Are you in the market for a new yoga mat? I needed a new one last year and did some research on some of the typical materials used to produce yoga mats. I found some better and worse choices out on the marketplace.
For around $15 you can get a PVC yoga mat, but this is probably your worst choice in terms of both your health and the environment. The ‘plastic’ or ‘chemical’ smell released from your new yoga mat is due to the off-gassing of chemicals from the vinyl product. Toxic chemical off-gassing from PVC products are said to contribute to respiratory irritation, damage to the central nervous system, liver and kidneys, nausea, headaches and loss of coordination. Phthalates, a group of chemicals which are endocrine disruptors, are added to the PVC to make it soft and flexible. Also, over time, it breaks down, releasing dioxin, which is very toxic. To add insult to injury, after you throw it out, it sits in the landfill for about 500 years. Do you really want your yoga mat choice to make such an impact on the environment?
The other choices out on the market are latex, also called rubber, which is a natural material harvested from rubber trees. This is a great choice, environmentally speaking. However, if you have a latex allergy, as I do, then it’s not a good personal choice. There is also a smell associated with rubber mats that can take a while to dissipate, and they are the most expensive mats on the marketplace as well. Rubber mats are available at sporting goods stores, such as Mountain Equipment Co-Op or Lululemon.
TPE or thermoplastic elastomer is a good option for a couple of reasons. It breaks down in the landfill after you’re done with it, doesn’t smell at all after about a week, is nice and “grippy” which is great for any type of ashtanga or vinyasa yoga, and is almost as inexpensive as the PVC mats.
This was the choice that I went with about a year ago, and I am very pleased with it. I paid $20 at Winners (a TJX store like TJMaxx in the States or TKMaxx in England). It has performed extremely well over the last year, with no signs of degradation. I do, however, always use a yoga towel on top of it, which I find much more hygienic as I can easily wash the towel whereas the mat itself is tricky to wash and dry. If you do wash your mat, make sure NOT to dry it in the sun, as this will cause some degradation to start.
So do yourself and the environment a favour and choose a yoga mat which degrades in the landfill.