The inspiration for this blog came from my recent purchase of a Yoga Direct Natural Rubber Yoga Mat in brown woodgrain. I think that this mat is so awesome that I need to tell as many people as I can about it! For years, I have been a consumer and advocate for yoga mats described/categorized as "performance" mats (like the Dragonfly Performance Pro Mat) or "professional" mats (like Manduka’s Black Mat Pro). I opted for performance mats over standard PVC sticky mats because I enjoyed the more rigid surface and the performance mats helped keep my sweaty hands from slipping during vinyasa practice.
As an avid yogi, I realize that it is of utmost importance for us as humans to adopt eco-friendly practices and attitudes as we travel along this journey that is life. Nonviolence and purity are two of the main tenets of yogic philosophy, and as such, we should treat our surroundings with kindness and connect deeply and spiritually with the natural world. After reading this last passage to myself just now, I am reminded of the expression "do as I do, not as I say"... Because when buying yoga products and accessories, I don’t "go green" unless I am given a darn good reason. I think rubber mats smell bad. And I usually (well … always) opt for the cheap $12 T.J.Maxx yoga pants versus the $90 locally hand made organic hemp yoga pants. But I recycle! That counts for something, right?
Sometimes all you need is a little personal push in the right direction to realign behaviors and ideals onto the correct path. Such is the case of the Subway yoga mat bread fiasco. In case you have been vacationing in a third world country or living in a cave the past two weeks, let me fill you in: it was recently brought to light that Subway (the fast food chain) uses a chemical called azodicarbonamide in its breads. Azodicarbonamide is not only used as a dough conditioner, it is also a foaming agent commonly found in yoga mats. This dubious chemical is believed by some to cause asthma or other lung problems in humans.
Upon further research, I came across additional materials sometimes found in yoga mats that are not labelled or categorized as "eco-friendly" that could be considered potentially toxic:
• Dangerous Dyes and Metals: Yoga Direct’s best sellers, the ¼" Yoga Mat and the 1/8" Yoga Mat are heavy metal-free, but many standard PVC mats include mercury, lead, and/or cadmium as binding agents and plastic softeners. These three metals have been linked to lung inflammation, pulmonary edema, respiratory distress, seizures, brain damage, sensory impairment and even death.
• PVC Itself: PVC, short for polyvinyl chloride and also known as vinyl, is a carcinogen — meaning it causes cancer. The process of manufacturing PVC is also dangerous because it creates ozone-depleting byproducts and waste that can seep into the ground and eventually into our drinking water. Other than cancer, PVC has been shown to hinder the reproductive systems of lab rats although no definitive study has been conducted on humans.
• Phthalates: Another plasticizer, used to soften plastic, is phthalates. Phthalates are highly unstable, and commonly leached into the skin and the atmosphere. Most people present with phthalates in their urine when tested. Potentially, phthalates can cause infertility, cancers, and asthma.
Even if you don’t give a hoot about the environment, you may be inclined to go green after hearing about all of these scary-sounding chemicals swimming around in your plastic yoga mat. After all, our mat is supposed to be our sacred space where we meditate and cultivate inner peace. How am I supposed to reach nirvana when I am too distracted by the idea that my yoga mat might open up wide and swallow me whole?
Finding an eco-friendly mat that you love can be a risky and costly task, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Jade mats are made from natural tree rubber and are nice and sticky, but they are very expensive. Other natural rubber mats smell like a tire store, and this odorous scent can be too strong and distracting for any indoor practice. If you are looking for a neutral-smelling yoga mat made primarily of natural tree rubber, check out the Yoga Direct Natural Rubber Yoga Mat: available in awesomely unique brown on brown woodgrain, olive green, or purple. If you are an eco-conscious yogi who is always on the go or are simply looking for a lighter weight yoga mat, check out Dragonfly Yoga’s Natural Rubber Lite Yoga Mat. Both of these mats combine the rigidity and skidlessness of their "performance" counterparts, but do not cause harm to the environment nor their owners!
What type of yoga mat do you use and why? If you have ever used a rubber-based yoga mat, what did you find appealing? What did you not like?