Yoga mats are made of a variety of materials. Conventional yoga mats are made of plastic, whereas more eco-friendly options are made of natural rubber and cork. So it may be hard to determine which yoga mat is best for you. I have used and owned quite a few yoga mats over the years and my last two purchases have been cork yoga mats. 

Cork yoga mats are growing in popularity due to many undeniable benefits. They are great for all types and levels of yoga. Cork yoga mats are eco-friendly, durable, and naturally antimicrobial. They are also very easy to clean. Additionally, they provide superior grip and traction compared to PVC mats.

In this article, I will share details about the benefits of cork yoga mats. I also discuss how they are produced compared to conventional yoga mats. I believe by the end of this article, the differences between cork mats and conventional mats will be clear. Additionally, you will also understand why buying a cork yoga mat is a great investment for your yoga practice.

Benefits of Cork Yoga Mats

When you think of cork, a yoga mat is probably not the first thing to mind. Typically cork is used most for wine corks and cork/bulletin boards. Cork is harvested from Cork Oak Tree. The cork comes from the outermost layer of bark.

cork yoga mats_cork oak forest

Sustainable

When the bark is removed, the Cork Oak Tree can naturally regenerate its lost bark. This means cork is renewable and environmentally safe and friendly. The trees are not damaged or cut down in the mat production process. The bark is normally regenerated and stripped every 9 years for the tree’s lifespan, which is on average 250 years.

Let’s consider conventional yoga mats made of PVC and plastics. These mats are not biodegradable, and the production is anything eco friendly. The production releases dioxins and carcinogens as the byproduct. This is because the mats themselves are made of plastics, phthalates, and other toxins. This is a stark contrast to the production of cork yoga mats.

True To Yoga's Philosophy

Using a cork mat aligns well with the mindful philosophy of yoga. It is also important to note that once the cork is harvested, no additional chemicals are needed to produce the mat. Sometimes there is a backing on the bottom of the mat to prevent slipping. However, this backing is typically made of natural rubber. This makes the cork yoga mat still highly sustainable and eco-friendly.

Antimicrobial

Another unique benefit of cork yoga mats is that they are naturally antimicrobial. Yoga mats can typically carry significant amounts of bacteria and germs if not sanitised and cleaned properly and often. Also, over time they can start to develop an odour.

Antimicrobial properties in cork kill bacteria and germs. They also naturally prevent odours. A 2015 study showed that bacteria on cork is reduced by nearly 97% after being on the material for 90 minutes. This antimicrobial property means you will not need to use harsh or toxic cleaners to effectively clean your mat. Regular cleaning with a simple all-purpose cleaner or gentle soap will be more than enough.

Lightweight

Another common alternative, eco-friendly yoga mat is a natural rubber mat. However, these rubber mats are considered to be fairly heavy. Cork, although high-density and durable, is a lighter weight material. It is easy to carry your mat and makes it a great option for people who commute with their mat and yoga gear.

Non-Slip Grip

You may be hesitant to leave behind conventional, toxic yoga mats because they effectively provide a non-slip surface. Previously, some more natural alternatives did not have the required grip some yogi's required. However, the cork yoga mat provides a superior grip.

Suberin is a natural waxy substance found in cork. Suberin has an open-cell structure. This allows the moisture that is created during your class, whether from the environment or sweat, will be absorbed instead of pooling on the mat.

More Moisture, More Grip

The way the moisture interacts with the cork provides an even better grip. The absorption of moisture means that you never have to worry about moisture or sweat sitting on top of your mat and becoming slippery.

Cork yoga mats are a favourite and highly recommended for hot yoga classes. Yogis love cork yoga mats because you don't have to worry about slipping because of sweaty hands. The moist hands actually enhance the performance of the mat.

Some people initially may find cork to not feel as grippy because of it’s naturally soft, waxy texture. The smooth nature of cork naturally can be made to feel more grippy quite easily. Spray the mat with water before your class and the moisture will ensure there is good traction between the mat and your hands and feet.

Durable

As mentioned, cork is durable. Cork Oak Trees have a lifespan of 250 years. The durability of cork is the reason it is used as flooring in many gyms and studios. Cork yoga mats will have a very long life if taken care of. If you start to notice wear or chips on your mat, you can repair it by sanding gently with sandpaper.

Non-Toxic

The non-toxic nature of cork yoga mats is another undeniable benefit. The mat is completely safe for both skin contact and inhalation. This makes the mat safe for children as well. A mat that is safe for you and the environment gives you a positive feeling while you practice. It is a feeling that can only enhance your experience and motivate you to practice more often. This is another way cork mats align well with yoga philosophy.

Other Considerations for Cork Yoga Mats

With the numerous benefits that come along with cork yoga mats, there are a few other things to consider.

Check Your Base

Choosing a cork yoga mat because it is an eco-friendly option is good decision. Also pay attention to the base that is used for your mat. Some mats have a non-slip base on the bottom of the mat. Normally, this base will be made of rubber. Just be aware that rubber is not as environmentally friendly as cork, and it also does pose a risk for those with latex allergies. Be sure the base is listed as free of chemicals and PVC

Size and Thickness

Cork yoga mats also come in a variety of sizes and various levels of thickness. The thickness can range from 1.5 millimetres to six millimetres. The average thickness is four millimetres. This should give you ample cushion for a comfortable practice. Still, if you have susceptible knees, you may want to choose six millimetres; a thickness of 1.5 millimetres is best for travel.

Price

Perhaps the only negative to a cork yoga mat is that their price tag is higher than conventional mats. Thinner mats will be more inexpensive but be aware that thinner mats may be more susceptible to chipping. Using a thicker cork yoga mat yields a higher price tag, but keep in mind the mat's longevity and durability.

Additionally, the higher price tags reflect the eco-friendly, natural material. Currently, we are required to pay a premium for sustainable products, hopefully over time, this will change. Cork Oak Trees are grown in Mediterranean forests and woodlands. 

This means the cork is not as easily accessible for making synthetic materials. The process of removing bark from the trees is long and labour intensive. So the production process also plays a part in the higher price.

Accessibility

With that being said, cork yoga mats may not seem as easy to find as other mats. True cork mats are not normally carried at large or big-box retailers. Supporting a sporting goods store or other recreation stores will be the best place to find high-quality cork yoga mats.

Cork Yoga Mat Recommendations

Below are three cork yoga mats that are in the price ranges of up to $50, $50 to $100 and over $100.

Performance Mandala Cork Yoga Mat

A cork yoga mat for under $40 is awesome! The Performance Mandala Cork Yoga Mat from Gaiam is durable, lightweight and sustainable. The closed-cell construction seals out germs, odour and bacteria, making it the ideal surface for practising. It also features a large Mandala image that makes the mat stand out from the pack and provides inspiration as your practice.

Cork Yoga Mats_Gaiam Manadala Performance Mat

The dimensions of the mat are 68"L x 24"W x 5mm which are standard yoga mat sizes.  This mat is part of Gaiam Performance Line of professional quality products are designed by yogis, for yogis, and created to inspire mindful movement. These products are designed with care and attention to high-quality materials, thoughtful design, and durable construction.

Body by Yoga Cork Mat

The Body by Yoga range of cork yoga mats are priced under $100. They are a small company and the mats are popular so demand is high and they sellout very quickly. Become a member of Man Flow Yoga and will receive email alerts of when they are in stock. You can purchase earlier than general public and usually get a good discount. 

Stay Flat_Manflowyoga mat

A luxury, soft, no-slip cork yoga mat that’s thicker, wider, and longer than traditional mats. The smooth cork surface is non-slip, the grip actually improves as it gets wetter from your sweat! The built-in alignment system allows you to focus on you movement instead of wondering if you are aligned correctly.

Unity Cork Yoga Mat

Even though the Unity Cork Yoga Mat from Yoloha Yoga price is nearly $150, it is still great value! It is super versatile and suitable for any style of practice. The rubber base provides the right level of density. Additionally, you don’t need to break it in and it doesn’t hold any sweaty smells

Cork Yoga Mats_Unity Cork Yoga Mat

The 72" x 26" dimensions are generous and if you want more space there large sizes available. The only cleaning this mat requires is a spray and wipe down and it dries very quickly when unrolled. Another benefit is that it is one of the lightest mats around. You should have no issues rolling it up and going to your practice cycling, walking or using public transport.

Final Thoughts

Cork yoga mats provide several benefits; they are sustainable and environmentally friendly, naturally antimicrobial, and easy to clean, and they perform well. There are a few negatives when considering cork yoga mats. The higher price tag is likely well worth it. The cork yoga mat reflects yogic values and philosophies and is a great option for all ages and levels of yogis.

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