In my last posts, we covered the benefits of the TRX Suspension Trainer for home strength training and the BOSU Next Gen for balance and core. But what if you’re more into stretching than sweating? Because yoga the perfect combination of balance, mobility, and breathing, it’s one of the best things you can do for your body. If you’re signing up for a 1-on-1 yoga teacher or class, it’s time to get a high quality yoga mat and blocks.
Most mats are made from the same sad ingredients — PVC and other plastics filled with chemicals. Not exactly the “healthy” image you have of yoga, right? When you try to buy “natural” or “nontoxic” mats, they’re often made from natural rubber, which can have a really intense smell that takes a week or more to outgas. Other “nontoxic” mats are made of recycled rubber, which can still contain leftover creepy chemicals.
So what’s the solution? I’ve had really good luck with Jade Yoga
mats. They are made from natural rubber, but the smell dissipates in a couple hours, NOT weeks like other brands. The grip is awesome, and they’re heavy enough to be durable. After so many bad experiences with other rubber mat brands, I never thought I’d like one, but my Jade mat has lasted and the grip is excellent. The Harmony mat
) from Jade comes in a wide variety of colors, and the price tag (around $80) is totally reasonable for someone who’s only going to take one yoga class a week. (Cheap $30 mats don’t last, and actually cost you more money in the end.)
Another great option is a cork yoga mat. While I don’t love cork yoga BLOCKS (just too hard/dense for my wimpy hands!), cork yoga MATS can be great. Yoloha Yoga makes many different types of mats with a combination of cork and recycled rubber. They have a unique process to remove most chemicals from the rubber, leaving you with a healthy mat. When I opened mine, there was no intense smell, and the mats are visually stunning. Cork mats range from totally reasonable (around $80) to seriously ritzy (around $180).
A great way to get started is Yoloha’s “try before you buy”
option ( https://yolohayoga.com/product/try-before-you-buy/
). Considering it’s only $10, you think you’re just getting swatches. But no! These small mats are actually useful! Whether you’re on the road, and want something small (not a full size mat), or want to add an extra layer of cushion on top of your home mat, you’ll want to hang onto these samples and put them to work! Note how the different cork mats feel (some, like the Unity
, are really heavy and durable, while others, like the Aura
, are quite lightweight, but still strong). If you later buy a full size mat, they credit you the $10 you already spent, making the mini-mats free.
Note that natural rubber does contain latex, so if you have a latex allergy, Jade, Manduka, Yoloha, and even some Gaiam mats aren’t for you. Your best bet might be a TPE mat, like the Prana ECO mat.
Whatever mat you pick, just remember you’ll be looking right at it, so colors that inspire you are worth a few extra dollars. But as always, perfect is the enemy of good. Don’t have a mat yet, but feel tight from sitting? Do 5 min of yoga right on your floor. The grip won’t be perfect, but you’ll have done SOMETHING to move your body today. And that is a win.
ACE & NSCA Certified Personal Trainer