The first time I unknowingly used a closed cell mat, I couldn’t understand how anyone managed to hold their postures on such a slippery surface. “Yogis must have a secret,” I thought begrudgingly as I struggled to maintain a sweaty downward dog. Knowing the difference between an open and closed cell mat is essential to making the right purchase, but how can you tell?
The easiest way to know whether your mat is open or closed is to examine three components: the mat’s thickness, texture, and absorbency level. An open cell mat will be thicker, textured, and highly absorbent, while a closed cell mat will be thinner and with less texture and absorbency.
The rest of this article will explain the differences between open and closed cell mats and discuss the pros and cons of each. I’ll also direct you to natural, eco-friendly mats that may test your knowledge if you’re not careful. Read on to learn more.
Examine Your Mat
Before you purchase any mat, unroll it (if possible) and just take a look at it. What does it feel like? Is it thick and cushioned or thin and flexible? Is the mat’s surface textured or smooth? These are essential questions to ask to determine its cell structure.
Let’s take a look at three factors that will help you identify open and closed cell mats.
The most significant difference between an open and closed cell mat lies in absorbency level.
Open Cell Mats Are Highly Absorbent
An open cell mat is incredibly absorbent, providing grip to the yogi when holding a challenging, sweat-inducing pose. For this reason, open cell mats are suggested for those that practice hot or warm yoga.
The downside to the high absorption is that open cell mats are more susceptible to germ build-up and require more thorough cleaning with soap and water after use.
Closed Cell Mats Lack Absorbency
On the other hand, closed cell mats are waterproof with little to no absorption, which takes away the traction needed to maintain certain positions on that mat. So, closed cell mats are beneficial for gentle yoga or other exercises that don’t push the yogi to sweat too much. A slippery mat can be dangerous, but they are incredibly convenient to quickly wipe down after use and don’t need the same cleaning care as open cell mats.
Factors That Affect Absorbency
Of course, it’s difficult to know how absorbent a yoga mat is just by looking at it. Pay attention to the following two components (thickness and texture), as they will give you clues as to whether your mat is highly absorbent or not.
On a similar note, there are also ways to add traction to a waterproof mat, like adding a Yoga Mate Sweat Absorbent Yoga Towel (available on Amazon.com) over your mat to practice on. These towels are thicker, specially designed for sweaty yogis, and offer traction and comfort.
An open cell yoga mat is often thicker and more cushioned than a closed one. This is because the mat is naturally more absorbent.
A closed cell mat is usually thin, but there are thick closed cell mats on the market as well. They are generally around an inch thick (25 mm in comparison) with no bumpy texture. If you’re still unsure, continue reading to learn about the mat’s surface.
Measuring and Understanding Yoga Mat Thickness
You can check how thick a mat is by measuring it between your index and thumb. A typical yoga mat is between three and five millimeters, but you can purchase them thinner or thicker depending on your preference.
A major benefit of thick yoga mats is they can do wonders for your knees, elbows, and wrists, especially in table-top poses where most of your weight is placed on your hands and knees. However, a mat that is too thick will hinder balance in standing or balancing positions, so choosing a mat that works best for you is critical.
When it comes to choosing the right mat for you, it’s essential to know the pros and cons of different mat thicknesses. To learn more about this, check out my article on choosing between 4mm and 6mm yoga mats.
Tips and Tricks To Increase Padding in Yoga Mats
If you have a mat and need more padding, one purchase I wish I’d made sooner was a knee cushion.
Knee cushions like the Kinesis Yoga Knee Pad Cushion (available on Amazon.com) are excellent for giving your joints added protection, are easily stored in a yoga bag, and can come into the class along with your regular props. They are also convenient to spray down and sanitize once you’re done using them.
Another fun trick is to fold your yoga mat in two underneath the area you need padding for. For example, if you’re in a half splits position, you can fold your mat lengthwise or widthwise beneath the knee to create some extra cushion.
The texture of that mat’s surface is the last thing you can check to determine whether your mat is open or closed.
Open Cell Mats Are Noticeably Textured
Open cell mats have a much bumpier texture because of their thickness and absorbency level, and you will be able to notice the difference between the slick closed cell mats. The uneven texture of open cell mats is also there to provide additional grip to the yogi.
Closed Cell Mats Lack Texture
Closed cell mats are very smooth, with a little bumpy texture.
This is because closed cell mats are usually covered with a layer of thermoplastic elastomer, which prevents moisture from seeping into the foam and additionally creates elasticity in the mat.
The presence of TPE is controversial, so it’s worth investigating the brand if you want to know what materials your mat was made with. Regardless, TPE extends the overall shelf life of a yoga mat, which is why TPE mats are so popular.
Some Open Cell Mats Resemble Closed Cell Mats in Texture
Keep in mind that multiple different kinds of mats are on the market nowadays; some yoga mats made from other materials share similar qualities to open and closed cell mats.
For example, eco-friendly rubber mats, such as the open cell Jade Yoga Harmony Mats (available on Amazon.com), are made from natural rubber (which is sweat absorbent) but are also smooth like the texture of a closed cell mat.
If you’re looking for more guidance on the subject—or for guidance on yoga in general—visit My Yoga Tips for great information about the yoga journey.
Contact the Company for More Information on Mat Structure
It’s normal to want to know what your tools are made out of. After all, yogis try to live a life of nonviolence, and finding a safe, eco-friendly mat is a priority.
So, the fourth and easiest way to determine whether a yoga mat is an open or closed cell is to contact the manufacturing company or visit their website. The Lululemon website, for example, has an entire section dedicated to the materials their mats are made of. They also provide instructions on how to sanitize them properly.
Most—if not all—online businesses will provide the materials their products are built with. If you can’t seem to find the information online, give the company’s customer service a call to inquire.
Learn more!! see our article Tips To Choose The Best Yoga Mat and maintain for more information.
An open cell mat is thick, highly textured, and very absorbent, making it an excellent choice for yoga that will make you sweat. Most yogis that participate in hot yoga would benefit from an open cell mat.
Closed cell mats are thin, waterproof, and great for slow, gentle yoga that stays low to the ground. However, using them during a sweaty yoga class could be difficult and even dangerous.
That’s why it’s important to know whether your mat uses an open or closed cell structure and what materials it was made with.