Just like all yoga is not created equal. All yoga mats aren’t created equal. Why not? Beyond stating the obvious, “you get what you pay for” cliche, different mats are made for different yoga styles.
You may need a yoga mat that allows you to travel with ease or for hot and non-heated yoga classes. You might be concerned about your current mat’s environmental impact. On the other hand, you might be a beginner to yoga that doesn’t know where to begin. This guide will teach you all there is to know about yoga mats, what yoga mats are made of, and what you should look for in a mat.
Yoga Mat Materials
The most common type of yoga mat is made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC mats have a semi-sticky texture and are dense.
The materials make it easy to clean and resistant to bacterial growth.
Mats made with PVC can be used in any condition. PVC mats are often the first mat most people start with because they’re cheap and everywhere. There are downsides to PVC mats though.
While the mats are decent, there are some issues surrounding PVC.
They’re not eco-friendly. The materials used to make PVC yoga mats aren’t biodegradable or recyclable. They essentially live forever in the landfill.
Another issue with PVC mats is possible health concerns.
Not only are the materials to make PVC yoga mats not eco-friendly, but they may also be hazardous to your health. The main concern is over the ingredient phthalates.
To make the mats soft and flexible, this plasticizer is added. Unfortunately, phthalates are a human carcinogen. It’s linked to birth defects, asthma, fertility issues, and cancer.
In recent years, many companies have moved forward in making products phthalate-free. You may see labels that say EVA or PEVA.
These are considered to be safer alternatives to PVC. But despite being called safer alternatives, many still have concerns over the chemicals used to make them.
Rubber (Natural, Recycled, or Biodegradable)
Natural rubber mats are also known as latex. These mats are made with rubber that comes from the sap of rubber trees. The trees are found in South America and some parts of Asia. Rubber mats are highly regarded.
They’re made using open-cell technology. Open-cell technology retains sweat and oils but makes it great for gripping.
However, you will have to do a more thorough cleaning and more often than with other types of mats. Rubber mats are denser than most of the mats on the market which makes them a little heavier and harder to transport around but better for comfort and durability.
Rubber mats are also environmentally friendly.
They’re biodegradable because of how they’re sourced and made. This is a huge contrast to PVC yoga mats. There are some issues with rubber mats though.
One issue that might pose for some people is latex. Those who are allergic will have to skip out on using a rubber mat.
Another issue that could pose a threat is the rubber itself. Sometimes, it’s farmed and harvested irresponsibly.
This poses problems with deforestation and wildlife. It’s important to note that some companies use unsustainable methods to harvest rubber.
If you can, try to only buy from companies that use ethical and sustainable practices like Jade and Manduka. You can read about jade yoga mats and their practices here. You can read more about Manduka yoga mats here.
Jute yoga mats are made from the fiber of the Corchorus genus species. These fibers are often used to make burlap and are the second most-produced next to cotton.
It’s cultivated in India and Bangladesh and requires less water, fertilizer, and pesticides unlike cotton and other similar materials.
Jute feels like burlap but not as abrasive. Those not used to this type of material may have to get used to the feel. It’s grippy and sweat absorbent. This makes it easy for practicing the harder yoga poses.
Jute mats are also versatile. They can be used in different environments like hot studios, or non-heated classes. Unlike rubber mats, they are free from latex.
Jute mats are a great alternative for those that want an eco-friendly and versatile mat but are allergic to latex. They’re also biodegradable and come from a renewable source.
There are a few downsides to a Jute mat though.
One is the comfort level. Jute mats can be a little stiff and new users will need to adjust to the feel. Often, they’re combined with foam padding or with TPE under the mat for added comfort.
For some, this doesn’t pose an issue, but others may not want to pay extra for padding. Another issue is the thinness. Sure, it makes the mat lightweight, but it also takes away from the comfort.
Many yogis who practice vigorous types of yoga tend to avoid this kind of mat for that reason (unless it’s combined with a foam base to make it thicker and more comfortable).
TPE yoga mats are considered to be a safer alternative to PVC mats but the jury is still out. It’s recyclable and isn’t made with as many harsh chemicals or materials such as phthalates or heavy metals.
TPE also uses closed-cell technology.
This means it’s waterproof, easier to clean, cheaper, lightweight, and more durable than open-cell technology mats. However, there are som