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By ConsumersAdvocate

Everybody’s journey to becoming a committed yoga practitioner is different. Whether you were attracted to the practice’s spiritual aspect or simply enjoy pushing your body to its limits, there’s no right or wrong way to approach yoga (though there are definitely right and wrong ways to do asanas, and please exercise the utmost care with complicated poses). In any case, when the time comes that you jump from occasional practitioner to full-fledged yogi or yogini, it’s time to look for a good mat.

What makes a good mat? We think it can be boiled down to three basic elements: cushioning, grip, and durability. Of course, all of these will be affected by the material the mat is made of. For instance, did you know that a considerable amount of cheap mats (and some high-end ones too) are made out of PVC?

This can be problematic in many ways, but let’s just look at one for now: disposal. If you’re consistently buying cheap PVC mats that wear out after a few months, these are likely ending up in landfills or being incinerated, both of which have nefarious environmental consequences. PVC doesn’t biodegrade, so it’s either sitting in the earth virtually forever or releasing toxic chemicals into the air if you live in an area that burns their trash. With 36 million Americans practicing yoga, the ecological consequences are worrying. Further, these inexpensive mats usually won’t provide adequate cushioning, or help you maintain your balance. The material your new mat is made of can make a huge difference in your practice and your safety.

Another issue with PVC has to do with the chemical composition of the material itself. Short for PolyVinyl Chloride, it’s used in a lot of different applications, from household products to construction. To make yoga mats or other objects that need to be bendy, it needs to be treated with plasticizers, the most common of which used to be phthalates, which have been proven to be toxic, and leach out in hot temperatures. Other plasticizers are also used to make PVC less rigid. Indeed, a recent chemical analysis of 10 different yoga mats by the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan found that a similar material, PER (Polymer Environmental Resin), was essentially PVC with a different plasticizer.

There are other fairly common yoga mat materials that can have iffy environmental consequences as well. TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomers), is made from mixtures of plastics and rubbers. However, each manufacturer will have its own mix and usually won’t disclose the exact composition, so it can be hard to know just what is going into your mat (and how ecologically friendly or not it actually is). PU (Polyurethane) is petroleum-based, so it can’t be considered renewable either.

On the eco-friendly, bio-degradable end of the spectrum, rubber mats are also prevalent in the industry, thanks to the material’s strength, resistance, and flexibility. They also offer great grip and are really good for people that sweat a lot or who practice in high humidity or heat. However, make sure that you’re purchasing a mat made from natural rubber — synthetic rubber is not the same thing at all and is a lot harder to repurpose.

Cork is an alternative material that is gaining more traction and offers excellent grip under both wet and dry circumstances. It biodegrades easily, can be recycled without any problems, and is obtained without damaging the tree from which it’s harvested. Jute is also highly renewable and a great source of economic development for the communities in Bangladesh and India that grow it. Finally, there are also a growing number of companies manufacturing mats out of alternative materials, such as recycled wetsuits or bamboo.

Wherever you are on your yoga journey, and whichever mat you choose, we hope you take the time to learn a bit more about what your new mat is made of. Namaste.

Theresa Conlon

Theresa is a Yoga Alliance certified instructor (200-hour RYT) who has been teaching since 2013. She is skilled in various yoga styles including Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyasa Flow, Restorative, and Meditation. Theresa also brings an extensive dance background to her yoga practice, which includes teaching both modern dance and ballet. She has over 40 years of dance/theater performing experience and currently showcases her choreography as part of Bergen Dance Makers, a dance collective in northern New Jersey. Theresa’s yoga classes offer a calming mix of traditional asana postures and creative movement flows, supported by energy-moving breath. Students of all skill levels are invited to find ease and peace in their bodies/minds/spirits through the joyful bliss of yoga movement.

Carrie Parker Gastelu

Carrie Parker Gastelu, E-500 RYT, has been teaching yoga since 1993. Carrie began her journey when Yogi Raj Mani Finger initiated Carrie into the ISHTA Yoga lineage after training with Mani’s son, Yogi Raj Alan Finger. In addition, she has studied many other yoga traditions as well as anatomy, physiology, movement, and awareness practices to create an eclectic style all her own. She is known for her honest, non-dogmatic yet passionate approach.

Carrie is a regular speaker and contributor at conferences, websites, and print publications and has been featured in Fit Magazine, the Yoga Zone Book, and in the Yoga Zone Video, “Flexibility and Stress Release.”

Lisa Podesta-Coombs

When Lisa found yoga in 2008, she started to find herself again and it set her on a path of health and healing. She received her 200HR RYT certification from Raji Thron of Yoga Synthesis, and her 30HR Chakra Yoga Teacher Training certificate with Anodea Judith and holds a Y12SR (Yoga of 12 Step Recovery) certification. She is also a Holistic Health Coach (certified through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition). Lisa believes we’re all on a journey of learning how to trust ourselves; she helps her clients build that trust by supporting them in creating better habits for a better life through various functional movement modalities like yoga, barre, Pilates & strength training, mindset, and whole food nutrition.

Forever a student with a passion for people, holistic health, and self-actualization, Lisa is always embracing opportunities to advance her education to better serve; Ayurveda workshops & immersions have been of particular interest as she continues to deepen her knowledge of and experience with food as medicine and she recently completed Unleash Her Power Within, a transformational program of rediscovering our truest selves, powered by Tony Robbins.  

As she continues to give herself space and grace to nourish her natural self and actualize her potential, Lisa continues to share the gift of movement as medicine to inspire authenticity & health in body, mind, and spirit. You can expect mindful, accessible, dynamic, playful, and uplifting classes from Lisa.

Tanisha Sutton

Tanisha’s yoga journey began when she was an undergraduate student studying at university. Changes in her health coupled with anxiety over grades, relationships, and life in general, forced her to search for healthy lifestyle choices she could implement to help manage the stress that she was experiencing as a new adult. A friend of hers suggested that she attend some community yoga classes to help with the anxiety and increase her daily physical activity. Initially, she was reluctant and filled with all these false ideas about yoga and the people who practiced yoga. Like many others, she was concerned that her body type and lack of flexibility automatically excluded her from being a student. Curiously yet hesitantly, she journeyed on to her first class and began laying the foundation for a home and public practice that has supported her over the years.

On this journey, she has discovered that yoga has nothing to do with appearances nor is there anything, but an open mind needed to begin. She intends to provide you with a gentle yoga session that is safe, inclusive, and accessible. Her classes are an expression of self-love and are a deliberate choice to tend to ALL the parts of our being that are neglected, ignored, or disregarded during the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Through meditation, deep breathing, and gentle movement we will collectively share space to observe, rest and re-set. Tanisha is honored to share her practice with you and looks forward to seeing you on the mat!