A few months ago, I started getting into yoga as a gentle way to move my body and relax my mind. I’ve been taking classes at the Y, using their rubber and foam mats. I didn’t want to buy my own until I knew yoga was something I’d stick with.
But with each class, I’ve grown more in love with the practice and my teachers. I also can’t help but feel anxious about contracting COVID/the flu/monkeypox from communal mats—even though experts say that’s not a major concern, especially if you wipe them down, for the record. Regardless, I figured it was time to get my own.
When I first heard about Oko Living yoga mats, I was instantly intrigued. Unlike your typical rubber yoga mat, they’re made from eco-friendly, hand-loomed cotton “using the original mat design yoga was created on,” according to the site. (And they come in various shades and color combinations that are calming, pretty, and stylish.) With prices ranging from $168 to $188, they’re not cheap. But for a practice that is all about intensely tuning into how your body feels, I wondered what it might be like to do yoga on it, so I tried one out.
The herbal yoga mat I tested comes with a yoga mat bag for easily transporting it to and from the gym (praise!), and Oko Living’s “organic soap nuts” ($24), which work as an organic laundry detergent that can keep the dyes vibrant and extend the life of your mat (you can use them up to 80 times!).
Unlike rubber mats, this one is rug-like, so it feels more home-y (as in, you could practically take a nap on it). But it’s not as plush and cushion-y in the way a rubber or foam mat usually is. If you’re someone with sensitive knees, you’ll likely need to double it up by folding some of the fabric over during any kneeling lunges, for instance.
I didn't notice the “subtly sweet, natural smell that reduces stress” that the site mentioned and that I was looking forward to.
But one thing I love: How sturdy it is. I don’t worry about tearing it while in downward dog—yes, I’ve torn a (cheap!) foam yoga mat before, and it was terribly embarrassing. You also won’t find yourself slipping and sliding, no matter how sweaty your palms get. This mat has ridges that help your feet and wrists stay in place throughout your flow, and the grippers on the bottom keep the mat from moving around.
On that note, the mat also doesn’t make noise when you change positions, like regular mats sometimes do. (As someone who easily feels awkward, I was grateful AF for this.)
Other laundry-list details: It’s made of organic cotton, is allergen-free (other than the latex grippers on the bottom), and weighs just 3.4 pounds, making it easy to transport. The company also claims these mats are ethically made and that the grip gets better as you sweat. As far as cleaning the mat goes, it’s no biggie: Since it's antibacterial and antifungal, you can get away with washing your mat every three to five months, either in the tub or washing machine.
Overall, the home-y rug feel has helped me feel less self-conscious during class; I feel like I'm in my living room, not surrounded by 30 other people. That kind of comfort is just what I want during my flow.
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