There are SOOOOO many yoga mats out there! Thin plastic, SUPER thick plastic, ECO friendly, all natural rubber, yoga towels, travel mats, printed with patterns, cork and the list goes on and on.
So how the hell do you pick one out? Well, if it's your first time buying a mat and you haven't quite invested in your yoga practice yet, I recommend finding something for right now. You can always upgrade once you know what you need.
Some things to consider:
Are you taking a hot yoga class or no? If you are, look for a mat and yoga towel. Personally, I'm a big fan of Marshall's and TJ Maxx (they always have cheap mats!). Sometimes, they even have yoga towels to go on top your mat. The towel is there to catch your sweat and prevent you from slipping. Worst case scenario: you bring a beach towel to put on top your normal mat.
If you aren't taking a hot yoga class, then you should still go check out your local TJ Maxx, Ross or Marshall's for their mat selection. One popular brand that makes good beginner mats is Gaiam. They aren't super thin and usually last awhile (a year or two). I wouldn't pay more than $20 if you're unsure about the longevity of your practice. Cheaper mats tend to disintegrate over time. Side note: if you have cats and they stick their claws into it, you can say goodbye sooner rather than later. Pets LOVE yoga mats! I don't know why, so I don't recommend leaving them lying out at home if you don't want it getting destroyed or covered in fur.
Do you need more cushion support for your knees or wrists when in a table top position? If you said yes, purchase a thicker mat and always place a blanket under your knees during class. Gaiam also makes "Premium" mats that some times appear at TJ Maxx ($30). This would be a great beginner option for you.
If money isn't an issue and you know that you're going to be practicing awhile, I recommend purchasing a Manduka yoga mat. People also rave about Jade yoga mats. I personally don't have much experience using Jade mats. I've been using my Manduka Pro Lite mat ($92) for about 6 years now and it's going strong! It can be quite bulky and heavy (especially if you get the Pro version). Another reason I like it is because the bottom side has a specific pattern to allow grip to the floor and the other side has different grip for your hands and feet. So, there is a side for the front and a side for the back. After breaking it in, it feels great. I would not recommend this mat for traveling as it can be bulky and heavy. I've also tried one of Lululemon's yoga mats and it is not my favorite. I have had it about 5 years now and it still strongly smells of rubber. When I'm done using it, I smell rubber on my hands. The top texture is also shiny and slippery. It is not good for sweaty hands nor hot yoga. In my opinion you shouldn't have to buy an extra accessory to make the mat work better (like a yoga towel). If this is a concern, just buy a yoga mat/towel combo.
If you travel regularly and want to practice on the go, in the airport or a hotel room, I have a good recommendation for you. I absolutely ADORE my Yoga Design Lab travel mat. I purchased it on Amazon here. Why? You can put it in the washing machine! It's ECO friendly, super lightweight (3.5lbs), and has excellent towel grip texture for when palms get sweaty. It absorbs sweat without getting slippy. PLUS: FUN Patterns! I'm a sucker for fun patterns and they have SO many! Side note: This mat isn't fun on hard wood floors or without extra cushion underneath. If this is a concern for you, I wouldn't recommend it. I would recommend using on grass, carpet or other softer surfaces.
Your goal here is to find a mat that is a color or pattern you love that gives you the cushion support you need while also prevents you from slipping and sliding while in downward dog.
I hope this points you in the right direction. If you find a mat you absolutely love, take a picture and post it here!
If you have a question I haven't answered yet, comment below; I'd love to help!