Yoga has become a popular form of physical fitness in the West. For regular practitioners, there are a few pieces of equipment which are recommended--yoga blocks, yoga straps and of course, a yoga mat. However, many yoga mats are made from latex, PVC plastic or other synthetic materials which can cause skin irritation. Fortunately there are alternative yoga mats made from natural materials which do not harm the skin or the environment.
Bamboo is one of the most sustainable resources on the planet. It grows quickly and does not require pesticides, herbicides or other harmful chemicals to proliferate. It has become a popular eco-friendly material to use for clothing, upholstery, bedding, furniture, wall coverings and flooring. Yoga mats made from bamboo are environmentally friendly and do not cause skin irritation. While not as sticky as a traditional rubber yoga mat, a bamboo mat provides a nice, earthy surface for asana practice without the irritation or latex/PVC smell of commercial yoga mats. Because bamboo is so common, these natural yoga mats are still relatively inexpensive, costing around $20 to $40.
Many varieties of the jute plant grow throughout the world. It provides soft fibers which can be spun and used to make a soft, fibrous material. Jute is the main plant used to make burlap bags, which were popular in North America during the 19th and 20th centuries. It is also a common material used for clothing in India, Pakistan and other areas throughout the Middle East. Jute is another sustainable material which can be used to make yoga mats, but it is comparatively expensive. Rubber mats cost around $15 to $20, while eco-friendly mats made from sustainable materials like jute can cost anywhere from $75 to $120. Aside from being earth-friendly and non-irritating to the skin, jute mats are also extremely durable and long-lasting.
Hemp is a material that comes from the cannabis plant. It is another renewable resource which grows quickly and does not require much effort to propagate. Cannabis genus is the plant raised for industrial use, not to be confused with cannabis sativa, which is widely known for its medicinal and recreational properties. Hemp fibers are extremely durable and are used to make a number of textiles, including: rope, canvas, fabric, paper, and even concrete. The hemp plant is also highly nutritious and can be used for food or cooking oil. Hemp yoga mats are a little more difficult to find, but worth the search. They provide a comfortable surface for asana practice, and will out-last most commercial yoga mats. Although not as expensive as jute yoga mats, hemp mats are still more expensive than rubber or plastic mats at around $50.