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Eco Yoga Mats: A Green Foundation

July 11, 2009 by Andrew Baerthel

The practice of Hatha Yoga requireHalf Moon Eco Mats just a few things – among them patience, awareness, willingness to listen to the body, and… a mat.  Wondering how to bring sustainability into that practical level, our creative media intern Andrew Baerthel did some research and found out that there are many options available for those of us who are seeking a mat that is healthier for our bodies and the world. He guides us through the world of PVC, TPE, PER, and…vulcanization!





It’s nearing 7 o’clock a.m., the robins are singing their mantras and the stream is gently trickling through the jungle of elephant ears surrounding Mandala House. The Ashram is awakening for another Light-filled day and Karma Yogis are slowly making their way inside for morning hatha classes. Hidden Language Hatha Yoga is one of the focal teachings of Swami Radha. We learn to ask ourselves questions like “Where am I?” “Where do I want to go?” and “What are the obstacles?” We learn to listen to and cultivate a relationship with our own inner wisdom.

As part of our focus on sustainibility and carbon-neutrality, we recently took on a Zero Waste Tapas for one month with some very positive results. To add to that, there is a staggering list of ongoing green projects and initiatives that are truly inspiring. As I continue my morning walk along the boardwalk I begin to question ‘How can I bring more of these green qualities into my own practice?’ After doing some research I was able to find lots of information about hatha mats, the related facts and the alternatives that are available.

The most harmful agent to watch out for in a mat is PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride). The manufacturing of this substance has led to bans and restrictions in many countries including Canada and the United States, principally because it contains heavy metals such as lead and cadmium. In addition, PVC is not biodegradeable and has been linked to hormone disruption. So what are the more healthy and eco-friendly options?

With hatha yoga being a $5.7 billion industry (According to a 2008 Yoga Journal survey) there are no shortage of choices. However, there are three principal categories to consider: Natural Rubber mats are bio-degradeable and created from the rubber tree which is a renewable resource, but if you have allergic reactions to latex, you might want to investigate synthetic latex-free models or explore some other options. Generally the most expensive, Plant Fiber mats are both renewable and bio-degradeable since they are made from plants such as hemp and cotton. Seeing that most commercial crops tend to be pesticide intensive, seeking certified organic brands is advisable.

Currently there are two leading forms of Alternative Plastic being used to create hatha mats: PER (Polymer Environmental Resin) and TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomers). Both claim to use non-toxic substances, but only TPE mats claim to be bio-degradeable and there have been reports of PVC being used to manufacture some PER mats.

The ashram currently sells various models of eco-friendly mats manufactured by the Vancouver company Half Moon, one of which I own and practice with. Half Moon eco-mats are made of TPE, are completely recyclable, decomposable, hypoallergenic and don’t include any heavy metals or toxic substances. In addition, all of the waste generated during production is recycled on-site at their factory. They also offer 100% cotton rugs. Half Moon Eco Mats retail between $40 and $50. Prana, another manufacturer, offers a mat that really pushes the eco envelope, the Revolution. Made from renewable rubber, they have used the process of vulcanization (Intense heating) to bond the layers of the mat together eliminating the toxic glues used in many mats. It also features a cotton scrim which reduces bunching and stabilizes the surface layer. Prana’s E.C.O. line of mats retail between $40 and $90. Prana also sells 100% cotton rugs.

Recommended factors to consider when looking at new mats are things like grip, thickness, length and portability. One thing to stress is that there are no right or wrong answers, bodies differ greatly from person to person and so do mat preferences. Having a mat that supports your own individual practice is where the greatest rewards will be found. It is a good idea to ask yourself what qualities you look for in a mat and then explore what is available with the lowest impact on our environment.

In the Light

Andrew Baerthel



No Comments »

  1. Thanks for the research Andrew, it is much appreciated!


    Comment by Silver Frith — July 20, 2009 @ 11:17 am

  2. I really liked this post, Andrew. It is at once factual and personal, making for an enjoyable blend of the two. The ending in particular strikes a harmonious chord, inviting readers to plan their purchase based on their own practice and preferences, and so not pushing any particular “formula” about what it means to be “green”. A nice encapsulation of Swami Radha’s teachings! Well done.

    Comment by Sylvia — October 15, 2009 @ 7:38 pm

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