Guide to the Best Non-Toxic & Eco-Friendly Yoga Mats 2022

April 26, 2022

Choosing Non-toxic Yoga Mat Materials

There are many yoga mat materials available and eco-friendly yogis have the option to choose a natural rubber yoga mat, a cork mat or a cotton mat.

Natural Rubber Yoga Mat

Cork Yoga Mat

Yogis are often surprised that rubber can be made into yoga mats. Resin is harvested from rubber tress which go through a fermenting process, then machines to cut and create the yoga mats. These mats are often described as having a combination of natural and man-made components.

Yoga products made of cork have gained popularity recently due to their sustainability. Cork is a natural product - it is harvested by peeling the bark off the trees (they never have to be cut down).

Cotton Mat

Cotton yoga mats offer a traditional and classic platform for yoga practice. These mats are not only made of natural materials, it is hypoallergenic, keeps the body cool and does not pollute the environment. 

In the Beginning, There Was Yoga

Yoga has been practiced without mats for a thousand years. From its beginnings in India, the yoga sutras, as codified by Patanjali, formed the theory and practice of the art of yoga.

The science of yoga is based on a meditative and spiritual tradition, as described by Master Patanjali. He wrote of Ashtanga yoga as having eight limbs with the asanas being one of these parts.

Ultimately, the goal for the yogi is to unite the self/soul with its essential nature and, in the end, find liberation and achieve Samādhi.

For the physical part of the journey, the practice consisted of asanas, that were initially performed on the ground without the aid of any foundation or mat. Eventually, early yogis began to use deer, tiger, and various animal skins.

Cloth made of natural materials became popular in the 1800s as the postures advanced and became more physically challenging. Cotton and wool rugs were used to provide a better base with cushioning and stability.

The Introduction of Plastic or “Sticky Mats”

In the 1960s, yoga gained popularity in the West. The introduction of the so-called ‘sticky mat’ began with a yogini named Angela Farmer. She believed it would be more comfortable to use foam carpet as padding and created an innovative makeshift mat out of it.

By the 1990s, Sara Chambers had innovated a much durable and sturdy mat specifically designed for asana practice. The ‘sticky mat’ took hold in the modern yoga practice.

Yoga has since become a billion-dollar business. Mass-produced mats, machine-made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or other extruded plastic-based materials have become more popular. They’ve been widely used today because of convenience.

PVC is made from reacting chlorine, carbon, and ethylene (a product of petrol) together. Later, phthalates are added to the mix to make it soft and pliable.

The basic raw materials for PVC are derived from salt and oil. The electrolysis of saltwater produces chlorine. The chlorine is then combined with ethylene that has been obtained from oil. The resulting element is ethylene dichloride, which is converted at very high temperatures to vinyl chloride monomer. This is all highly reliant on the use of fossil fuels.

The result is a cheap and cheerful yoga mat- but how long will it last? A PVC mat is initially a cheaper option, but over time, it can cost the yogi much more.

What’s the final destination for a PVC mat after its usefulness is exhausted?

The options for reuse or recycle are limited. PVC requires further chemical processing to transform a mat into another PVC product.

Most PVC mats are destined for landfills. Some end up contributing to the toxic problem of plastic waste in our oceans. It’s estimated that every year, approximately 1.6 million barrels of oil are used just for producing plastic water bottles. Plastic can take up to 1,000 years to decompose in landfills!

Practicing yoga on these types of materials may have a deleterious effect on the well-being of a yogi and should be avoided when possible.