Hold it.


Focus on your breath.

Breathe in, fill your entire lungs.

Now, exhale, let all your stress out.

Image credit: Concrete Playground
Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

Breathing is a vital part of any yoga practice. Unfortunately, this action and how we practice in general may be doing our body more harm than good. As most yogis are unaware, conventional yoga mats are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). What’s this? Well simply put, from both an environmental and health standpoint, we – and many others – consider PVC to be the most toxic consumer plastic out there.

PVC is the common material used for yoga mats because it’s cheap, it has grip and it’s flexible. However, despite the low price point, using PVC is not worth it – as there is no safe way to create these mats, practice on them or destroy them. From an environmental standpoint, PVC is a nightmare. PVC is hardly recycled at all, and when it’s incinerated or buried in landfills it releases dioxin, a known carcinogen. Other toxins also leach from PVC, including endocrine-disrupting phthalates. Moreover, in order to make PVC stable, heavy metals MUST be added to the recipe. WHAT?

In case you’ve forgotten that high school chemistry lesson, heavy metals include elements like arsenic, mercury and cadmium. The heavy metal most commonly found in PVC products is lead. Yes, the same lead that we’ve been told for decades to avoid. The same lead that our governments have banned in our household products because of its devastating effects on our health. Exposure can cause headaches, cancer, mental illness, neurological disorders and a slew of other health problems.

The upshot: PVC is both an environmental and health nightmare.

For most of us, we practice yoga to feel good – to take care of our body and to ensure long-term health. But what if you’re doing all this to feel good and take care of yourself, and your conventional yoga mat is putting your health and the environment at risk?

Before you cancel your yoga membership and abolish those feel-good downward dogs from your life, we have some good news for you, yogis!

There are alternatives. When searching for a new yoga mat, be wary of greenwashing. Safe PVC? Eco-Friendly PVC? Nope & Nope. Don’t fall for it.

We’ve created a list of earth-friendly, healthy mats that you can feel good about practicing on.

The mats listed below contain no PVC, and they are safe for you and the environment. When opting for a new mat, be careful of greenwashing. There is no such thing as eco-friendly PVC, as many yoga mat companies suggest. For your health, obviously opt for yoga mats that are PVC-free, and for the environment, also look for mats that are recyclable, that are made of sustainably sourced materials, and are made to last.

1. The Cotton Yoga Mat Available at Life Without Plastic

What We Love:
These mats are handmade by local artisans in India. They are 100% cotton, making them washable, repairable and sustainable – no PVC and no latex. The woven texture creates that grip that all yogis require for their practice, and is especially suitable for hot yoga. Instead of slipping and sliding around during a hot yoga practice, this cotton mat absorbs perspiration. On top of all that, unlike conventional yoga mats that require disinfectant to clean, this cotton mat is machine washable.

Handmade ✓

Repairable ✓

Materials Sustainably-Sourced ✓

Breathable Texture ✓

Biodegradable ✓

Ethically-Made ✓

Machine-Washable ✓

Non-Latex ✓

Non-PVC ✓

2. The Cork Yoga Mat Available at Yoloha Yoga

Cork yoga mats are a new yoga trend on the rise. Why? Well, cork is a very sustainable material. The cork for these particular mats is grown in the Mediterranean and is the outer bark of the Cork Oak Tree. Not a single tree is cut down to harvest cork, rather, the bark is stripped by hand every 9 years. An added eco-friendly feature: the bottom of the mat is made of recycled rubber.

These mats are available here:

Image credit: Yoloha Yoga

Materials Sustainably-Sourced ✓

Biodegradable ✓

Non-Latex ✓

Non-PVC ✓

3. Jade Rubber Yoga Mat

This mat most closely resembles the conventional yoga mat. If you didn’t already know, there are two types of rubber – natural and synthetic. Due to increased demand and the world of fast-fashion, synthetic rubber dominates the market. Tapped from rubber trees, natural rubber is a renewable resource. These natural rubber mats are made in the United States in compliance with U.S. environmental laws and contain no PVCs, making Jade mats some of the first “green” and non-toxic yoga mats.

These mats are available here at:

Image credit: Jade Yoga

Materials Sustainably-Sourced ✓

Biodegradable ✓

Non-Latex ✓

Non-PVC ✓

At the end of the day, choosing a yoga mat should enhance your practice and all the benefits it brings. When choosing a mat, look for natural products made of sustainable materials. There is a clear link between yogis and the environment – as yoga manifests mindfulness and compassion.

Today, the world, the environment and nature need more eco-heroes and heroines. As yoga mantras encompass love and compassion for all life, and for all beings, it’s no wonder that many who practice yoga are compassionate toward the environment and their surroundings. Choosing a more natural yoga mat is a simple way to literally and figuratively have a more hands-ons on approach to creating a healthier planet.