Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cotton Yoga Mat and Eco-Guilt-Voice

All this trying to connect with nature has led to my exposing my nice rubber mat to the sun. Not only are the sun's beautiful rays dangerous for our skin, but for our mats as well. I've been wrestling with options and alternatives and about two weeks ago just decided to suck it up and buy a cotton mat for practicing outside.

This is the unfortunate downside to natural rubber and well, not so natural, kinda eco-friendly TPE mats; the sun will break down the materials more quickly resulting in flaking. We all know how I love that. So, on a somewhat impulse buy (argh, I'm slowly getting that word out of my life), I stopped by at the lovely Bhavana Yoga Boutique and purchased a Halfmoon Hot Yoga Rug. This yoga "rug" is made from 100% cotton, in India, distributed by Canadian company Halfmoon and was only 30.00$. Almost immediately after I bought the mat I had the following eco-guilt moments running through my brain:

- Ugh, it's made in India- NOT in Canada. I wonder if it's responsibly created? That's kinda far to ship, all those fossil fuels just to get this mat here! Yuck.
- 100% cotton, NOT organic cotton. Non-organic cotton is a HUGE contributor to the CO2 clogging up our atmosphere. So much environmental pollution goes into cotton processing. I can't believe they don't offer this mat in organic cotton.
- the colours are SO pretty... but obviously made with chemically dyes. I wonder if it will "bleed" in the washer when I wash it? Ew, all those chemicals going into the Halifax sewer system (which will just overflow into the harbour since it's broken). Poor fishies sipping my mat's chemical soup.
- I should have waited and ordered a more eco-friendly Jute mat online.

So obviously this is the annoying danger that can occur if you start reading more about the intricacies of the environment... eco-guilt. My thoughts (which I kept silent, recognizing they were a bit too Eco-Crazy) are what I don't want to become: some over the top, I am THE greenest, Eco-phile in the ENTIRE WORLD.

So I kept the mat.
(check out GreenPhoneBooth's post on Overcoming Green Envy for a nice reminder that less is green!)

While at my parent's cottage I got the chance to try out my fun new mat while practicing yoga on the dock. I only brought my cotton mat so I wouldn't be tempted to cave and use my nice rubber mat and rolled it out next to Andrew's on the dock. After about one downward dog I realized that there was a reason why yogis loved these rugs for "hot" yoga- the more you sweat the more it will stick. So, I cupped my hands and dumped about four handfuls of lake water all over my mat. There. Much better.

Final verdict: Although not as sticky as my rubber mat, the hot yoga rug did do just fine once it was wet. I felt much more connected to the Earth (as the mat is thinner) and switching to Andrew's TPE mat felt weird and cushy. Almost like my practice had changed to something less natural and more "apart" from what yoga means to me. Something contrived.
I really didn't get the same comfort and ease in getting in and out of the postures, however, and had to work a LOT harder on not slipping in poses like Downward Dog. I felt myself wishing for something like soccer cleats on my fingers to keep my hands in place (weird image, I know).
Also- I didn't think and rolled up my cotton mat immediately after practice. This weekend it was still damp... EW. I need to let it air dry... and maybe wash it in the washing machine.

Another option for a natural fiber mat is Jute. I have never tried a Jute mat, but assume that it would be somewhat similar to my hot yoga mat experience. The cool thing about Jute (how DO you say it anyways?) is that it's a naturally pest resistant plant, so no pesticides are necessary in growing and harvesting it! It's also completely biodegradable (as it's a plant) and renewable. I can't seem to find any good information on whether or not it's sustainably harvested (think bamboo drama with cutting down rainforests to grow bamboo). According to Wiki, India is the largest harvest-or of Jute at 2 140 000 tonnes as of June 2008 and women and children mostly do the processing. I'm assuming that issues of Fair Trade and safe labour most likely come into play in this situation as well.

Barefoot Yoga Company has a rubber and jute yoga mat mix- which looks fantastically cool. This mat combines the sticky of rubber and the sustainability of jute to create a theoretically sustainable mat. I say theoretically because adding the rubber also adds the question of whether the sun will naturally begin to break down the rubber. Finding reviews of Jute mats are difficult, most likely because they aren't as popular with yogi/nis. In any case, this mat would be my best bet on a Jute mat, however I WILL resist my societal brainwashed urge to consume :)

Have any of you eco-yogi/ni's used or do use a Jute/Cotton mat? What do you think?


authored by Eco Yogini at ecoyogini.blogspot.com


  1. So...I'm guessing my plastic coated styrofoam and whale blubber yoga mat wouldn't pass muster?

    Seriously, all the recent discussions I've been reading about eco-friendly yoga mats have succeeded in convincing me to keep my beat up old not-at-all-eco-conscious-but-what-the-hell-the-damage-is-already-done mat--the only one I've ever owned, bought in a supermarket in 2001. It's battered, kinda goes down with a thud instead of unrolling smoothly, and is less "sticky" by the day...but, ultimately, it works....

    Word verification word is "eevappie"...is that what happens to a rubber yoga mat in the sun?

  2. it's "joot", right? anyway, we are our own worst critics when it comes to the environment. i can't give you any feedback on yoga mats, because i get dizzy doing downward dog so i try to keep my head above my shoulders! :)

  3. namaste eco-yogini. i've tried the jute/rubber mats, and while they are lovely to practice on - sadly tend to start *flaking* if sun salutes/jump backs are part of your practice. and then i had rubber flakes stuck to my bum after seated poses. so the jute mat is now consigned to restorative/yin/tv-after-dinner yoga but still love it :)

  4. Dr Jay: yup, less is better :) Funny cuz I never really thought about jute yoga mats much until a reader asked me about them a month ago or so.

    GreenonBlue: lol, but you live on a boat! I can't imagine trying to practice yoga on a boat, practicing on the dock was tricky enough!

    Sara: ahhh, what I thought. Poor Andrew also gets little (purple) flakes stuck all over from his TPE mat... he hates it!

  5. I've tried them all, and I've found that the jute-and-rubber mat breaks down with or without the sun, unless you do gentle yoga. It seems more environmentally responsible to buy one indestructible Manduka Black or Lite mat, and keep it for life (rather than constantly replacing so-called Eco-mats).

  6. I have been considering getting a cotton mat for some time, so thanks for writing about this. I always find your reviews to be super helpful and informative.

    And Jute rhymes with boot :)

  7. I'd love to hear more about this as you use it more. How it holds up, how it washes and wears, etc.

  8. that sounds a lot like the kinds of eco-guilt thought streams in my own head. i don't think it makes us crazy - i think maybe we're the sanest ones for actually considering the implications we have on the world!

  9. Wow, I'd never have seen all of that in a mat. I do like the colors a lot. I love the image of you pouring lake water on the blanket. Good yoga practice to you.

  10. It is beautiful! & oh, I hear your eco-guilt voice - sounds so much like mine!

    One of the options the Breema folks use is lovely Kurdish Rugs. One gal had made her own wool felt rug - so I just "HAD TO" do that!
    Got a fleece from a sis-in law - black wool that had sunbleached 'tips,' which would break off during spinning. Spent a day with a couple of friends & big tables carding, laying out & felting enough wool for a rug ~ 4 1/2' x 7' (!) so big enough to 'do' Breema (similar to Thai massage, with client clothed) or self Breema - which has elements similar to Yoga & Tai Chi. I use a couple of old wool blend blankets (thrift store- I've seen similar ones at one of the yoga studios in town) for padding if I'm doing a session.

    Moths are the main danger there - with a yoga size mat, one could tuck it in a big freezer occasionally, & be good to go!
    I have a natural rubber mat for Jazzercize (I do more Tai Chi & dance, personally)
    & like you say - tricky to figure out what's most ecologically produced, etc!

  11. I have some organic yoga mats. They are rather soft so you hvae to make sure the surface you are using it on is not slippery. I have had them used on beaches and outside and are great for hot yoga. Since I have a very small stock left I am selling them for $25 a pcs. They are natural organic cotton. I had the regular cotton and yes they are dyed to get those brilliant colours unfortunately. To get natural dyes you will not get any brilliant colours and tht too in quantities. Cannot comment on the jute yoga mats as I did not think they would stand up much to all the use. The cotton ones you know will last a longer time. There might be some discolouration though

    1. Jessica,
      I saw your comment about the organic cotton yoga mat, are you still selling them for $25? Please let me know as I would like to buy one. Thanks,


  12. I am waiting fro your next blog to know more about or more. hot yoga mat


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