The one thing that everyone walking into your studio needs is a yoga mat.
There is no question that your student will get more out of their practice if they have the right mat for them. However, choosing the right mat is daunting, so it might help to break down what is important to a student.
Grip: Most people find natural rubber provides the best overall grip, but some people get good results in hot yoga with polyurethane, cork or some fabric covered mats. PVC is slippery, especially if you sweat while you practice.
Comfort: Natural rubber provides the most cushion and comfort, but some rubber mats contain large amounts of filler, making them less comfortable. PVC, TPE, cork and cotton mats are generally not as comfortable, as they do not have the resilience of natural rubber.
Toxicity: PVC is one of the most toxic plastics on the planet. Vinyl chloride is a known carcinogen and the manufacturing and disposal of PVC mats may create dioxins. Further, PVC and some other mats contain phthalates, which are also believed to be carcinogenic and endocrine disrupters. Natural rubber and latex mats are good choices unless you have a latex or rubber allergy. Cork on its own is safe, but beware of cork with a backing made of recycled tires, which can contain a variety of toxic chemicals. Organic cotton is a safe bet.
Environmental Impact: Natural rubber, latex and cotton are rapidly renewable, plant-based products. Natural rubber and latex are tapped from rubber trees and cotton is harvested annually. Cork is also sustainable and recycled tire backing keeps some tires out of landfills. PVC, TPE and polyurethane are petroleum-based products, so are not renewable. U.S.-made mats ensure compliance with U.S. environmental and labor laws and have a smaller carbon footprint related to transportation. The one advantage of some of the very expensive PVC mats is a lifetime warranty that ensures reduced landfill impact. TPE mats are advertised as recyclable.
Durability: People who are concerned about the durability of their mats may be drawn in by the idea of a lifetime warranty. However, if you think about a pair of running shoes — which are more expensive than yoga mats — runners don’t think twice about having the right equipment to make their running experience better, even if it means replacing their shoes every six months. So while durability is a concern, it should not come at the expense of your health or your practice.
Cost: Finally, with respect to price, PVC mats can be found for as little as $5, but also for up to $136. TPE mats range in price from about $25 to about $50. Natural rubber mats range from $40 to $170.
The bottom line is to ask your student what is most important to him or her. No matter what, they are going to be spending a lot of time with their mat, so be sure to help them choose the one that is right for them.
Jade Yoga is committed to making the world’s best performing, most environmentally friendly yoga products and giving back to the earth with every product sold. Through its “Buy a Mat, Plant a Tree” program, Jade has planted over one million trees so far. Through its “Community Partners” program, Jade provides mats to many nonprofit organizations and donates a portion of sales to environmental organizations, veterans’ organizations, and other worthy causes.