Before you buy your first yoga mat, do you want to know what these mats are made of?
Well, that’s a legitimate concern. In particular, the materials used in yoga mats are important not only for your practice but also for your skin and overall health. You can only buy the best yoga mat on the market if you know what it’s made of.
Today, yoga mat manufacturers are using a variety of synthetic and natural materials to make the mat comfortable while ensuring that it is recyclable and environmentally friendly.
The most common synthetic yoga mats on the market today are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), thermoplastic elastomer (TPE), and polymer ambient resin (PER). Natural yoga mat materials, on the other hand, include jute, cotton, cork and natural rubber, which are relatively environmentally friendly.
In this article, we will look at the different types of materials used to make yoga mats. Then based on the pros and cons of each mat material, we will analyze which yoga mat is best based on the material it is made of.
Before we begin, let’s take a quick look at the properties of common yoga mat materials.
Each yoga mat material has advantages and disadvantages, making it easier for beginners to choose a good yoga mat from the many options on the market.
Checkpoint points for mat materials include stickiness, durability, thickness, texture, absorption, the cellular structure of a yoga mat, and the traction it provides during stretching postures. Most importantly, you (as a conscious yogi) should keep in mind whether the material of the mat is environmentally friendly.
When choosing a yoga mat, keep in mind the following characteristics of the mat material.
Tactile texture: The more texture you have on the surface of your mat, the better the grip. A textured surface will create more friction on contact, which will prevent sliding. A more tactile mat texture will also support your posture balance. In general, a better tactile texture can be created when using natural fibers as materials.
Thickness: The thickness of your mat is determined by the amount of material in your mat. A thick cushion will give you better comfort and cushioning. Conversely, thickness reduces portability.
Breathability: Air permeability is determined by the density of your mat material. The higher the density of your mat, the less breathable it will be. A breathable yoga mat quickly absorbs and dissipates body heat. However, greater density will increase buffering. You need the right density balance. Not high enough to impede air permeability, nor low enough to reduce buffering.
Free of harmful chemicals: Some inexpensive pvc and eva variants may pose potential health hazards. The synthesis of these materials uses chemicals that can cause skin irritation and may even release toxic gases when they react with the surrounding environment. These chemicals also tend to have a strong unpleasant smell. Once again, mats made of natural fibers are the healthiest.
Durability: The performance quality of a yoga mat will determine the durability of its material. Factors such as heat resistance, weather resistance, tactile strength, wear resistance, compressibility and elasticity all determine the durability of the material. mats made from synthetic polymers such as PVC, polyurethane, nitrile butadiene rubber, PER and TPE are extremely durable.
Eco-friendly: Yoga mat materials are renewable, biodegradable and are considered environmentally friendly with minimal carbon footprint during production. Most industrial-grade materials leave a large carbon footprint and take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade. When it comes to eco-friendliness, natural fibers clearly win.
Flexibility and weight: Lightweight materials like TPE and cotton yoga mats are very easy to carry. mats made from these materials are also very flexible and easily bent and folded.
Hygroscopicity: Porous materials such as hemp, jute, cotton and soft do not have high liquid and hygroscopicity. This feature is especially useful when you’re sweating a lot on the mat. Even if you live in an area with high humidity, you need to consider this feature.
Insulation: Most natural fibers (except rubber) are good conductors of electricity and heat, which makes them poorly insulated. The synthetic material on the other side prevents electricity and heat from passing through, which helps prevent certain accidents.
Different Types of Yoga Mat Materials
In modern times, you’ll encounter yoga mats made of different materials. Every material has its advantages and disadvantages.
Some pads are more durable, while others are more comfortable. Some have better grip, others are more environmentally friendly. You need to fully understand the pros and cons of each material and decide what’s right for you.
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
Polyvinyl chloride or vinyl is the most common and cheapest material used to make yoga mats. It is a synthetic plastic polymer or hydrocarbon product that makes PVC cheap, lightweight, super strong grip and flexible.
PVC yoga mats come in a wide range of varieties to their quality. Some companies produce low quality PVC yoga mats at low cost.
While some PVC pads are produced in high density to increase cushioning and moisture resistance. Polyvinyl chloride has an environmentally friendly variant known as polymer ambient resin.
Pros of PVC Yoga Mat
The main attraction of PVC yoga mats is the price. PVC pads are one of the cheapest products on the market.
The second most important reason for PVC’s popularity is its durability.
The durability of PVC pads leads to another benefit they are easy to store.
PVC pads are not called sticky pads for any reason. These pads stick to the ground effectively. Therefore, reduce your chances of slipping in one position.
PVC is a very common material in the world today and is therefore readily available in almost any market.
If the PVC pad is a high-density pad, then the grip and seat pad are superior as well.
High heat and fire resistance.
Oil and chemical resistance.
Cons of PVC Yoga Mat
The biggest disadvantage of PVC is that it is harmful to the environment. PVC pads take 1,000 years to biodegrade. The process of biodegradation also releases worrisome toxins into the environment.
The low-quality PVC pads are not very friendly to your skin. Chemicals used to keep plastic malleable and pliable (phthalates) can cause rashes.
Natural rubber is probably the best material choice for a yoga mat and has been on the market for a long time; Longer than styrofoam or PVC. The rubber for these mats comes from the natural, rubber tree, so it biodegrades easily. Natural rubber yoga mats have a slightly stiffer surface, but their firm grip makes up for it.
Note that it should not be confused with synthetic industrial-grade rubber. Natural rubber as a material is composed of organic polymers, small amounts of other organic impurities, and water.
Pros of Natural Rubber Yoga Mats
Rubber pads pose minimal threat to the environment. So, if going green is important to you, this can be your first choice.
Rubber pads are dense, heavy and have a very firm grip.
The natural hard and elastic rubber provides a good cushion and can even break the shock of falling.
Natural rubber pads are also durable; It really gives you value for money.
High tensile strength reduces tearing.
Cons of Natural Rubber Yoga Mats
The biggest drawback to a natural rubber yoga mat is the price. Compared with its alternative materials, the price is quite high.
Natural rubber pads can be thick, heavy, and have a strong odor. These can add up to a negative surface user experience. However, this cannot be considered a universal shortcoming, as not all practitioners will find these qualities negative.
Thick, heavy rubber pads are difficult to handle and carry. However, you will find ultra-thin rubber pads on the market that are easy to handle.
Based on the above point, the ultra-thin rubber pad compromises greatly on durability. So in the end, you’ll have to choose between persistence and portability.
TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer)
TPE or thermoplastic is another popular alternative material for modern yoga mats. The material is basically a mixture of plastic and rubber, so you can have the best of both worlds.
TPE has thermoplastic and elastomer properties. Thermoplastic properties make these pads recyclable, strong, bendable, resistant to shrinkage, lightweight, impact and chemical corrosion. And the elastomer properties make these pads flexible, heat resistant, and durable.
Pros of TPE Yoga Mats
The thermoplastic quality makes the TPE pad recyclable.
TPE pads are very durable and long-lasting.
TPE pads with their blend of rubber have a good grip and cushioning.
Compared to other environmentally friendly materials, this material is very cost-effective.
These mats are lightweight and suitable for travel.
The material’s flexibility also makes folding these MATS very easy.
These pads are odorless and friendly to your skin.
Cons of TPE Yoga Mats
One major drawback is that the TPE yoga mat does not absorb or retain moisture, which is good considering it makes cleaning convenient. However, moisture clinging to the body increases the chance of slipping and reduces friction.
The material is also sensitive to sunlight, so you must avoid using a TPE mat to practice in the open air and store them away from sunlight. Sunlight can greatly reduce quality.
NBR: Synthetic rubber
Synthetic rubber is typically an industrial-grade rubber commonly used in automobiles. Synthetic rubber has high performance and durability but creates a significant carbon footprint. Nitrile butadiene rubber or nitrile butadiene rubber has good insulation and equally good cushioning.
Pros of NBR Yoga Mats
Synthetic rubber is highly durable and will last you significantly longer.
NBR is very cost-effective and is available at different prices. Synthetic rubber is very durable and will last a long time.
Nitrile butadiene rubber is very cost-effective and is available at different prices.
Nitrile rubber pads will provide good posture grip and balance.
The mat does not retain heat or absorb electricity. So these pads are more accident-proof than natural materials.
Nitrile rubber pads face low wear and tear damage, making them perfect for regular rough use.
NBR mats will provide good posture grip and balance.
These mats will not retain heat and not absorb electric shocks. So these mats are more accident-proof as compared to natural materials.
The NBR mats face low wear and tear damage, making them perfect for regular rough usage.
Cons of NBR Yoga Mats
Nitrile rubber pads are very harmful to the environment. However, the material can be degraded through the use of additives.
Manufacturing of nitrile butadiene rubber is limited to the United States, Europe and Canada, so availability could be an issue
Natural Rubber and Polyurethane (PU)
This material is an innovation of The Times and is really worth considering. Yoga mats are made from a combination of natural rubber and polyurethane materials that combine the texture and sustainability of natural materials with the toughness and durability of industrial synthesis.
Natural rubber itself is a good material for the yoga mat we discussed earlier. Polyurethane is essentially a biodegradable plastic. Adding polyurethane now makes the mat better insulated, pliable and cushioned in a way that natural rubber cannot. The addition of polyurethane also reduces the cost of pure rubber.
Pros of PU+Natural Rubber Yoga Mats
Highly durable and highly biodegradable. This material can biodegrade in 1-5 years, which is a miracle compared to 500-1000 years old PVC.
Avoid absorbing heat and shock to reduce the possibility of accidents.
The quality of the rubber gives these mats a perfect grip requiring better posture and balance.
Long service life, high wear resistance.
The high flexibility provided by polyurethane makes the mat more portable.
The combination of the two materials gives the cushion the perfect softness and toughness. You get the proper buffer.
These mats usually have more rubber on the bottom, which will make it sticky, and more polyurethane on the top, which will easily help you remove sweat from the surface.
Cons PU+Natural Rubber Yoga Mats
While these mats will be cheaper than pure rubber, they are still expensive compared to, say, PVC.
The material is relatively new to the market, so there may be less availability
EVA (Ethylene Vinyl acetate)
EVA is a cost-effective bubble. It doesn’t wear out as quickly as regular foam. EVA mats are very common in the market and very affordable. Modern cheap and fashionable floor mats are mostly made of EVA material. EVA is also a popular material for flip-flops.
Pros of EVA Yoga Mats
EVA pads are light and suitable for travel.
EVA pads are affordable.
Moisture-proof EVA pads are easy to clean.
EVA pads are soft and pliable, giving them a good cushioning capacity.
The grip on the EVA mat is also quite good.
The anti-cracking EVA material will not create cracks in the mat when folded.
Cons of EVA Yoga Mats
Durability is a big issue with EVA mats. EVA pads are more disposable.
With increased use, the thickness of the EVA pad flattens out, which reduces cushioning.
The chemicals used to synthesize EVA give them an unpleasant smell.
Jute as a natural material doesn’t need much explanation. This plant fiber has been popular with humans throughout history.
We have been using jute to weave curtains, cushions, carpets and so on. The question here is how well it performs on the yoga mat. Jute yoga mats are usually mixed with a polymer ambient resin in proportion.
Pros of Jute Yoga Mats
Jute is obviously highly biodegradable. Even production requires the least amount of pesticides, so the carbon footprint is minimal.
The rough texture of jute will probably give you the best grip and balance on any yoga mat.
Jute and PER are durable materials that can withstand long periods of wear and tear.
Jute yoga mats are weather-resistant. Sun, moisture, rain and other problems will not reduce the quality of the mat.
The jute mat is light and easy to handle.
Jute is also very friendly to your health as a material. You can inhale directly from these pads without inhaling any toxic substances. Jute also poses no threat to your skin.
The material has good air permeability and will not smell when stored.
While mixing PER adds some cushioning, it is much less cushioning than rubber, foam, and PVC.
Jute has low heat and chemical resistance.
The low flexibility of jute makes portability a problem.
Jute as a natural fiber, its insulation is poor, so easy to absorb heat and electricity.
The availability of jute mats can sometimes bother you, especially during the season when jute production is low.
Prices are also very high; Almost five times the cost of the cheapest PVC pad
Cotton and Hemp
For many years, cotton has been the fabric of choice for all fabrics around the world. Cotton was actually one of the first yoga mats used by early yogis. Few other fibers are as comfortable and soft as cotton, but durability is an issue.
Cotton is more suitable for delicate and complex use. The rough nature of practicing asanas may be too hot for cotton. That’s why most cotton yoga mats are mixed with hemp to provide the desired tensile strength and durability. However, some mats are pure hemp.
Pros of Cotton Hemp Yoga Mat
Cotton and hemp yoga mats are recyclable and biodegradable.
These pads are readily available at all times.
These pads absorb sweat easily.
Cotton and hemp mats are comfortable and provide good cushioning.
The mixture of cotton and hemp is suitable for creating a posture grip.
Cotton is light enough to carry around.
The cotton and hemp mix pad is also easy to fold without any damage to quality.
Pure hemp yoga mats are very durable and will last your whole life, they also have high breathability, maintaining their cooling ability.
Cons of Cotton Hemp Yoga Mat
It has very low resistance to heat, humidity, air and other elements. The condition of these pads deteriorates with use. In short, low weather resistance.
It also has low abrasion resistance. These mats can’t stand repeated rough use.
Poor insulation also leads to heat absorption and shock absorption, which increases the chance of related accidents.
These pads are not a bargain at all.
Although biodegradable, the production of these mats leaves a high carbon footprint. Especially since cotton production is a pesticide-intensive process that requires a lot of water.
The comfort of pure hemp mat is poor.
Cork is a relatively new material when it comes to yoga mats. It’s made from tree bark and it’s absolutely natural. Cork in its natural sense will simply slide off the floor, hence all cork yoga mats have a PTE or rubber base to keep them stuck to the ground. Like other natural materials, cork pads feel great to use, but they come with a range of advantages and disadvantages.
Pros of Cork Yoga Mats
It is biodegradable and does not damage the tree during harvest.
Cork is also a renewable resource.
Cork pads are easy to clean
These pads have a bark texture, which gives them great grip and balance.
Cork absorbs sweat easily.
Cork pads have the right mix of toughness and softness, which makes them ideal cushioning pads.
A yoga mat made of cork material is a very breathable material that absorbs and dissipates body heat, which will help in a lying down posture.
Cork is a material that is friendly to your skin.
Cons of Cork Yoga Mats
Cork pads are expensive compared to regular industrial-grade yoga mats.
Cork pads are also not as readily available as rubber, PVC, EVA, or PER pads.
These pads are not weather-resistant and have poor tensile strength. This makes cork pads less durable compared to natural rubber.
Softwood is poorly insulated and prone to accidents related to heat and electricity.
Cork pads have low flexibility and compressibility and are not easy to fold and bend.
So, what is the best material for a yoga mat?
Well, it always depends on your choice and the needs of the moment. If safety and comfort are your only concerns and you are a beginner, then the TPE(thermoplastic elastomer) yoga mat is best for you.
From a price point of view, a PVC yoga mat will give you a variety of options. However, eco-friendly mats come from a variety of sources, including natural rubber, organic cotton and jute.