Why Buying Eco-Friendly Yoga Mats is Awesome!

How will you know if your yoga mat is eco-friendly? You will have to check the mat’s label stating which materials were used.  

If the yoga mat is made from manufactured plastics like PVC or synthetic rubber, then that is not eco-friendly. PVC mats can last for years or even decades after they were thrown away. It adds to the non-biodegradable trash stuck in our landfills. As it slowly breaks down, the plastic mat may release toxic chemicals into the air or will seep into the land or water.    

PVC has eco-friendlier alternatives such as EVA or TPE. However, they are still not naturally sourced and may contain toxic materials.  

Sustainable materials for yoga mats include natural rubber, jute, cotton, and cork. These use elements derived from trees, plants and their byproducts. They are biodegradable, non-toxic and were produced organically, meaning no chemicals were used during production. 

But going green is not just for the benefit of the environment; it has perks for you as well! Here are some reasons why buying eco-friendly yoga mats don’t just help the planet. 

It will not cause health conditions in the long run.

Cotton, wool, jute, cork and other organic materials are made from natural sources like trees and plants. Yoga mats made from these organic materials do not need toxic chemicals to be produced or manufactured. These will not release harmful byproducts that may contaminate the space you breathe or have contact with. 

Meanwhile, yoga mats made from synthetic and plastic polymers contain vinyl chloride, a chemical gas associated with increased risks of liver, brain and lung cancers, lymphoma and leukaemia.  

PVCs also use phthalates or softening agents used to make them flexible. Long-term exposure to phthalates may cause reproductive health and developmental problems. It is also considered a weak endocrine disruptor and androgen-blocking chemical. It was added to the list of chemicals known to cause cancer after a phthalate compound caused tumours and problems for lab rats. Phthalates are known to leach out from the materials and attach to dust, indoor air, food and water. High temperatures may also cause these chemicals to be released – a concern if you are practising hot yoga such as Bikram yoga.

Quite a grim scenario, making it worth taking precautions by choosing natural and organic yoga mats.  

It should not trigger any allergies, rashes or breakouts. 

As mentioned, yoga mats from sustainable materials are free from harmful chemicals that may leach out and contaminate the air you breathe and the space you move in.  

In the same way, short-term or long-term exposure to these organic mats should NOT cause headaches, nausea, asthma, rashes or eczema, problems that usually occur after having contact with synthetic and plastic materials containing substances like vinyl chloride and phthalates. 

However, if you have allergies to latex, you might want to steer clear of rubber mats. Natural rubber is derived from latex, the sap of rubber trees. Coming into contact with natural rubber through yoga mats may cause itchy skin and hives or worse, anaphylaxis.

It should not emit any foul or strong odour. 

Nothing screams “new yoga mat” than the smell it emits when you first open and unroll your mat. It should fade after a few days or weeks, especially after you sanitize and air out your mat.  

What exactly is this odour? It is the effect of the yoga mat “off-gassing” or discharging chemicals used during production. You may think of it as a chemical reaction! 

The catch is that these gasses or odours may be carcinogenic, especially if the yoga mat and its materials were synthetic or treated with toxic substances.  

These unpleasant odours may tend to be too strong, causing headaches, dizziness, nausea and nasal irritation.

Many natural materials are classified as odourless, like cotton, wool, and even natural rubber’s main component. However, dyes, glues and other substances were used or added during the production process, which may cause a funky smell. Meanwhile, jute or cork mats tend to have an earthy or grassy smell when fresh out of the packaging. 

It is breathable, absorbent and easy to clean.

Doing yoga can be quite a challenge, making you work up a sweat. This is why it is important to have an absorbent and breathable yoga mat. It soaks up all your perspiration as you do your poses. 

It also prevents that mat from collecting your sweat on the surface and making the area slippery. The body heat you release during the session will not stick to the mat. And after every session, these fabric mats can be thrown into the washing machine, getting it ready for your next yoga session. 

It is lightweight and portable. 

Except for natural rubber yoga mats, which are heavy and clunky, fabric yoga mats made from cotton and wool or light materials like jute and cork are soft, pliable and very light. 

These materials are the most convenient if you are the type to bring your mat along during travels or practically anywhere.  It will not take up too much storage space. 

Final Thoughts

Choosing which yoga mat to purchase entails a lot of factors: your budget, the mat’s thickness, durability, traction, design, type of material and more.  

But as you try to stay true to yoga’s vision of healing and reconnecting to the earth and the natural elements, you will also need to consider if your mat is made from wholesome and sustainable materials. 

You can learn more about the types of yoga mat materials in our article, Popular Yoga Mat Materials Explained.