What is an Organic Yoga Mat?

wiseGEEK Writer

A large percentage of yoga mats are made from PVC or polyvinyl chloride, which can hardly be called an organic substance. Though these mats can be comfortable for regular workouts and light to carry, many feel that there is considerable advantage to using a mat made of natural materials or those labeled organic. There is distinction between organic and natural yoga mats. Natural ones may be made of materials that are derived primarily from plant or animal sources, but these don’t have to conform to standards that would define them as organic. Typically, an organic yoga mat is one produced without the use of many chemical pesticides, fertilizers, or dyes.

Woven from plant fibers, jute is a traditional upholstery webbing and is sometimes used for yoga mats.
Woven from plant fibers, jute is a traditional upholstery webbing and is sometimes used for yoga mats.

Numerous types of mats exist that may be produced organically. These include those made of cotton, hemp or jute, and sometimes of other materials. A number of people turn to natural latex mats, but these tend not be labeled as organic. Those who have or are at high risk for developing allergies to latex should avoid these mats, which may also be called natural rubber mats. As is often mentioned, the term organic tends to mean different things depending upon agency using it and country in which the term is used, so people may have to look to find an organic yoga mat that meets their personal standards.

A woman doing yoga on an organic yoga mat.
A woman doing yoga on an organic yoga mat.

Organic mat choices in material and design do give those who want to practice yoga in a more sustainable manner a number of options. Cotton mats may be filled with cotton or wool batting to give additional comfort, and this extra cushioning can be helpful for those who practice a number of floor poses. It’s also recommended for people doing various types of therapeutic yoga.

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Other mats, like those made of jute, can feel very different from PVC mats. However the weaves of these mats are particularly helpful for rigorous yoga that may involve a lot of sweating, since they will help prevent slipping on the mat. Hemp mats may be a little harder to use on smooth surfaces like wooden floors. Some people choose to use them to cover PVC mats, latex mats, or on top of the more recyclable plastic mats made of thermoplastic polymer (TPE).

There are some people who don’t purchase an organic yoga mat but choose instead to use an organic bath sheet, sheet or blanket for yoga practice. This will work to the degree that the material doesn’t slip. Many of the organic mats that don’t have any type of non-stick backing are better when used on carpeting.

Those looking for an organic yoga mat may notice a difference in cost, particularly for cotton or cotton/wool mats. These do tend to be about twice as expensive as the standard PVC mat. Hemp and jute mats may be more comparable in price to PVC mats, and there are often discounts if several mats are purchased at once. Yoga instructors may order them and sell them to their students, but several students can also combine funds to order several mats at a discounted price from many online stores.

Most yoga mats are made using polyvinyl chloride (PVC), but there are organic options.
Most yoga mats are made using polyvinyl chloride (PVC), but there are organic options.

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