Eco Mat Review
Are you on the search for the perfect, eco-friendly yoga mat? Years ago, there were only one or two options, but now, almost every mat company seems to be promoting green-friendly mats. So I thought I'd see what's out there. I decided I'd get a new mat for my trip to South Africa--I require a yoga mat on long travels, and need something lightweight and good quality.
I'm partial to Manduka's eco mats, as they are made of natural rubber (no PVC), and the company claims that they are fully biodegradable. Manduka's mats have always had a little extra girth and are much heavier than other mats on the market. But I love practicing on them and if I am at home or going to a local studio, it generally doesn't cause an issue. So I Googled to see if the company sold a travel mat and found the eKo Lite, which, according to Manduka's website, "marries performance and durability with a lightweight, travel-friendly design. The eKO Lite will leave no footprint in landfills, and is perfect for people who want to make a commitment to our planet and take their yoga practice on the road." The eKO Lite Mat is made from sustainably harvested tree rubber. Unlike other rubber mats available today, the foaming agents used to create the eKO Lite are non-toxic. What this means is that no toxic chemicals have gone into the manufacturing process to soften rubber; when the eKO Lite mat is disposed of and biodegrades, it will not leave behind a toxic residue. Additionally, instead of using synthetic polyester for reinforcement, the company has chosen to use recycled silk and natural cotton.
I was excited to find out that the mats cost less than $40 (so I bought 2 off Amazon.com, so I could encourage my boyfriend to practice with me on our travels), and the day before we left, the mats arrived. I will say that they are much lighter than the typical Manduka mats (3.5 lbs instead of the 7 lbs that the Manduka PRO weighs), but are still quite heavy for travel. But if you are not backpacking, they are compact and light enough for checked baggage and I happily stowed it in my suitcase. Upon further investigation, it seems I should have ordered the eKO Superlite Travel Mat, which weighs about 2 lbs and folds to fit easily in small travel spaces.
I arrived in Cape Town and got ready to practice. I unrolled my shiny new mat in the sunshine. It still has the great feel and quality that I've always liked in Manduka's mats. It did seem slightly narrower than a normal mat, which is fine for my 5'4" frame, but may be a bit tight for folks who are larger. The other issue that I've noticed with natural rubber mats is that they can have a really strong odor. Nothing dangerous or toxic (it's not an off-gassing), but a potent rubber smell that can even remain on your hands after a couple of Down Dogs. I thought this new mat actually was pretty good, at least compared to previous rubber mats I've owned. My boyfriend felt otherwise, as he was unaccustomed to such smell. I am willing to put up with it, because I'd rather have the eco-friendly option, but it is good to note if you are looking for a mat to gift to a beginner--it may be slightly off-putting.
So all in all, I give the Manduka eKO Lite a thumbs up for being green and being a good travel companion. As long as you don't mind the extra weight and light rubber aroma, I'd happily recommend.