual users but if you sweat a lot during your practice, you may need more traction and a grippier surface than this mat offers. As an introduction to your yoga practice without a hefty investment, or even as a backup choice for when your heavy-duty mat is drying, the Gaiam Print Premium is a solid option. 

Best travel yoga mat

Manduka eKOSuperliteMidnight 01

Manduka’s Eko SuperLite Travel Yoga Mat is slim and lightweight enough to bring with you no matter how far you roam without compromising grippiness.

Pros: Lightweight, thin enough of fold, great grip, durable material

Cons: Thin 

Lightweight travel mats let you keep up with your practice on the road without borrowing a questionable yoga mat from your hotel.  The Manduka Eko SuperLite Travel Mat is the lighter, thinner version of Manduka’s top-ranked Eko option.

It’s made of a woven scrim material that won’t tear or stretch either with use or in your suitcase. It’s thin enough to be foldable, so you can tuck the mat away into your backpack or your carry-on without added weight or bulk. It also features a sweat-resistant closed-cell design so your mat will stay drier and cleaner for longer, and has Manduka’s trademark grippiness which you often lose in travel mats.

The Manduka Eko SuperLite is also made from natural rubber that is specifically not harvested in the Amazon. And it’s more affordable than other travel mats, which is ideal considering this option is too thin and flexible to be your every day mat.

Best eco-friendly yoga mat

Prana

The prAna E.C.O. Yoga Mat is made from 100% thermoplastic elastomer, which means it’s non-toxic, sustainably made, and completely recyclable.

Pros: Environmentally friendly, non-toxic materials, recyclable

Cons: May not be grippy enough for some

This mat is made from 100% thermoplastic elastomer (TPE), so all the environmental costs of manufacturing synthetic rubbers and plastics are eliminated from the prAna E.C.O. Mat equation. Once you’re ready to trade your mat for a new one, the material of this is completely recyclable so it won’t clog up a landfill somewhere.

TPE is also UV resistant, so your E.C.O. Mat won’t fade or deteriorate with sun exposure. It’s completely latex-free, chloride-free, and PVC-free. The best benefit of TPE is that it’s extremely lightweight: a 72-by-24-inch mat with a thickness of 5mm still weighs in at only 2.2 pounds.

On the yoga benefits side, the E.C.O. yoga mat is known to be super sticky so your hands and feet won’t slide, but the TPE material may not be the most cushioning option for those looking to protect their knees and backs from the hard pressure of the floor. The mat is double-sided, though, so you can rotate front-to-back and top-to-bottom to get a seriously long-term, even wear on your mat even with heavy use.

Even if you’re just looking for a lighter mat or an eco-friendly option to shake things up, the prAna E.C.O. Mat is a low-cost way to try something new.

Best yoga mat for sweaty yogis

jade yoga mat3

Whether you’re a yogi who sweats a lot during workouts, or you enjoy the sweat-inducing practice of Bikram, the JadeYoga Harmony Mat is what you need to avoid slipping and sliding. 

Pros: Non-slip surface, plenty of cushioning, multiple length options, multiple color options

Cons: Some may find the cushioning too much for their preference, expensive

If your yoga practice works up enough of a sweat that most mats become dangerously slippery, JadeYoga’s Harmony Mat will keep you safe. Made from natural rubber with tiny dots instead of a smooth, sleek surface, the Harmony Mat’s design provides great traction and minimizes slipping. The texture is small enough it goes unnoticed by your hands and knees, even after a 60-minute session. 

The mat is incredibly comfortable, too. Featuring thick enough cushioning to protect your knees and back from getting dinged while practicing, it’s not too thick to hinder movement. 

JadeYoga offers the Harmony Mat in two different sizes, as well as a dozen different colors and prints. It is on the spendy side at $85 for the longest option, but for sweaty yogis, that’s often cheaper (and way more convenient) than purchasing a mat plus absorbant towel.

Read our review of the JadeYoga Harmony Mat.

Best washable yoga mat

YogiBare1

The Yogi Bare Teddy is machine washable without sacrificing quality or durability over time and use.

Pros: Machine-washable, grippy microfiber top, natural rubber bottom stays in place, comes in a variety of fun patterns

Cons: Requires a washing machine, not very padded

Though most mats are easily cleaned with a simple spray and wipe down, if you use it outside or tend to heavily sweat while you practice, it’s convenient to have a mat that can be thrown in the washing machine. The Teddy from Yogi Bare is machine washable. I was surprised to find during testing that the washer didn’t compromise its integrity; its natural rubber base and microfiber top stayed as intact as when I first bought it, even after multiple washes.

Even if the Teddy wasn’t machine-washable, it’d still be a great yoga mat. Its microfiber surface is grippy, especially after I’d been sweating a bit on it, and it’s just padded enough that it provides a soft landing whenever my feet (or wayward knees and elbows) hit the ground. It comes in fun patterns and cololrways.

Cheaper than many other mats on this list, its is well worth the investment considering how easy it is to keep clean. — Rick Stella 

Best yoga mat for alignment work

liforme yoga mat

The Liforme Mat has a printed alignment system on the surface that will help you find your symmetry, balance, and proper footing in any pose.

Pros: Eco-friendly, extremely sticky, doesn’t wear over time, alignment lines

Cons: One-size-fits-all alignment doesn’t fit all bodies, very expensive

No matter what kind of yoga you practice, proper alignment is an important part of learning the poses and transitions. The first thing you’ll notice about the Liforme mat is that discreet lines, shapes, and markers are etched into its surface to help you place your limbs accurately and mindfully as you move through your practice. Liforme’s mat is also slightly longer and wider than most traditional yoga mats, so you’ll never feel cramped or confined.

The Liforme mat’s also has an incredibly grippy surface thanks to their proprietary blend of natural rubber and sustainably-sourced felt to cushion your knees, hips, and hands. The mix also keeps you from slipping and sliding when the sweating starts.

Continuing the eco-friendly trend, each layer of the PVC-free mat is heat-bonded to avoid toxic glues and adhesives, and even the alignment marking system is etched into the surface to avoid synthetic dyes.

If you’re not the most flexible of yogis or if you’re on the shorter side, you may have trouble hitting the alignments recommended by that pattern on the mat, but if your limbs happen to line up with the printed system and you’re looking to go deeper into perfect alignment, the Liforme mat is the one for you.

What else we tested

YoGo Travel Yoga Mat: This mat is lightweight and rolls up really small, making it ideal for packing in a suitcase. It uniquely comes with durable buckles and handles which makes for easy carrying. However, it got beat out by the Manduka Eko SuperLite for Best Travel Mat since they are both the same thickness and made from sustainable rubber, but the Manduka is $20 cheaper.

Manduka Pro’s 6mm: This mat is thicker (6mm) and longer (up to 85 inches) than most mats, making it great for anyone with joint aches and pains. If you don’t need extra padding, this creates unnecessary bulk, so we left it off our main list. But if you need a bigger or more cushioned mat, this is also backed by Manduka’s lifetime garuntee.

How to shop for a yoga mat

There are a number of factors to consider when shopping for a yoga mat that best serves your needs. Size and portability are important to many yogis, mainly because you’ll often tote your mat along with you — unless you do your practice in the comfort of your own home. Some mats are longer than others, so keep that in mind, especially if you’re taller. 

While certain people like sticky mats that help their feet from sliding around, others find them annoying, providing too much hold when they want the freedom of movement. The same goes for a mat’s relative thickness or thinness. Most yoga mats are relatively slim but others are thick for extra protection and cushion for your joints. 

Consider the durability and the types of materials used, too. You want a mat that’s going to last, isn’t made with harsh or harmful chemicals, and is easy to wipe clean after a sweaty session of hot yoga.

How we tested

Each yoga mat featured in this guide went through a series of on the mat tests to see how well they stacked up across these four categories: Performance, durability, ease of cleaning, and value. Specifically, here’s how each category contributed to which yoga mats ultimately made the cut:

  • Performance: How a yoga mat performs encompasses a variety of uses. This could mean how grippy it is for helping you hold poses or reliably move a hand or foot even if you’re a little sweaty, or it could be how comfortable or padded the mat is. In categories such as the best lightweight yoga mat or the best yoga mat for sweaty yogis, we looked at those features specifically (instead of docking points for a lack of padding or too much grip) when choosing what to feature. 
  • Durability: It may not seem like it but yoga mats can take a beating, especially if you use it often. Be it puddles of sweat or the constant barrage of knees, elbows, heels, and shoulders, a yoga mat is under constant pressure. Because of this, you ideally want one built to stand up to this kind of abuse and that’s designed to last for several sessions.
  • Ease of cleaning: Sweat is nearly inevitable when you practice yoga — even during a particularly mellow session. It’s recommended that you clean your yoga mat after every use (especially for anyone who sweats heavily) and a mat that’s easy to clean is a necessity. 
  • Value: Value is the combination of every category we judged the yoga mats on plus it’s actual price point. We like to think that it’s better to invest more in a quality mat that lasts than to spend the money on several cheap mats in the same amount of time. When choosing our budget pick, we also wanted to make sure it wasn’t some shoddy mat but something that delivers premium quality at a more wallet-friendly price. 

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