Which Side of the Yoga Mat is Up? A Complete Guide

rolling a yoga mat by hand

When you lay out your yoga mat and pause, perhaps wondering if you’ve got it just right, you’re sharing a common experience with many yoga practitioners. Today, we’ll take a deep dive into the surprisingly intricate world of yoga mats, unraveling the mystery of which side should face up and be used for your practice.

The Great Yoga Mat Debate

Yoga, a practice that encompasses physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, often begins with a seemingly trivial yet essential question: “Which side of the yoga mat should be facing up?” While this might appear as a minor concern, it holds paramount importance for both beginners and seasoned yogis. The orientation of your yoga mat plays a pivotal role in ensuring a safe, effective, and comfortable practice.

Understanding Your Mat: Texture and Grip

Texture is a fundamental aspect when it comes to identifying the top side of your yoga mat. Typically, the top surface of a yoga mat features a distinct texture meticulously designed to enhance grip and stability during your practice. An easy way to determine the top side is to run your hand across both surfaces; the side that feels more ‘grippy’ is likely the one that should be facing up during your practice.

Material Matters: Foam, Rubber, and Others

Yoga mats come in a plethora of materials, each offering a unique set of experiences and properties. Understanding the material of your mat is instrumental in deciding which side should be facing up. Here are a couple of common materials and their characteristics:

  • Foam Mats: Foam mats are known for their lightweight nature and moderate cushioning. In most instances, the side with a more ‘grippy’ texture is designated as the top side to ensure a stable and comfortable practice;
  • Rubber Mats: Rubber mats, favored for their eco-friendly attributes, provide excellent cushioning. They typically have textured top surfaces that facilitate a secure grip, making it the preferred side for your yoga endeavors.

Color and Patterns: More Than Just Aesthetics

Beyond aesthetics, the colors and patterns on your yoga mat serve a functional purpose. These designs are not merely for visual appeal; they are strategically positioned to guide proper hand and foot placement during your practice. Consequently, they often serve as visual cues to indicate which side is meant to face up.

Feeling the Surface: The Right Side Up

Sometimes, a tactile approach can provide clarity in determining the correct side of the mat. The side that is intended to be in contact with your body is typically softer and features more texture to enhance grip and comfort. In contrast, the bottom side tends to be firmer, serving as the foundational support that grips the ground.

Safety First: Gripping the Ground

Rolled yoga mat

The bottom side of your yoga mat is specially engineered to interact with the ground. This design prioritizes safety during your practice by reducing the risk of slippage and enhancing overall stability as you transition through various poses.

The Flip Side: When to Use the Reverse

While it’s less common, some yoga mats are reversible, lacking distinct textural differences between the two sides. In such cases, the decision of which side to use often boils down to personal preference and the specific type of yoga practice you engage in. Some yogis opt for the softer side for enhanced comfort, while others favor the firmer side for added stability.

Care and Maintenance: Extending Mat Life

Your yoga mat is an investment in your well-being, not merely a practical accessory for your practice. With proper maintenance and care, its lifespan can be greatly prolonged, and its essential texture and hold that assist in identifying the correct side for your practice can be preserved. The following describes how to properly maintain your mat:

  • Regular Cleaning: Over time, sweat and dirt can damage your yoga mat’s grip and hygiene. Clean your mat regularly to avoid this. Use a soft mat cleanser or water and mild soap. Skip strong chemicals that could damage the material;
  • Proper Storage: Storing your mat correctly is crucial for preventing it from losing its shape or accumulating dust. Roll your mat with the top side facing outwards to protect the textured surface. Use a mat strap or bag to keep it secure and clean when not in use;
  • Avoid Sun Exposure: Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can cause the color of your mat to fade and affect its durability. Store your mat away from direct sunlight or heat sources to maintain its integrity.

The Environmental Aspect

If you’ve chosen an eco-friendly yoga mat, you may notice distinct textures on each side. This intentional design choice aligns with sustainable practices. Eco-friendly mats often use natural and biodegradable materials, and the texture helps differentiate between the side that interacts with your body and the side that touches the ground. Choosing the right side of an eco-friendly mat is not only about your practice but also about supporting environmentally responsible choices.

Special Features and Innovations

In the world of yoga mats, innovation is abundant. Some mats come equipped with unique features designed to enhance your practice. These features can include heat-reactive surfaces that respond to your body temperature, alignment lines to assist with positioning, or antimicrobial properties to keep your mat fresh.

Understanding these features is crucial for identifying the correct side of your mat. For instance, the side with alignment lines or special texture for grip is typically the top side meant for your practice.

Yoga Mat Misconceptions Cleared

A woman holding a yoga mat

It’s essential to address common misconceptions about yoga mats. Not all mats are the same, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the right-side dilemma. Different mats have distinct characteristics, and understanding your specific mat is key to determining which side should be facing up. Avoid making assumptions and take the time to investigate your mat’s unique attributes.

Yoga Mat Accessories for Enhanced Practice

Accessories like yoga towels or knee pads can offer valuable clues regarding the correct side of your mat. These accessories are often designed to align with the mat’s top surface, providing added comfort and grip during your practice. Pay attention to how these accessories interact with your mat, as they can indicate which side should face up.

Community Insights and Expert Opinions

Finally, gathering insights from the yoga community and seeking expert opinions can provide valuable clarity. Yoga forums, online communities, and discussions with experienced yogis or instructors can offer guidance on which side of the mat to use for different styles of yoga and practices. Sharing experiences and knowledge within the yoga community can be a valuable resource in the great yoga mat debate.


Mastering your yoga mat involves selecting the correct side to ensure a safe, stable, and comfortable practice. This choice depends on factors like texture, material, and maintenance. By understanding these elements, you can enhance your yoga experience and practice with confidence.


How can I tell which side of my yoga mat to use?

Feel the texture. The grippier side is usually the top, designed for your hands and feet.

Does the material of the yoga mat affect which side is up?

Yes, different materials have different textures and grips, influencing which side should face up.

Are there yoga mats that can be used on both sides?

Some mats are reversible. In such cases, it’s about personal preference and the type of practice.

How does the right side of the yoga mat impact my practice?

Using the correct side ensures proper grip, stability, and safety during your yoga practice.

Can yoga mat accessories help determine the right side?

Yes, accessories like towels are designed to align with the mat’s top surface for added comfort and grip.