Movement is medicine, and yoga is a beautiful way to get your body moving. This practice can help improve your strength, balance and can make you feel more centred and calm.
Whether you take weekly classes or prefer to practice yoga at home, the only thing you really need is a yoga mat. One of the most important roles of a yoga mat is to provide grip. Slipping around can make your practice ineffective or even unsafe.
Grazia spoke to Kat Pither, the founder of Yogi Bare, about the benefits of yoga and what to look for in an eco-friendly yoga mat. The brand has developed a range of beautiful eco-sensitive products that are accessible to everyone, and are inspired by self-expression in yoga, the journey of falling in love and accepting the things that make you unique.
So why invest in an eco-friendly mat you may ask? Kat tells us, 'Before starting Yogi Bare it always used to blow my mind that we create these gorgeous practices where we feel connected to the earth and our place within it. And yet too often these take place on plastic PVC rectangles made from the some of the most earth damaging materials and toxic processes.' But it's okay, we know better now.
What to consider when buying an eco yoga mat:
Of course, the creation of any product isn't perfect for the planet, but it is good to make sustainable choices when purchasing something long-term. Here is what to look for when buying an eco-friendly sustainable yoga mat.
• Biodegradable materials like PU, Natural Rubber, Jute or Cork are best - Be aware lots of cork mats do not come from sustainable forests or can be bonded to a TPE base layer. So check for the certification of cork. These materials naturally grip the ground and can actually help your practice too.
• No PVC or Plastics – They give the planet no TLC
• Check if it's recyclable and biodegradable - Like all sports and fitness products, they will wear down with use and love, so the new way to look at eco-conscious products is the second use or purpose of life for it. As much as biodegradable is great, the landfill conditions have to support the natural breakdown, which is unpredictable.
So, let's get into it. Here is our pick of the best eco yoga mats made from biodegradable materials, PVC free, and contain no harmful chemicals – doing you and the planet good.
SHOP: The Best Eco Yoga Mats
The best eco yoga mats
This yoga mat from Yogi Bare is made with an extra firm perforated rubber surface that stops sweaty hands and feet from sliding during yoga. The 4mm mat is made from 100 per cent natural PU rubber made from high-quality, sustainable materials, is biodegradable and free from any toxic inks. The central line design functions as a guide to ensure you are in the correct position. Yogi Bare has recently launched a recycling project where it gives the community a choice to send back any rubber yoga mat and they will turn it into "safer surfaces" such as soft surfacing for playgrounds, parks or equestrian centres, so sustainability is important to its ethos. The mat comes in five bold colours: green, black, blue, grey and red so that you can get into the flow in your style.
Affordable, sustainable and latex-free. This eco yoga mat contains no PVC or harmful chemicals, making it the perfect mat for those starting out. The double-layer structure and non-slip texture provide optimal grip for sweaty palms and soles and will not slide around when in use. The mat is 6mm thick, providing you with plenty of cushions for your knees, hips and elbows. Plus it comes in eleven different colours.
Organic, eco-friendly and sustainable, this handcrafted cotton yoga rug is perfect for Ashtanga Yoga, pilates, hot yoga, and power yoga. Made in India, each mat takes up to three hours to handloom, so you know each mat is made with love and no harmful components. The yoga rug works best when in contact with water, so the more you sweat, the more you stick to the rug. You can also sprinkle some water over the rug before you begin your practice to keep it down as well. The mat also comes in three colours: brown, navy and turquoise.
Crafted from a natural and non-slip cork surface, this 5mm mat gives you a reliable grip when you need it the most. The cork material is water and sweat-resistant and even offers a firmer hold when slightly wet. The double-layered is made of recyclable TPE, is hypoallergenic, non-toxic, and free from PVC and latex. The design has alignment marks that help you adjust your hands and feet when in yoga positions. We love that it is lightweight with a carrying strap, making this the perfect take-anywhere companion.
If you are looking for an everyday yoga mat that lasts, the 3mm Yogmatters mat is an excellent pick. Not only are they free from toxic chemicals and dyes, but they are sustainably created from natural tree rubber and recycled materials. Fabricated with a wood-like texture, this mat provides stability and good grip. Plus you can choose it in your favourite colour. The five attractive colours available are dark navy, flame orange, purple, and slate grey. Then when it is time to renew your mat, this one can be recycled.
Classic doesn't always mean better. This sizeable 3mm thick circular yoga mat will allow you to enhance your practice since you do not need to rotate your rectangular mat around or confine yourself to a narrow space. It is sustainable, made from recycled natural rubber, free from PVC, silicone, glue, toxic chemicals or carcinogen, and even machine washable. The handy geometric form grid also helps with alignment and is available in various designs to suit your preference.
This premium 4.22mm yoga mat is developed to be one of the most innovative and comfortable mats on the market. Liforme's mats have been specifically designed with eco-polyurethane (an eco-friendly foam) that is PVC free, biodegradable and made using high-quality non-toxic materials. The material gives you an unparalleled grip and stops the mat from slipping when doing your practices. The navigational alignment system is etched into the material, and the layers are bound using a special heat-bonding process instead of glue. Plus, it comes with a free-yoga bag so you can take it to classes.
This gorgeous hemp mat is handmade in Nepal and is entirely chemical-free (including the production). The 8mm mat is a combination of wild hemp-cotton canvas and pure wild nettle fabric. It is soft to the touch and has a grippy surface so that it won't fly out from underneath you. The parallel grid stitching is specially designed to help you find correct alignment during yoga. Plus, the canvas is not latex-based, so sweaty hands and feet will grip the mat just as dry ones do. These authentic mats are similar in both appearance and functionality to those used by yogis in the old days.
Sweaty Betty's eco-friendly yoga mat is made from soft TPE fabric and has amazing grip, so you don't slip. Each side offers a different pattern for different grip levels. It is also quite a thick mat at 6mm and is entirely free from latex and other harmful chemicals. We would recommend this mat if you are more into home workouts than classes.
What are the benefits of doing yoga?
The effect on the nervous and energetic systems of the body are profound, Kat tells us. 'The improvements from Yoga for gut and brain health, sleep, supple strong muscles, joint stability is amazing.'
Yoga plays a key role in bringing balance and peace back into your hectic life. As yoga mixes exercise, meditation, relaxation, it's an excellent way to relieve anxiety or depression. Yoga will help regulate your stress response system, which can empty your mind of thoughts, and, in turn, will calm your nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system restores the body to a calm and composed state. This should be our regular state, but due to the stresses of modern-day life, we are often stuck in fight or flight mode, and that is not doing anyone any favours.
Best yoga poses for Instagram
Grazia spoke to Nahid de Belgeonne, founder of The Human Method who gave us some tips on how to perfect that yoga in paradise moment.
Instagram yoga can seem a little daunting, Nahid says. 'There are lots of people doing very advanced poses, seemingly effortlessly, on beaches, looking like models! But you don’t have to do one-armed handstands in a bikini, or even drink green juices, to join in.'
- Join a challenge – it’s a wonderful way to get to know people and find inspiration. Challenges are usually run in the same way - everyone participating does the same pose each day and posts the picture. At the end of the challenge, the hosts pick some winners, and they get a prize from a sponsor. If you do join a challenge, find the balance between trying to do the daily pose and staying true to your own practice. Like and comment on other people’s pictures, it’s a great community, but you have to get involved to get to know them
- Warm up first! Don’t risk injury for the sake of a quick photo, it’s just not worth it.
- Remember you are taking a picture of a yoga pose, but this isn’t your yoga practice. Take the photos after you practice, never during. Pretty much nothing could ruin a lovely yummy yoga flow as much as stopping to take a selfie every 5 minutes.
- Do both sides of each pose! Even if you are only taking the photo on your good side do the pose on the other side as well so you stay balanced. Plan your poses ahead of time so you feel as calm and relaxed as possible.
- Give yourself more time to get the shot. If you are using a smartphone there are great apps (eg Camera Awesome), or if you are using a camera get an intervalometer, that takes a photo every set number of seconds so you can just do your thing until you are happy with the shot.
- And most of all, have fun! Don’t worry about how many likes you get or followers you have. As much as possible, let go of the ego, enjoy being creative, and make meaningful connections with all the other wonderful yogis around the world.