Is Your Yoga Mat Toxic? Find Out Here.

yoga mats are toxic

Recently, many of us have become aware of the toxins present in our everyday items, from our makeup to our cleaning supplies. Most likely, you’ve already opted for some non-toxic alternatives to these traditionally chemical-based products. 

But sometimes, we can be so busy looking for toxins under our sinks or in our medicine cabinets, that we overlook the ones right under our toes (see what we did there).

Yep, that’s right. Your yoga mat might be one of the biggest offenders in your house. 

In this article, we’ll help you determine if your yoga mat is toxic, and what you can do about it. But before you read on, keep this in mind: the intention of this article is not to induce fear, panic, or shame about your yoga mat. Rather, we are offering an opportunity to equip yourself with more information so you can make better informed purchasing decisions. 

So without further adieu, let's find out if your yoga mat is toxic.

First, what does “toxic” even mean?

Toxic may just seem like another buzzword because it’s often used loosely or ambiguously. To make sure that this is not the case here, we’ll start with a commonly agreed upon definition of the term. 

According to the Cambridge Academic Dictionary, toxic means poisonous, or relating to poisonous substances. In other words, anything that is, or that contains materials that may be harmful to your health, is toxic. 

So even though your yoga mat is designed to be a tool for improving your health and wellness, it may be made from toxic, harmful materials. 

What Toxic Materials Might Be in Your Yoga Mat? 

Most yoga mats are made from synthetic plastics that have been proven to be toxic to your health and the environment. However, some are worse than others. The biggest one to be aware of is PVC. 

What is PVC?

PVC (also known as vinyl) stands for Polyvinyl Chloride. PVC is a plastic polymer that is used to make everything from (you guessed it) vinyl records, to automobile parts, construction equipment, home furnishing, children’s toys, and even clothing. It’s also the most frequently used material for making yoga mats. The reason it’s so commonly used is because it’s very cheap to produce.

“Sticky mats” and colorful yoga mats that look like this are typically made of PVC plastic. 

toxic pvc yoga mat

PVC Yoga Mats

Why is PVC Harmful for your Health? 

PVC is referred to as the “Poison Plastic” by Greenpeace because of its toxicity to both humans and the environment. Per their website:

PVC is the most environmentally damaging plastic. The PVC lifecycle -- its production, use, and disposal -- results in the release of toxic, chlorine-based chemicals. These toxins are building up in the water, air and food chain.

Studies have concluded that PVC releases toxic by-products over time. Among these toxins are compounds called dioxins. Extensive research has proven that dioxins are carcinogenic (a.k.a. cancer causing) and disruptive to the endocrine system (the system responsible for producing and regulating hormones in our body). Hormonal disruption is not only responsible for many physical ailments and disorders, but also those on a spiritual level. As many yogis know, the pineal gland, a hormone producing gland located in your brain, is widely considered to be your body’s physical third eye. 

Why is PVC Harmful for the Environment?

To add insult to injury, PVC is nearly impossible to get rid of. Due to its chemical composition, it’s one of the most difficult plastics to recycle. This means that most of it ends up in landfills, where it can take thousands of years to break down, although never fully decomposing back into organic material. 

But in reality, a lot of waste is not simply buried- it’s burned. Burning PVC accelerates the release of these highly pollutive by-products, which have been linked to climate change. And since PVC never really goes away, these toxins and microplastics find their way into our air, our waters, and our land, continuing the cycle of toxicity. 

Surely, this is not the kind of legacy we want our yoga practice to leave behind.

Other Toxic Plastics Used to Make Yoga Mats

While PVC is considered the most toxic form of plastic, there are many other plastic polymers that are used to make yoga mats that you should be conscious of. 

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) 

PET is a ploymer often used for thin, clear plastics like water bottles. This plastic is considered relatively safe and recyclable, hence its widespread use. However, studies are finding that this plastic is also capable of leaching toxic byproducts. Additionally, it has a very pourace nature, allowing bacteria to grow easily if not well cleaned. 

Ethylene-vinyl acetate (PEVA/EVA)

PEVA is a versatile form of plastic often used as a replacement for PVC, making it commonplace in many household items. While considered significantly less toxic and easier to recycle than PVC, it is not leach proof. 

Polypropylene (PP)

This type of plastic is commonly used for food packaging, meaning that it’s deemed “food-safe.” However, like PET and PEVA, it does release toxic chemicals, making it best to stay away when you can. 

How Do I Know if my Yoga Mat is Made from Toxic Materials? 

The easiest way to find out is by looking at the website of the brand or manufacturer. The the material is not clearly listed on their site, then go ahead and send them an email kindly inquiring about their materials. 

If your not sure who makes your mat, or it was gifted to you, then you can use these tips to make an educated guess at the material:

  • If it’s not specified that your mat is made of Cork or Rubber, then it’s most likely made of plastic.
  • If your mat comes in a very bright color, then it’s likely made of plastic.
  • If it’s cheap to buy, then it’s cheap to make. PVC is the lowest cost material of them all. 

You can also check for one of these plastic symbols on the packaging:

plastic symbols

Just Because your Mat was Expensive, Doesn't Mean it's Non-Toxic

Don’t be misled by the high price tag or the chic branding of your yoga mat; many of the expensive, “high quality” mats on the market are also made from plastic. 

To make sure that your yoga mat is non-toxic, always check the materials, regardless of where you’re buying it from. 

What To Do If You Have a Toxic Yoga Mat

Unfortunately, we live in a world filled with toxins and microplastics. Although we cannot fully control or eliminate our exposure to these harmful substances, we certainly can do our best to reduce our exposure to them. 

And, since we tend to get up close and personal with our mats during a yoga practice, swapping out your plastic yoga mat for a non-toxic alternative is a great place to start! 

Reminder: depending on the type of plastic used in your yoga mat, you may not be able to recycle it easily, if at all. Check out this article on what to do with your old yoga mat.

Cork Yoga Mats: A Non-Toxic Alternative

Cork yoga mats are a non-toxic and sustainable alternative to plastic yoga mats. Not only are they better for your health and the environment, but they also offer superior performance. The cork surface is naturally non-slip. In fact, the sweatier your palms get, the gripper the mat becomes! Talk about a win-win. 

To shop our cork yoga mats & blocks, click here. 🦎