Since yoga is all about being one with the universe, yogis and yoginis should know that those mats they're saluting the sun on are made of what Greenpeace is calling the most ecologically harmful plastic on the planet; also known as PVC.
The reason yoga mats are so squishy is because of the chemical softeners, or phthalates. So if you've ever unrolled your mat and gone into the downward facing dog pose only to be wafted in the face with harsh fumes, that's why. The US Environmental Protection Agency has regulated these phthalates as both water and air pollutants. There are also numerous health issues related to the inhalation of phthalates. It affects the endocrine system, reproduction and fertility, child development, as well as the brain, nervous, and immune systems. Just how are you supposed to pose your way to enlightenment and inner peace when your yoga mat is off-gassing over 108 different chemicals?
Honor your body and the environment by practicing yoga on a mat made of natural rubber, jute, organic hemp, organic cotton, bamboo, or thermal plastic elastomer (TPE). Here are five brands that offer PVC-free, Earth-friendly yoga mats. Namaste!
GREEN YOGA MATS TO LOOK AT
Barefoot Yoga Co. carries “the Original Eco Yoga Mat,” rated number one by The New York Times for its environmental friendliness. The mat is made of natural rubber, jute – vegetable fibre, and contains some latex, but is fully biodegradable. These 4mm mats also come in four earthy colors including natural, deep lavender, ash grey, and coral pink.
Barefoot Yoga Co. also offers a Natural Jute and PER Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat made from jute, of course, and polymer environmental resin. These combined ingredients offer the strength of conventional fiberglass mesh, with all the same grippy, cushiony texture, but the mat remains biodegradable and phthalate- and latex-free. The Jute/PER mats are also easy to clean because they're machine washable!
Gaiam carries a Natural Cotton Mat made with an unbleached, undyed natural cotton shell (that's machine washable) stuffed with untreated natural cotton batting. Not only is the mat made from eco-friendly materials and free of PVC, it's handcrafted for an extra supportive surface, which makes it a great product for yoga practitioners of all experience levels and ages. As an added bonus, one customer review on the Gaiam site says the mat is also great for the occasional nap!
Rawganique carries natural rubber yoga mats in addition to hand-woven, 100 percent organic hemp mats. Not only are Rawganique's mats free of PVC, synthetics, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), they're also sweatshop-free. These organically-grown European hemp mats, which have been featured in The Yoga Journal , are available in five different colors and only cost about $49 a piece. Apparently, they also make great decorative rugs as well!
The Organic Gift Shop carries a ZUURA Yoga Mat that's made of bamboo, one of the planet's most sustainable and fastest growing plants. The ZUURA Mat is great for adding support beneath your regular mat, or on its own on any outdoor surface such as sand, grass, or cement. Buying a ZUURA Mat is good for the earth because bamboo regenerates so quickly and it's a wise investment because it's made of an incredibly strong natural material.
Paragon Sports sells the sustainable Hugger-Mugger Earth Elements Yoga Mat that's made from a newly developed and patented thermal plastic elastomer (TPE) foam. The Hugger-Mugger Mat is not only biodegradable and recyclable, it contains no latex, PVC, or rubber, and its production is free of toxic materials. The patterned surface provides a ‘dry-sticky' traction, while its closed-cell construction prevents the absorption of fluids.