Ahh Balasana, or child's pose- so wonderful after 10 sun salutations... resting your head and breathing in the wonderful smell of chemicals... Ok, so my first mission into the foray of ecofying my yoga practice was to find an eco-alternative to my PVC yoga mat (which was donated to a local woman's transition house).
Due to the recent yoga "craze" erupting across Canada and the States thousands of PVC yoga mats are finding their way to the landfills; off-gassing with a virtually turtle-paced decomposing schedule. So begins the eco-mat saga:
#1: Lululemon Eco-Comfort
I bought this mat with high expectations: it cost around 50-60$ Canadian and is made from TPE (Thermal Plastic Elastomer) and contains no latex, PVC or rubber. A quick Wiki search and we find that most TPE's are made with a type of plastic or rubber.... although there's no clarification on the website. The friendly lulu worker at the store informed me that my mat would eventually breakdown in the landfill-WOOT!
I started using it right away- no nasty smell but it was extremely slippery. I was willing to sacrifice grip for the environment- sure I was! After about two months of use the mat was flaking off all over my yoga pants, the floor and even my hair. Ugly wear marks were appearing where my feet moved from Down Dog to Warriors I and II. So I brought it back- I guess I wasn't supposed to use this mat in the sun (now they have warnings on the labels of the mats) and it had begun to break down prematurely. Great- so now I would be sacrificing practicing in the beautiful outdoors to be a true eco-yogini. OK. FINE. The lulu worker offered a 50% discount on their next eco-mat which I bought and gave my current eco-mat to my Fiancé to use. He could deal with the blue flakes.
#2 Lululemon Eco Align Ultra Mat
This mat was immediately better- more grip and thinner! Within a month of use (out of the sun- sadly) mat #2 was a flaker too. Matching wear marks graced this one as well! Sigh, at this point I was just a little less zen than ideal. From talking with other lulu eco mat users the "flaker" is a common occurrance. Also- Lululemon had just recently sold the majority of their shares to a U.S. company and was no longer technically "Canadian".
My Conclusion on TPE: it definitely breaks down- but the environmental impacts of cycling through several yoga mats over my lifetime outweighs the decomp. benefits. Also, the Lululemon mats have poor grip and durability with a high price tag. And call me a nerd- but I just didn't want to join the Lulu gaggle of yoginis taking over the planet.
Rubber Yoga Mats
My final desperate attempt at ecofying my yoga mat was a Lotus Wear rubber mat. Lotus Wear is a Vancouver based company that manufactors AND consciously formulates their products in Canada (hah two for two Lulu!). The mat was between 49$ Canadian, so a comparable price and was nice and thin.
Rubber is a renewable resource and a nice alternative to man-made substances such as TPE or plastic. Rubber is also easily recyclable and will biodegrade over time. However, it is also much more durable than say, TPE and has a longer lifespan. This mat doesn't use glue to bind both sides of the rubber together and claims 100% non-polluting during manufacturing. The catch- it recommended I air it our for 48 hrs before use. Riiight. Like I could wait that long!
Um... I really should have- after doing yoga for about 45 minutes I felt nauseous from the smell and had to take a couple advils when I got home. Point taken- airing out it is!
This mat had fantastic grip- I had magically become a yoga Goddess!!! The only time my hands or feet were gonna move were when I was sweating buckets trying to accomplish some ridiculous Power Yoga Flow class (go me!). I gave eco-mat #1 to a beginner yogini and #2 was passed along to the Fiancé (poor guy was getting all my yoga seconds!).
This mat has lasted 8 months so far with only minimal wear- WOOT! The only negative: it actually took several months for the rubber smell to fade away with regular use. I wouldn't recommend this mat for anyone with sensitivities to smell.
However, an alternative for those wanting a rubber mat without the smell- Manduka's "The Black Mat" the QUEEN of all yoga mats. Made from natural rubber with all above eco-benefits without the smell (this mat has a lifetime guarantee with certification to back-up their zero-emissions claims). Of course, this mat comes with a price: 85$ Canadian. According to several yoga teachers, the eco versions of the manduka mats (Halfmoon) have dye issues after use.
Finally my mat is now ecofied!