Although its more economical to use the mat from the local studio at class, or to buy a cheap mat from Marshall’s or T.J. Maxx, local studio mats can have up to 100,000 bacteria per square inch, and el-cheapo mats can sometimes be made from non eco-friendly materials, and be of el-cheapo quality.
Who needs a yoga mat? (photo courtesy of anneliesrigterphotography.com)
Original yogis, and many to this day, in India didn’t (and still don’t) even use yoga mats…connection to the earth and stability through bare feet are optimal for a deeper yoga practice. Story goes, that B.K.S. Iyengar was teaching a class in the U.S. when he was slipping all over the place. Suddenly a student handed him a non-slippery rug…hence…the yoga mat was born.
While in India, the ashram I studied at used simple rugs. These yogis are using something a little less conventional... (photo courtesy of incomingindia.com)
However, for the average Joe, me, a yoga mat is a great tool to gain stability and to create a non-slippery space for oneself, in a class, or anywhere you “lay your mat”.
Most yoga mats are made with PVC’s (polyvinyl chloride) which is a highly toxic plastic to prevent slipping. However, there have been some pretty cool advances in yoga technology to make mats eco-friendly, biodegradable, less ‘gross’ (using microban technology), and non toxic ,while new sites are offering services in which you can design your own mat! (and it gets even crazier…further down in the post)
Yogamatic provides a custom design service…
Design your own inspirational mat...even with a photo...at YOGAMATIC.COM (Click here)...a little pricey...but I would love to take some personal time on a space that's personally inspired!
Even celebs have joined the yogamatic craze....
For some sustainable yoga mat purchases…try Jade Yoga mats. They plant a tree when you buy one of their eco-friendly mats! Their Harmony mat is also one of the best around (although they are a splurge at about $60 a pop)! Click here.
Jade Harmony Yoga mats come in an array of colors
These Chakra yoga mats below, are on sale at yogaacessories.com and are so unique! They feature the Chakras (from root to crown) on a variety of corresponding rainbow colors to help focus your energies, mind and spirit. They are also long at 72″ and extra thick at 1/4″! Click here to purchase at only $24.95.
Chakra yoga mat
To support a local business…for all you Bostonians…try a mat from Lotuspad in Cambridge…and they eve are developing carbon-free shipping solutions for those not in the area, and they do BIKE DELIVERY for those who are local! The mats are wonderful, as well!
Lotuspad yoga mats in Cambridge, MA (click here)
These all natural yoga mats, below, from 3Guna Ayurveda are more for meditation, but they are super comfy-looking, fair trade and made with organic materials.
3Guna Ayurveda yoga mat
Some eco friendly yoga mats from bluelotus.com made form natural tree rubbers (click here)
treehugger.com makes a wonderful eco-friendly mat as well! (click here)
You can also personalize your yoga mat with self-adhesive mantras and designs from omtime.com
A variety of mantras and designs on inspirational mats that are PVC-free available at (matsmatsmats.com)
For some more cool yoga mat designs…try matsmatsmats.com (above)
Eco-friendly mats that look like grass...the kitchen floor....and even chocolate?
These Plank Mats (above)make you feel like you’re doing yoga on the grass, shag carpeting, a plank of wood…or even chocolate, yes…chocolate…not sure how I feel about them for my practice, but if you’re interested click here.
Some new innovations in yoga mats include…
1. This mat by Yoga Maendy…its 6′ x 6′ Microban square mat, so its ideal for partner yoga, experimenting so you don’t fall of your mat in more difficult poses, and for the extra tall person…like me! For more info…click here.
This giant Maendy Mat is a steal at $49!
2. Really want a yoga island? Try this ROUND mat from Mandalyogamat.com.
These round yoga mats from mandalayogamat.com make you feel like you are in your own sacred mandala, or lotus flower...
3. In the “You’ve got to be kidding me” category….Technology and yoga mats? Who would have thought…? These guys did…at Yanko Design some yoga loving techies invented a “Super Yoga Mat” in which the mat ‘unfurls’ from a metal tube that can play music or yoga videos right on the mat…for more info click here.
Yanko Design's Super Yoga mat plays yoga DVD's right on your mat!
I don’t know about you, but over the years i have accumulated a slew of mats. After about a year of practice they can get a little grimy, and I am the victim of impulse buying when I see a new funky pattern that inspires me. I started keeping mats in emergency places…like they are fire extinguishers or emergency flashlights…one in my car…the corner of my room…by the back door to the porch…the garage…you know, just in case….its getting out of hand.
But what do I do with all the extra/old yoga mats? There is a solution!
The Boulder Mat company has a recycle program where you can donate your old mat and get a $5 discount on purchasing a new one! The company will donate the mat to charity or break it down and make a new one!
Recycle your mat with any of these ideas or at the website above!
Gaiam has a list of 50 ways to reuse your mat here. Tips include sound proofing, tree ornaments, dog/cat food dish no-slip pads, lining kitchen shelves, donating to animal shelters, flower pot drainers, and even bases for a baseball game with the kids!
Some tips on Yoga mat etiquette when in a class or practicing at home…
1. Clean it with a natural cleanser after use! Bacteria and mold thrive on yoga mats… and let it hang out to dry afterward, especially after hot yoga. Wash your yoga rug (blanket) as well after every few uses and cleanse your blocks/straps with some non-toxic wipes/cleanser as well.But be careful to dry after cleansing…sprays can leave your tools slippery and therefore dangerous.
Here are some wonderful cleansers I’ve found and tried…
This Vermont Soap Yoga Mat Wash is great! It's certified organic and is under 10 bucks for 16 oz.! click here...
Stirlen makes a line of all natural cleansers that are biodegradable. Stirlen "Chi" spray has natural harmonizing scents and is also under $10....click here...
Happy Yoga Mat wash comes in wipes ad spray! It's organic/vegan, with refreshing citrus and lavender scents, and anti-fungal tea tree oil...click here...
2. Do not step on anyone’s yoga mat but your own (except in couple’s yoga). Feet bring in toxins and dirt from the outside world and its not the nicest thing to step on a neighbor’s “private practice space” they have set up in class. Wash your own feet before practicing…remember you’ll go from Mountain pose at the top of your mat, to face down in the same place while taking a break from Bow.
The most eco-friendly mat around...(photo courtesy of livebreatheyoga.com)
One more tip…since it is summer…try forgoing the mat altogether for one practice and take a step to be closer to nature by performing some poses in a flat and sturdy patch of grass or sand….its amazing!
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