Folks, get into warrior pose, because I have some bad news. It’s slim pickings in the world of eco-friendly, non-toxic yoga mats. Isn’t yoga meant to be a mindfulness practice? Frankly, I can’t think of many things less conducive to a clear mind and a healthy body than breathing in toxic VOCs while you practice your asanas.
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So, what to do if you’re looking for a safe, non-toxic yoga mat made by a company that cares? Thankfully, a handful of companies do have their act together, but… they’re mostly based in Europe and don’t yet ship to North America. So, if you’re thinking about a European yoga retreat, this could be the perfect time to pick up a new mat from Prolana or Green Earth. Curious about how we rate products? Click here to view our methodology, which at its core, is about voting with our dollars to fight climate change.
Questions to ask when buying a new yoga mat
When you’re buying a new yoga mat, ask the following five key questions. These will help you get the eco-friendly, ahimsa-friendly mat you need:
- What’s the yoga mat made from?
- How thick is the mat?
- Is it portable?
- How long/wide is the mat?
- How ‘sticky’ is the mat?
The kind of mat that works for you will depend on the style of yoga you practice. Other considerations include where you practice, your budget, and whether you prize comfort over stability. A good mat will be able to cushion your highest-impact lunges but keep you stable in your poses. Your ideal mat will also last for years without degrading and won’t off-gas toxic chemicals that undo all your good work for mind and body.
Most standard yoga mats are 4-5 millimeters thick, while lighter travel yoga mats are around 3 mm or less. Thicker mats are great for beginners, those who love hatha yoga or do a lot of crescent lunges, and anyone who wants a little extra cushioning for their joints. Some mats are a juicy 6-9 mm thick, though, which makes them troublesome for balance.
So, if elaborate balancing poses, or even a simple tree pose, are more your thing, go for a thinner mat. Some travel mats are as thin as 1.5 mm! This makes them highly portable and gives you great connection to the ground, for extra stability.
Everyone’s sweet spot will be a little different for yoga mats, so it’s good to figure out your priorities and try a few out before committing to a specific mat. For most people, though, a standard thickness mat is a good compromise between heaviness, comfort, and stability.
Mat texture and stickiness
PVC mats tend to be smoother and provide good grip, while eco-friendly mats made with natural materials like jute can feel rougher on the skin. Stickiness helps keep you stable in your poses and when you transition between poses.
In general, PVC mats are best for stickiness, if they’re clean and dry. If you want to prioritize eco-friendliness but still want some traction, opt for a jute, rubber, or cotton mat that has been deliberately given a raised, tactile surface profile. These mats can help give you extra grip without the ‘stickiness’ of PVC. If you find textured mats distracting to your practice, consider an organic cotton or rubber mat without the textured surface.
Standard yoga mats are 68 inches long. This means they easily accommodate someone who is around 5’8″. If you’re taller than that, you’re going to need to pay attention to mat length so that you’re not cramped. And, even if a standard mat fits you just fine, a longer mat can help you extend your practice by giving you extra flexibility to really dig into those lengthier poses.
To check if a mat is a good fit for you, make sure your whole body fits on the mat when lying down. Then check with a few of your longer poses.
Have yoga mat, will travel
If you like to do yoga on the go, when traveling, or walk or cycle to classes, you’ll want to consider the portability of your yoga mat. This may require some compromise, losing some thickness and comfort on the mat for added comfort and ease when schlepping the mat around.
Lighter mats, ones that fold into a square instead of the bulky roll, and those with their own stylish carrying case are all good options if you place a high value on portability.
Yoga mats range in price from cheap thin PVC that you’ll likely want to replace pretty regularly (making them more costly for you and for the environment in the long-run), to more costly higher quality yoga mats that can last for years if not decades. To reduce your environmental impact, it’s best to choose a mat that you love and that will last you a long time.
How to clean your yoga mat
How regularly and how thoroughly you clean your yoga mat will depend on how often and how intensely you practice. For most people, it’s enough to clean your yoga mat once a week. This keeps stains at bay and prevents the build-up of bacteria and dirt. Follow manufacturers’ guidelines where given, and choose natural cleansers like lemon juice, dilute vinegar solution, or non-toxic dish soap to clean your mat.
Between practices, be sure to wipe away any excess moisture and let your mat air dry before storing it away. Avoid putting the mat in direct sun or hot temperatures though. UV exposure can speed up degradation, whatever your mat is made of. PVC, rubber, TPE, and PER mats can become flaky, brittle, and extra toxic if exposed to high heat and direct sunlight.
Other yoga mat considerations
There’s a huge environmental impact from the chemicals used to make many PVC yoga mats. Manufacture isn’t the only consideration though. PVC mats have a considerable energy footprint and typically end up in a landfill once they wear out and get replaced.
Recycled materials are increasingly used in so-called eco-friendly yoga mats and accessories. Some companies, for instance, make their mats with recycled (synthetic) car tire rubber. Thankfully, the rubber is typically rinsed multiple times to get rid of the heavy metals. Unfortunately, though, companies rarely make their manufacturing processes public. They’re also unlikely to display test results showing what was in the rubber to begin with and what’s been rinsed out. Indeed, some synthetic rubber mats have a car tire smell that lingers for weeks, or even months in some cases. You’ll definitely want to air out this kind of mat on a porch or deck (out of direct sunlight) to reduce the smell. It also helps to give them a good clean before using them the first time.
All in all, it’s good to be suspicious of ‘greenwashed’ products that incorporate recycled synthetic rubber or other materials. You might, however, make an exception if a manufacturer provides third-party test results and robust certifications for the final product.
The most eco-friendly, sustainably-made, non-toxic yoga mats
As you’ll see below, Prolana’s mats, Brentwood Home’s mats, and Green Earth’s yoga mats carry with them a ton of certifications, including from Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC), GOTS, Fair Rubber, QUL, Eco Institut, kbA, and kbT.
For those of us in North America, Gurus Roots Yoga Mat is the best eco-friendly yoga mat around. This high-performance mat is made from natural rubber and cork and appears to be very durable if properly cared for.
Gurus Roots Cork Yoga Mat [Staff tried and tested]
Highlights: This naturally antimicrobial yoga mat is versatile thanks to its cork top layer and rubber bottom layer, plus it doesn’t absorb heat. Personally tested by our team members for over two years of use.
- Made from 100% natural rubber
- Cork and rubber layers allow for versatile use
- Company partnership with Trees For the Future
- Cork is naturally antimicrobial
- 5 pounds, despite being thin, could be considered heavy to some
- Cork is subject to cracks when folded
Gurus offer two Natural Cork Mat options, the Roots Yoga Mat which has a natural rubber base layer, and the Sprout mat that is made with TPE. As such, the Roots Mat makes the Leaf Score cut, but the Sprout does not.
The Roots mat measures 72” by 25” and is versatile thanks to its cork top layer and rubber bottom layer. You can use this mat whichever way up you like, with the cork layer offering excellent grip for sweatier sessions and the rubber ideal for cooler, calmer practice. Cork naturally absorbs moisture, meaning that you won’t need to use a towel on top of this mat, making it even easier to take your practice with you when you travel. That said, the mat does weigh in at about 5 pounds, despite being quite thin. This is still much lighter than most regular rubber mats, though (the Manduka eKO is 7 pounds).
Cork is naturally antimicrobial (making this mat a breeze to care for), and it doesn’t absorb heat, so you can use this mat for outdoor yoga in the sun (cork side up). Just be sure to roll this mat instead of folding it, so you don’t risk cracking the cork.
The Roots mat offers a good balance between comfort and stability as it is firm but forgiving on the joints.
Gurus mats are made with natural, sustainably sourced cork and rubber, some of which is tapped right on the family farms of the company’s creators in Kerala, India. The company is clearly committed to environmentally-friendly practices and has partnered with Trees For The Future, a non-profit that plants trees with rural communities in the developing world, enabling them to restore their environment, grow more food, and build a sustainable future. For every Gurus product purchased, Trees For The Future plant a tree.
Our experience with Gurus
This is the yoga mat used by some of our team members. We have used the mat for two years, and have been impressed with durability. Both the rubber and cork sides of the mat are usable, depending on how sweaty your yoga sessions get.
Highlights: GOTS organic cotton and FSC certified natural latex yoga that’s machine washable and Climate Neutral!
- One of the only GOTS organic cotton and FSC certified yoga mats available
- Climate Neutral Certified
- Thick enough to support lunges but not so thick to throw you off balance
- While technically machine washable, it’s a bit bulky for smaller machines
- Not reversible
- You can’t give it a quick wipe down like an all-rubber mat
Brentwood Home offers the only yoga mat I’ve found with a comfy GOTS certified organic cotton upper and a non-slip FSC certified natural rubber base for grip. This mat is totally non-toxic, vegan-certified (by Vegan Action), biodegradable, machine washable, and measures 5 mm thick, 71 inches long and 24 inches wide. It weighs just 5.7 lbs. though, making it light enough to tote across town to class.
Thanks to the absorbent upper woven organic cotton fabric, this yoga mat is a great fit for those wanting a bit more cushioning than cotton alone provides, and for hot yoga. There’s no need to wipe down the mat and tender joints will enjoy the added cushioning.
These yoga mats are made in India and come in six gorgeous colors. They’re easy to care for as you can just air it out then roll it up when done. Or spot clean it or throw it in the washing machine and then line dry or machine dry if it needs more robust cleaning (and to reinvigorate the cotton pile).
Brentwood Home’s Dunlop latex is FSC® certified and comes from sustainably managed rubber tree plantations. The organic cotton is also certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard, meaning it’s grown without pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers that harm the environment and human health.
These mats are totally naturally, fully biodegradable, and can be recycled or upcycled too. There’s no polyurethane or EVA foam, no PVC, TPE, synthetic rubbers, or adhesives. Brentwood Home is also Climate Neutral, measuring and offsetting its entire operations’ carbon emissions. The company uses 100% renewable energy at its factory and is an Avocado Green Brands business, all of which are Climate Neutral Certified.
Highlights: Great choice for those who are looking for a little more cushioning and warmth in their yoga mat.
- Made from virgin wool and certified organic cotton
- Earned top marks in German safety tests
- You may need the XL version if you’re taller than 5’9″
- The mat has no grippy base layer, limiting the places it can be used
The Prolana Yoga Mat is made from virgin wool and cotton and is one of just three yoga mats to earn top marks in German safety tests. The bottom is made from 100 percent durable, certified organic half-Panama cotton, and the upper is a layer of soft lamb’s wool. This makes the mat ideal for those who like a little more cushioning and warmth, and the wool has natural antimicrobial, dirt-repellent, and flame-retardant properties.
The Prolana Yoga Mat is 27.5” wide and just shy of 75” long and is available in a natural color, terracotta (brick red), and anthracite (black). As it has no grippy base layer, this mat is best suited for use on carpet or outside, or on a grip mat or other yoga mat.
Highlights: This yoga mat offers both grip and a natural feel, plus it’s available with or without lavender.
- Anti-slip coating made from flax and natural latex
- Passed third-party testing for toxins and controversial chemicals with flying colors
- May require a carrier if you’re going to be taking it with you on the go
The Green Earth Wool Yoga Mat is made from wool, cotton, flax fiber, and natural rubber. The top layer comprises 100 percent kbT wool from New Zealand and the underside comprises an anti-slip coating made of flax and natural latex. As such, this mat offers both grip and a natural feel, with a little more absorption and a little more texture to the top compared to the cotton surface of Green Earth’s other yoga mat offering.
The Green Earth Wool Yoga Mat with Lavender has the added bonus (depending on your tastes) of relaxing lavender flowers interspersed in the edging. The lavender scent might be a real boon for anyone using the mat at home to do a more relaxing type of yoga or meditation. However, if you plan on using the mat in a class setting, consider the unscented Green Earth Yoga Mat (which is almost exactly the same).
In third-party testing, Green Earth’s similar mat passed with flying colors. Testers found no problematic or controversial chemicals in the outer fabric, filling, or latex bottom, unlike many other natural rubber mats tested. As these mats are essentially the same as the mat tested, just without the cotton top layer, chances are that they would also test well for possible toxins.
The unscented mat measures 33.5” wide and just shy of 75” long, making it an excellent choice for those who like a bit more space on the mat. The Lavender mat measures 27.5” wide and just shy of 73” long, making it a little longer than standard yoga mats, but shorter than the unscented version.
The Lavender mat folds up and has its own cotton belt and button system. The unscented version rolls up easily and has its own cotton bias tape for quick tie-up. You’ll probably need a carrier, though, if you’re taking your unscented mat across town.
Highlights: A comfortable, grippy yoga mat that is very durable.
- Made from 100% natural rubber
- The mat itself is comfortable, grips well, and more durable than many competitors
- You may need the XL version if you’re taller than 5’9″
- Porous rubber requires more frequent cleaning
The Hugger Mugger Para Rubber Yoga Mat gets good marks for sustainability and performance as it is made of 100 percent natural rubber from a non-Amazon source, is comfortable and grippy, and is very durable. It is a little on the small size, though, which would be a problem for taller people and those with a wider practice. It is also heavier than most mats, and the rubber smell can take a while to dissipate.
At 70 by 24 inches, the Para is shorter and narrower than standard mats. This is probably a good thing for some, though, given that it already weighs 6.6 pounds. If you’re taller than 5’9”, you’ll want to choose the Para XL size (View Price on Amazon), which measures 78 by 28 inches and weighs 10 pounds. You’ll also want a good carrying case or strap to cart this thing around, such as the Hugger Mugger Simple Sling (View Price on Amazon).
And, if you’re not great at keeping up with yoga mat cleaning, this mat is probably not for you. Like most rubber mats, this one has a porous, open-celled surface, meaning that hot yoga aficionados need to give it a good long clean. You can’t get away with a half-hearted PVC mat cleaning routine with the Hugger Mugger Para as the mat will quickly begin to degrade without proper care. That said, one side is more porous than the other, so if you are prone to sweating, make sure to pick the right side for such sessions. Or, better yet, go for the lighter and more eco-friendly Gurus Roots Mat made with rubber and cork, which offers the best grip there is for sweatier yoga sessions.
And, yes, there is the smell consideration. That ‘new tire’ smell does wear off after a while, though, and can be reduced by proper cleaning and airing out, but it may still be too off-putting for anyone sensitive to odors.
Highlights: This yoga mat features tri-layer technology that creates a mix of grip, durability, and slip-resistance.
- Made with natural tree rubber from sustainable sources
- Tri-layer setup creates a good mix of grip, durability, and slip-resistance
- Doesn’t absorb moisture and bacteria like most other rubber mats
- Lingering rubber smell that sometimes lasts from weeks to months
- We’d like to see more certifications to back up sustainable press
Manduka are a big name in yoga mats, thanks to their ever-popular ‘Black Mat’, the Manduka Pro. Unfortunately, the Pro is made with PVC. So, although it carries a lifetime guarantee and claims to be made with an emissions-free process, it doesn’t make the cut for a Leaf Score recommended product.
The Manduka eKO series just makes the cut, though, because these mats are made with natural tree rubber, without the use of ‘harmful plasticizers’, and are manufactured in a zero-waste process (according to Manduka). All of Manduka’s rubber mats are said by the company to be free of toxic chemicals, dyes, and phthalates, made with rubber from sustainable sources, and manufactured using non-toxic foaming agents to make the rubber soft and pliable. These rubber mats are reinforced with a blend of polyester and cotton.
The Manduka eKO mat features tri-layer technology that creates a mix of grip, durability, and slip-resistance. A stretch-resistant center binds the two layers together to improve durability. The standard eKO mat measures 71” long and 26” wide and has a sealed-cell surface, meaning that it doesn’t absorb moisture (and bacteria) like many open-cell rubber mats. As such, it is more durable than open-cell rubber mats.
This rubber mat gets lots of praise for its performance as it has a lot of natural grippiness. The ‘tread’ of the mat helps keep it dry and gives it plenty of traction, but some people find that it’s a good idea to use a Manduka eQua Yoga Towel (View Price on Amazon) on top of the mat during a very sweaty hot yoga session. The towel clings to the mat and makes for even better grip while keeping you dry and comfortable.
The Manduka eKO has similar cushioning to the Manduka Pro. The mat weighs 7 pounds, making it a little lighter than many rubber mats. It also folds up pretty small for better portability and storage.
One downside with this mat is the potential for a lingering rubber smell. Airing the mat out (not in direct sunlight) and cleaning the mat can help, but it may still take weeks or months for the smell to dissipate, and the smell may transfer to your hands and body. Thankfully, the natural rubber smell is not as bad as that of synthetic rubber, but it does seem to be more of an issue with the Manduka eKO than with the Prolana Rubber and Wool Mat and with the Hugger Mugger Para Rubber Mat.
Manduka also make the eKOlite (View Price on Amazon), which is the same as the regular eKO but thinner (4 mm vs. 5 mm) and smaller. It measures 68” by 24” and weighs 4.5 pounds and is a good option for smaller folks and anyone who travels or carries their mat around town. And, if you’re looking for a really thin travel yoga mat, consider the 1.5 mm thick eKO Superlite (View Price on Amazon) which weighs in at just 2 pounds but is the same width and length as the other eKO mats.
You might want to pair your eKO mat with the Manduka Journey On Commuter Yoga Mat Strap for extra eco-cred (View Price on Amazon). This strap system is lightweight and sustainable, and is made using recycled bottles, requiring 66 percent less energy to produce, according to the company. The carrier can fit all mats, has an easy gravity cinch closure, and features a padded shoulder strap for comfort. Manduka also make yogitoes from recycled plastic bottles.
While Manduka mats are ever-popular and the company talks a good talk about eco-friendliness, they are disappointingly thin on certifications and evidence for their claims. The brand asserts that they are all about making a ‘world of difference’, so it’s hard to understand why they are not totally transparent about the materials used to make their mats. There are no third-party test results available for these mats and no company reports demonstrating specific environmental management systems to account for their claims to be zero-waste and non-toxic. They also lack any certifications that would offer reassurance for the company’s highfalutin eco-friendliness claims.
On the plus side, Manduka do give back to the community, with a recent partnership helping to raise money for the Susan G. Komen organization which helps support people with breast cancer. It would be nice to see third-party testing of Manduka products, though, to verify that their mats and accessories are free from carcinogens.