Are Handmade Yoga Rugs Better Than Plastic Yoga Mats?

By Kevin Aylward (Founder, Yogasana) 

 

You spend hours on your yoga mat working on improving mind, body and spiritual connection.

Yoga mats are an essential part of your practice -- have you thought about how yours is made?

And the impact it has on the environment and your health? 

Not all yoga mats are made in the same way. Most rubber and plastic yoga mats are mass produced and extruded through machines. However, all of Yogasana’s organic cotton yoga rugs are made by hand and produced with eco-friendly practices.  

Why we love handmade yoga rugs:

 

Handcrafted Products Have a Higher Quality Level 

 

Previously, I worked at Amy's, a company that makes organic meals. In the U.S., they are a major brand in natural food stores and supermarkets. My first time visiting Amy's production facility, I was *shocked* to see that most of their food was (and still is) handmade.

 

Handmade? Not made by machines? 

 

Burritos are folded by hand, pizza crusts and tortillas are stretched by hand, and even the cheese is placed by hand on the pizza. I asked Amy’s owner why the products are handmade. After all, it seems inefficient. He told me,“All these processes could be automated and they would significantly reduce costs. But, this would mean the hand-made process would be eliminated, and that is the essence of Amy’s products.”

When I decided to start a yoga mat business, I adopted the same philosophy. This is why all of Yogasana's GOTS certified organic cotton yoga mats are all handcrafted.

 

Handmade Yoga Rugs Differ From Machine-Made Mats 

 

Our cotton yoga mats take a total of 10 days to make. All the work is completed by hand. There is no powered machinery. No electricity is used. We are providing jobs at our production facility that support 24 families in India. Because we value their contribution, we pay them more than the prevailing wage in the region. 

Organic cotton brown yoga rug with weaver's signature card

As with slow fashion, the making of our yoga rugs takes time. In the time it takes to make one Yogasana yoga rug, a mass market yoga mat maker extrudes thousands of mats. 

For each yoga rug, 3 of the 10 days are spent on the loom of a master weaver. Many of these craftsmen have worked with us for over 10 years.  Their pride in craftsmanship is displayed in their signature on a card affixed to the completed mat. The signature indicates the handoff from weaver to yogi. From their hands to your hands - from hands to hearts and back. This is the special nature of being made by hand. 

 

Yoga Rugs Made With Organic Cotton Make Yoga More Earth-Friendly

When I was developing our mats in India, I was advised by a yogi I met in Rishikesh. He expressed these thoughts on the materials and colors of a yoga mat:

“Yoga mats need to be made of natural materials (cotton/wool/silk) because this allows the energy to flow through the body and into the earth. A yoga mat should never be made of  rubber. Rubber is an insulator and blocks and inhibits the flow of subtle asana energies”
“Always choose light and bright colors because these types of colors are uplifting. The absolute last color one should choose for a yoga mat is ‘black’ (which isn’t a color at all) because it gives off a negative vibe that is antithetical to the practice of yoga.” 

I followed his advice and chose colors that represent the 5 elements: Earth - Fire - Water - Air - Ether. 

 

Feel How a Handmade Yoga Rug Differs From a Plastic Mat

Try this simple test. Place 2 mats side-by-side. One mat made of a natural material like cotton. The other mat is made of rubber or plastic (the dreaded kind). 

Now, try this:

  • Stand on each mat in Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
  • Observe what the connection to the earth feels like
  • Feel your connection to the earth

    Do you feel the difference on the cotton yoga rug? Most yogis say they do. Hand-made mats made from natural materials offer this type of connection. It is the essence of a Yogasana GOTS certified organic cotton yoga mat.

     

    weavers inspecting blue organic cotton yoga rug
    Handmade yoga rugs provide a unique experience

    Most of the time, you will come across machine-made plastic or rubber mats when you are shopping for yoga mats. While things are changing, you will still see a lot of machine-made yoga mats in yoga studios and in the homes of yogis.

    Reasons why machine-made yoga mats are popular:

    1. Cheaper than handmade
    2. Decent quality
    3. Easy to obtain

    Although machine-made yoga mats are popular, many of them are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is toxic during manufacturing and exposure.

    By planning and doing research, yogis discover why it is preferable to use handmade organic cotton yoga rugs. The answer can be summed up with one word: love. Love?

    Read more: PVC Yoga Mats: Safe or Toxic?

     

    Hand-Made With Love

    In a study in the Journal of Marketing, it was found that machine-made products lack the emotion of "Love":

    “Not another one is exactly like it: Unique gifts, one of the main reasons you should buy is the uniqueness. Each item turns out different and better, unlike machines that just duplicate. In handmade goods, the person involved in the production is keen to pay attention to details.”

    We make each yoga rug individually. No two are exactly alike. The materials and the hand-made process remain the same. Once in the weaver's hands, the order in which the three color yarns are linked together to form each colorway is completely their own. It's completely random. It is an entirely unique design. The yoga rug is uniquely yours.

    Read more: The Handmade Effect: What’s Love Got to Do with It?

     

    Closeup of weaver sewing Yogasana label on an organic cotton purple yoga rug
    Handmade, Eco-Friendly Yoga Rugs Make Great Investments

    In addition to the intrinsic value of handcrafted items, our cotton yoga rugs offer other advantages.

    • 15 year guarantee
      Our yoga rugs come with a 15 year warranty because we use the best materials and proprietary weaving techniques. Let that sink in. There is no warranty or guarantee with most yoga mats. Yoga practitioners will enjoy our cotton yoga rugs for 15+ years - this is equivalent to the lifecycle of six or seven rubber mats (assuming a 24 month replacement interval).
       
      • Sustainability
      A sustainable product or service is good for the environment. During the 15 years covered by our guarantee — the final destination for those 6 or 7 rubber mats is very likely a landfill. However, our beautiful yoga rugs will be removed and used as a colorful floor runner, an area rug, or as a meditation mat. Sustainability is an integral part of our eco-mission.

       

      • A return to the roots of yoga
        Yoga is rooted in natural materials made by hand. In meditation, the importance of a cotton or wool shawl is to insulate the body against the pull of the earth’s currents. 

         

        As a prelude to meditation, yoga is a way for the mind to draw energy from the senses to the soul. It's really all about the mind, but using natural materials to insulate the body helps to reverse the downward and outward pull of earth's currents and to increase the inward and upward pull of the life force. 

        Just as we remove our shoes and socks before yoga, we should remove obstacles that prevent us from grounding to the earth and balancing. For asana practice, cotton mats or rugs may yield more energetically pleasing results. Rubber mats don't provide any connection to the earth, and instead block the path for the energy to flow. 

         

        Conclusion: The Benefits of Handmade Yoga Rugs Over Plastic Yoga Mats

        Yogis prefer our handmade organic cotton yoga rugs over plastic or rubber mats because:

        1. Organic cotton will last longer than synthetic PVC substitutes (PER,TPE) or rubber
        2. Cotton yoga rugs do not contain chemicals (unlike conventional plastic mats)
        3. We make each yoga rug with care and love

        Test out an organic cotton yoga rug to see how it works for you. These machine washable organic cotton yoga rugs are great to bring your yoga practice outside and facilitate your connection to nature.

        And don't forget the magic ingredient in our yoga rugs - LOVE!

        Learn more: How to Choose an Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat

        Yoga girl doing a backbend pose on an orange organic cotton yoga mat with the ocean in the background.

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