Yoga isn’t just any exercise. It’s a way of living centered on non-violence and peace.
Rooted in ancient India, yoga encourages striking a balance between mind and soul while building a deeper connection with nature.
Our readers would agree that practicing such a serene form of exercise should in no way hurt the planet. And what better place to start than by ditching that toxic plastic mat in favor of an environmentally conscious option?
Read on to learn about six all-natural materials for making yoga mat sustainable and eco-friendly.
What are Sustainable Yoga Mats?
Yoga mats are a modern-day invention that didn’t exist when the ancient practice started in 2700 B.C. Back then, the yogis would carry out their meditation and asanas on grass or animal skin.
Things are a little different today, and we cannot picture modern yoga without a fabricated, anti-skid mat. What might alarm you is that until recently, most workout mats were made from earth-damaging polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
PVC plastics are non-recyclable and toxic (more on that later), and it's best to stay away from them.
Thankfully, there’s no dearth of eco-friendly mats ready to make yoga healthy not just for you but also for the planet. But first, here’s a short buying guide to help you get started on your quest for sustainable yoga mats.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Yoga Mat
We cannot imagine doing those body-bending stretches and asanas without a stable base supporting us. So, what makes a good yoga mat? Of course, the highest on our list is low environmental impact, but there are so many other factors to consider.
Thickness: Yoga mats with <5mm thickness are lightweight and provide a closer-to-earth vibe, but they don’t offer much cushioning for kneeling poses. At the same time, too much padding will keep your knees protected but might not provide a firm foundation during standing poses. For beginners and those with knee or joint issues, mats in the range of 5mm-6mm are perfect.
Grip: High-density mats made from natural tree rubber will stay in place as long as the surface isn’t too wet. Cork is another material to consider, which might not be as easy to clean as rubber but will remain grippy even during the sweatiest of yoga sessions.
Foldability: If you’re looking for a travel-easy mat, go for one with a thickness between 2mm-5mm. You can find ultra-thin and lightweight mats with decent traction, but these might not be a wise pick for those with achy knees. If you travel often, we recommend buying two mats - a plush and thick one for when you’re in town and a thin portable for travel use.
- Length: A typical yoga mat would be somewhere between 68-72 inches long. However, those taller than 6ft should go for at least 72 inches. Large-sized yoga mats are just as readily available as standard ones.
6 Materials for Natural Yoga Mats
It’s 2022 and while you’re busy ditching plastic from your life, add synthetic yoga mats to the list. Here are six wonderful options to help you make that switch.
Natural, stable, and durable - there’s plenty to love about Jute. It’s extracted from a rapidly renewable plant with anti-microbial properties. The thick fibers are moisture-absorbent and cooling, making the mats ideal for intense yoga. Buy a jute yoga mat with an anti-slip bottom, and you’ve got yourself a winner. The only drawback that comes to mind is the coarseness of the fiber, which is slightly rough to touch.
2. Natural Rubber
Mats made from natural tree rubber are grippy, long-lasting, and perfect for those with sensitive joints. These mats are generally thicker than other eco-friendly counterparts and are a great pick if you can get past the funny smell. It’s easy to clean rubber mats, but they do take a while to dry. We recommend them if you practice your yoga indoors, as exposure to sunlight can lead to fading and damage.
Bamboo is not as common a choice for yoga mats as the others on the list, but it’s certainly getting there. Bamboo plants are fast-growing and renewable like jute, and the fabric is becoming a crowd favorite for its versatility. These natural yoga mats are durable, portable, and ultra-comfy. Plus, they are fuss-free to maintain. Handwash them with soap and water and wipe them dry with a towel. Yes, it’s that easy!
Cork is yoga bliss for those who seek a rock-solid grip, even on wet surfaces. And it doesn’t hurt that they are gorgeous to look at! This material comes from cork oak trees and is loaded with antimicrobial properties. You’ll find that cork mats are usually paired with a rubber base for stability. However, these mats are generally heavy and don’t fold easily unless fully dry.
Stronger and softer than jute, hemp is a star member of the sustainable fiber club. Like bamboo, hemp takes very little time to grow but with lesser water. For a better grip, hemp mats come with a natural rubber bottom. Whether you practice gentler Hatha yoga, intense Ashtanga, or power yoga, hemp mats make the trickiest of poses breezy.
6. Organic Cotton
Ah! Our all-time favorite organic cotton is the dream pick for anything from clothing to bags to yoga mats! Breathable, soft, and hypoallergenic, these environmentally-friendly cotton yoga mats are high on comfort and low on carbon footprint. Plus, being thin and lightweight also makes them perfect for on-the-go stretches.
When buying cotton yoga mats, make sure they are certified organic. The organic variety of cotton is a sustainable alternative to water and energy-intensive conventional cotton.
Yoga Mats Made of These Materials Should Be Avoided
1. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Until eco-friendly alternatives came along, PVC was the king of yoga mats. It’s cheap, easy to clean, and offers a good grip both outdoors and indoors. Sounds great, right? Here’s the catch - this artificial material is extracted from petroleum through a process packed with chemicals capable of adversely impacting human health.
To make the mat flexible and rubbery, PVC is topped off with phthalates. These toxic chemicals are endocrine disruptors linked to various cardiovascular and neurological diseases. And as if that wasn’t enough, this plastic is not recyclable and is destined to end up in landfills and waterways.
2. Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPE)
TPE is often passed off as an environment-friendly material but isn’t actually so. Like PVC, TPE is derived from fossil fuels, and the process relies on a lot of chemicals. You can actually smell the toxic odor off the mat! The only factor that makes TPE mats slightly better than PVC is that they are recycle-friendly.
3. PER (Polymer Environmental Resin)
The story with PER is the same as TPE. Despite similar petroleum origins as PVC, PER mats are labeled eco-friendly as they are recyclable. This material is free from phthalates, making it relatively less toxic to humans. Mats made from PER might be safe for humans but not the planet.
4. PU (Polyurethane)
PU can be recycled and has a less harmful chemical makeup than PVC and TPE. These yoga mats are the most eco-friendly plastics as they do not directly harm human health or leak chemicals into the soil and water. That said, there have been concerns raised by the US EPA about hazardous air pollutants during manufacturing PU foam.
Why Choose Eco-Friendly Material for Yoga Mat? Key Benefits
There’s nothing that sustainable yoga mats don’t offer that their synthetic counterparts do. It’s a win-win situation where you can do yoga without harming the environment or sacrificing comfort and performance. Here are some benefits of picking an eco-friendly mat over an artificial one.
Biodegradable: All materials we just spoke about come from the earth and go back into the earth. Their all-natural origin makes them 100% biodegradable.
Recycle-Friendly: You won’t face any trouble in getting synthetic TPE, Polyurethane, and Polymer Environmental Resin yoga mat recycled, but these materials are chock-full of chemicals. In contrast, the six sustainable materials on this list are all-natural and completely recyclable.
Non-Toxic: A chemically-heavy composition makes TPE and PVC mats toxic. Instead, let your first or next yoga mat be an all-natural, organic one.
- Responsibly-Sourced: You’ll notice how many of these natural yoga mats are sustainably manufactured using zero waste, low-impact practices. The raw materials that come from trees, such as natural tree rubber and cork, are also responsibly harvested and sourced.
Where to Buy Sustainable Non-Toxic Yoga Mat
With the rise in the number of eco-conscious households, you’ll find plenty of brands and online stores dedicated to offering earth-friendly products. One of our go-to picks to practice sustainable yoga is Live Well 360’s handmade and fair trade yoga mat made out of 100% all-natural organic cotton. These mats are eye-catching, easy to care for, and designed to make every yoga flow comfy and nature-friendly.
These planet-friendly, comfy, and functional yoga mats are just what you need to bust stress and achieve your fitness goals without harming the planet. We hope our blog pointed you has helped you get familiar with sustainable mat materials and the toxic ones that you should avoid at all costs!