Local Lowdown on Yoga Mats

I’ve seen all manner of cheap yoga mats in the studio lately, especially the notorious PVC. So I’ve had a quick look at what’s available in your local sports / department stores on the Sunshine Coast. Bear in mind this is a subjective look at “cheap” yoga mats, based on what I believe is suitable / unsuitable for Bikram (hot) yoga and why. It’s not an extensive list but it may give you some insight before you rush out and make a bad decision.

If you’ve already purchased a cheap, unsuitable mat, at least it has you practicing. Over time, when start coming regularly, do some research and reward yourself with something that complements your new and healthy lifestyle!

Before you purchase, ask yourself:

  • Is it suitable for Bikram Yoga? For instance, don’t get a thick foam mat otherwise it will mess with your balance during the standing series.
  • What’s it made from? Typical products are PVC (super bad) and TPE (better).
  • Why does it cost this much? The expression, “you pay for what you get” is usually true so if it costs you $4… do I really need to explain?!

Let’s take a quick look at PVC and TPE.

PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride) – cheap and oh so nasty!

Close up of a PVC yoga mat

Close up of a PVC yoga mat

This was my first yoga mat; I purchased it from a Bikram Yoga studio; how could I go wrong? In my opinion, no Yoga studio should sell, let alone rent out PVC Yoga mats! PVC or polyvinyl chloride is widely considered to be the most toxic plastic. Vinyl chloride, the base ingredient, is a known carcinogen. Workers in PVC plants suffer elevated health risks and PVC does not biodegrade. It soaks up your sweat and after a while it stinks, even after repeated washing. The best thing about PVC is it’s easy to identify; basically every PVC mat looks the same; see the close up image!

TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer) – better.

Close up of a TPE yoga mat

Close up of a TPE yoga mat

I was given a TPE mat during my travels in Chile. In my opinion they are a reasonable buy. TPE is a form of synthetic rubber made from a mixture of polymers (plastic and a rubber). Kulae, a popular brand, state their TPE mats are 100% biodegradable, 100% recyclable, and contain NO PVC, NO latex, NO cadmium, NO lead and NO rubber (NO allergies). TPE is a closed cell technology; bacteria and germs cannot get “trapped” in the mat, as is the case with most natural rubber mats and traditional PVC mats (which use open cell construction). Basically you are getting a very light, well constructed mat and if you keep it clean, no lingering odour.

Now to some cheap Yoga Mats, sold locally (cheapest first):

My personal pick of the cheap mats is Mat #4 (see below in red). A decent TPE mat for the first timer and a great second mat for travel!

Kmart Sports Mat

Kmart Sports Mat

Mat #1

Name of product: Sports Mat
Location: Kmart
Cost: $4
Made from: XPE foam
Mat size: 140cm x 50cm
Thickness: 6.5mm
Suitable: Definite No
Why? At 140cm, it’s tiny! It moves around on the floor and it’s too spongy which adversely effects your balance.

 

Kmart Blue Fitness Mat

Kmart Blue Fitness Mat

Mat #2

Name of product: Fitness Mat
Location: Kmart
Cost: $12
Made from: NBR foam padding
Mat size: 173cm x 61cm
Thickness: Approx 12mm
Suitable: Definite No
Why? It’s too thick, moves around on the floor and is way too spongy which adversely effects your balance.

 

BigW Spalding Fitness Mat

BigW Spalding Fitness Mat

Mat #3

Name of product: Spalding Fitness Mat
Location: Big W
Cost: $13.94
Made from: Foam
Mat size: Unknown
Thickness: Approx 12mm
Suitable: Definite No
Why? It’s too thick, moves around on the floor and is way too spongy which adversely effects your balance.

 

BigW One Active By Michelle Bridges

BigW One Active By Michelle Bridges

Mat #4 – My personal pick!

Name of product: One Active By Michelle Bridges
Location: Big W
Cost: $28
Made from: TPE
Mat size: 172cm x 61cm
Thickness: 4mm
Suitable: Yes!
Why? It’s TPE so it won’t absorb your sweat and become stinky. Easy to clean. Very lightweight and they last the distance.

 

Amart Gaiam Essential 3mm

Amart Gaiam Essential 3mm

Mat #5

Name of product: Gaiam Essential 3mm Yoga Mat
Location: Amart
Cost: $29.95
Made from: PVC
Mat size: 172cm x 60cm
Thickness: 3mm
Suitable: No
Why? It’s PVC. It’s toxic, soaks up your sweat and after a while it stinks, even after repeated washing.

 

Amart Gaiam Premium 6mm Yoga Mat

Amart Gaiam Premium 6mm Yoga Mat

Mat #6

Name of product: Gaiam Premium 6mm Yoga Mat
Location: Amart
Cost: $39.99
Made from: PVC
Mat size: 172cm x 60cm
Thickness: 6mm
Suitable: No
Why? It’s PVC. It’s toxic, soaks up your sweat and after a while it stinks, even after repeated washing.

 

Amart Gaiam Premium Yoga Mat

Amart Gaiam Premium Yoga Mat

Mat #7

Name of product: Gaiam Premium 6mm Yoga Mat
Location: Amart
Cost: $39.99
Made from: PVC
Mat size: 173cm x 61cm
Thickness: 6mm
Suitable: No
Why? It’s PVC. It’s toxic, soaks up your sweat and after a while it stinks, even after repeated washing.

 

Amart Nike Yo Girl

Amart Nike Yo Girl

Mat #8

Name of product: Nike Yo Girl Yoga Mat
Location: Amart
Cost: $49.99
Made from: 95% TPE, 5% Polyester
Mat size: 167cm x 61cm
Thickness: 3mm – a little too thin for my liking
Suitable: Yes, if you’re short!
Why? It’s TPE so it won’t absorb your sweat and become stinky. Easy to clean. Very Light.

 

Amart Nike Yoga Kit

Amart Nike Yoga Kit

Mat #9

Name of product: Nike Yoga Kit
Location: Amart
Cost: $59.99
Made from: 60% TPE, 40% Ethylene Vinyl Acetate Copolymer (EVAC)
Mat size: 173cm x 61cm
Thickness: 3mm – a little too thin for my liking
Suitable: Yes, but…
Why? Made from TPE but also EVAC (whatever that is). You don’t need the yoga block and strap for Bikram Yoga.

 

Amart Gaiam Yoga Beginners Kit

Amart Gaiam Yoga Beginners Kit

Mat #10

Name of product: Gaiam Yoga Beginners Kit
Location: Amart
Cost: $59.99
Made from: Unknown, I suspect PVC
Mat size: 173cm x 61cm
Thickness: ?mm
Suitable: No
Why? It’s PVC. It’s toxic, soaks up your sweat and after a while it stinks, even after repeated washing. Plus you don’t need the extras.

 

Local alternatives to PVC and TPE

I own a Red Tiger mat and regularly practice on a Jivana mat so I’m happy to vouch for them. Both are designed for Bikram Yoga and both are local to the Sunshine Coast! Again, my personal choice in red.

Jivana As One – Made from cotton and microfiber blended materials. Available for $125 at Bikram Yoga Kawana & Noosa. A well designed, premium mat but they’re not cheap and take a long time to dry.

Red Tiger – Made from Microfibre sports towelling. Not as well made as Jivana but they’re a little smaller, more flexible for travel and the washing machine. For $65 online, I reckon they’re a bargain!

There’s a huge selection online!

Here are two alternatives:

Kulae – Made from ECO PER/Microfiber/Bamboo Carbon. Also designed for hot yoga!

Eco Yoga – Made from 100% natural rubber & jute. Eco conscious but too heavy for long commutes or travel.

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  • Amelia

    Hey Matt, was just researching a proper mat and I came across your blog so that has helped heaps! Hopefully you won’t be seeing my old, sweaty, thin mat hanging around the studio for much longer! See you at the studio:) Amelia

    • http://endlessbender.com Matt Jermyn

      Hi Amelie, great you found my blog post. At least your old mat is not PVC but yes, probably time to upgrade and treat yourself to something decent; you have a dedicated practice now so reward yourself!

  • Anne Coates

    many thanks for this review Matt; I’ve just enrolled for my first series of Bikram Yoga and found your blog when I googled the mats – cheers,

    • http://endlessbender.com/ Matt Jermyn

      Sorry Anne, I thought I’d already replied to you. Glad you found my post helpful. How’s your practice going?

  • James Mash

    Nice info, you could take a look at this new kick-starter mat from Kangamat, would be interested to see what you think. looks kinda cool for the price.
    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kangakase/kangamat-worlds-most-verstatile-travel-yoga-mat-an

    • http://endlessbender.com Matt Jermyn

      Hi James, finally got around to checking out the Kangamat. Nice idea and a versatile bit of kit for travelling yogis. It’s a shame they didn’t make their funding goal, hopefully they get it up and running.