Whether you’re completely new to yoga, a seasoned practitioner, or a devotee of one particular system (be it Yin, Hatha, Ashtanga, or something else), a yoga mat is a piece of equipment you want to get right.
Unfortunately, many cheap yoga mats in stores contain harmful chemicals detrimental to human health, such as PVC yoga mats The good news is, many companies are becoming more conscious of this as well as the environmental issues associated with these kinds of mats. Importantly, they are opting to use more sustainable materials, such as jute fiber, to produce a more natural, non-toxic yoga mat.
Here, I will outline the pros and cons of the 20 best non-toxic yoga mats, so you can make the best choice to suit your needs, and practice with more peace of mind. This article will look at natural rubber yoga mats, cork yoga mats, organic cotton yoga mats, and mats using thermoplastic elastomers (TPE). That way, you can spend less time deciding from the numerous mats out there which one is the right mat for you.
My personal mat of choice isa natural rubber yoga mat from Liforme as it is biodegradable, uses non-toxic materials, and is PVC-free. While not cheap, it is high quality because they are also built to last, and provide incredible grip, keeping you safe in your practice. Additionally, Liforme donates some of the proceeds to people in need, which, for me, makes purchasing one feel more in line with my own values, and less indulgent.
Thousands of years ago, the physical practice of yoga looked very different from how it does today. Instead of all the beautiful asanas we see today, a yoga practice largely consisted of sitting on the ground, breathing, and meditating as a way to achieve enlightenment. Indeed, the Sanskrit term asana is translated into English as “seat”.
As a result, ancient yogis did not use a dedicated yoga mat as we know it today. Instead, they practiced on the bare ground, often using natural materials such as grass, leaves, or sand to cushion themselves. The ancient yogis believed that connecting with the earth during their practice was important and that the physical discomfort of practicing on a hard surface was a way to build discipline and focus.
The Yoga Mat: Animal skins to Non-toxic Yoga Mats
From the 1800s, sometimes animal skins (from already-deceased animals, not hunted by the yogis themselves) or woven reeds were used as a mat.
As the physical practice began to grow, these minimal seating mats evolved alongside it, into simple rugs, something more akin to what we see today. In the 1960s, as yoga began to proliferate around the world, the first “sticky” (i.e. grippy) yoga mat was born from the clever brain of Angela Farmer.
Consequently, the 1990s saw a boom in sturdier, grippier mats, but these were not always environmentally or human-friendly. These were made with PVC and other toxic chemicals – harmful to both us directly and to the planet (and therefore us indirectly).
As a result, the early 2010s brought a pointed focus on non-toxic sustainable yoga mats, and with good reason. Now, we are spoiled for choice. The decision to choose a suitable yoga mat can quickly become overwhelming.
Thus, it is important to know that the concept of a physical yoga mat is a modern invention, and it is not necessary for the practice of yoga. The traditional approach is to practice yoga on a bare surface such as a wood floor, a natural surface like grass or sand, or even on a carpet.
The practice is to focus on the breath, movement, and alignment of the body, and not to rely on the cushioning of a mat.
That said, there is something to having a clearly defined practice space that a yoga mat provides. So, if you’re going to use a yoga mat, using a non-toxic one is the best option.
Defining your needs before buying a non-toxic yoga mat
When shopping for a yoga mat, there are several things to consider to ensure you find the right one for your practice:
A thick yoga mat will provide more cushioning for sore joints, but too much thickness can be detrimental to balance. My mat is just under 5mm, which seems to be the most common.
Make sure the mat is long enough and wide enough to comfortably fit your body. Standard yoga mats are around 68 inches long and 24 inches wide. Some companies selllonger mats for taller people.
Consider the weight of the mat if you plan to transport it to and from the yoga class. A travel yoga mat will be easier to carry.
If you plan on practicing every day for the rest of time, durability is important. Look for a mat that can withstand regular use. The best way to know this is to look at the product reviews. People will let you know if a mat falls apart earlier than promised.
Some mats provide better grip than others, which can make a difference if you’re prone to sweating a lot, whether that’s due to your local climate or other reasons.
Define your budget at the outset, and then see what you can get for it. Remember, more durable and eco-friendly mats will be pricier, but you won’t have to buy them as frequently. My first yoga mat cost $50 and was in pieces after three months. My current mat was $126 and has remained intact for three years and counting. Both were subjected to daily practice.
7. Brand reputation:
Look at the brand’s reputation and customer feedback. Read reviews and testimonials from other customers to get an idea of their experience with the brand. If you are untrusting of reviews (totally understandable), then if you’re in any Facebook groups (likemy one, for example), don’t be afraid to ask everyone what they use and how they feel about it).
8. Any allergies:
Mats with a natural rubber base contain natural latex, so opt instead for a hypoallergenic mat.
To sum up, by considering these factors, you can refine your Google search and therefore save time trying to find a yoga mat that suits your needs.
Defining “toxic” and “non-toxic”
Those supermarket or sportswear store yoga mats that you see have some benefits. They are delightfully spongey, provide a good grip, and are easy to clean. However, that is about the limit. If you have purchased one before, then you may have noticed that upon unrolling the mat it gives off a pretty strong, unpleasant smell.
This is called off-gassing and comes from a petroleum-based chemical called polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. This chemical is used to provide that sponginess and ease of cleaning, but it is incredibly harmful to both you and the planet. PVC containsphthalates – a volatile organic compound (VOC) that is added to plastics like PVC to make it more flexible.
These phthalates havelow vapor pressure, meaning they easily become airborne from your mat to the air you’re inhaling as you practice. You can also absorb them through skin contact.
Phthalates are endocrine-disrupting chemicals – which means they negatively affect your hormones. They have been linked to obesity, fertility issues, and cancer.
PVC is also non-biodegradable, meaning that when you discard your yoga mat, soil, and water systems become contaminated.
So what is considered a non-toxic yoga mat?
First, be careful when you see a mat advertised as “non-toxic PVC”. Their replacement material is likely to bepolymer environmental resin (PER) which is essentially PVC without the phthalates. That might make it seem less toxic, but not much reliable information is out there on what PVC substitutes are used, and its main ingredient appears to be vinyl chloride monomer, which is carcinogenic in small doses. Personally, the jury is out on “non-toxic PVC” mats.
Second, “non-toxic” may not mean “100% non-toxic”. The rubber mats mentioned below, for example, will have gone through some chemical processing, and therefore can’t be declared completely toxin-free. On the other hand, it is a much better alternative than synthetic rubber.
Finally, unless “non-toxic” claims by yoga mat companies have been verified by independent experts, or are made 100% of organic and sustainably produced cotton, then it’s a fair assumption that no yoga mat will be 100% toxin free. That said, we can make better choices than simply opting for the most convenient and cost-friendly option.
Natural Rubber Yoga Mats
A majority of rubber mats are made from natural rubber. Essentially, this is the latex sap tapped from rubber trees. Therefore, anyone allergic to latex would do best to avoid rubber mats. Rubber mats are resistant to cuts, tears, and water, and is extremely flexible.
It can, however, be sensitive to ozone. This is why mat companies will suggest that you avoid placing your mat outside in the sun after use or after cleaning. The material will become less resistant, it will speed up biodegrading, and that gorgeous vibrant colour will fade.
Aside from the adorable name being a clincher for me, this mat is longer and wider than most, so great for taller people.
Simple design with subtle guidelines making it great for beginners.
Mid-range price at ~$100
Mat material details are a little lacking, or a little hard to find. Essentially, it’s made from natural rubber and polyurethane (PU), so is classed as non-toxic. Not much else is given beyond that, so proceed with a little caution. They do keep a Sustainability Diary which is fairly transparent.
Has all the same benefits as Jade Harmony but with a little extra thickness (8mm) making it perfect for sore joints.
Pricier at ~$145 compared to Jade Harmony (~$85).
Cotton Yoga Mats
Excellent if you have carpeted flooring, and a little gentler on our skin compared to mats with natural rubber (for those with latex allergies).
Organic cotton yoga mats are machine washable, making them super easy to clean without having to worry about sun or cleaning-spray damage. The only issue with that, though, is they are prone to colour fading and shrinkage.
Comes with a free 100% cotton bag that includes zipped pockets for keys, cash, or cards.
6mm thickness making it comfortable for grumpy joints.
At 193cm length, it is suitable for taler people
Heavier than others, at 2.4kg.
Has a natural rubber coating so not suitable for latex allergies.
Cork Yoga Mats
Cork, coming from the bark of the cork oak tree, is antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial.
Once the bark has been stripped away, the trees naturally regrow the bark, thus making this a highly sustainable mat material.
Additionally, the trees will absorb more carbon dioxide after the bark is removed. Thus, it is a material that has a positive effect on the environment.
Being antibacterial means that though cleaning is still needed, it’s not necessary to clean as frequently as you would other mats. Cork yoga mats are perfect for hot yoga. Cork is water-repellent, so be sure to let the mat dry out before rolling it up and storing away after practice.
Customers reviewed this as surprisingly lightweight and loved the variety of lengths available.
A well-known and well-trusted cork mat company. The company is very transparent with the pros and cons and how they seek to improve.
Not 100% renewable, but they are fully transparent about working towards this goal. 30% of their product is made from EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) which is free of heavy metals, latex, chlorides, and BPA)
A huge selection to choose from in terms of thickness, length, and price
100% toxin free
Beautiful designs to suit all tastes
Natural rubber bases may not be suitable for those with a latex allergy.
TPE Yoga Mats
If your budget is tight, then TPE might be the best solution for now.
TPE stands for thermoplastic elastomer, which in layperson’s terms means it’s moldable at elevated temperatures and shows elastic properties in that it retains its original shape upon cooling.
It’s a flexible, recyclable plastic that is a more cost-effective alternative to latex and a somewhat healthier alternative to PVC-based mats.
However, the following list does come with a caveat: the jury is kind of out on whether or not TPE can really be classed as non-toxic for reasons you can read more abouthere. For that reason, I have listed TPE mats last, though I have included them as they are latex and PVC-free, and budget-friendly.
Some customer reviews reported slippage once palms got a bit sweaty.
Key Takeaways When Purchasing a Non-toxic Yoga Mat
Shopping for a new non-toxic yoga mat can become quite overwhelming and time-consuming. To make the process easier, refine your search based on the following:
What is your budget?
Are you allergic to latex? If so, avoid purchasing a rubber (natural or not) mat and instead opt for organic cotton, jute, or cork. TPE could be an option but check the company’s transparency regarding the materials used. Trust your intuition on this one.
Are you taller than average? If so, an extra large mat may be more comfortable for you.
Are you using it for home or for the studio? If the latter, opt for a travel mat, or one that is notably lightweight.
Are you intending on using it in hot environments or for hot yoga? Do you naturally sweat a lot? Opt for a mat that has noteworthy grip.
These parameters will help you to refine your search and more quickly find the ideal mat for you based on your preferences.
Ultimately, the best mat for you will depend on your individual preferences, needs, and budget.
One last thing – I certainly have not covered all the wonderful brands out there in this post. For instance, two additional and highly reputable brands to pay attention to areBrentwood Home andManduka.
Once you have your mat, if you decide to get one, and you’re interested in getting set up at home to practice yoga safely and in a way that sustains you, then be sure to get my free guide showing you how to do just that.
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Hi, I'm Ellie Smith. I'm passionate about sharing how the practices and principles of yoga can enhance our public speaking presence. Whether you're a university student, new or returning professional, or simply want to boost your confidence behind the mic, I'm here to help guide you on your yoga journey so you can go from the pose to the podium with ease.