The Types of Foam Used for Yoga Mats

Memory foam yoga mats help your hands and feet stay rooted in poses.
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Choosing a yoga mat that suits both your needs and your yoga discipline can truly heighten your practice. While some foam mats get slippery with sweat, others encourage grounding by adhering to your feet and hands. The quest for the perfect mat is an endeavor often dictated by your personal likes, sensitivities and level of practice. Carefully selecting this vital accessory -- one that supports both your body's needs and your core values -- lays the foundation for a solid practice.

PVC Foam

Typical yoga mats are crafted of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, foam. The anti-slip nature of PVC material excels at helping you stay put during challenging postures. The high-stick factor adheres to your points of contact and helps you establish your rooted foundation. But while the smoothness and stickiness of PVC foam sound appealing, the traditional manufacturing processes are not. Laura Cornell of the Green Yoga Association explains that the manufacturing of standard PVC foam releases dioxins and other carcinogenic byproducts into the air. Additionally, additives such as lead, cadmium and a class of chemicals called phthalates can off-gas and leach during product use.

Eco-PVC Foam

If you covet maximum traction but shy away from toxic plastics, seek out responsible companies who source their PVC foam from manufacturers with an environmental consciousness. Heather Williams, director of marketing at Manduka, explains they partner with PVC manufacturers who eliminate toxic emissions released into the atmosphere during production. These eco-PVC manufacturers adhere to strict EPA standards to assure the valves, pumps, compressors and connectors used in their plant's equipment do not leak volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Additionally, by choosing quality materials that last a lifetime, mindful vendors aim to reduce the amount of PVC waste that enters landfills.

Closed-Cell Rubber Foam

Rubber foam mats consist of a nontoxic closed-cell foam. Wiliams explains this earth-friendly option often contains rubber that is recycled or sustainably harvested. When this nontoxic material is disposed of, it then biodegrades into the earth. For those concerned about performance, a surface traction pattern is applied to the mat's surface to prevent slippage and to maintain both the stickiness and sleekness of its PVC counterpart. However, steer clear of rubber mats and choose eco-PVC, jute or cotton instead if you have latex sensitivities but covet eco-friendliness.

Memory Foam

While the concept of memory foam may have you dreaming of a comfy Savasana, it also works well for standing postures. Memory foam helps your hands and feet stay rooted by offering three layers of protection. The bottom layer adheres to the floor, the middle provides memory-foam comfort and the top layer stays dry and sticky with its water-resistant and texturized nature. Additionally, memory foam relieves the pressure points caused by holding long standing postures. Some memory-foam mat companies go the extra mile by offering PVC-free and recycled rubber products that are ethically produced.

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