In keeping with the theme of Ahimsa for the planet, people should be mindful of their yoga gear. The vast majority of yoga mats in the U.S. are made out of a toxic, non-biodegradable ingredient that may be a carcinogen. PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride). As a result, knowingly, or unknowingly, yogis are harming our environment by not choosing eco-friendly yoga mats.
First off, I am a proponent of yoga anywhere, any time. No mat required. To me, the most eco-friendly yoga mat is a sandy beach. A wood floor. Or, a grassy field. In fact, I’ve done full-fledged yoga routines in my dentist’s waiting room. Even if the flooring was as comfortable as a visit to the dentist. At home, while I have a closet full of mats (for my students), I prefer to feel my patio wooden deck underneath my feet and hands.
Indeed, in February I attended group classes in Varanasi, India. Markedly, the only ones with yoga mats (out of nearly 100 practitioners) were the handful of White Western women. Undoubtedly, I look like Westerner. But, I practiced with the Indians. Sans mat.
That said, we are in the U.S. of A. Here, few Americans feel comfortable without a yoga mat. For one, it delineates their turf in a group class. However, most rationalize the need for their own yoga mat based on comfort and concern for cleanliness. Whatever one’s perceived need may be, that shouldn’t trump the preference for an eco-friendly yoga mat.
To honor ahimsa for the planet, the team of testers only assessed mats manufactured without PVC. Taina Cuevas was the lead researcher. She’s an editor at ConsumersAdvocate.org, a 20-year yoga practitioner as well as a mindful meditation instructor.
By comparison, she notes, “Almost half of all yoga mats are made from PVC. These mats have a number of plasticizers and additives and, given that studies haven’t been conducted on yoga mats, in particular, it’s not certain how these would affect people who come into contact with the mat every day.” Equally important, “The second reason is the staggering amount of pollution PVC creates during its ‘lifetime,’ from manufacture to disposal. It’s not biodegradable and almost impossible to recycle. In fact, if it’s mixed in with recyclables, it can actually contaminate the rest of the batch.”
Just as yoga has become commercialized, and most probably don’t pay attention to ahimsa, or even know what that means, the yoga industry for the most part, just dabbles in eco-friendly efforts. Or, worse, make claims that can’t be substantiated. That’s one of the reasons why each of the. ConsumersAdvocate.org preferred eco-friendly yoga mats were sent to the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, MI for additional testing for any toxicity.
What may be marketed as green, might just be a shade of blue or yellow. While the unbiased, independent consumers group chose not to consider any mats made with PVC, they included mats made with less detrimental man-made products. However, I’m only highlighting the two most eco-friendly yoga mats. One is made out of cork and natural rubber. The second, recycled wet suits.
The wet suit yoga mats were also voted the best for many reasons. Furthermore, 100 percent of the testers said they’d buy one for themselves or as a gift. While I’ve never seen the mats, I love the concept.
Suga mats were created by a surfer yogi (I’m guessing SUGA comes from that). He’s also a former environmental attorney. Beyond the obvious benefits of taking discarded wetsuits that would remain in a landfill forever, and turning them into yoga mats, the factory is run totally on green energy.
Additionally, Suga recycles its own mats along with any scraps. As a practical side note, the mats can be hosed down or even cleaned in the shower. Finally, a portion of Suga mat sales benefits the non-profit, Sustainable Surf.
Cork and Rubber Yoga Mats
So, I have a cork yoga mat. And, I had a rubber mat, which was my favorite until it may have gotten a bit of heatstroke. That said, I haven’t tried a cork on top of a rubber eco-friendly mat. Canada-based Tranquil Yogi is the maker of what ConsumersAdvocate.org found to be the most eco-friendly yoga mat. The company offers additional yoga gear from biodegradable materials, such as cork blocks and massage balls
My cork mat is heavy, so I keep it at home. Likewise, the Tranquil mat weighs six pounds. To offset the weight, a bit, it comes with its own carrying strap.
According to the researchers, “Cork might just be one of the most environmentally friendly materials on the planet. Cork provides natural protection to some of the most common bacteria.” It’s also interesting to recognize that harvesting cork does affect the life of the tree.
For a complete review of all the mats analyzed, visit https://www.consumersadvocate.org/yoga-mats