Just Say No… to Toxic Yoga Mats!

This website contains carefully researched content meant to guide readers in educated health decisions. Although I personally am not a physician or research scientist, I am a committed and careful researcher of technical information and share health tips which I have used and which I have considered in my own journey of health as a breast cancer survivor. I am also mindful of citing sources and careful not to plagiarize. If you choose to share the information I have published, please extend the respect of citing this website and my name as the source of the information, or citing the sources I have shared out of respect to your readers who choose to trust you as a source or conduit of information in their own journey of health. - Christy Begien, Non-Toxic Lifestyle (c) 2019 All rights reserved, Denver Colorado.

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Are you a yoga enthusiast? According to a 2014 article in The Huffington Post, more than 20 million Americans practice yoga. Yoga Journal estimates that practitioners collectively spend nearly $27 billion dollars a year on classes, clothing and accessories. For many practitioners, a yoga mat is their first purchase.  Last spring I learned that many yoga mats, including the one I had purchased, are made from toxic chemicals that can pose a significant health risk. The next time you’re doing downward dog, can you be sure you aren’t breathing in chemicals from your yoga mat? Let me tell you about my research.

The Non Toxic Lifestyle | Yoga Mat Dangers

Many currently available yoga mats contain PVCs and other toxic chemicals. It’s important to check your current mat, or look at the label if you are considering a new purchase.

Most yoga mats are manufactured in Asia and are made of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. PVC is inexpensive and offers great gripping properties to mats. (I know I don’t want to be sliding around during my poses.) However, PVC has been listed by many organizations as the “most toxic plastic” currently in use. In addition, toxic chemicals including: phthalates (endocrine disruptors) are added to the PVC to make the mats soft and pliable. As endocrine disruptors they mimic the body’s hormones. We are exposed to these chemicals on our mats by breathing the slow off gassing, the evaporation of these chemicals and by simple skin contact.

I don’t know about you, but my yoga experiences include up close and personal contact with my mat.

Exposure to PVC through inhalation and skin contact can result in:

  • The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) states that PVC causes damage to the liver, reproductive system, central nervous and respiratory systems.
  • The “gripping” chemicals used in these mats are Phthalates, and they can cause cancer. (LIVESTRONG.com)
  • Obesity
  • Worsening allergy and asthma symptoms
  • Increase potential for heart disease, breast cancer, and Type 2 diabetes (Elephant Journal)
  • Developmental issues such as: inattention and hyperactivity. (Sarah Novak — Treehugger)

If you’re trying to get pregnant or already are, it’s important to note Phthalates in PVC have been linked to: (EcoNovice)

  • The Non Toxic Lifestyle

    Pregnant women are at greater risk for possible PVC and other chemical exposures, because these chemicals can affect the reproductive system and unborn children.

    Reduced fertility in women

  • Reduced sperm counts in men
  • Malformations of the male reproductive tract and testicular cancer
  • Preterm birth and low birth weight babies
  • Presence in the placenta and have been found in breast milk
  • Possible ADHD in children

The manufacturing process:

Can you imagine the toxic exposure the workers who help produce these mats come under?

Disposal and the environment:

There is no safe way to destroy yoga mats made with PVC!

  • They cannot be recycled because of the toxic chemicals used to make them.
  • When incinerated or buried in landfills, they release dioxin, a known carcinogen. (Oprah)
  • They are non-biodegradable, they leach chemicals into the soil and eventually the groundwater. (Dr. Mercola)
  • When burned, PVC produces hydrogen chloride gas that is extremely toxic to fish, animals, and the air.

Based on this information, is there a human and earth friendly mat available for your healthy yoga practice?

Yes, Virginia, There Are Non-Toxic Yoga Mats!

Non toxic yoga mats are made from natural rubber and some contain jute, hemp or cotton – all of which are natural, sustainable and renewable resources that are biodegradable.

Non-toxic yoga mats are made from a variety of natural materials and some incorporate jute, hemp or cotton — all of which are natural, sustainable and renewable resources that are biodegradable.

I was recently at my daughter’s hot yoga studio and was delighted to see that she provides and sells the Manduka line of mats. Based on my research here are my top three picks for non-toxic yoga mats, mats that are kind to ALL:

  1. www.manduka.com – Cushy, includes a lifetime guarantee, and this company is sustainably oriented: www.manduka.com/us/sustainability/
  2. www.barefootyoga.com/yoga-mats – Made from all-natural rubber and jute fiber, long lasting.
  3. www.mightynest.com – Thinksport Yoga/Pilates Mat by Think-Mad of lightweight TPE material (Thermo Plastic Elastomer), biodegradable, non-toxic and designed to decompose in landfills.

Here are other lines of mats made of natural rubber. For me, the smell is too strong, but it might not bother some of you. Here are a few companies that sell them:

A heads up:

The Non Toxic Lifestyle | Christy Begien

It’s important to read labels carefully to make sure that the yoga mat you select is actually made from non toxic materials, and is not just being marketed that way.

Some yoga mats may read that they are free of toxic phthalates and other chemicals but that doesn’t mean they don’t have any PVC. Just check with the manufacturer.

While I am not the avid yoga practitioner that many others are, I want to minimize any exposure to unhealthy toxins and chemicals in my living and working environment. The peace of mind that I get with having a toxic free, environmentally kind yoga mat for the days I do practice is huge.

 

 

What if I can’t afford a new yoga mat right now and what to do with the old toxic yoga mat?

For those with more limited budgets, I highly recommend covering your PVC mat with an inexpensive cotton towel.

When you are ready to purchase your new non-toxic yoga mat, use the old one as a rug pad instead of throwing it away. The beauty of this is that you are extending the life of any of your mats.

To all you folks who practice yoga, I honor you! For those of you who might be interested in this practice here is why it’s so popular.

The Non Toxic Lifestyle | The Health Benefits of Yoga

A consistent yoga practice has many positive health benefits, including: decreased stress, greater flexibility and increased energy.

Some of the benefits of practicing yoga:

  • Helps tone arms, legs and midsections
  • Improves balance
  • Builds core strength
  • Reduces stress
  • Increases flexibility
  • Increases energy
  • Increases sense of well being and health
  • Improves cardiovascular and aerobic capacity
  • Improves join and muscle stiffness and soreness

My personal favorite yoga practice is restorative. These poses involve the use of blankets and props for support. Whatever your practice, I hope today’s post helps bring awareness to going the extra step with your most prized and personal piece of yoga gear, your mat. I encourage you all to make a simple, healthy change for yourself by swapping out your current PVC mat for a healthy alternative.

Namaste, and be Healthy in your poses!

Christy Begien | The Non Toxic Lifestyle

 

 

Sources:
Dr. Mercola
Elephant Journal (Nov. 2013)
EcoNovice (Sept. 2013)
LIVESTRONG (Jan. 2015)
Oprah
TreeHugger (Jan. 2012)
MightyNest

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Comments

  1. Pamela  February 24, 2015

    Very timely as I’m in the market for a new mat. Mine is 2 1/2 years old and is slipping on the floor. (After using it at yoga in the park it’s never been the same). Mine is a Lululemon and I noticed it’s not on your list.

    • Christy Begien  February 24, 2015

      Hi Pam,
      I’ve read that Lululemon coats their mats with polyurethane, which is toxic. I would just double check as they may have introduced a newer, healthier version as I’m seeing with other companies in my research. The Manduka Ekolite Mat is completely PVC free and is getting rave reviews.Hope this helps. Let me know what you decide.
      Warmly, C

      • Pamela  February 24, 2015

        Forgot the link http://www.myfiveacres.com/go-green/is-your-yoga-mat-killing-you/

      • Christy Begien  February 25, 2015

        Hi Pam, So delighted to hear that Lululemon will replace your mat for free AND doesn’t have PVC!
        Thanks for sharing the link, too-since it was written in 2011, I know that many companies have been introducing healthier products. The Black Mat by Maduka does contain some PVC for slippage but it’s now Oeko-Tex certified, meaning that it is made with emissions free manufacturing. It won’t make anyone sick through off-gassing. And the EKO by them is now PVC free. Progress IS being made! Enjoy your new mat!

        • Angel  September 20, 2015

          I’m a little upset that I came across this great article after just returning from purchasing a yoga mat towel. When I removed the towel from the bag (the brand is Lotus), I noticed the disclaimer on the back about the cancer-causing chemicals used. I wish I would have seen it prior to my purchase. I’m a new yogi (almost 2 weeks in), and I was just so excited to buy a towel for my mat (also toxic), that I just didn’t think to read…geez everything seems to have a health disclaimer, from Starbucks to yoga mats/towels. Would washing the towel prior to use get rid of some of the chemicals? I’d been using a regular cotton towel and my issue with that is that it shifts a lot in between poses and I’m constantly having to readjust.

          • Christy Begien  September 21, 2015

            Hi Angel,
            Yes, I believe washing your towel several times will certainly help! How about putting your cotton towel over the top (I know it sounds like you’re really layering at that point) and seeing if the shifting is better. If not, I’m sure the washing helps! Let me know-Readers, any other ideas??
            Thanks for writing and enjoy your yoga!

  2. Liz  February 24, 2015

    Really valuable information!!! My family has a least 4 yoga mats around here. I will check them all out.

    Thanks Christy!

    • Christy Begien  February 24, 2015

      Hi Liz,

      Thanks for your kind comments!! It’s crazy all the things I have discovered and keep discovering-anywhere we can cut our toxic load, right?!

  3. Susan  February 24, 2015

    Yikes. Who knew? Glad my newer Gaiam is on the safe list. Will email to yoga friends. Thank you sharing your knowledge and research!

    • Christy Begien  February 24, 2015

      Glad your mat is safe, too, Susan!! And yes, please share with yoga friends:) The things we discover, eh??

  4. beccy  February 24, 2015

    So glad I bought the right mat! it was expensive but worth the money!

    • Christy Begien  February 24, 2015

      Glad you got the non toxic mat, Beccy!!It IS worth it!

      • beccy  February 24, 2015

        I got the Manduka PROlite and love it…now just need to get to yoga more 🙂

    • Christy Begien  February 24, 2015
      • beccy  February 24, 2015

        Absolutely!

  5. Stephanie  October 27, 2015

    Is the gaiam mat still safe? I noticed the first material their yoga mats are made out of is PVC (from their website).

    • Christy Begien  October 29, 2015

      Hi Stephanie-I checked out more of their mats and while many of them still have PVC the one I’d recommend without PVC is called Wisdom Print Eco Rubber Mat. It’s $30 and no PVC. Hopefully you have no rubber or latex allergies:) Hope this helps!

  6. Fani  September 27, 2016

    A German agency tested JADE YOGA mats and found nitrosamines and PAHs in them. Both substances are carcinogens. No wonder, the mat still smells pretty badly a year later.

    • Christy Begien  October 8, 2016

      Good to know, Fani! Thanks for providing this great information for my readers! Christy

  7. Joy Bukowski  February 12, 2017

    This has me wondering about the recycled rubber turf at my kids eco friendly school… Been googling and its so unclear. Maybe you can point me in the right direction ?
    I’m so glad you posted this as my kids use my mats… Going to have to check the now.

    • Christy Begien  February 13, 2017

      Hi Joy,
      Sounds like your kids are going to a great school that is environmentally conscious! Not clear on your question..can you be a little more specific on how I can help? The turf or mats? Best, Christy

  8. Susan Mendoza  March 1, 2017

    HI!

    I use manduka mats but recently I’ve been checking out the yoloha cork yoga mats.
    Ive been doing research but curious if anyone else may know if there are toxic substances in these mats.
    Maybe on the underside of the cork?

    Thoughts appreciated
    peace and light
    Susan

    • Christy Begien  March 8, 2017

      Hi Susan, Many thanks for your input here! I’ll check out the yoloha cork mats and respond soon!
      Warmly, Christy