The Toxic Truth About Yoga Accessories
Let’s talk non-toxic yoga accessories.
“Inhale deeply, exhale completely.”
Breath is arguably the most important part of yoga practice. The reminder to focus on breath is repeated throughout most yoga classes.
There are many reasons for this. One of them being that prana, or our life force energy, rides on our breath. The more we can connect with our breath, the more we can access this timeless energy.
“The quality of your breath is the quality of your life.” — Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa
The troubling thing is, in modern times it’s not just about how we breathe, but also about what we breathe. We’re surrounded by contamination and pollution.
Unfortunately, when it comes to yoga accessories, it’s no different. Standard yoga mats, blocks, straps, bags, clothes — are all made from plastic cocktails. Plastic that leaches onto you as you practice, and leaches into the earth for 1000s of years to come.
Plastics never fully decompose, biodegrade or compost like organic matter, but instead disintegrate in smaller and smaller plastic pieces.
The below are the first items to come up when searching for yoga accessories. They’re at the top of Google searches, Amazon searches, in the big chain stores, and sadly in most yoga studios:
Toxic yoga accessories:
- Conventional yoga mats — typically made of PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) – the most toxic consumer plastic out there. Sometimes made of PER (Polymer Environmental Resin) – advertised as non-PVC but is actually PVC with different plasticizers and stabilizers. And occasionally TPE (Thermo Plastic Elastomers) – which is advertised as “eco-friendly” but for which the actual components remain undisclosed. TPE is known to be a petroleum product and contain flame retardants and plastics (not so eco-friendly).
- Blocks — often made from EVA (Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate) – a plastic made by combining ethylene and vinyl acetate.
- Straps — usually made of cotton (yay!) but are colored with synthetic dyes, laden with hazardous chemicals that are known carcinogens.
- Mat bags — the vast majority are made of polyester – a polymer, which in its most popular state is known as PET. Widely used in both packaging and clothing. You guessed it: polyester is plastic 1) environmentally UN-friendly and 2) leaches chemicals onto whatever items you place inside the bag, especially when mixed with liquid like sweat.
And if you’re someone who’s not sensitive to synthetic products and not worried about it because it’s not like you’re ingesting them… think again. The heavy metal most commonly found in PVC is lead. YUP. The same lead that’s been banned in household products because of known hazardous effects on health, including but not limited to: headaches, anemia, neurological disorders, brain damage, and cancer. READ: “The effects of lead are the same whether it enters the body through breathing or swallowing.” YIKES.
Good news is that there are lots of alternatives!
Here are the top 3 things to look for when searching for planet kind, non toxic yoga accessories:
- Sustainably sourced materials
- Renewable, biodegradable, (and if necessary) recyclable
- Unbleached/natural/non-toxic dyes
Our top non-toxic yoga picks:
1. Canvas cotton mat bag ($50) available at Ananday. Natural breathable cotton, no plastic parts (!) and spacious duffle design to easily pack & carry all your yoga things (instead of renting those PVC studio mats).
2. Natural tree rubber mat ($75) from Jade Yoga. No PVC, EVA or other synthetic rubber. And through their partnership with Trees for the Future, Jade plants a tree for every mat sold – with over ONE MILLION trees planted so far. YASS.
3. Sustainable cork block ($20) from Ananday. Cork is a renewable, sustainable material, which comes from the bark of a Cork Oak Tree. Comfortable support without the toxic chemicals.
4. Natural cotton yoga strap ($7) from Gaiam. 100% organic cotton and easily adjustable with 2 metal rings. Great for deepening postures and alignment.
5. Reusable water bottle ($49) from Klean Kanteen in 40-Ounce. Stay hydrated without the waste. Yoga or no yoga, a reusable water bottle is one of Best ways to reduce plastic consumption. The scary truth is that even if we’re well-intentioned and recycle, only 10% of plastic actually gets recycled. The rest ends up in landfills and oceans. Ouf! We can do better. #BYOB(bottle).
The practice of yoga is in many ways the practice of stepping into our own power.
While we can’t directly control what big corporations put out into the world, we can absolutely control what we choose to consume (food, products, information). Our choices shift markets, they change the status quo. Our everyday choices matter, a lot!
Thankfully it’s becoming easier to choose products that are not only better for us, but also better for the earth. Choosing natural, planet-friendly yoga supplies is an easy way to help protect mother nature and extend our practice to all life.
I hope these are helpful suggestions! Let’s have a conversation. Comment below about the yoga accessories you’re loving, or perhaps struggling to find alternatives for.
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