Sunday, February 10, 2008

Saving the planet one asana at a time: Gaiam printed yoga mat


Stop the presses! Yoga mats don't have to all be a flat purple color anymore. A variety of colors can now be had to distinguish your mat from the sea of purple (and occasional blue) in your yoga class. You can even go wild and get a mat with a printed pattern to really get the oohs and ahhs from your yoga peers and attract the attention of that hottie across the room. Ok, so maybe money can't really buy you the acceptance from your peers or attention from the opposite sex, but it can buy you a nice yoga mat.

The Gaiam printed yoga mats are sized 68"x24" (172.7cm x 61cm) and 1/8" (3.175mm) thick. The nature themed prints are attractive and pleasantly fitting for a yoga mat. The marketing descriptions claim that the mats are made from a natural environmentally friendly and latex-free rubber. I'm not quite sure what that means since rubber is usually derived from latex. It could be that they have removed all the latex allergens (only specific proteins in latex cause an allergic response), or maybe they are using hypoallergenic rubber derived from guayule. At any rate, the mat isn't made from PVC like most yoga mats, and that's a good thing for the environment and potentially your health. The lifecycle of PVC (manufacture, use, disposal) results in significant amounts harmful chemicals (including mercury, phthalates, and dioxins) being leeched into the environment and into people's bodies.

The mat works just like a regular yoga mat, except it's perhaps not as tacky (in terms of stickiness, not fashion sense). The mat is supposed to be "light-tack" and "non-slip" according to Gaiam. In my experience so far, those assessments are fair. I actually rather liked that fact that the mat wasn't as tacky as a regular PVC mat. Because it doesn't contain plasticizers like a PVC mat, it's just a tad less flexible than a normal yoga mat. It's nothing major and shouldn't affect it's every day use. The rubber mat will just not roll up quite as tightly as a plasticized PVC mat. The Gaiam mat is also a little firmer than the PVC mats I've used in the past. The mat is still pretty well cushioned though, at least as cushiony as an 1/8" mat is going to be anyhow. I actually think the firmer pad is a plus, since I'm not a huge fan of the spongy feel of some yoga mats.

When I bought my mat, it came with a mini-dvd. I don't really think this is a big selling point. It's almost entirely filled with snippets of their dvd product line. Now, I do like some the Gaiam yoga videos. But some of those video previews almost made me spray milk out of my nose. It could be that I'm a martial arts snob, but I found the Budokon video preview to be pretty amusing. Anyhow, the word on the mini-dvd: slim on content, hefty on the marketing and advertising.

All in all, I really dig Gaiam's printed yoga mat. Sure, you could get a cheaper yoga mat, but it would probably be made from environmentally and health unfriendly PVC. It's better to just suck up the extra few bucks of cost and get a yoga mat made from a less toxic material. As an added bonus, the Gaiam mat comes with a nice print. Quite possibly the only thing that could make their printed mats better is if Gaiam would bring back their Scooby Doo yoga mat collection (I kid you not!). Scooby Doo, where are you???

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