Why Should I use an Eco Yoga Mat?
An eco yoga mat should facilitate a connection with body and soul by reflecting a connection with self and the environment.
Practicing on a shiny plastic mat made as cheaply as possible for maximum profit contradicts the ideology of yoga.
Incorporating an eco yoga mat in your yoga practice is a simple gesture that reflects your commitment to your environment, the world community and your yoga practice.
There are myriad alternatives for eco friendly yoga mats materials
It is becoming increasingly easy to find a yoga mat that is biodegradable, created with sustainable and plant based materials, and is produced ethically.
Are you looking to purchase an eco yoga mat? If so, you can find an extensive list of retailers and manufacturers that sell environmentally friendly yoga mats by visiting the Eco Friendly Yoga Mats Directory page
What does PVC have to do with my downward dogs?
Almost all Yoga mats currently on sale around the world are made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride: commonly known as “vinyl”).
PVC is a long term pollutant plastic.
Up until the 1930s this plastic was considered a useless toxic by-product of the oil industry.
As chemists explored the applications of PVC the versatility and economic gains at that time were more exciting than any environmental consideration.
The benefits of vinyl seemed endless during the 20th century but soon health and environmental drawbacks came to light and the controversial PVC debate began.
In order to make PVC soft and ‘sticky’, as is required for yoga mats, many chemicals are added.
The most significant is a plasticiser called DHEP Di (2-ethylhexyl phthalate).
Unfortunately these chemical softeners are extremely toxic to humans and to the environment.
Scientists and campaigners are promoting a worldwide reduction in the amount of phthalates used in plastics.
In 2000 the European Commission brought out a Green Paper and later held a public hearing on the environmental issues of PVC.
Eco Yoga Mat Materials Alternative
A true eco friendly yoga mat is made entirely from natural plant based material.
It should be PVC free, contain no heavy metals and ozone depleting substances and produced in socially conscious conditions.
At the end of the yoga mats life it can be composted, making it entirely eco friendly.
All natural rubber and jute fiber are common ingredients to green yoga mats
Jute a is a sustainable plant that is grown in regions of India and Bangladesh in a 4 month period just prior to the rainy season.
It is fast growing and uses land that would otherwise be dormant at that time so increasing revenue for farmers.
Natural rubber for yoga mats comes from the sap of the rubber tree which the rubber tree secretes over a number of years (its tapped similar to maple syrup coming from a maple tree).
The rubber tree is not harmed in the farming of the sap. The sap can be made into any number of rubber products including eco friendly yoga mats.
Other materials that are being used more and more with green eco yoga mats are Polymer Environmental Resin (PERs) and Thermoplastic elastomer (TPE).
Both are synthetic materials, but they have a number of favorable traits compared to PVCs such as being able to be melted down for other uses at the end of its useful life and contain no heavy metals and no phthalates.
Types of Eco Friendly Yoga Mats
There are a number of different environmentally friendly yoga mats available in the marketplace today.
Though they might have different characteristics and be made from different base materials, the one trait they all have in common are they represent an environmentally friendly alternative to a traditional PVC yoga mat.
Open Cell versus Closed Cell Yoga Mat
Both open cell and closed cell yoga mats can be environmentally friendly.
Typically, how tight the weave of a eco friendly yoga mat determines whether it is a closed cell or open cell yoga mat.
Open Cell Yoga Mat
- Open cell mats typically have a looser weave and feel more sticky.
- Characteristics of open cell mats include increased flexibility and traction.
- Because of the looser weave in an open cell mat, an open cell mat is more likely to absorb moisture and hence bacteria (similar to a sponge).
- An open cell mat requires cleaning on a more regular basis and are more likely to have an odor after extended use
Closed Cell Yoga Mat
- A closed cell mat has a tighter weave which limits moisture and odour absorption and allows the mat to have a longer life compared to an open cell mat
- Because of the moisture limiting properties, moisture might sit on the surface of the mat making it more likely your hands and or feet slip
- A closed cell mat is likely not appropriate for Bikram Yoga or other types of hot yoga due to the increased levels of moisture the user would generate
How do I care for my Eco Yoga Mat?
- Let your Green Yoga mat breathe as much as possible, especially if you work a sweat on to it.
- Wiping down with a damp cloth before and after class is good practice.
- Certain environmentally friendly yoga mats can be machine washed while some have to be hand washed.
- It is best to check with the manufacturer’s instructions before washing.
- If your mat is machine washable, use a cool cycle using a small amount of detergent if really dirty.
- The mat will retain a lot of water.
- Remove excess amounts by rolling up with a dry towel.
- Dry flat to avoid creasing (though they will eventually smooth out).
- Do not put through a tumble dryer.
- Avoid contact with oils and store out of direct sunlight as both will result degradation of the rubber.