I'm not shy about the fact that I'm a very sweaty human. I spent hours testing different headbands to find one that would keep sweat from dripping in my eyes midworkout. I wear special studio skin shoes to yoga so I won’t slip and slide and fall on my face. So when I heard about Manduka’s new GRP yoga mat ($98, manduka.com) that’s supposed to stay grippy even when you’re dripping buckets of sweat, I had to see what it was all about—and if it was worth the price tag.
Normally when I go to hot yoga, I bring at least two towels—a long grippy one to lay atop my mat to catch aforementioned perspiration (Manduka actually makes the best hot yoga towels, in my opinion) along with a smaller one to wipe my face and body throughout the class. But the Manduka GRP mat is supposed to be so good at absorbing sweat that it’ll stay dry all on its own. Honestly, the whole idea of abandoning one of my sweat rags was a little terrifying, but since using the Manduka GRP meant that I'd have less laundry to do, I figured it was worth facing my fears.
So, with my GRP mat in hand and just my small face towel, I headed to a hot yoga class to see if it held up to the claims.
When I unrolled the Manduka GRP mat, I immediately noticed how different the top layer felt—almost like a luxe leather.
According to the company, the mat was designed to get grippier with sweat—the opposite of pretty much every other yoga mat in existence. I could tell right off the bat that the top material was different. It felt sort of leathery, as opposed to the smoother, more rubbery feel of other mats.
I will say that the leatherlike coating wasn't the most gentle on my feet and toes. When my postures were less than perfect, especially during transitions, I'd often feel my big toe nail scrape along the surface, which was a little painful, yet it did remind me to realign my positioning, whatever that's worth.
The biggest downside? The mat smelled pretty bad at first.
I just have to to mention how the mat smelled when I first unrolled it—and which actually worsened throughout my 75-minute practice. You can, however, wash the mat, which helps get rid of the stench—more on that later.
But I was happy to find that my hands and feet remained in place throughout my practice, both when holding poses and transitioning from one to the next.
Not only that, but the mat itself stayed put, too. I'm used to having my mat slide a bit against the studio floor during at least a few Downward Facing Dogs and Vinyasa flows. But the extremely sticky bottom of the Manduka GRP was unfazed. Once I laid the mat down, it didn't move for the entire class, which is pretty remarkable, especially considering the pools of sweat I left behind.
Speaking of sweat, it took about an hour into the 75-minute class for a little puddle of sweat to even show up.
I know this looks like a lot of sweat, but this is nothing compared to what usually is on my mat after 75 minutes of hot Vinyasa. The mat just absorbed it all. I’ve never seen anything like it before.
I reached out to Manduka to ask them how this worked, and they put me in touch with Craig Stiff, the company's director of hardgoods. He explained that the mat is made from an open-celled polyurethane, which means that there are tiny little openings in the surface that let sweat and moisture sink in. That’s what keeps the surface so dry. "Most yoga mats have closed-cell construction, which require a towel as soon as things get sweaty," Stiff told me. He added that every layer of the GRP mat is designed with this open-cell construction, which not only lets moisture absorb, but also helps it evaporate later.
The middle layer of the mat is made of charcoal-infused rubber. "We infused charcoal in the core of the mat to absorb sweat and eliminate odor," explains Stiff.
You can (and should) deep clean the mat regularly to get rid of all that sweat lurking inside.
When my hot Vinyasa class ends, I usually spend an extra minute or two (sweating) in Savasana before I pull it together and get up to leave. Thankfully, my studio provides mat wipes so not only do I sop up all the remaining sweat with a towel, but I am able to give my mat a quick wipe-down. This time, though, I skipped over the wipes and decided to go home and follow Manduka's deep-cleaning instructions instead. And also because I wanted to try to get rid of that intense scent.
Unlike other yoga mats, you actually can submerge the Manduka GRP in a bathtub to thoroughly clean it. The brand recommends mixing in their Deep Cleanser and letting it float in the tub for five to 10 minutes before squeezing out excess water and hanging it to dry. They recommend giving the mat a deep clean every two to four months.
I didn’t have the cleanser, so I used a little bit of gentle body wash. While I can’t speak to how that impacts the materials over time, I can say that after baby's first bath, it smelled so much better. Problem solved, thank goodness.
Overall, the GRP definitely lives up to the hype, and is a great product for intense sweaters and dedicated hot yoga students.
It's remarkable how much sweat this beast of a yoga mat can absorb. If that’s something that’s very important to you, then it might be worth investing in the GRP mat. If you're not the sweatiest person, and a regular mat plus a towel is sufficient for you, then you may want to pass on the $98 purchase. Also, please tell me your secrets. Until then, I’ll be toting the GRP mat back and forth to my studio and diligently treating it to a spa day every few months.
Buy it: Manduka GRP yoga mat ($98, manduka.com)