What is an “eco” yoga mat and where can I get one?

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Ever wondered what the difference between a normal yoga mat and one with an “eco”label is? Well, yoga mats are typically made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which has been found to be bad for both your body and the environment. “Eco” yoga mats, on the other hand, are usually made from a natural rubber or jute that is biodegradable and less harmful to your health and that of the planet.

PVC is rigid in its original state and needs a number of additives to turn it into a usable form; but many of these additives can have a negative impact on us and the environment…

Phthalates are one of the world’s most common environmental pollutant and have been linked to cancer and infertility. They are a group of chemical used to make plastics more flexible, and as well as yoga mats, they can be found in products like vinyl flooring, plastic clothes, and adhesives. Research on the human population has shown phthalates can irritate the eyes, skin and nose, cause headaches and nausea, and contribute to the incidence of asthma (The Guardian, 2015; Greenpeace, 2007); so they really aren’t something you want to be lying on during your practice!

PVC is also considered to be toxic as it is one of the largest users of chlorine gas in the world. Dioxins are a by-product of chlorine use and they are chemically stable, meaning they don’t degrade easily and due to the extensive use of plastic they now exist in all environmental compartments (atmosphere, soil, water, animals, etc.). They resist metabolic breakdown and have a half-life of at least 7 years inside the human body (Greenpeace, 2007)! They have been found to be carcinogenic and have also been linked to decreased testosterone production, altered glucose tolerance and ability of the immune system, and irreversible harm to a developing foetus (Schecter, 2013).

So, using a PVC mat in fact works against your efforts towards a healthy mind and body (Hutchinson, 2009). Instead, opt for a natural “eco” mat that is less disruptive to you and the environment. Wondering where to get one? Here are some of the brands I recommend:

Liforme 

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Liforme founder, James Armitage, spent 5 years developing the Liforme Yoga Mat in collaboration with suppliers in China, and he continues to spend a great deal of time with them to ensure eco-friendly and fair practices. The bulk of the Liforme mat is made of a natural rubber, the top layer composed of an engineered form of polyurethane. The top and bottom layers of the mat are biodegradable, unlike PVC mats that will sit in landfill for years and years.

Despite being a relatively small-scale company, they have also taken steps to ensure the process of packaging and delivery is as efficient as possible, with three warehouses strategically placed across the globe to try to reduce travel emissions. They use only recyclable outer packaging, and avoid the use of bubble wrap and plastic. Their logistical partner, Elite Worldwide, was also selected based on their commitment to the environment, as the first carbon neutral logistics company!

Liforme are also focused on ensuring you stay centered throughout your practice and maintain the correct alignment. Their AlignForMe system helps you navigate between the intelligent markers on the mat, indicating where you should place yourself during your flow. Here’s how it works…

Perfect your assanas

Get your Liforme mat here.

ecoYoga

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ecoYoga mats are made from 100% natural rubber and hessian. These are biodegradable plant-based materials so at the end of a mat’s life, it can be composted. They are made in the UK  to ensure safe and fair labour practices, and their Scottish jute supplier has long family business relationships in India and Bangladesh and works only with government factories (all ISO-9001 certified) where standards can be monitored.

Get yours here.

Sweaty Betty

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The Sweaty Betty ‘eco’ yoga mat is made of TPE, thermo plastic elastomer, which is supposed to be less harmful than PVC as it is free from BPA, PVC, Lead, Phthalates, Dioxins and other biologically toxic chemicals. The Sweaty Betty mat is also free of Latex, which many people are allergic to, and is fully recyclable and degradable.

Sweaty Betty currently stock the 6mm eco mat in the orange (pictured) and a charcoal grey. It comes complete with a carry strap and two different grip patterns to suit both normal and hot yoga. They also stock the Liforme mats online in blue and grey. Get yours here.

Read more about Sweaty Betty and sustainability in my last post here.

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Finally, what about performance? Are there any compromises that need to be made when switching to an eco mat?

Well, eco yoga mats vary significantly between brands. Some thin, some thick; some sticky, some smooth; some light, some heavy – it’s always worth checking one out before you buy it if you can. Some eco yoga mats also have a slight smell from the natural rubber; I found this slightly with my pink Liforme mat (pictured) but it isn’t very strong or offensive a scent! A few reviews have also found they don’t last as long as PVC mats, but that is to be expected as they are made of natural materials. I’ve had my Liforme mat for just a few months and after weekly yoga sessions it’s still in great condition. It also has good grip and is super easy to clean. It’s a little heavier than typical mats, but it comes with a sleek grey carry bag so it’s easy to sling over your shoulder and transport.

Eco yoga mats do tend to cost more than conventional ones, with prices starting at around £20-30. As eco mats may need to be replaced more frequently, they will require more investment, but this is definitely worthwhile to avoid the harmful health and environmental impacts a PVC mat can cause. And after all, it’s an investment in your health and wellbeing, encouraging you to find peace and practice more often.

What do you think? Do you have an eco yoga mat? What would you like me to write about next? Comment below and let me know! Z x

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