Like many other yoga enthusiasts, there aren’t a lot of things I won’t do to keep my body and the Earth as healthy as possible. And while the definition of “healthy” changes from individual to individual, if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s the use of eco-friendly yoga mats and exercise clothes. But, like anyone else, I also never want to compromise the quality of my practice with a mat that just doesn’t live up to the demands I make of it. Choosing to use an eco-friendly mat, however, doesn’t have to mean sacrificing all the benefits a great mat can provide.
Eco-friendly yoga mats are made from natural rubber, which is derived from the “rubber tree”, or Hevea brasiliensis. If you want to learn more about how natural rubber is made, check out this article.
Things to Consider:
- Soft vs. hard (thin vs. thick)
- Average of 5mm is ideal for most yoga styles, especially with Hatha or Vinyasa (if you’re unfamiliar with these terms, here’s a link to a quick introduction to yoga styles)
- You might prefer a thicker one if you’re doing a more meditative style of yoga (This is particularly if you don’t want to feel like you’re lying on the ground during savasana, or if you experience joint pain during kneeling poses)
- Slippery vs. sticky
- You want traction, especially in more strenuous forms of yoga (a stickier mat is helpful if you tend to slip during downward dog on a synthetic mat, for example)
- Smooth vs. rough
- For the same reasons as the need for a stickier mat, you want one that is a bit rough. Traction is key, but you don’t want to be uncomfortable during relaxation/meditative poses
- Choosing a mat that is “somewhat rough” is a good rule of thumb, and your definition will vary as you gain experience using different types of yoga mats
- The style of yoga you do also plays a fairly key role in how rough your mat should be; play around a bit and find what works for you!
- On average, eco-friendly mats don’t tend to last as long as those made of synthetic rubber, but if you do your research, you’ll easily be able to find yourself a mat that will last several years of daily use before showing much wear and tear
- I’ve been using the Manduka eKO Yoga Mat on a (more or less) daily basis for about three years, and it’s still in great condition (some barely noticeable fraying on the edges, but I have to admit that this is probably a result of the hundreds of times I’ve just thrown it into the trunk of my car)
- In comparison, my old (not eco-friendly) yoga mat started thinning in places after less than two years!
- Eco-friendly yoga mats almost always cost more than their synthetic counterparts, but this is a small price to pay for all the health and environmental benefits you’re getting out of it
- Some brands offer pretty competitive costs (many under $100, and even some under $50, like the Gaiam Earth Lovers Yoga Mat)
- In all honesty, if you’re going to invest your time and energy into doing yoga, it makes sense to want to practice on a mat that isn’t made of synthetic rubber
- Natural rubber is going to have a particular smell no matter where you buy it, but there are lots of options that have a less noticeable smell
- I’ve personally never been bothered by it. If anything, it smells a lot better than synthetic rubber, and the smell fades the same way it would with a synthetic rubber yoga mat
- Most mats can be aired out for a day or two after you buy them, which tends to get rid of the majority of the smell
- If all else fails, you can always use a yoga spray
- Not only can you find scents that’ll help ground you in your yoga poses, but yoga sprays will also clean and disinfect your mat as well! (This is particularly useful with something like the Jade Yoga Harmony Professional Yoga Mat. This mat is made of “open cell” rubber which, while great for making sure you don’t slip on your mat, can pose as a breeding ground for bacteria if not properly cared for)
Choosing a Yoga Mat:
Now that we know what to look for in an eco-friendly yoga mat, what are the best options? While I haven’t personally tried all the yoga mats on this list, all of them come recommended to me from friends!
This is my current yoga mat, and has lasted me a few years of more or less daily use. I can confidently say that this is my favourite yoga mat: it’s durable, it’s sticky enough that I feel comfortable doing acro yoga on it, but not so sticky that it affects my flow yoga, and it’s the perfect softness (5mm thick, with a cotton/polyester reinforcement). It also comes in a lot of colours. I have the two-tone midnight blue mat, as well as a two-tone green mat (the colour seems to be discontinued, but there are still so many others to choose from!) Not to mention its $88 – $92 price tag, which might seem a bit steep at first glance, but you can’t really beat this mat’s durability.
This mat is another one of my favourites, and comes at about the same price as the eKO mat ($90). In terms of performance, it’s just as good as the eKO mat, and gets bonus points for portability. It has a bit of a “no frills” design, which isn’t for everyone, but it’s perfect for minimalists.
The most enticing thing about this mat is obviously its $35 price tag, but it has a lot more to offer than just that! It’s comfortably thick and the texture is perfect for any type of flow yoga, and with its closed-cell design, can even be used for the sweatiest workouts without having to worry about bacteria getting into the mat. I wouldn’t recommend this mat to anyone doing intense acro yoga, as the grip isn’t ideal with this style of yoga, but it’s the perfect mat for beginners.
At over $120, this is probably one of the most expensive yoga mats out there, but it’s still a great option. You need to be careful when buying Prana yoga mats, because some of them aren’t the most durable (i.e., the E.C.O. Sticky Mat, which has been known to fall apart within half a year). The Natural Yoga Mat however, is durable enough to last you a few years of daily use, provided you take care of it. This mat isn’t the best option if you suffer from any kind of joint pain, just because it’s a bit thinner than other mats, however the thinness and the rough texture of this mat is ideal for anyone who likes to feel more “grounded” during their yoga practices.
I can’t go without mentioning the Harmony Professional Yoga Mat from Jade Yoga. Even if you aren’t too familiar with eco-friendly yoga mats, you’ve probably heard of the Jade Yoga mats just because of the incredible amount of celebrity endorsement this brand has received in the past few years. It’s definitely a good mat for beginners, even with its mid-high price averaging around $100. It’s important to note that with its open-cell construction, it’s not an ideal choice for hot yoga (or anything too sweaty), as it’s significantly harder to clean than a closed-cell mat. However, if you’re looking for a comfortable, sticky mat, this is a good choice.