Friday, June 18, 2010

Francesca the Green Queen Yoga Mat

A sweet package has arrived!!!!

After writing about Mr. Crumbles (ahem, yoga mat issues) something amazing occurred and I decided to wait to write about my mat choice until it arrived. Today, the hottest day of our summer so far, it has!


First, let us chat about my choices and why I chose the mat that I did.

We all know that TPE mats (or thermoplastic elastomers- sound sketchy? That's because it is) are sad, greenwashing attempts at an 'eco' yoga mat. Not truly 'biodegradable' in a safe manner (since we don't know the specifics as to what elastomer has created the TPE, nor the dyes), I find it frankly a bit insulting as to how much they are pushed as a green alternative. Plus, they also flake. For a more in-depth discussion, check out my post.

The Manduka Black Mats are often touted as a 'green' alternative, because you'll only ever buy ONE mat. However, that one mat will last forever... and beyond. I for one do not relish the thought of my yoga practice contributing to the mess of oil and plastic on our planet.

So, rubber it is.


Manduka Eko mats were the first I looked into. They're sold at the yoga studio I was energy exchanging and every single Sunday after scrubbing the studio I would haul out the Eko mat and practice. I can honestly say that it's not that grippy and the little string binding was fraying like Mr. Crumbles. Also, one of the instructors whispered to me that the colours bleed... not really worth 70$+ and I wasn't that interested in purchasing a 'lite'.

Jade Yoga Mats are reportedly sourced from sustainably harvested rubber trees and they plant a tree for every mat purchased. I have heard (from comments and other yogi(ni)s) that they also tend to flake away. Still, the price isn't that bad and the mats are pretty (although dyed synthetically). Jade also has a new mat that is made with post consumer rubber- the Encore Mat.

Unfortunately when I went to order online, I noticed that Canada wasn't among the (dozens) of countries listed for shipping. Nope, if you want to order a mat you have to actually email their 'Canadian' contact. No first name, minimal information, basically just an email address. Um. After emailing them their response was; 'Yes! Simply email our Canadian rep!' which they forwarded my email to him without my permission. Ummm. No thank you.

My first choice all along was really prAna Revolution. I was very excited about their 'no string thingy' binding method of using non-toxic glues, their use of rubber and their labour policies. I was also excited about the reviews on performance and customer service. Although it took over a week for Jade to respond to my email, prAna responded within 48 hours.

I inquired about prAna's sourcing of their rubber and whether they used synthetic dyes in their mats. The director of sustainability, Nicole, actually responded personally to my email. Her response was open, honest and respectful. She reported that my question had sparked an interest in determining the rubber source beyond their 'rubber broker' in Malaysia, assessing the rubber's traceability. I look forward to hearing about the results.

The dyes, she responded, were synthetic (as the majority of rubber mat dyes are) and she even went as far as to give me some ideas on how to re-use or recycle my mat (in the distant event that it may have passed it's time). I loved her honest and authentic response.

I was also very excited about the Revolution mat's actual physical SIZE. Which is silly, since I'm not a tall person and don't really need a lot of space on a mat. But I heart space... and six one Andrew would benefit from 'borrowing' such a mat.

Sadly, with wedding budgeting and job insecurity I just couldn't justify spending the money on the mat...Peaking out excitedly!
Then- I got a facebook message from a prAna rep saying they'd read my 'Mr Crumbles' post and were offering me a 50% discount on a mat of my choice!!! WEEE!!!!!! I did a little dance (mostly to 'peanut butter jelly time' in my head) and said 'OH YEAH!'. A phone call later and my mat was ordered in green.

It has arrived today. And it is MASSIVELY awesome. And massive. hah.


The packaging was alright- cardboard box, taped up not too much. The box was padded with some brown paper (no plastic bubbles) which will be perfect for packing our dishes. One down side- the mat was in shrink-wrapped plastic... Sigh. I wouldn't have doubted it's 'newness' if it didn't have plastic... as it was also wrapped in (100% post consumer) paper.

Andrew holding it up to it's full length (mine was folded slightly)

The mat smells like a new rubber mat, which I'm used to from Mr Crumbles. A lesson I learned from him- air out the mat for 48hours, that smell can really make you dizzy! Conveniently it's warm out, so we can leave the windows and balcony door open. Of course, since it's rubber, direct sunlight isn't ideal. So it's hanging on the computer chair (our one and only guest chair besides the couch).

I rolled it out and gave a few test runs... and holy it is so beautiful. Sticky and not too thick (I love to *feel* the ground beneath me) it feels like I am dwarfed in my practice, that I have SO MUCH SPACE to practice. My Malasana actually remains on the mat- no toes on the floor! My downdog is NOT moving, the luxury.
Francesca supporting my Triangle...which is actually a pretty wide triangle for me... :)

I had a sudden thought- 'I hope this fits in my yogoco mat bag'... ummm.... nope! Something I hadn't even considered, the mat is about 4 inches too wide! I'll need another strategy... which is kind of a bummer. Instead of buying another bag, I think I'll modify an old Lulu mat bag with a drawstring that I haven't been using.

Also it is majorly heavy- so not ideal for long walks or bicycling to the park. Since Mr. Crumbles was going to be delegated to 'park' duty, I'm not too concerned about that.

What I am a bit concerned about is how I'll feel showing up to a class with this sucker. She deserves a name- like Getha, or Francesca... the First. In any case, I hope I don't feel like I'm rollin' up in my Hummer on a tiny cobbled 'ruelle'... ya know? As a yoga instructor, what are your honest thoughts on such a situation?

I am pretty aware that for many (myself included) the price tag of a prAna Revolution mat is a bit steep (90$). However, when you consider the price of a Jade mat (79$ in a studio, 100$ Bhavana for the wide equivalent), Manduka's 70$ Eko and 90-100$ PVC Black Mat, the difference really isn't that much. Since my goal wasn't to collect mats, but to find the *one* that would last a lifetime of practice without damaging our planet, I probably would have saved for a few months and bought the prAna mat.

Despite the small issue of synthetic dyes (considering most rubber mats have them anyway) I am very pleased with my choice and feel extremely blessed to have been given this gift of Francesca, the Green Queen of Yoga mats :)
Andrew's choice of asana... savasana which fits his entire six one frame.... Guess we'll be fighting over who gets to use the mat!

Many many thanks to André of prAna and their beautiful generosity!

Blessings and Happy Weekend!

article and photographs copyright of EcoYogini at ecoyogini.blogspot.com

23 comments:

  1. Congratulations on the arrival of Francesca (or whatever her forever name turns out to be)! She is a beauty, and what a fortuitous way that she came to you. I'll be really interested to hear how she does. I love my eKo, as you know, and its little stringy bits are mostly behaving themselves, but I do wonder how "they" can promise that a mat will last forever when it's only been produced for a few years! Perhaps prAna would be a good choice if I ever need a replacement.

    Also, my mat is bigger than the cheapo studio/gym mats, and I don't feel guilty about taking up extra space. I'm sure the tall dudes with their extra-long mats don't worry about it, either! Claim your space!

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  2. TRACEABILITY!! Yeah!!

    Okay, I'm laughing so hard right now. How completely awesome of PrAna to offer that beautiful mat at a discount and how completely hilarious (and cool) it is that it's so big! Man, that thing is like luxury yoga! ;) I love it! (Though she might pull poor Veronica down on the way to the studio, haha!)

    I'm happy to hear all the eco-stuff you found and that PrAna is really so conscientious about that stuff. Good for them and way to go!

    I totally love that name. Francesca. I just rode home from visiting my Little Sis - 12 miles in the rain, yes! - and I realized in 7 years, I've never had a name for my bike. It's a "he" though, LOL.

    You're so funny! Congrats!

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  3. I have a prana Revolution mat and I am quite small... I feel kind of lost on it... but after using it for a while - using a "regular" sized mat feels tiny and weird.

    I ♥ my prana revolution... also in green. I have never taken it to a public class, but I know I've considered the - I'll feel kinda weird showing up in my SUV mat - thing.

    The husband is 6ft and totally loves it. Had it almost 2 years, and it really just gets better with time. Congrats!

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  4. I love the space!! beautiful breathing room, and super awesome on inquiring about the eco facts and prAna following through! congrats on your beautiful Francesca the First!! :)

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  5. I am so getting one of these. Like TranquiliT yoga clothes it's worth the US customs tax!!!

    And Yancy, yay for riding in the rain xxx

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  6. Make that three green blogs that I like now. Fantastic!

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  7. I too have the Prana Revolution, and love it. I use it mainly for my home practice, 'cause I like to keep a yoga mat in my car when I have the opportunity to pop into a class and the Revolution doesn't like the heat, that's what I tell myself, but you got me thinking....when I first started using it about a year ago (I got it at a workshop when Prana was offering a 25% discount, so it was around $75, way more than I had ever spent on a mat, yet totally worth the price)I took it to a class I went to often and the instructor said "WOW that mat is HUGE", and then i took it to a class I was teaching, a student said "cool mat I love the size where can I get one?" I felt kind of weird telling them how much it cost. I went into this whole long explantation of why it was worth it. So maybe those are the real reasons why I keep it off the road?? Thanks for always keeping me on my ECO toes. Blessings!

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  8. Francesca is GORGEOUS! I think I will have to get my own First lady...I really dislike always moving around on my mat because it is too small for me but I continue to do it for the planet and the pocket book. However, relegating my un-eco mat for outdoor use and keeping Bertha for indoor practice sounds like a plan! Since we live in Canada we only get to do yoga outside for a max of 4 months a year if we are lucky! This will add some years to old blue if I don't use him year round!

    Thanks for all the info! I heart your mat! :)

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  9. that's too cool about the discount on the perfect mat! I agree about claiming your space- don't worry about what other people think- they probably aren't even noticing!

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  10. Welcome, Francesca! I'm pleased you were able to get such a fantastic deal.

    And thanks also for doing the research. I'll have to keep this post in mind for that as yet unspecified future time where I'll have to replace my existing mat. :)

    Enjoy!

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  11. Congratulations! The mat is great, and I hope you never need a new one. And props to prAna for being so wonderful and honest. As for the mat smell, good luck. It took me over a week to get rid of it on my new mat, but it's gone now. :)

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  12. Congrats on finding Francesca.
    Being 6'1 myself, I was thrilled when I found my 74 inch Jade mat (black--so not very pretty), and have thought I kinda wish I had one wider. But, then, it wouldn't fit in my mat bag--and, as you point out, the more eco-friendly a mat is, it seems, the heavier it is, which I've really noticed when biking to yoga class with my current mat (my old bought-in-a-supermarket-and-made-of-toxic-waste mat was light as the proverbial feather). It's certainly not too heavy for biking, for me, but probably would be for some people, and I've encountered some mats that would actually be too heavy for me to bike with (especially since I mostly go to yoga classes seven or eight miles away...though it's an awfully scenic ride). Which begs the question: would a yoga mat that forces someone to drive to yoga class really be more eco-conscious than one that's light enough to bike with?

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  13. Beautiful mat. Love the color. And yes, it is huge but the more the merrier. You are going to be the envy of every yogi in class. Love your triangle pose.

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  14. LOVED this post! Yay for the little happinesses in life! And yay for prAna too - very cool.

    As a teacher, I don't think I'd even notice your mat was larger than usual unless perhaps I noticed just long enough to envy it :)

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  15. I'm glad you found exactly what you were looking for!

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  16. Congrats on your new mat! I've been eying one in my yoga studio and if wasn't so wide, would have likely bought one now.

    I've discovered a cork yoga mat at http://korqmats.com/, and while they're very expensive, if they really last as long as they say it might be worth it.

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  17. Thanks for sharing this hon. I'm a little disappointed with my Jade HArmony since it started "crumbling" and I've only had it for two years now. My cheaper mats have lasted longer! Will look into the prAna mats.

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  18. I'm reflecting on the fact that you share your mat with Andrew...my boyfriend mostly practices yoga at home, so we leave his mat in the apartment. But I practice and teach at studios all over the place, so my mat stays in the car, and when I do my home practice every morning, I just use his mat. But I went to a chakra workshop a few weeks ago, and the teacher commented about how your mat is really a sacred space and has YOUR specific energy on and around it, esp. if you practice frequently. Apparently, according to very traditional yoga views, you're not supposed to share your mat. That got me thinkin' and reflectin' a lot about sharing my mat with my special guy. So I've been taking the "extra" step to bring my mat into the house with me after every class and using my own mat to practice on in the mornings instead of sharing his. Just something interesting I thought I'd share...enjoy your new yoga home (mat!)! I know how distracting a crumbly mat can be :)

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  19. The new mat is fantastic! I love the size.

    I just bought an ecoYoga mat, which has jute and rubber. I wasn't too crazy about the stringy jute parts at first, but now I'm starting to like it. I like having texture beneath my finger tips, and I love how "earthy" my new mat feels.

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  20. I am so late to posting! I've been a bad blogger!
    But, I had to say awesome on the new mat. I have the SAME One...color and all. It is my mat that stays at home (due to it's size and heaviness) really nice mat!

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  21. Francesca - What do you find sketchy about the TPE mats? You mention source material and dyes -- in the end the rubber mat also used synthetic dyes. I'm trying to find a non-PVC mat and having the darndest time. I know that I'm sensitive to rubber or latex rubber (broke out in hives once and have been avoiding it ever since) and think that I would not be able to deal with the tire smell. I looked at Eco Foam (a closed cell polyethelyne [sp?]) foam) and also at TPE. My only concern with the TPE at this point was my suspicion that it would be very easy for the factory in China or Taiwan to claim that their mats are TPE when they are PVC since I'm not sure that there is a visual difference. Please let me know your thoughts before I jump in as I'm planning to buy for myself and for my children.

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  22. EA: check out this post in 2011: http://ecoyogini.blogspot.com/2011/02/ecoyoga-review-kulae-tpe-ecomat.html

    and this post in 2009: http://ecoyogini.blogspot.com/2009/06/my-mat-is-made-from-copolymers-and.html

    for a review why TPE could potentially just be plastic like PVC (and the 'closed cell polyethelyne' is also just a fancy term for plastic-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyethylene) :(

    options other than TPE include: hemp based, cotton, jute...
    or you can buy a ridiculously amazing long lasting PVC mat like the Manduka Black Mat and call it a day- forever. I would say that if you cave and go inbetween eco (faux-eco like TPE or closed cell foam) the mat will also fall apart in a few years- requiring that you just buy another- wasteful.

    hope that was helpful!

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