I’ve been a full-time yoga teacher for more than 10 years — yoga mats have come a long way in that time! In this guide I pick the best eco friendly yoga mats and help you choose the right mat for your practice.
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Wouldn’t it be nice if we could try out a bunch of different yoga mats before we commit to one? Lucky for me, I’ve had a chance to do just that. For that last 8 years, as I’ve travelled the world to teach yoga, I’ve visited about a hundred studios.
In that time, I’ve had a chance to try out all kinds of yoga mats, including thick cork mats, natural rubber mats, mats with fancy designs printed on them — not to mention my share of cheap mats that were falling apart.
In this post, I’ll share what I’ve learned from:
- Trying lots of different mats.
- Talking to students and fellow teachers about their yoga mats.
- Asking tons of questions of many of the most popular yoga mat manufacturers.
I’ll answer your questions about choosing the right yoga mat for your practice and share my thoughts on the best eco friendly yoga mats available right now.
I also discuss a few popular mat options that I hope you DON’T buy.
Earlier this year, I stopped travelling to settle in Bali and teach yoga here. Which means, instead of my trusty travel yoga mat, I finally get to practice every day on my favourite yoga mat in the world!
You’ll find out what that is below.
So read on for your guide to choosing the best eco-friendly yoga mat.
Can You Practice Yoga Without a Mat?
You can practice yoga on any mat or with no mat at all.
I have spent plenty of hours practicing on grass, on the beach, and on cold, hard hotel room floors.
When you’re just starting out, I recommend using the mats provided at your local studio. They’ll help cushion you and give you some added support while you’re still trying to learn the basic shapes of the poses.
It’ll also give you a chance to figure out what part yoga is going to play in your life before you spend money on your first mat.
Once you know that you want to practice regularly, a good mat of your own can make a huge difference to your practice.
To me, owning your own good quality yoga mat is about taking ownership of your own practice. Your yoga mat becomes a safe space where you can be fully engaged in developing your practice and yourself.
(Plus, it’s nice knowing that only your own sweaty hands and feet have touched it!)
So, while you don’t really need your own yoga mat, if you can afford one, it can make the difference between truly committing to your yoga practice and giving up after the first few months.
Want more props?
Don’t miss my guide to the best yoga props for you home practice.
How to Choose an Eco Yoga Mat
There are 4 criteria that I look for when I’m trying out yoga mats.
A good yoga mat is:
1. Environmentally friendly
As yogis, we should always be conscious of how the things we buy affect the planet and the people around us. Yes, your practice is for yourself, but it should also be about how you engage with the world.
Choosing an eco yoga mat is the first step in feeling good about your purchase and your yoga practice.
2. Comfortable and sticky
Depending on how often you practice, you could end up spending a lot of time on your yoga mat. Because of that, it’s important that the surface feels comfortable when you touch it with your bare skin.
For most kinds of yoga, you’ll also want a non-slip surface that helps keep you in place when you’re doing wide-legged poses, arm balances, and other balancing poses.
3. Durable and hard-wearing
How eco-friendly is a yoga mat that wears out after a year of practicing?
If you have to replace your mat frequently, you’ll be adding to the environmental cost of manufacturing and to landfill as well.
Picking a mat that’s going to last will help you reduce your yoga mat’s carbon footprint. It also gives you a chance to really get comfortable on your mat — until it’s like a comfy sweatshirt that you’ll want to use again and again.
4. Ethically made
I do my best to only buy items that come from ethical, socially responsible companies. All of the mat manufacturers on this list have programs designed to give back something to the communities they operate in or to support social programs around the world.
Psst! Are you looking for a travel yoga mat?
Check out our guide where we share all our favourite travel yoga mats. They are all thin, non-slip, packable, durable and eco-friendly too!
Best Natural Rubber Mats
Best mat for alignment junkies
Liforme Yoga Mat, 2.5kg, 4.2mm
Before launching their revolutionary ethical yoga mat onto the world, Liforme did years of research into the best practices, and sourcing the best materials. They created close partnerships with manufacturers and created one of the most environmentally friendly yoga mats on the market.
“The main thing is the biodegradability of the mat and the issues with certain other mats. For me, this is the single biggest ‘ethical con’ out there. Those very heavy duty PVC materials, apart from being potentially harmful, take far too long to degrade when they end up (as they inevitably will) in landfills,” Liforme founder James Armitage told me.
Liforme is certainly producing some of the best high-performance biodegradable yoga mats out there.
Stickiness & comfort
I love the feel and stickiness of the Liforme mat. It’s comfortable, forgiving, and the surface just feels good under my hands and feet. It is a totally no slip yoga mat and doesn’t take any time to wear in — it’s sticky right from the start.
Plus, the patterns printed on the surface of the mat are a huge help with alignment. I really love the ability to see so clearly how my hands and feet line up. Practicing on this mat is a great experience all around.
If you need a big yoga mat, the Liforme Yoga Mat is a little bigger than most, at 73 inches long and 27 inches wide.
There’s a fine balance when it comes to mat durability. You want it to last for several years of practice, because buying a new mat frequently causes extra manufacturing waste and more landfill. However, you don’t want it to exist long after humans have left the planet.
The company was very responsive when I reached out to them to ask about their mats.
“We are proud of how durable the material is, even though they are clearly not meant to last a lifetime. That should be a selling point, not the other way round. Once discarded, all the materials we use in our Liforme mat will degrade within a few years in normal soil conditions,” Liforme founder James Armitage told me.
P.S. Lots of people think it’s called the Lifeform yoga mat, but that’s putting the “e” in the wrong place!
Mantrafant mats are brand new to our list for 2020. We had never heard of them until they reached out to us.
Their extreme commitment to environmental responsibility got us interested. They’re also a scrappy little start-up who create their products in small batches so they can constantly improve on the last version! We love that passionate spirit.
I haven’t had a chance to try this mat myself and since I already have a great mat, I won’t be asking for a sample. So do let me know if you’ve tried it and what you think!
This is where Mantrafant really stands out. They are committed to creating a yoga mat that is as eco-friendly as possible, all the way from the selection of materials to the packaging and delivery.
Here’s what you need to know.
- Guru PRO mats are made from sustainably sourced natural rubber grown in Hainan, China
- Guru ELITE mats are made from eco TPE
- Manufacturing is also done in Hainan, to keep the distance between raw material and manufacturing as short as possible
- Manufacturers have been carefully selected for high working standards and eco-rating
- All products are shipped climate-neutrally
- For each purchase, a new tree is planted
Mat stickiness & comfort
The upper layer of the Guru PRO mat is handmade rough microfibre, that is free from phthalates, plasticizers, latex and BPA.
The non-slip surface has been developed and tested by yogis to ensure great performance in the studio.
As far as comfort goes, at 3.5mm, the mat is slightly thinner than many on this list. I like this, because it provides enough cushioning but also allows a slightly better connection to the floor in standing poses and arm balances.
Like many yoga mats with a microfibre layer, the PRO is available in lots of inspiring designs which might just encourage you to get on the mat more frequently!
Since this is a fairly new mat on the market, it’s hard to say how it will perform 5 years down the line. However, Mantrafant is pretty confident that their mats will hold up — so confident that they come with a 20-year warranty. If you don’t love your new mat when you get it, or years down the road, they’ll give you a full refund.
The friendly founder of Mantrafant, who started the company as a hobby before throwing himself into it full-time, offered us an exclusive discount for our readers.
Take 10% off your Mantrafant purchase by using the code TREADLIGHTLY10 when you check out!
Best mat for beginners and budgets
Jade Harmony Yoga Mat, 1.8kg, 4.7mm
This is the original eco yoga mat. JadeYoga makes all their mats from natural rubber, a renewable resource that contains no PVC, EVA, heavy metals, or synthetic rubber. These are non-plastic yoga mats and might be the best natural rubber yoga mats available.
If you want the best natural yoga mat, JadeYoga’s mats are a great choice.
Mat stickiness & comfort
JadeYoga mats are soft and sticky right from the start. They are made from natural rubber and feel very different from a PVC mat — there is a little less support there but they’re also more forgiving to the touch. If you have serious issues with pain when making contact with the ground, the Jade Harmony might not provide enough cushioning for you. But for most yogis, it offers a nice balance between cushioning and connection to the ground.
The Jade Harmony comes in three lengths — 68, 71, & 74 inches — so if you need a long yoga mat you’re in luck.
My very first mat was a Jade mat and though I loved it at first, it wore out within a year. That was almost a decade ago though. Current students who practice on the mat tell me that it is tougher now. You might want to steer clear if you are very rough on your mat or if you practice a LOT, but for a lighter touch, the Jade Harmony makes a great mat.
It’s also a great beginner yoga mat, since it’s less expensive than the other mats I recommend.
Best Mats Made from Other Materials
Cork yoga mats are super on-trend for 2019. Cork is the bark from cork trees and is harvested by hand, allowing the trees to live for hundreds of years. That makes it an environmentally friendly and renewable resource, so if you’re looking for the best sustainable yoga mat, this might be the one.
The Yoloha team takes their commitment to the environment one step further by making sure all their shipments are made in recycled or recyclable cardboard and paper — no single-use plastic is involved. So, if your goal is to get a plastic-free yoga mat, look into Yoloha.
Mat stickiness & comfort
This is another new mat on our list, and another I haven’t had a chance to try. However, from all reports, cork is the ultimate when it comes to stickiness, performing well in both wet and dry situations.
Though these mats have a deceptively smooth surface, they are ultra-absorbent and no slip, according to lots of rave reviews. As a bonus, cork is naturally anti-microbial, meaning you can stop worrying about what’s breeding in your mat!
If you’re looking for a super-cushiony cork yoga mat, choose the Yoloha Aura, which is Yoloha’s thickest mat.
They make floors out of cork. If that’s not enough said, then here’s a little more. If you’re naturally hard on yoga mats then choose the Yoloha Native Yoga Mat, which is a blend of recycled cork and recycled rubber. This makes it super-tough — but also keeps it lighter than many of the other toughest mats out there.
Best mat for Earth-loving classical yogis
Cotton Yoga Mat, 1.8kg, 9.5mm
And now for something completely different — and completely traditional. If you want get back to the roots of yoga, before sticky mats entered the world, these bright cotton yoga mats might be right for you.
Hand-made in India, Yogasana mats are woven on traditional looms that don’t even use electricity! The company employs both male and female workers who are paid fairly and treated well.
Each mat takes 10 days to make, and the weaving process itself takes about 3 days. You get a signature card with the name of your weaver when you order a mat. We love this personal touch and that each mats are made with skill and love by an actual human being!
The company, like all on this list, is dedicated to leaving the Earth a little better because of their products.
Here are the eco-friendly highlights:
- Free of rubber, PVC, petroleum products, and all the mystery chemicals that cheap plastic mats contain
- Made with 100% cotton — production using organic cotton is set to start later in 2020
- Dyed with direct dyes that are free from benzidine and heavy metals
- The residual dye water (often a source of contamination in India’s rivers) is treated after use so that the water can be safely used to irrigate farm fields near the production facility
- Cotton is biodegradable
- For each mat sold, $5 goes to fund Yogasana’s foundation Yoga Circle, which contributes to the education of their worker’s children
Mat stickiness & comfort
Though the surface doesn’t feel smooth and sticky like the yoga mats you might be used to, woven cotton provides a unique grip. Sweaty yogis will get a better grip the more they sweat, while dry-handed practitioners might need to spray the mat down before practicing.
On some types of floor, the mat can slip around, so if you have a highly polished surface where you practice, you may want to add one of Yogasana’s Grip It under-mat pads to your shopping cart.
As for comfort, lying on this mat is a just like lying on a cotton rug, because that is essentially what it is.
Unlike cheap synthetic mats and some rubber mats, cotton mats are built to last. The company offers a 15-year warranty, so you know they have faith in their durability. Plus, if you do get a new mat, you can always retire this mat as a cheery rug in your home!
Manduka are fairly open about their environmental efforts and have showed a dedication to consistently improving their line of environmentally friendly yoga mats.
Manduka now manufactures all their PRO mats with an emissions-free process. (Their other mats are made in a zero-waste facility while the LiveOn beginners yoga mat is recyclable).
The PRO mats are made from the high quality PVC and guaranteed for life.
Manduka admits that in general PVC is not environmentally friendly, as it seeps toxins into landfills. However, they strive to limit the toxins (there will always be some residual toxins, heavy metals specifically, but they are phthalate-free and latex-free).
Mat stickiness & comfort
The Manduka PRO is an extra thick yoga mat, so is very cushiony. If you have lots of bony bits that stick out, or sensitive knees, the PRO is a good choice for comfort. It is also stable and non-stretchy which helps when you’re trying to really root down with your hands or feet.
If you want a grippy, non slip yoga mat, the Manduka PRO is a good one to consider.
Manduka states that because the Manduka PRO is guaranteed for life, you can donate it to someone who can’t afford a mat or to your local studio should you want to buy a new mat. But there is a downside. The PRO is so rugged that if it does end up in landfill, where a lot of mats go to die, it will take eons to decompose. In my opinion that’s not ideal.
Manduka offers an extra long yoga mat option, too. At 85 inches it’s perfect for you super tall yogis out there!
Best mat for the all-natural crowd
Mandala Cork Yoga Mat, 2.5 kg (5.5 lb), 3 mm thick
The cork for these mats is sourced from Portugal without cutting down trees and Juru also incorporates natural rubber sap from Kerala. As a bonus, cork is naturally antimicrobial so it kills any germs that might get on it.
JURU also works to provide a safe and healthy environment for their employees, provide one month of holidays for festivities for their staff, and ensure comfortable work conditions when the heat gets excessive (as it regularly does in India). We approve!
Mat stickiness & comfort
When I was teaching yoga at the Four Seasons in Bali (I just love saying that) I got to use the JURU Mandala Cork Yoga Mat and loved practicing on it.
I found the grip to be just right for me, it doesn’t slip on the studio floor, and it provides the perfect amount of protection from for my ageing knees. But it’s not too soft, which means it provides a solid enough practice surface that my wrists don’t hurt after doing lots of arm balances. Win win!
The JURU cork mat seems really solid and it would take some doing to destroy one of these. I have washed them with water and hung them to dry in the intense Bali heat and they come out looking new again.
The company believes in their mat so much that it comes with a lifetime guarantee.
JURU provides free shipping in India, so it’s ideal for any Indian yogis looking for an eco-friendly mat.
Best Mats Made from Recycled Materials
Yoga Design Lab
Best mat for hot & sweaty yogis
Yoga Design Lab Combo Mat, 1.86 kg (4.1 lb), 3 mm thick
This is another company we have to give props to for not only being environmentally aware, but actively using waste material in their manufacturing process. The cushiony base of the mats are made from natural tree rubber, while the soft upper layer is recycled plastic water bottles! I’m always impressed when manufacturers go the extra mile to actually remove waste from the environment and put it to good use.
Mat stickiness & comfort
Aside from being one of the most beautiful yoga mats on the market today, the Yoga Design Lab mats are soft and almost slightly fuzzy. While this doesn’t make for a very sticky mat if your hands and feet are dry, it’s perfect for hot yoga (or for super-sweaty yogis). The wetter the mat gets, the grippier it gets. It’s also absorbent, so you don’t need a yoga towel. As a bonus, the mat can be thrown in the washing machine, so all that sweat is easily washed away.
The Combo Mat provides a nice layer of padding which is not as hard as Lululemon or Manduka mats, but not as soft and squishy as JadeYoga mats. If you like a firm base beneath you but also have sensitive knees and spine, this might be the ideal balance.
We haven’t had our Yoga Design Lab mats long enough to know how durable they’ll be. However, so far, the mats seem pretty tough — albeit it’s doubtful they’re as tough as the PVC Manduka mats or the neoprene Suga mats.
For more details on Yoga Design Lab’s range of mats, don’t miss our in-depth review.
Best mat for surfer yogis
SugaMat, 2.27 kg (5 lb), 5 mm thick
This mat is new to our list in 2019 and though I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, reviews are overwhelmingly positive.
Using old non-recyclable non-biodegradable wetsuits as their manufacturing material, Suga takes what would otherwise be waste and turns it into yoga mats. We love this idea and the fact that you can recycle your Suga mat at the end of its life, too.
Mat stickiness & comfort
The 5mm Suga is thicker than a lot of yoga mats — it’s closer in density to Manduka or Lululemon mats and less squishy than a mat you might borrow at your local yoga studio.
A dense mat is great, because it gives you a firm base to really ground yourself in your standing poses and arm balances. It’s also less likely to cause wrist pain than a squishy mat. However, the density also makes it feel harder than the mats you might have used before.
As for stickiness, Suga prides itself on their design, claiming “they perform better than any mat on the market”, both wet and dry.
Suga offers a C2G option, which means “cradle to grave”; for a little extra cash they guarantee you a mat for life. If your mat ever wears out, send it to the company and they send you a brand new one. That indicates to me that the Suga team is very confident about the durability of their mats — no cheap yoga mat manufacturer would make that promise!
Yoga Mats to Avoid
Though I used to recommend lululemon yoga mats and still really love how they feel to practice on, I can’t in good conscience continue to recommend them.
Lululemon is not very open about their environmental record and I suspect there’s a reason for that — so if you’re looking for a truly eco mat, skip lululemon and explore the other mats on this list.
Random Cheap Mats
The $5-15 mat at your local TK / TJ Maxx / Winners or other discount retailer is always an option if you’re on a tight budget. These mats are usually made of cheap, questionable material, so keep that in mind. You’ll be putting your bare skin on the mat several times a week, so you don’t want it to be made with toxic material.
Keep in mind, too, that cheap mats start to disintegrate really quickly, so the money you “save” initially will likely get sucked up by buying a new mat every few months.
And of course, the harm to the environment from this kind of “disposable” mat is terrible.
If you can’t afford a decent yoga mat, I’d suggest getting a yoga towel or a thin travel yoga mat and laying it on top of the yoga mats where you practice. This will still gives you your own space to practice on but costs much less.
Another idea is to ask at your local studio. Studios often have mats gathering dust in their lost and found and they should be more than happy to give you one if it’s not claimed by the owner.
The Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat I Use (and LOVE)
During our 7 years of nomadic life, Jane and I could only carry thin travel yoga mats. However, we moved to Bali this year, and immediately ordered our new Liforme Yoga Mats!
We love everything about this mat, from the alignment markers on the surface, to the soft-yet-sticky surface, to the kick-ass environmental manufacturing.
When I use the Liforme yoga mat, I feel stable yet mobile, the mat is sticky, and the alignment lines are a great idea. Plus the work the company has done to create the most environmentally and ethically sound mat they can is fantastic.
I feel so lucky to get to practice on this every day.
It doesn’t come cheaply, but if you decide to invest in this mat, I hope you love it as much as I do.
A Final Note About Eco Yoga Mats
No matter what mat you use, the important thing is to practice. Even the best mat won’t help you if it stays rolled up in the corner of your living room. Plus, a mat you buy and never use is the least eco-friendly option of all!
So unroll your mat, stop, drop, and yoga!
More Yoga & Travel Resources
Namaste OMies, Stephen
I hope this guide helps you choose the best eco friendly yoga mat for your practice. If you choose one on this list or have another favourite, let us know in the comments below.