The Yoga Mat That Never Uncurled, By Neil

Posted on May 2, 2008 by Allie


I was ready to be a green yogi. I was using a yoga mat that was as old as my practice, and it had two large holes where I had placed my feet for ten-thousand downward facing dogs. Unfortunately, though, every time my feet dug into the mat, it was digging up phthalates, which is the plasticizer used in products like nail polish, flooring material, and sex toys. Many mats like this one were made of these kinds of harmful materials, and I wanted to get a mat that was non-toxic, wouldn’t harm the environment as it decomposed, and didn’t remind me of flooring material.I bought a yoga mat made of jute fibers, which is the natural fiber of burlap, and Polymer Environmental Resin (PER), which is a material that doesn’t contain phthalates and is thus more sensitive to the environment and one’s health. This jute/PER mat even looked the part, as its color was that of sand or tree lumber, and not the flashy color of nail polish.

Then, I made a series of discoveries. After unrolling my mat to begin my practice, I noticed how the end of the mat didn’t so much as flop flat onto the floor but instead unrolled slowly, still sticking up at the end as I began my poses. As I went to step out of mountain pose to move into a low lunge, I almost took the front of the mat with me because the sole of my foot stuck to the surface. This sticking might have happened in mountain pose, but as I practiced downward facing dog, my hands and feet paradoxically moved away from each other, making it impossible keep from slipping. This jute/PER mat, so friendly to the environment and my health, was the worst yoga mat I had ever used.

I wanted to be green with my practice, but not if it was going to be at the expense of feeling joy or a having a cordial relationship with gravity. One day I was taking a class with a friend of mine, who is so green she has found a way to recycle tea bags, and I took a break from watching my mat unroll to notice that her mat was a tepid mauve color, sort of reminding me of nail polish.

“Why aren’t you using an eco-friendly mat?”I asked her.

“This is eco-friendly,” she said, “It’s the Harmony Mat by Jade. It’s made from rubber trees. All natural.”

“Really?” I asked. I felt the mat. It was thin, it provided a nice cushion, and it had flopped onto the ground when she laid it down.

“It’s the best mat ever,” she continued, “I can fold it up and put it in my shoulder bag instead of having to roll it up like everyone else.”

I decided to give the Harmony Mat by Jade a try.After one session on my black, non-mauve, and non-girly Harmony Mat, I was sold. It didn’t take the better part of my practice to uncurl, my feet didn’t stick to the surface, and the rubbery surface ensured that I never slipped even once. While my friend’s mat was 1/8″ thick and was quite easy to fold and put into her bag, mine is 3/16″ and is a little trickier to manage if I’ve also packed my laptop, water bottle, and a novel. However, it does exactly what I wanted it to do, which is be safe for the environment, be safe for myself, and not remind me of flooring material.

This post is a part of a series of posts by my friend, Neil, (the guy who’s working to raise $20,000 for The Cambodian Children’s Fund). Click on “Neil’s Cambodia Challenge” in the sidebar to read more.


  1. Does it have that nasty rubbery smell?

    May 2nd, 2008 at 5:09 pm
    Comment by Amanda
  2. Hi Amanda–It does have a rubbery smell at the beginning, but after using it for a week or two that smell pretty much goes away. It goes away enough, at least, to not ever think about it anymore.

    May 2nd, 2008 at 10:51 pm
    Comment by Neil
  3. teabags can be composted i think, after removing the staple.

    thanks for the tip on a eco-friendly mat!

    May 3rd, 2008 at 6:29 pm
    Comment by erikka
  4. I have been wanting to start doing yoga for a while now but never actually started. I guess I don’t know where to start. I really need to get more into this stuff.

    May 4th, 2008 at 4:44 am
    Comment by Holly
  5. What an AWESOME post, Allie! OMG. I am *truly* impressed, and sure enough, mine is eco-bad and bright orange (I dig the color, though it’s not exactly relaxing). Bah! What a WONDERFUL experience you’ve shared!!

    Here’s my question… it’s the eco-right thing to do to keep the one I have and continue using it, since it still has a lot of life in it, right? Since I bought it prior to thinking out such intricacies and details, it’s already been produced and purchased, and tossing it would be truly further wasteful. Any deeper logic on that, anyone?

    Thank you again Allie!!

    May 4th, 2008 at 11:13 pm
    Comment by Ashley Sue
  6. Thanks so much for the high praise, Ashley Sue — Neil wrote a great post, didn’t he?

    Here’s what I think on the yoga mat issue — it’s a personal health thing. Every time you use your old mat, you’re coming into contact with icky things. So you may want to retire it to a use that allows you less contact with it — line a shelf in the garage, or use it as a mat to put wet shoes on in the mud room.

    Holly — getting started on anything is hard. If you’re intimidated by the idea of walking into a yoga class, check an exercise DVD out of the library or add to it your Netflix list. But in my experience, yoga classes are usually warm and supportive, so just checking out a local class could be a great place to start too.

    Erikka — I seem to remember when I was a kid that our compost pile ended up being full of tea bags that didn’t break down, so I think there may be a trick to it. Maybe it just depends on what kind of tea bags you use.

    May 4th, 2008 at 11:51 pm
    Comment by Allie
  7. Hi all–great questions indeed. Holly, I agree with what Allie has said, and can tell you how I got started myself. First, I read a book on yoga poses. Next, I found a beginner’s workshop that took place once a week for four weeks, and introduced many of the poses I had already read about. I then went into a regular public class. This allowed me to ease into the trepidation I was feeling about being the new guy in the studio. If you live in a place that doesn’t offer beginner workshops, then consider researching around to find yoga teachers in your area that might give you a private session. These are more expensive than classes, but might be a worthwhile investment for the long term.

    Ashley Sue, I agree with Allie on this one as well, as using the mat with PVC in it involves repetitive exposure to chemicals that you ultimately don’t need.

    Erikka, my friend likes to remove the leaves from the bags and sprinkle them over plants for the nutrients or put them directly into a compost pile.

    May 5th, 2008 at 4:38 am
    Comment by Neil
  8. Total Mind and Body Fitness Blog Carnival 48…

    Monday is Blog Carnivals Day. A Blog Carnival is basically a collection of articles or blog posts, all relating to a similar subject, that are gathered together for your viewing pleasure. You can quickly and conveniently see a list of Article Titles a…

    May 5th, 2008 at 1:26 pm
    Trackback by's Total Mind and Body Fitness Blog
  9. Wow Allie and Neil, thank you thank you thank you for your perspective. How was my mind so close minded to the possibilities of what a phlalate-ridden plastic could be used for *other than* what it was purchased for!?

    Again, Allie, thank you for posting this, Neil, thank you for writing this, and giant congrats to both of you for the perspective and foresight to share this experience with your readers in order to offer a more peaceful, healthy yoga experience. Sometimes (like these) I realize I have so much more to go, so much more to learn… :)

    May 5th, 2008 at 1:49 pm
    Comment by Ashley Sue
  10. I put my old mat to use in the back of my subaru wagon to keep things from sliding when I get groceries etc. On the rare occasion that the doggies actually stay in the way-back I try to remember to take it out so they aren’t exposed to the yucks of the plastic. But it has kept them from sliding too if I forget :)

    May 5th, 2008 at 5:25 pm
    Comment by Nicole
  11. [...] include, a Jade Yoga Harmony Mat (they contacted Neil after his post, how cool is that?), a Gap Gift Card, and [...]

    June 3rd, 2008 at 10:08 pm
    Pingback by Allie’s Answers » Blog Archive » Dance Your Cares Away!
  12. lol, Nicoles post made me laugh. using it in the back of the Subaru wagon. Guess there is always a use for and old yoga mat.

    August 12th, 2008 at 3:33 am
    Comment by Kj
  13. nice article, so many people do not know how the trend towards everything cheap and inexpensive has a cost … so many subtle costs

    March 23rd, 2009 at 11:49 pm
    Comment by yoga dvd dude
  14. About the teabags-

    The greenest thing is to not use teabags at all- buy loose leaf instead.

    I sit a tea strainer on the top of my cup with some green tea leaves in, then pour the water through, let it sit until it’s at the strength I want, then take out the strainer and put on a plate for the next pour. Easy.

    You then save the energy of making the bag and its packaging, and you’re not using those unnecessary materials. You’re also not drinking whatever excess bleaches or other chemicals may leach out of the teabag.

    Anyway, I thought yogis and yoginis didn’t drink caffeine? ;)

    April 21st, 2010 at 3:50 pm
    Comment by a
  15. Very nice mat. I am glad to know that there are no harmful material in this mat.

    January 28th, 2011 at 2:08 am
    Comment by bikram yoga queens astoria
  16. Don’t forget that your yoga mat doubles up as a great meditation mat! And vice versa of course. I took up meditation back in 2007 but yoga in January this year. I’m actually looking forward to replacing my mat, once yoga has worn into a bit more! Meditation doesn’t have the same effect on the rubber lol

    October 4th, 2011 at 10:36 am
    Comment by benefits of meditation

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