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Yoga is a vast collection of spiritual techniques and practices aimed at integrating mind, body, and spirit to achieve a state of enlightenment or oneness with the universe. Yoga is also a form of therapy with the use of yoga postures, meditation and pranayama to help the body naturally heal and balance itself.
A yoga mat helps you perform your yoga potions without slipping and sliding, and they provide a comfortable softness for your knees and elbows. You want to feel supported and have grip while you stretch.
The problem with standard yoga mats is that they are often made with toxic Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). To make them flexible they will have phthalates added to them, these phthalates leach out of the mat over time, coming into contact with your skin.
Why is PVC Used and Why is it bad?
PVC is commonly used because it is cheap, has grip, and is flexible.
PVC is one of the most toxic consumer plastics around. It is bad for humans and the environment, compounds in PVC can cause health problems in humans and animals. PVC often contains lead, along with other heavy metals such as arsenic and cadmium. Phthalates such as Bisphenol A ( a known hormone disruptor) are used in the production of PVC, wreaking havoc on our endocrine systems. PVC is hard to recycle and is often incinerated after it's use, which releases dioxin, a known carcinogen.
Some alternatives that are often sold as "more eco-friendly" alternatives to PVC include:
- Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) - A mix of rubber and plastic. This material is recyclable.
- Polymer Environmental Resin (PER) - Similar to PVC but made without phthalates.
- Nitrile butadiene rubber (NBR) - synthetic rubber copolymer of acrylonitrile and butadiene.
- Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate (EVA) - Considered less toxic than other materials, but some are still on the fence about that.
What is an Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat?
An eco-friendly yoga mat does not contain toxic materials like PVC and Phthalates; they instead are made with sustainable materials like natural rubber from the Rubber Tree (Hevea brasiliensis), plant fibers such as Jute, or natural cork. Sometimes recycled materials are used.
To be considered eco-friendly, a yoga mat must be free of toxins; it must be long-lasting and durable and be made by a company that does its best to eliminate toxic emissions from the manufacturing process.
- A renewable resource
- Good cushion and resilience
- High-traction surface
- Biodegradable and recyclable
- Take materials that would otherwise sit in a landfill and reuse them.
- Some recycled materials made into yoga mats include, neoprene wetsuits, recycled rubber, and plastic bottles.
Cotton or Hemp
- These fibers are soft
- Machine washable
- Good for those with latex allergies
- Absorbs sweat well
- Jute is a sustainable fiber that takes very little resources to grow
- Strong natural fiber
- Sweat absorbing and cooling
- Anti-fungal and anti-microbial
- Naturally anti-microbial
- Offers superior traction
- Becomes more grippy when wet or sweaty, compared to synthetic mats.
- Great for hot yoga with no need for a towel
- Sustainable material
What Are the Best Eco-Friendly Yoga Mats?
The best eco-friendly yoga mats are those made without PVC. There are many companies out there claiming that their mats are made with eco-friendly PVC, but there is no such thing.
My favorite eco-friendly yoga mats are those made with natural rubber, cork, or jute. Recycled material mats are also a good choice, as they are keeping those materials out of landfills. Out of all these options, my top choice is a cork yoga mat.
Why Cork is My Top Choice
I choose cork as the best eco-friendly yoga mat material because it works so well for all types of yoga. Anyone can benefit from using a cork yoga mat. Here are a few reasons I choose cork over other materials:
- Cork is naturally anti-microbial, so your mat will not harbor germs.
- It works so well for hot yoga because it doesn't get slippery when it is wet.
- It offers great traction and grip.
- It has a lovely natural look.
- It won't shed like jute mats can.
- Cork is a renewable and sustainable resource.
The Best Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat
Why I love the Gurus Cork Yoga Mat
This mat is one of the best possible answers to the challenge of finding a truly eco-friendly yoga mat. Why?.. Just ask me why. Go ahead. Ok, I'll tell you:
- It's natural & sustainable - it's 5mm thick and made from high-quality lightweight cork on the top and eco-friendly, textured TPE on the back.
- It's non slip & waterproof - cork naturally displaces moisture and gets grippier when it's wet, so you're not slip-sliding around like you typically do with the typical yoga mat. (Psssst... hey you hot yoga fans, this is the mat for you. It literally gets grippier the wetter it gets!
- It can be used inside OR outside - cork doesn't absorb heat the way rubber and foam mats do, so sunny beach yoga won't be so painful (at least on the parts of you touching the mat!).
- BEST OF ALL - Gurus has teamed up with Trees for the Future, a non-profit that plants trees in rural communities in the developing world, to plant a tree for every Gurus product purchased. This ensures that every sturdy yoga mat gives back to the natural resources that helped create it.
What is your favorite eco-friendly yoga mat? If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to put them in the comments below, we always answer!
This post was originally published on January 6, 2021.