Are you considering getting a yoga mat made from a natural fiber? Cotton is one of the options available, despite being a natural fiber it's not a given that it's sustainable.
Here's a handy guide with everything you need to know about cotton yoga mats from the technical aspects to the eco-friendly ones.
THE TRADITIONAL INDIAN MYSORE YOGA MAT
Cotton yoga mats represents the type of mat most closely related to traditional yoga and its country of origin: India.
In particular the cotton mats are made in the city of Mysore where K. Pattabhi Jois , the father creator of the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga style founded his institute, making Mysore the capital of yoga. If you want to go to Mysore to specialize in the Ashtanga style, a cotton mat is even mandatory to participate in the teacher training classes.
Before proceeding to the technical description of the cotton mat, however, it is necessary to take stock of the sustainability of this yoga mat.
CHOOSING A SUSTAINABLE COTTON YOGA MAT
Cotton represents a real world ecological problem. Although cotton is a natural fiber, it is a material that has a dramatic impact on the environment.
In fact, cotton is responsible for 20% of the pesticides used globally. Its cultivation involves the exploitation and pollution of water resources. One kilo of cotton requires 10,000 liters of water to be produced (a single T-shirt is equivalent to the amount of water the average person drinks in three years). Its production has led to the near-desertification of natural heritages such as the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan. Finally, chemical dyes add further pollution as they contain a high percentage of heavy metals.
The solution is to opt for an organic cotton mat or bio cotton CERTIFIED with natural dyes. The most reliable certification is GOTS certification.
Certified organic cotton reduces the CO2 emissions associated with cotton production by 94%. It banishes the use of pesticides and toxic chemicals. Reduces water pollution by 98%.
GOTS certification also ensures not only that the ecological parameters of organic cotton are met, but also protects the rights of workers. Certified organic cotton ensures that the people who made your yoga mat or pillows have not been exploited.
Among all the cotton produced globally, only 1% is organic.
Finally, with regard to the end of life, cotton is a short fiber, not very resistant that tends to unravel (unlike other fibers such as hemp which is long and super resistant) so to be recycled must be trimmed with a synthetic fiber such as polyester. At least it is completely biodegradable in three to four months.
YOGA MAT OR YOGA RUG?
The yoga rug is very different from the modern yoga mat used in Western yoga.
In English the difference is already highlighted in the name, in fact all types of yoga mats designed in the West (PVC, TPE, natural rubber, cork) are called "Yoga Mat", for cotton we use the term "Yoga Rug".
"Yoga Mat", the modern western mat tends to have a top layer designed to facilitate the grip, a lower part strictly non-slip and is very shock-absorbent. "Yoga Rug" instead is more similar to a thick and heavy beach towel where the characteristics of non-slip and grip are obtained by sweating, as for the comfort, the cushioning is almost zero.
TECHNICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE YOGA RUG
In Mysore it is compulsory to use the yoga rug, in fact using the classic western mat is dangerous because the intense sweating makes the plastic mats slippery.
The yoga rug is the best hypothesis in the very humid and hot climate of India, where sweating makes the yoga rug very wet, increasing the grip as the practice proceeds.
Yoga Rugs have different thicknesses ranging from 2MM to 6MM. But even in the thickest versions the cushioning does not reach the levels of comfort to which Western mats that are influenced by fitness have accustomed us. Yoga Rugs are not ideal for those with knee problems, for those with particularly sharp elbows and joints.
The risk is to feel your knees and elbows stinging on the floor. The cotton rugs are handmade at the loom, they are very colorful and the coarse warp forms horizontal lines that will serve for grip. They are easily washable and convenient to fold and carry around, often weighing just over a pound.
STYLES SUITABLE FOR YOGA RUGS
Yoga rugs are suitable for all dynamic styles and where you sweat a lot. Therefore styles such as Asthanga, Hot yoga, Power yoga, Vyniasa flow are suitable for the yoga rugs.
In studios and shala yoga in countries that are not as hot and humid as India, yoga rug is used by placing it in addition on top of the western yoga mat, so as to prevent the yoga rug from slipping on the smooth, dry floor of the shala.
In hot yoga and power yoga classes where the rooms are specially heated to recreate the Indian climate it may not be necessary to use a yoga mat under the yoga rug, but this also depends on the type of floor which should not be too smooth.
The cotton mat is suitable for outdoor practice because it is easily washable. In particular for the practice on the beach can also be used by those who need comfort because the sand cushions and cushions and then the risk of feeling the knees pointing to the ground is minimal.
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