Although having a mat is not an essential part of Pilates it is the first place I would start when setting up my own self-practice at home. Mats can come with varying price tags attached but the most important aspects to look out for are; the mat is non-slip, has enough padding and has enough length.
Mats are about the only cross-over between yoga and Pilates. You may be wondering what the difference is and whether a normal yoga mat is suitable. A yoga mat generally tends to be slightly thinner (eg 2mm - 4mm thickness) this is because a lot more time is spent balancing and moving between poses. For Pilates, you may want something slightly thicker as we often spend more time lying on hips or kneeling which can get uncomfortable if the mat is too thin. Having said this I think sometimes Pilates mats can be too thick making it hard to do standing work but this depends on the individual and your requirements for the mat as you can always step to the side.
A good quality mat will cost a bit more but if you think about cost per use it will motivate you to get even more use out of it! Having said this you can easily get a mat that's cheaper but it may wear quicker meaning it has to be replaced more frequently. I have had my mat for 4 years now and it gets used almost every day, it's yet to show any signs of needing a replacement.
Here are just four suggestions as I only want to recommend products either I have tried myself or clients of mine have recommended to me.
1. Lululemon 5mm mat
I use the Lululemon 5mm for my own practice. After testing lots of different mats over lockdown and realising there was such a difference in the qualities available I opted for this mat. It is an investment however almost every instructor I know recommends this one too. Not only is it non-slip, as a lot of other mats are also advertised but it also absorbs moisture so if you are in a plank with sweaty palms you won't budge. I would without a doubt recommend this mat!
The only thing I would mention about it is that its heavy and doesn't come with a carry strap but other than that it's been perfect for me.
2. Sweaty Betty Align mat
The Sweaty Betty mats have fantastic reviews and a few class members have let me test theirs out. This mat is definitely grippy! It's also thick enough to provide some padding whilst in positions needing a little extra support but thin enough that you can still practice balance work.
This mat is still slightly more on the expensive side but if you are looking to splurge and are already a Sweaty Betty fan you can't go wrong!
3. Mad HQ Studio mat
Three class members I know of currently use this mat and are beyond happy with it. The mat is grippy and at 4.5mm thick it is cushioned enough to provide a bit of extra support to joints but by remaining on the thinner side it means it can also be used during balance exercises.
Whilst reviewing all of these mats online the only downside to this mat I can find is it can get slippy when wet. This could become a problem if your palms or feet get hot but for the majority of exercises in class, it should be absolutely fine.
5. Decathlon Domyos mat
The Domyos mat from Decathlon is very different to all the mats above as it is around 15mm thick. It is designed with comfort in mind and a mat I would recommend if you are looking for something a little more cushioned. As this mat is thick it can prove more difficult to perform balance exercises and as far as I'm aware it's not non-slip so you may want to use a grippy pad to stop it from budging. Two clients of mine own this mat and they are both very pleased with it as they wanted something with a little more squish for lying exercises.
To summarise, I would determine exactly what you are looking for from your mat and how far your budget can stretch before making a decision to invest. If you do need a new one and all of the above mats are out of budget it's always worth taking a look on Amazon as they have such an enormous range. Charity shops also often have second-hand mats that have never been used before as well as gym balls, hand weights and other equipment at a fraction of the price.
If you have a mat that you love I would welcome any recommendations in the comments, I'm always on the lookout!