Yoga is Great Exercise The popularity of yoga is growing, and for good reason, it’s a great form of exercise. You need very little equipment, a towel, water bottle and a yoga mat.
Not all Mats are Created Equal The type of mat you use can make your yoga experience bliss or it can be a headache ~ literally from toxic chemicals. While yoga has become one of the fastest growing exercises, not surprisingly, so has the yoga-prop industry.
Everyone is making and selling yoga mats, and it’s usually not something many give consideration to, unless you’ve had a bad experience your first time around. If by chance you started off with a good mat, you’re lucky. Most chain store mats are filled with chemicals. Yoga mats can be a source of horrible toxins. Many yoga and pilates mats are made of cheap PVC plastic, foam and chemicals that off-gas into your breathing space as you practice your Sun Salutations or Hundred. Breathing in chemicals is not cool, VOC’s are an industry term that labels the toxicity of chemicals that are emitted from all sorts of products from building materials, paints, furniture and yes, yoga mats.
As far as VOC’s go, your Nose Knows well. You know, the new carpet/new furniture/new home/new yoga mat smell. Those are VOC’s and chances are if they don’t bother you in the first five minutes, they will begin to bother you over time. Storing your bag in a plastic or vinyl mat bag won’t help either, and exposing it to heat (like keeping it in your car on a hot summer day) will cause the chemicals to off-gas into your surroundings.
Pure Choices are Easy to Find So what’s a yogi to do? There are plenty of Pure, Natural options in yoga mats. I didn’t have to look far to find some really nice ones and now they are the only brands I use. When you look for a yoga mat, skip past all the cute patterns (which may contain harmful inks and paints with lead) and read what materials the mat is made of. There are companies who make PVC-free mats which may be OK, but they are still made of some chemical compound to make the foam pad (most “pilates” mats are these cushy materials and a little thicker than a yoga mat). I guess I look at my yoga mats like whole foods (are you surprised??). I like to know what’s in them: no mystery ingredients that may or may not be harmful to me.
I’ve found a couple of companies that make natural rubber yoga mats. These mats are not only Pure, they have great traction. Traditional “sticky” mats lose their stick-um over time as the oils from your hands and feet coat the mat. Natural rubber mats stay sticky naturally and don’t need to be “broken-in”. They are fantastic for hot and sweaty Bikram Yoga. They do wear out over time, but so do the chemical filled mats. Check out my list below for 15 ways to recycle your old yoga mat.
Take Care of Your Mat DIY Yoga Mat Sprays are popular in studios when you’ve got students sharing props. There are some essential oils good for cleaning many surfaces, not all of them are not safe for yoga mats. Some essential oils clean gently, others are powerful solvents that will break down yoga mat materials when you subject them to powerful essential oils, especially if they are not diluted well.
Gently purifying oils = Lavender, Melaleuca alternifolia (also known as Tea Tree Oil), Geranium & Palma Rosa
Oils that you should avoid using on your yoga mat because they will degrade materials and shorten the life span of your props: Citrus oils: Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Tangerine. Cinnamon & Clove should be fine as long as you dilute them well.
Essential oils that are purifying: Lavender, Melaleuca alternifolia (also called tea tree oil), Geranium, Rosemary, Palma Rosa.
Avoid citrus oils that will break down mat over time and shorten mat life: Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lime, Lemon, Orange, Tangerine.
- 1 Eight ounce glass spray bottle
- 6 ounces Purified water
- 2 ounces Vinegar
- Essential oils of your choice
- Add vinegar to the glass spray bottle
- Mix in 10 drops essential oils of choice
- Fill remainder with purified water
- Shake gently before using
- Spray down mat and wipe with a microfiber cloth
- Air dry before rolling mat up for storage
You Get What You Pay For Organic cotton is another option in a yoga mat, but this would be more for Restorative yoga where you don’t need traction for poses like Down dog. When you look at prices of natural rubber mats or organic cotton, it can be expensive if you compare it to a chemical mat, but they are worth far more their price just in the form of a natural element for your yoga practice.
Invest in Your health A natural rubber, chemical free mat will help you focus on your yoga poses, not fill you with worry about what chemicals you’re breathing in or soaking up through your feet. If you practice yoga 2-3 times a week, your mat could last you at least a year, probably longer. Natural rubber mats are worth the investment for your health, and they feel good under your feet. Peace of mind, clear air and stability.
One other thing you should consider when looking for a yoga mat is the length. If you are taller or have long arms and legs, you might want to consider a longer mat. Mat generally come in a 24″ width (Jade Yoga sells a 28″ width) and 68-74″ long.
Here are my favorite ones,
1. Manduka eKO natural rubber mat, comes in a traditional thickness and thinner travel size. Manduka has partnered with Recycle Your Mat, if you send in your old PVC, latex or chemical yoga mat, they’ll send you a coupon for 20% off a new Manduka mat.
2. Jade is my second favorite natural rubber mat. They come in bright colors and the company often donates a percentage of the proceeds to good causes like Breast Cancer Research. The Jade yoga mats I’ve used have been solid performers in my yoga practice offering a strong, stable foundation that gives me power where I want it, and not a worry about slipping hands or feet.
3. Gaiam Yoga Studio is a great resource for all things organic including yoga apparel and props. They are a good resource if you are interested in an organic cotton mat.
Before you re-use an old yoga mat, consider if it is made of natural materials or man-made chemicals like PVC or foam. Chemical yoga mats are not suitable for re-use where children will be handling them, they’ll come into contact with food or they’ll be exposed to heat like in a car during the summer where they’ll release more yukky chemicals. Companies like Manduka offer recycling of your man-made mats (not the natural rubber, though) and you can get a coupon for 20% off a new natural rubber mat! Here are more ways to Reclaim Your Yoga Mat:
1. Use under another mat for extra padding during your workout.
2. Line your pet’s cage for extra padding and to make clean up easier.
3. Donate to an animal shelter for use in animal cages.
4. Cut out shapes or numbers for kid’s to play with.
5. Line kitchen shelves to protect cups and plates.
6. Use as packing material for shipping or moving.
7. Keep one rolled up in your car trunk to use as a dry seat at sporting activities,picnics or to change a flat tire.
8. Cut up smaller pieces for use as a kneeling pad for cleaning or gardening.
9. Donate to a nursing home for use as a non-slip surface by beds or in showers.
10. Use as extra padding for sleeping outdoors.
11. Cut up small pieces and adhere with non-toxic glue to furniture feet to protect wood floors.
12. Use under an area rug to prevent slipping.
13. Place a small square under pet dishes to keep them from sliding around.
14. Place small square under plant pots to protect furniture surfaces.
15. Cut up and use for baseball bases outside.
How have you recycled an old yoga mat? Leave your ideas in the comments section below, I’d love to hear from you!
*My links are affiliates and when you shop these companies through this site, it’s a small way you can support the Pure Home and Body website if you’ve found my information useful, thanks!