If, like me, you’ve taken up yoga during lockdown but still don’t have all the gear you need, I’m here to help. I’ve done plenty of research into the most useful things a yoga mat can have, the best non-toxic mats on the market and, of course, have then gone on to find the lowest priced versions of these. So here’s your ultimate guide to healthy yoga gear for beginners…
This year I’ve taken up yoga in a big way. I’ve always liked the idea of it and have dabbled with a few YouTube video tutorials in the past but, since joining an online class through my local library, I’ve really become hooked. According to the nation’s favourite PE teacher Joe Wicks exercise isn’t optional; “it’s essential for physical health, mental health and happiness” (Happiful, March 2021) so I’m pleased to have introduced another form of movement into my life.
As a beginner (and thrifty one at that) I always thought ‘what’s wrong with just doing yoga on the floor?’ I couldn’t see the need for expensive mats or equipment – especially if I didn’t yet know if yoga was for me. And the answer was that there’s nothing wrong with just doing yoga on the floor. At least until I knew that I was going to stick with it and wanted to make that investment in my new-found practice.
I’ve been doing online yoga, pilates and mindful movement classes with Suffolk Libraries since the start of January, as well as Karen Hauer’s cute workouts and Oti Mabuse’s dance classes. Having a routine of regular classes has kept me interested in a way that no YouTube classes have in the past. Personally, I think I need to have a set time in the calendar when I have to show up and join in. The schedule has given me a routine during lockdown and has helped me to practice yoga consistently.
I’ve grown to love my yoga lessons and have actually started doing regular classes through online platform Joya too. Now that I’ve got the motivation, I find myself wanting to turn on my iPad and follow along with video classes. And I now realise why a yoga mat is important. Firstly, I simply found some positions too difficult to do on the hard floor so I definitely wanted something to cushion my knees a little. Secondly, I discovered that my laminate flooring didn’t offer much grip, so my hands would slide on the surface. I realised that I needed to get a mat if I was going to continue doing classes and improve my technique.
So I started to research yoga mats for the first time. I thought it would simply be a cost-related search but I soon realised that there’s so much more to consider than just price. I learnt that many yoga mats are synthetic and contain chemicals that I probably didn’t want to lay my head on. Considering that I’m extra-careful about using only natural skincare products and cosmetics, I definitely don’t want my yoga mat to be the only toxic thing around me!
After reading up on the subject of toxic-free yoga mats, I knew I wanted to avoid PVC, TPE and PER surfaces in the yoga mat I eventually chose. Instead I wanted to find a natural bio-rubber (tree rubber) mat as this would be chemical-free and biodegradable. The best top layer was natural cork, as it’s a non-slip surface and has anti-microbial properties.
The trouble was that all the cork mats I came across were close to £100. As a beginner, I didn’t want to invest that much straight away, as I had never even used a yoga mat before. How would I know if I was getting my money’s worth if I’ve never tried any mat before? So that’s when the search for a low-cost version of a non-toxic cork yoga mat really kicked in.
I found £90 versions, £80 versions and the lowest I came across was the Palm to Soul mat at £59.99. I read all the product blurb, and learnt that the mats are not only eco-friendly and constructed from natural materials, they’re also made in an ethical factory who can produce high quality at the right price. I was also impressed with the range of designs available on the surface of the mat, including handy alignment lines.
I was sold, so I did another search for Palm to Soul to see if I could find any stockists. And that’s when I discovered that Barnardos are a seller of Palm to Soul yoga products. I couldn’t believe it! I could support the children’s charity while getting the exact mat I wanted AND it was £20 cheaper! Yes, Barnardos are selling the same mats for just £40 at the moment – that’s the lowest price I’ve found for a natural cork mat anywhere online. They also sell low-cost yoga straps and blocks too so why not get the whole kit and support the charity at the same time?
You’ve never seen someone SO excited for a delivery to arrive. After reading reviews of other rubber and latex mats, I had been expecting a strong rubber smell when I opened the packaging (it is tree rubber after all) but there was no whiff at all. Even after unrolling the mat (which lays really flat, by the way) I couldn’t pick up the smell of rubber.
I’m usually very affected by the faintest of smells and can often be found sniffing my way around the house going ‘where’s that smell coming from?’ even when my husband can’t detect anything. But in this case, I didn’t smell anything until I literally had my face on the mat. Then I could smell a slight rubbery scent, but nothing too harsh or that put me off doing the pose I was in.
True to the product’s blurb, the bio-rubber base is so grippy that it doesn’t move at all – not even when I try to shuffle it over a bit – I’ve literally got to pick it up and reposition it. And the cork surface is definitely non-slip. According to the website ‘the more you sweat, the grippier natural cork becomes’ so I was expecting good things, but it’s actually unbelievable how secure I on that cork surface.
The alignment lines have already improved my technique. I’m the kind of person who likes a notebook to be parallel to the edge of a desk, with a pen neatly lined up beside it, so you can imagine how much I’m using those alignment marks. And the 5mm thick mat is just the right level of cushioning without making it difficult to balance. I’ve found it to be suitable for pilates and other movement classes too, but it’s just perfect for yoga.
Now all I need is a little meditation zone for the ultimate zen experience. I used to be the kind of person who would skip the Savasana section at the end of a yoga class but, after signing up for Camilla Sacre-Dallerup’s free meditation courses, I’m starting to enjoy relaxing more. I’ve got a light-up star that I always put on when I’m practicing yoga to give the room a cosy glow. I love fairy lights for year-round use as they always look so magical.
Another bonus (that I didn’t realise when I was looking at the product description) is that the yoga mat at comes with a sturdy drawstring bag for storing and carrying your mat. It has an adjustable shoulder strap and a handy zipped pocket on the front with a reflective strip. SO useful for when we’re able to go to real-life classes in the future and, at the moment, its handy for keeping my yoga mat clean and neatly stored away.
I hope my research-slash-review blog post has helped you if you’re planning to take up yoga or to switch to an environmentally-friendly natural yoga mat in the future. I think it’s brilliant to be able to buy a cork and bio-rubber mat from Barnardos as you’re supporting the charity and getting an natural yoga mat at the same time. Let me know if you’ve come across any other non-toxic yoga, pilates or meditation products in the comments below as I’d love to discover out more. 🙂
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Some items in this blog post have been gifted to me and the pink links indicate a gifted product, affiliate link or information source. All thoughts and opinions in this post are based on my own experience and I am not responsible for your experience 🙂