Did you know that your yoga mat can be full of harmful chemicals and have a negative impact on you and the environment? Find out what are the safe and sustainable yoga mat alternatives.
As much as we love the rising popularity and awareness around the benefits of yoga as a practice, unfortunately it also came with a rise in cheaply made yoga mats that contain some of the worst toxins out there. Chinese manufacturers create beautiful looking mats with dyes that contain metals and make the mats from materials that are known to be harmful to your body. Chances are, you have a mat from a brand that sources their mats in China and is part of this process. Even if your yoga mat has a natural surface, the backing, padding, or bulk of the mat might be made of synthetic latex or vinyl, urethane, or PVC. And, even if a mat itself isn’t full of toxins, it may have been manufactured using harmful chemicals like chlorine gas, ethylene dichloride, vinyl chloride, mercury, and dioxins, which are then released into the environment. Unfortunately, your body ends up paying the price. The chemicals in these mats are often both bad for us as well as the environment.
Minimizing toxicity from yoga mats means choosing a mat made with natural materials free from harmful chemical substances. There are other reasons, aside from possible toxins, to avoid synthetic materials and choose natural, organic yoga mats.
Let’s explore the popular types of yoga mats & materials they’re made from.
The most common material used in cheaply made yoga mats is PVC (polyvinyl chloride). This material has been described as the most toxic plastic and is toxic during every stage of its life cycle. Most affordable yoga mats are made from PVC, and from both an environmental and health standpoint, PVC is the most toxic plastic. The chemical used to make PVC, Vinyl chloride, is a known to cause cancer in humans, according to the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
These substances in your polyvinyl chloride yoga mat can enter your body through skin contact and inhalation. They may also contaminate your body via ingestion of the dust containing heavy metals. Heavy metal exposure is really dangerous and can lead cause neurological, cardiovascular, renal, gastrointestinal, hematological, and reproductive effects (source). The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified them as “probably carcinogenic to humans”.
Additionally, one of the concerns with PVC is the generation of carcinogenic dioxins, byproducts of the manufacturing and disposal processes. Thus, the EWG rates dioxins 10 out of 10 (with 1 as the least toxic) due to high cancer concerns. Because PVC is not biodegradable, the only way to get rid of it is to burn it. When burning, chlorine produces dioxins that end up in soil, fish, animals, water, air, and, ultimately, in humans.
PER / TPE
Recently, both PER and TPE have been used as materials for eco-friendly yoga mats. However, research shows that neither of them is the right material for a non-toxic yoga mat.
TPE (hermoplastic elastomers) are a blend of polymers, such as rubber and plastic (source). It is a petroleum product with undisclosed ingredients, as there is little to no information on their substitutes. There is a lack of clarity around this aspect which is concerning when it comes to PER and TPE.
Microfiber as a material is durable and reusable – and in many cases, made from recycled materials. Even so, microfiber seems to be a tricky case of greenwashing. After all, what it’s really made out of is plastic derived from crude oil or natural gas. Microfiber is made mostly from polyester which is composed mostly from an ester and a dihydric alcohol and a terephthalic acid. This means microfiber is inorganic and does not biodegrade. It also requires nearly twice the energy to produce microfiber as it does to produce a natural fiber such as cotton.
Microfibers have been named “the biggest environmental problem you’ve never heard of” by The Guardian.
Synthetic materials versus natural materials are very similar to organic versus non-organic food choices. One is easy on your body and the planet (natural) and the other one (synthetic) can come with a lot of unwanted chemicals, substances and additives. The most common types of microfibers are made from acrylic, polyesters, or polyamides such as nylon. Materials made of natural fibers like cotton, hemp, or silk create microfibers too, but those microfibers biodegrade and break down in the water. Studies show up to 85% of the human-made material found shorelines around the world are microfibers. That makes microfibers the most ubiquitous source of human waste of the planet. Your skin – which is the largest organ in your body – absorbs what you put on it, even up to 64%. This is why we should pay attention to the materials we wear and are in contact with.
Discover these eco-friendly and non-toxic alternatives.
Natural rubber is made from rubber trees. The natural latex is turned into rubber by adding vulcanizing agents and chemical additives. Because it is not completely free of chemicals, natural rubber is not a totally non-toxic natural yoga mat material. However, it is safer than synthetic rubber, which is made of petroleum-based materials including 1,3-butadiene, a human carcinogen.
Cork and Jute
The best natural yoga mat materials are cotton, jute, and cork.
Cork is a good alternative due to being a natural, sustainable, recyclable, and biodegradable material, which can be obtained through a tree-friendly harvesting process. With this product however, you have to be careful and use it in a way which will not risk the cork layer of your yoga mat to crack.
Jute’s a very versatile fiber, and jute yoga mats are a good eco-friendly choice for a yoga mat. With their natural look and feel, they provide a good grip and a stylish, minimal mat to practice on. The downside can be that the jute surface is slightly rough since it is a natural fiber, which could be unpleasant to some.
The woven texture creates a great grip that all yogis require for their practice, and is especially suitable for hot yoga. They are eco-friendly and all natural, without any harmful substances. Unlike rubber mats, cotton mats don’t deteriorate in direct sunlight or with heat and are likely to last a good 15 years or more.
We recommend our cotton Ayurvedic Yoga Mat. Made in India from organic cotton, they are sustainable, ethical, aromatherapeuthic, antibacterial, antifungal, and moisture-absorbing.
They offer a great grip and are slip resistant thanks to special grip lines at both ends of the mat. This naturally creates a better alignment and keeps your hands and feet in place throughout your entire yoga practice. The mats have natural latex coating on the underside of the mat, which provides a strong floor grip. The latex comes directly from the rubber trees, avoiding any additional substances, preservatives, or chemicals.
Our yoga mats are ethical, handmade from organic cotton & dyed naturally with medicinal herbs, which is an ancient Ayurvedic method of dying fabric using plants. The roots, flowers, leaves, seeds and barks of more than 20 medicinal herbs are used to make the dyes. The skin, which is our largest organ, absorbs the medicinal herbs that have created a micro-environment on the mat’s surface. When in contact with the skin, our therapeutic yoga mat fabric passes its medicinal properties obtained from the plants to the body, and enhances the skin’s potential to resist any harmful foreign substances.
The original Yoga mat
Our yoga mats are ethically handwoven in India, the birthplace of Yoga. Yoga rugs are the original mat design yoga was created & practiced on for centuries. We strive to combine ancient rituals & philosophies with modern design & functionality. Ayurveda is a traditional Indian healing system, but also the art of maintaining the body’s original harmonious state. Its aim is to maintain health and well-being by keeping the mind, body and spirit in balance.
A look at prices…
Just because the price of a product is affordable, it doesn’t mean it’s economical.
When purchasing an item that is significantly cheaper than others, you sacrifice the quality and often the lifespan of that product. The reason why most high-quality yoga mats are expensive is because better materials and more time are used to make it.
Our high-quality Ayurvedic yoga mats are made by hand, by local Indian artisans who spent years crafting their skills to ensure you get the best quality product, which represents their culture, tradition and commitment. We believe that by purchasing our Yoga Mats you are purchasing a functional piece of artisan craft and tradition that will add to how you experience yoga as a whole.Yoga is a spiritual practice, which is why our yoga mats are handmade in a peaceful setting by local craftsmen — made entirely by hand and in harmony with nature, creating an alternative to mass-produced mats in China that have flooded the market in recent years. We support the preservation of the traditions and forms of ancient art and are proud to provide livelihood for our weavers and their families with a real impact on the local community. We believe that this gives a deeper meaning and a different energy both to you and your entire yoga practice.