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Rolling out your yoga mat

 

Yoga mats may be the only investment you ever have to make for your practice. So investing in one that might last longer than most is an important factor to consider with price, material, quality and how you will be using it - all effecting the longevity of your mat. When you purchase your very own yoga mat, you want to know exactly how long it is going to last.

The average yoga mat can last for anywhere between 6 months and 2 years. Where your yoga mat lands in this range will depend mostly on your yoga practice, how often you practice, what type of practice and how you care for it. Cleaning it regularly and letting it air dry will help it last for a longer amount of time, but there are also other tips, keeping it away from hot radiators, the outside elements and such.

Just like how you need a good pair of shoes to get you through hours of walking, running, or other activities, you really need a good quality yoga mat to create the best experience with your practice and if you want it to last just that bit longer.

There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing the right yoga mat and things that you may not otherwise know until you start to see your mat falling apart, literally! As with shoes, wear and tear, using your mat daily, hot yoga, trainer use, etc etc. We have some helpful tips, so you can have confidence when you buy your very own yoga mat. We will also look at some helpful tips and tricks you can do to increase the life of your yoga mats and how to know when it really is time for a replacement.

 

 

A Yoga Mat’s Lifetime

A typical yoga mat lasts roughly around 6 months to 2 years, however, it does depend on quite a few factors that affect how long it will last... Yoga mat materials, thickness, how often you practice, what type of yoga you practice, and how you care for your yoga mat are just some of the things that can affect your yoga mat and how it will age.

There are some yoga mats that last beyond the 6 months to 2 years with some yoga mats even lasting anywhere between 2-5 years and one, in particular, lasting well over 10 years especially the plastic based or PVC mats, but there then might be other environmental elements to consider to switch away from plastics as they have chemicals that are released during practice that can be inhaled, carcinogens and clog up landfill! However, since there are a few factors that affect the life of your yoga mat, it's difficult to say as each mat is used so differently by everyone, despite some of the averages. More natural bases tend to be better for overall uses and are non toxic. 

 

What Lasts the Longest?

We know our mats and practically every other mat on the planet! It really is a personal choice of what materials you enjoy to practice on and that really does effect how long they last. In our view the best mats for longevity are made from... 

  1. PVC

  2. Natural Rubber with eco microfibre

  3. Natural Rubber with eco polyurethane

  4. Natural Rubber with polyurethane 

There are other mat surfaces, such as woven hemp, pure jute or cotton that should last a year or so, just like with clothing, they are as eco-friendly as their sourcing and manufacture, so though natural materials are best, so is the source important. The more natural a surface also means no breathing of toxic chemicals like with PVC, but they defiantly have a shorter lifespan, especially with the more vigorous practices as the fibres break and get worn down. Plus without the cushioning base, these can begin to hurt your hands as you move through practice or your joints without cushioning. 

 

1. PVC Yoga Mats (last longest, cheaper to buy, but have other issues) 

PVC yoga mats, generally have great cushioning, are thick closed-cell mats, which helps ensure that it won’t absorb any moisture or crack and dry out. In turn, this will help prolong its lifespan making it a mat for life. Though they are not the holy-grail of yoga mats, mostly with the amount of chemicals that go into production, mostly unnatural materials are used and now we know and understand more about the use of plastics and the effect on the planet if you are buying PVC, you must really know what you will do with it when it is worn out. Thick sheeting PVC yoga mat, will never bio-degrade. 

It has also been studied in relation of using PVC for the use of Yoga Mats that this is generally a bad idea. PVC as it heats (with sweat/hands etc) releases some compounds, which as we breathe deeply into our mat can be inhaled. 

PVC also becomes more and more slippy with heat and use, so the more you use your mat, the more slippy it becomes, gone are the days when there would be chalk in a yoga studio - mats have got better, though our more eco friendly - long last varieties will never outlive a PVC mat! 

Unfortunately, PVC is incredibly toxic to humans and the environment. When inhaled PVC is carcinogenic not ideal with yoga involving focused breathing and movement. During the manufacturing process PVC releases dioxins as a byproduct which are also incredibly toxic. Greenpeace released a document in 2014 stating the reasons why PVC is damaging to human health and the environment “PVC, throughout its lifecycle, is the most environmentally damaging of all plastics."

 

 

2. Natural Rubber with eco microfibre (Kati Kaia Yoga Mats) 

Natural Rubber is an excellent mat surface, it grips well to multiple surfaces giving stability and cushioning and with care can last a long time. To make it last well passed the usual 1-2 years with pure natural rubber - store your mat away from direct sunlight, we also recommend keeping your mat away from the radiator or other elements that can 'dry out' the rubber. 

Always roll your mat up with the eco microfibre side out - this will also protect the rubber base from wear as that is what the microfibre top is all about! As well as breaking in the microfibre for the grip, once you have the grip you enjoy it will last longer than the grip on a PU mat and is more eco friendly.

Depending on your usage... If you practice a dynamic form of yoga every day, Kati Kaia yoga mat should last about 1-2 years. If you practice twice a week then your mat may last 4-5 years or more. The better you care for your mat, the longer it will last. 

The great thing with the microfibre top is that is it made from recycled PET bottles, is non toxic and protects the rubber from wearing in. Also, the more you use and rough up the top surface the better and better the grip becomes. Unlike PVC or PU surface which requires a fair amount of care, the microfibre top really can take some scrubbing, constant use and wearing in of the surface. The grip takes longer to wear in, but lasts way longer and gets better with use. No toxic chemicals are released, even when really hot and sweaty. 

Natural Rubber is a natural and bio-degradable material. Eventually your mat will start show signs of wear, especially where you use it the most and depending on your practice and use, this can take between 1-2 years for very dynamic daily practice, HIIT training with trainers on and weight training, or much lighter and less vigorous pilates use or a couple times a week use, 4-5 years, it depends on many factors. 

The end cycle of natural rubber is far more easy to deal with, you can return your mat to it's manufacturer, donate for sleeping mats or plant into the garden for it to bio-degrade. Read More > 

The microfibre layer is so thin it will biodegrade with your mat, but whilst being used offers good protection for the base. You can read about microfibre use and other materials often used in yoga mats here. 

The grip is different with vegan suede, it is softer, more comfortable for moving between asana, less sticky feeling, and sweat absorbent - so sweat will improve your practice as you wear in your mat, not make it worse like with other surfaces, so these mats are great for sweaty practices, hot yoga, hiit training, pilates, you need to break in the top by roughing up the fibres, which will also protect the base from wear. 

 

3. Natural Rubber with eco polyurethane (Liforme, Kati Kaia Pads) 

As a general rule, natural rubber is a great base for your practice, it gives stability, cushioning and with care last well. Depending on use your natural rubber base with eco polyurethane will last 1-2 years for full dynamic daily use or 4-5 years with more gentle or sporadic usage. 

The main difference with the durability is the cleaning and the different types of grip, which does effect the longevity of the mats.  Eco Polyurethane is inherently more eco-friendly than most other plastics. It also doesn’t contain any chemicals that interfere with endocrine and hormone systems, nor does it contribute to PH change in soil or water. Polyurethane is not the same thermoplastic we see floating in the world oceans at present. Adding this element to the mats, gives a great barrier to the wear and tear of the natural rubber base and protects from elements of sweat. 

ECO PU cannot be used well with trainers, the top marks too easily, it can even mark with general yoga practice use, especially sweaty practice. The top is initially very grippy, which upon rolling out is great - especially for beginners, who may not have a feel for positioning and may over extend on downward dog, which can create slip. But, it does wear out, and with a daily practice, it can wear through quickly, unlike the microfibre which needs some wearing in and the grip will last, these work more like the PVC and as the grip does wear off, so that does effect the usefulness of the mat. You may have to replace quickly with daily use. 

These can also not be machine washed, which is good for making the rubber last, but you will need to clean it often, the top is a little more fragile as the markings will start to wear off eventually. 

 

4. Natural Rubber with Polyurethane (Lululemon, Amazon) 

Lastly if you are wanting a blend of the two, natural rubber base with the longest lasting plastic based top. The top of this will not wear thin, you can generally use well with trainers (though they can mark easily) and polyurethane will out last the natural rubber base. A base of natural rubber will last 1-2 years for vigorous training and more with less frequent use. But this oil-produced top will not bio-degrade, it will generally speaking though loose the sticky effect within the first year or so, depending on use, also you have to watch for the use of chemicals in production and the release of those chemicals as the mat heats with use. 

Compared to rubber, polyurethane has higher wear resistance and elasticity, is not susceptible to oils, gets dirty less, ages more slowly, takes shape more quickly after deformation and better tolerates mechanical stress. But with no clear idea of end of life practices, these will not degrade. 

One of the biggest problems with PU yoga mats is that polyurethane is very flammable and because of this toxic fire retardants are added to PU yoga mats. We do not recommend these mats as it is also hard to know how they will be disposed of at end of use. 

Of course there are so many different types of yoga mat now, it can get confusing! Organic Cotton or Jute can be an excellent mat if you don't need much cushioning as they have excellent natural grip, are not so comfortable, but still make a great base. 

 

 

Signs You Need to Replace Your Yoga Mat

There are so many different types of yoga mats. What does this mean for the problems that might affect the longevity of your mat? Well, this simply means that you may not experience all of the problems listed below or you may even experience alternative problems not mentioned in the following list.

1. You Notice Wear and Tear

One of the most common problems that occur in yoga mats is wear and tear, just like when use our clothing and trainers daily and wash them too regularly - they loose shape. Wear and tear occur when the surface starts to change. This often occurs where our hands and feet are positioned, especially if we practice a dynamic form of yoga.

Wear and tear is very common for yoga mats and so if it affects your practice, then it is time to replace your yoga mat. 

When it comes to slipping on your yoga mat there are 2 reasons this may be happening. It could be due to equipment (plastic surfaces slip or an old yoga mat) or due to incorrect technique. For technique, the best way to slip less on your yoga mat is to spread your fingers as wide as possible and press down in the palms of your hands. By doing this you are maximising your surface area while creating pressure on the yoga mat which results in more grip and less slippage. Also check your positioning, if you are slipping in class ask your teacher to look at your downward dog, it could be too wide for you to control. 

The same can be in plank and arm balances, can you feel the floor enough to support you or maybe you find your mat too thick to power up your balances. A thinner mat can be helpful with more powerful practices. 

 

2. Weird Smell

Another problem almost every single yoga practitioner owner will have to deal with is a smelly yoga mat.

Why do yoga mats smell? Yoga mats smell because when dust and sweat stay on the surface, this becomes a breeding ground for bacteria to grow. And this is what causes the bad smell. Cleaning your mat regularly and letting it air dry after every practice will help prevent a smelly yoga mat.

Try to wipe down your yoga mat regularly and even consider giving it a deep clean once a month, if your mat is machine washable (like Kati Kaia) you can pop into the drum, otherwise take care to wipe the front and back thoroughly. You can use a spray to help kill off bacteria - our spray is plant derived, which is a blend of plant powered cleaning blends. Always seek further advice from the manufacturer on how best to care and clean your mat. 

3. Your joints hurt

Yoga mats really are the only accessory you may need to buy for your yoga practice. And so especially if you have sensitive joints and you want to protect them and be able to keep up with your practice, it really is important to have a yoga mat that has good cushioning.

With time our yoga mats may become thinner due to use. And in turn, this may start to put pressure on our joints.

And so if this is the case, be sure that your yoga mat can offer enough support and cushioning for your joints. And you will find this by getting a mat of sufficient thickness. You can always add extra Yoga Pads on top of your mat where you need it most, this can really help with kneeling asanas. 

 

Kati Kaia Yoga Mat Pads, can be layered up to help with extra cushioning where you need it the most. 

 

4. The surface is uneven

Depending on the type of yoga we practice, we may be using certain parts of it more than others. For example, any ashtanga yoga practitioner will tell you that the first signs of wear and tear they see on their mat is where their hands and feet are placed in downward-facing dog and it makes sense to see an uneven surface there.

And if you are regularly doing HIIT or weight lifting with trainers you may find where you hold plank the most or place your weights will wear through quicker. This may start to affect the grip and the cushioning so the best advice is to now consider replacing your yoga mat.

 

5. You change type of yoga

There are different types of yoga mats that are best suited for different types of yoga.

For example, if you like grounding yoga practices like yin yoga or restorative yoga, then aim for a thick yoga mat that may provide the required cushions for your joints. Yoga pads are great kit to layer up for extra cushioning when you need.

Alternatively, if you practice a dynamic type of yoga such as Ashtanga yoga or Power yoga, then it is important to have a yoga mat that grips well and that might mean feeling the floor a little more for arm balances etc. Sometimes a thinner mat can be useful for these more energetic practices or improving your stability in arm balances.  

 

6. You sweat ...a lot!

It is normal to sweat a lot during certain yoga practices. This may be the case when we practice a dynamic form of yoga, or when we practice in a hot and humid country.

And so if you notice that you sweat a lot, it is important to have a yoga mat that maintains its grip so as you don’t slip during your practice. Non sweat wicking or sweat absorbent mats may leave puddles on the mat itself which can affect the longevity of your mat. Always clean throughly front and back. 

 

How To Make Your Mat Last Longer

So what can you do to your yoga mat in order to help it last longer?

There are a few ways you can help your yoga mat last longer. Read the care and cleaning instructions when you first get your mat so as to know how to properly clean it. Additionally, avoid any direct sunlight, especially if that is on the care instructions. Lastly, wipe down and air dry away from radiators.

 

  • Clean your mat regularly

Another great note would be to wipe your mat after every practice. It doesn’t take very long, but dirt and sweat can affect the life of your yoga mat. If not cleaned regularly, bacteria may grow on your mat. And so cleaning your yoga mat regularly will help prevent any germs and fungi from forming on your mat.

Try to make it a habit and you’ll see that cleaning your mat may even become part of your practice. A good rule of thumb is to try to wipe down your mat after every practice. It goes without saying that this is vital if using a shared yoga mat in a studio, and to do front and back of your mat in this case regularly.

 

  • Practice with clean hands and feet

As a continuation from above, having clean hands and feet will also help prevent dirt from collecting on your mat. It's a nice first step when preparing for practice, so see this as a preliminary step to your practice. The great thing about microfibre is it cleans so easily - so if dirt is on your feet you can simply spray it clean - but it is such a nice care step to have a cloth to hand, even in your studio bag, so you can clean easily. 

 

  • Air dry your mat after every practice

This is something most of us forget to do. Am I right?

And yet, if you have a sweaty practice and simply roll up your mat and store it till your next practice, chances are you are going to be greeted by a very smelly yoga mat!

After a sweaty practice and after wiping or cleaning your mat, let it air dry to prevent any bacteria from growing. Give your mat a break with some fresh air! 

 

  • Avoid direct sunlight

Most people forget that the sun has a big effect on not only their health but also on their yoga mats. The UV rays from the sun can be damaging. By keeping your mat out of direct sunlight you’ll be able to protect it from the rays of the sun.

Some yoga mats are more sensitive than others when it comes to sunlight. And so rubber yoga mats may deteriorate from direct sunlight.

 

  • Read your yoga mat specifications

Another really great thing that some may roll their eyes at. . . I know that I do that sometimes– is just check your specific care instructions about how to care for your yoga mat. The information is a really great guide to help you most effectively use and protect your yoga mat.

All these tips are really good general rules that can help, as with everything, there are specific instructions in the care of them. This can help preserve and extend the life of your yoga mat.

Overall, with careful care, you can get a lot of time and practice out of your yoga mat! 

-Yoga Mat Care Guide - 

Conclusion

In this article, we have explored the problems that may limit the life of your yoga mat, and things you can do in order to increase your yoga mat’s longevity. Of course, some yoga mats may last longer than others.

While the typical lifetime of a yoga mat is between 6 months and 2 years, if you invest in a good quality mat that is suitable for your practice and you clean it regularly, you can greatly increase its longevity and enjoy using your mat at the same time, especially knowing it's not toxic and supports your journey.

 

 

 

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