Treading More Easily

It is estimated that more than two million Canadians practice yoga, over 15 million Americans, and globally more than 250 million people. While these numbers seem relatively small compared to the quantity of people who drive cars, throw away plastic water bottles, or dump toxic chemicals, the image of 250 million yoga mats potentially lying at the bottom of a landfill is very alarming.

Although many quality mats are made from eco-friendly materials there are many alternative ways to reduce, reuse and recycle a yoga mat rather than ditching them at the curb. Here are some options to reuse your yoga mat:

If you have the financial means to invest in a higher quality mat it is definitely worth it. Here are some potential disadvantages of low-cost mats:

• Hands and feet slip and slide on a surface that isn’t textured enough to give grip support. The underside of the mat will often curl when moving or shift on many hardwood floors.

• They’re less durable, so replacement happens sooner. A good quality mat used everyday can last up to five years. Cheaper mats wear out sooner, and “gum” up to a point where cleaning is impossible.

• Cheaper mats are not made from natural fibres so their carbon footprint is greater.

I would like to note here that it is important to play around with mats before purchasing. I know of students who have spent over $100 on a mat that they don’t like. It’s personal preference, so borrow a friend’s and try out a studio mat rental before purchasing it off the shelf.

Check in with local organizations, such as senior centres, community centres, schools, yoga studios, daycares or women’s centres and see if they have a need for gently used mats. It might be worthwhile to collect around 10-12 and deliver as a package, so they have a set of mats to work with.

Yoga mat companies, such as Jade Yoga and Manduka, have programs on their websites where you can donate used mats to local charities and international organizations.

If you know your mat is beyond the means of ever being used again here are some creative ways to recycle your yoga mat around the home:

• Use to make dog and cat dishes stay put.

• While taking a dog to the vet or groomer or just for a ride with the top down, their claws can scratch the leather going around curves. So take an old yoga mat and roll it out over the back seat of the car. Viola! She/he is comfy and can do her own version of Downward Dog without scratching the seats!

• Drop off your old mat at an animal rescue shelter. Most of these places need soft, durable mats, rugs, towels, and blankets to line crates.

• Cut and put down by the kitty litter box. It's not hard on paws, stops the tracking of litter and makes cleanup easier.

• Use an exacto-knife to cut out shapes, letters, numbers, etc.

• Children love play dough! A mat is excellent for play dough and other messy projects because it makes cleaning up a lot easier.

• Use cookie cutters to make an adorable and funky mobile. You can also cut it into a big square, then fold and cut it into snowflake ornaments (just punch a hole in the top).

Big Children:
• Use in front of a tent as a “door mat.” Take your shoes off and kneel down to get into your tent without sitting on the ground.

• Use on the dashboard of a vehicle to reflect the heat when hot.

• Keeping an old yoga mat in the car is great for keeping groceries from sliding around in the trunk, for a padded seat at a sports game or for a myriad of other uses limited only to your imagination.

• Use as cushioning floor mat on concrete floors. Foot pads can be very expensive. Use an old mat as a support when standing or kneeling in the garage.

• Smother weeds in your garden. Just place the mat over a section of your garden and the mat and the sun's heat will smother weeds and their seeds. Then when it is time to sew your seeds just remove the mat and move it to another spot in your garden.

• Use it on the beach under a towel that is laid on the sand.