Are yoga mats toxic? Your yoga mat matters more to your practice than you may think. We asked the House of Noa why a sustainable mat is the secret to a better practice. Here’s everything you need to know before you buy a yoga mat.
Yoga is big business. In the U.S., more than 36 million Americans practice yoga regularly for their physical and mental wellbeing. So it’s no surprise that the yoga mat industry is booming, too. It was valued at more than $12 billion in 2018. It’s expected to grow at a CAGR of nearly six percent through 2025. But not all yoga mats are created equal. In fact, most of the yoga mats on the market are downright toxic. We caught up with the House of Noa to help better understand yoga mats. Here’s everything you need to know about yoga mats and why a sustainable mat makes all the difference.
What are yoga mats made from?
Designed to provide support and traction during a yoga session, regardless of yoga style, sticky foam mats have been used for decades in studios across the world.
Most often, yoga mats are made from one of three materials—or a combination. These can include a range of materials from man made to the biodegradable.
The most common material in standard yoga mats is polyvinyl chloride (PVC)—a man made material that’s neither sustainable or biodegradable. PVC can provide good support and traction, but given these mats don’t break down and aren’t made from renewable resources, this may make achieving that peace of mind yoga can deliver, a bit more difficult.
Rubber is another common yoga mat material that is natural, renewable, and biodegradable. It can also make for an extra grippy mat that may lend itself better to intense practices that produce more sweat like hot yoga classes. A word of caution though: rubber mats can have a strong smell, which may not be a great choice for those who are sensitive.
Thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) is another common material in yoga mats. It’s biodegradable and odorless, and it’s one of the softest materials out there to practice on. TPE is also great at improving traction and preventing slips, making it a material of choice for top quality yoga mats.
Home mat company the House of Noa is a big fan of TPE, using it in its new yoga mat collection, which also contains cork—a sustainable, eco-friendly material that’s soft and supportive..
“Our new Luxe Eden Yoga Mat has a couple of attributes that make it really special,” Miriam Sender, CEO of the House of Noa tells Ethos. “First, and what we’re most excited about, is that it’s partly made with recycled cork granules. This eco-friendly material is combined with TPE foam for the bottom layer in a closed-cell construction that seals out moisture and bacteria,” Sender says.
According to the House of Noa, other yoga mats can often contain harmful phthalates—chemicals that have been linked to liver, kidney, lung, and reproductive issues. The chemicals are often found in mats made from PVC to help soften the material. The House of Noa’s yoga mats are free from harmful phthalates, and don’t contain PFAS, BPAs, PVC, or formaldehyde, which are common in other yoga mats.
“The Luxe Yoga Mat is also SVHC (REACH) – EU Chemical Safety Compliant, which means it meets the European Union’s strict requirements,” Sender says. The EU criteria is often more strict than the US in chemical use.
Yoga mat thickness and weight: does it matter?
Not only do materials vary, but so does the thickness and thus weight of the mat. While the perfect yoga mat is always about what works for the individual, there are some best practices regarding thickness and weight.
For most practices, a thickness between one-fifth to one-eighth of an inch should suffice. Too cushy and it’s easy to lose the contact with the floor that can make stability more difficult.
For more seasoned yoga students, thinner mats can be helpful in improving stability in complex balancing poses.
A thicker mat is best for therapeutic practices, such as those as part of physical therapy or for individuals working through an injury—especially injuries in knees or elbows. Thicker mats may also be better for children as they better cushion falls and rougher practices.
The House of Noa says its new mats, about a fifth of an inch, are soft, supportive to knees, but not bulk. It also boasts a top layer made with open-cell construction for increased stickiness and gripping during use.
The benefits of (more) yoga
The benefits of a yoga practice run the gamut from improved blood pressure and flexibility to mental and emotional wellness. One study found practicing for at least three months may lower cortisol levels and perceived stress, as well as symptoms of depression.
The House of Noa says yoga mat aesthetic can help encourage a regular practice. And this may matter more than you think. A beautiful yoga mat that brings serenity and even feelings of joy, can encourage increased practice and make it more fulfilling.
The company says the Eden mat was designed to bring beauty to a product often viewed as utilitarian and thus bland, the company says. “So many performance yoga mats are just one color, with little design or personality,” Sender says. “The Luxe Eden Mat was designed by hand to be a statement piece.”
Shop the House of Noa’s luxe sustainable mat collection, here.