Thursday, February 26, 2009

Manduka- Waste vs Composition? Eco-mat Saga Continues...

Yoga mats- the bane of my yogic existence really. The search to find the best "eco" option mat really has been quite un-eco and wasteful. Now that the fianc√© wants his own mat (since his mat is technically my old TPE Lulu mat that's happily shedding little purple flakes wherever it may be) I've been back in the search full force for the best environmental+performance option. Tricky.

I thought I'd share my research and findings on Manduka with all you wonderful eco-yogi/ni's so far! That and a rather concerned commenter had some questions as to why I was even considering Manduka as an eco option at all. Ready for the muddy, murkyness that is eco-mats? I am!

First let's just outline the main issues with current "eco" mat options out there:
- TPE is actually a synthetic material and does not appear to be made for a lifetime of use
- premature "biodegrading" seems to occur in these TPE mats
- natural rubber has a strong smell
- When these "biodegradable" mats are inevitably thrown out from wear, they may release toxins while they burn/break down in the landfill.

So- I need a mat that won't wear out in a year or two, that is sticky and will perform well AND that is made with the environment and my health in mind. Check.

The Manduka mat company is probably best known for it's "Black Mat" which is endorsed by high profile yogi/ni's such as Shiva Rea. 

The Black Mat (85$, Lulu totally upped the price):
This mat comes with a lifetime guarantee and I have read and spoken with yoga teachers who have had their mats for years without a tiny bit of wear. According to the company- this specific mat is made with PVC and polyester and they claim that it has a low percentage of PVC (with no specifics). The idea is that the mat will be the last mat you'll ever have to buy; therefore limiting your yogamat waste. However, as per my little blurb in the post just before this one- polymers are forever so eventually this mat will enhance the toxic mush with it's own special ingredients. Finally, all Manduka mats are OEKO-TEX certified (third party) meaning that the actual production of the mat is zero-emissions.
I have to say, I have used a black mat before and it is fabulous! PVC is a little sketchy though...

The EKo Mat (70.00$):
The EKo mat is basically a natural rubber mat and I would have to agree with Om Shanti probably a result of a) Manduka mat yogi/ni's only have to buy one mat once so they aren't making more money and b) many yogi/ni's avoid the black mat because of the PVC.
These more environmentally friendly versions of the original Manduka mats are closed cell- meaning they don't absorb particles (i.e. sweat) which sometimes can result in a slippier mat. However, these mats also are less likely to create a breeding ground for bacteria to thrive. Like most rubber mats, the Eko mat definitely has a smell (although not nearly as strong as most) and needs to be aired out. It's also made with non-amazon harvested rubber trees! Yay!

I have briefly tried the Eko mat during a few yoga classes and found them to be super sticky, more so than the black mat actually. However, just like all the random mats I've tried these past few years, I've read that it can initially be quite slippery. I've found that a few wipes with lemon juice and water (avoid tea tree oil and subsequently scary swollen fingers!) and regular use really helps up the sticky factor. Also- just as a heads up, the instructor at Breathing Space told me that she's noticed that the red Eko mats seem to have discolourations from use... From Om Shanti's review it also seems to stand up to regular wear and tear very very well.
Natural rubber mats typically are made spongy with toxic foaming agents which are released into the environment when they begin to biodegrade. The Eko mat claims to be made with non-toxic foaming agents (doesn't say exactly how) and a special dual-coating system to increase durability and longevity compared to typical natural rubber mats (again doesn't say how).

Finally- all Manduka mats come with prepaid "Recycle Your Mat" kits where you can send your used old mat to an organization that finds new uses for them, diverting thousands of mats from the landfill!!! Such a beautiful and fantastic idea- I will definitely be investigating their company further.

Wow- not so straight forward hey? The more I delve into environmental processes, the more the questions become complicated. After going through THREE yoga mats in four years (and reading here that this is actually typical for most regular mats!! GASP) I really feel a little ill buying another mat I know will just begin to fall apart and I'll be contributing to the mass consumerism that is North America.

Any extra info or input that my fellow eco-yogi/ni's know of to help weigh in on the "new mat" decision would be extremely welcome!



  1. Maybe you commented on the Jade yoga mats in an earlier post and I missed it? Thoughts on Jade? My yoga studio now carries them and they seem super durable (it's the loaner mat they now use), but the comments I hear is they are a bit stinky at first.

    Wow, 3 mats in 4 years!?! I've bought 2 in 5 years and I still use them both (Tapas mat from Hugger Mugger). I keep one at work and one in the car.

    Oh, and I've been wanting to say for a while THANK YOU for a great post on how to clean your mat!

  2. I have had my Jade mat for nine months now and it shows no signs of wear despite a nearly daily practice. It had a strong rubber smell at first, but a day or two of airing out was all it needed. Compared to my old PVC nightmare, I hardly slip at all except in really hot and vigorous classes. It is open cell, so it absorbs sweat; a light cleaning fairly often is necessary to prevent smells. Other than that, I would definitely recommend.

  3. I don't know about mats. I'm still on my first one (it's 12 years old) that mother bought for me. It's holding up well. It was made long before eco-mats become cool (heck, it was just before eco-anything was cool). I think it's Wai Lana.

  4. Thanks so much for the input!
    I did comment on the Jade mats

    I think that it's a toss up between the two- rubber is definitely fantastic for stickyness.

    My two first mats were Lulu, and fell apart within months. I now am using a Lotus rubber mat and it is starting to wear (10 months). It took a while for the smell to go away, and a friend of mine who used the manduka Eko mat (which smells MUCH less) actually felt ill at the end of the class. So not recommended for those who have smell sensitivities.

    Thanks guys!! :) I will be looking up Wai Lana :)

  5. Thanks for all the wonderful work you are doing, and the mention in the post! Yes, diving into what mats are made of can give one a headache. Recently Recycle Your Mat partnered with Oregon State University to test the composition of yoga mats. Now we'll soon know what's really in all our mats, helping out those like you who are trying to live the best eco-yoga life!

    Keep up the good work!

    Stephanie (RecycleYogi)
    twitter: recycleyourmat
    blogs: search for RecycleYogi at YogaJournal and Yogamates

  6. this is the post that started it off for me.

    loyal reader!

  7. Hi There,

    Thanks for the post, really useful. I'm writing one that is also about eco yoga mats for a magazine in vancouver and will make sure to link to you.

    I also write about yoga and the eco-aspiring life at; would be amazing to exchange links.


    insiya rasiwala-finn

  8. I made the mistake of cleaning my manduka eko mat with a diluted tea tree solution, and now it's so sticky I can't safely do my sun salutations. I've tried soaking scrubbing and drying in plain water to no avail. Any suggestions?

  9. @Lisa: hmmmm. I'm not sure. I had a friend who tried washing a second hand mat in the washer w soap and it took literally weeks for it to stop soaping when she washed it.
    I've also noticed that my prAna rubber mat takes at least 3-4 days to fully dry.

    so you might need a few weeks.... :S? good luck!

  10. I bought my Manduka eko a couple of months before I did my yoga teacher training this summer. The smell didn't bother me too much and I'm really impressed with the feel of the mat. It held up through my training wonderfully and it has the perfect stickiness for my taste. I've had it for about 6 months in total and so far so good.


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