This morning as I stared down at my yoga mat I was filled with apprehension. No, I wasn’t concerned about the impending handstand that my instructor would soon call out or lugging my tired body into sun salutations all too early in the morning. This was about the mat that I had called home for so long.
Was my affectionately named “magic carpet” laden with toxic PVC? To be completely honest I’ve had my mat for years and have gone through spurts where I didn’t even use it all, citing the importance of a more traditional practice. So all the hype behind eco-mats went in one ear and out the other. But then I learned from the folks over at Fearless Revolution that I could be doing my poses atop PVC.
Many mats are made from polyvinyl chloride, better known as PVC, which is widely considered one of the most toxic plastics. The main ingredient in PVC is vinyl chloride, which is a known carcinogen. And dioxins are byproducts of its manufacturing. More plasticizers are then added to make the mats soft and they come with additional phthalates, used in a wide variety of personal care products in the U.S., though banned in the EU. Phthalates are known for causing developmental issues and cancer.
These toxins not only pose risks for those innocently saluting the sun on their mat, but those that produce the mats are constantly in contact with these dangerous chemicals. And PVC does not biodegrade so it will sit in a landfill until long after your yoga days have passed.
So with this is mind I took a closer look at my mat. It was difficult to remember its origin as the distinguishing label had long been peeled off with years of sweaty asana. But a short bout of research uncovered that my mat was The Black Mat Pro by Manduka.
The Taj Mahal of Yoga Mats
And it’s questionably sustainable. Here’s why: it’s been called the "Taj Mahal of all yoga mats" because it provides an impact resistant practice and more importantly, it has a lifetime guarantee. And I can confidently say that it does last as I’ve had mine for five years without even a whisper of needing a replacement. It’s this lifetime guarantee that makes it a questionably better choice than an eco-mat that has to be replaced every few years.
But the downside is that it’s made with Oeko-Tex certified, emissions-free manufacturing PVC. So while the PVC won’t make me sick while I’m ambitiously breathing my ujjayi breath, it’s not going to biodegrade in a landfill like other more earth-friendly mats.
If I had it to do over again, based on ingredients and performance, I would choose the Original Eco Yoga Mat by Barefoot, which is made from all-natural rubber and jute fiber. The jute fiber provides a natural means to avoid slippage and, like the Manduka, it lasts a long time. Pablo Paster also has some great ideas for choosing a more responsible mat.
Or you could go sans yoga mat entirely just like the ancient yogis. Yoga is about detaching from the material objects and consumption that you wrongly think will make you happy, and what if your yoga mat is just one more manmade attachment, eco-friendly or not?