Green Your Yoga Practice

Let's talk about the importance of self care for a minute. For me, self care is like yoga. It has many forms and variations. Some days it may mean I get alone time to read something I like, bake something that smells amazing, or put on one of my homemade face masks, drink a glass of wine and just chill. On other days my practice of self care may come in the form of meditation, listening to an old record, hanging out with my ladies, or doing some form of exercise. Creating time and space for self care leads to self love, which not only benefits the mental, physical, and spiritual health, but also those around us—my sweetheart, my family, my friends, and the people I interact with in public.

An aspect of self care that I have really struggled with is exercise. I just couldn't find a form of fitness that was exciting to me, motivating, and sustainable. In my pre-circular living days, I was part of a gym, and I would force myself to go, but I honestly didn't like it very much, and that made it completely unsustainable. So I left the gym because I also couldn't justify wasting all that electricity to power a treadmill when I could just as easily run outside. “That's it," I thought. “I'm going to go on runs every other day and it will be awesome!” Nope. Not a single damn run. Why? Because I don't like running enough to be motived to do it consistently. After working an 8 hour shift the last thing I want to do is come home, get suited up, and go on an effin run. Nothing against runners! If running works for you—that's so great! Believe me, I wish running was my thing because, not only is it green, it can be done anywhere and it's free.

I knew I had to figure something out. I don't feel confident in my own skin when I fall off the exercise wagon, and I despise that feeling—it's all consuming and negative, which is not conducive to self care and self love. I thought, “Oooh, maybe I'll get back into bellydancing?” I was in a troupe about 9 years ago, and it was so much fun and a full body workout. But when I looked up classes they were unfortunately on the other side of town. Again, this means it wouldn't be sustainable for me. I had to be honest with myself, and I knew that it would take too much time to get there. I dislike driving and sitting in traffic, and I knew I would give myself a million excuses to justify not going...

19 years old and living in India. 2010.

19 years old and living in India. 2010.

And then it happened.... I heard about this yoga studio around the corner from my house, and I decided to investigate. I took yoga in high school and practiced when I lived in India in 2010 and really enjoyed it, so this was promising. I gathered my mat, my water bottle, and a towel and headed over. Towel? Oh yeah, this is HOT YOGA. Like 95 degrees HOT baby! After an hour of this power yoga, you're completely drenched in your own sweat, and you're so glad you brought a giant towel to mop your face. 

I'm happy to say that I found my groove, my thing-- another form of self care that keeps my mind, body, and spirit healthy. As with all new adventures in my life, I see through a ciruclar lens. So today I offer you a few simple ways to green your yoga practice. If you're like me, and have struggled with finding the right form of physical activity that is both fun and motivating, as well as sustainable, then I encourage you to explore and try new things – you may discover a form of movement that you've never considered before.

1. The Yoga Mat. Yes, how ironic that most of our yoga mats are highly toxic things that are neither healthy for us or the planet. The most common materials used to make yoga mats are Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), and Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE). Some mats use other toxic materials like Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA) , sometimes called poly (ethylene -vinyl acetate) (PEVA) and Polymer Environmental Resin (PER). 

You can usually identify PVC by its resin identification code of #3. It's commonly used in construction (PVC pipes and flooring); however, this incredibly toxic plastic is in most of our lives, and we might touch it everyday. Car upholstery, shower curtains, children's toys, bottles, and sports equipment to name a few are usually made out of Polyvinyl Chloride. PVC is a known carcinogen, and contains phthalates and the heavy metals lead and cadmium, because they maintain plasticity and help stabilize the PVC. Phthalates are endocrine disrupters and leach out of the PVC along with the lead and cadmium. Ever wonder what that new car smell is? It's PVC off-gasing. Don't even get me started on Dioxin (carcinogen), which happens to be one of the most studied toxic chemicals and is, yep you guessed it, released during the production or incineration of PVC. The production, recycling, and landfilling of PVC is an environmental nightmare from start to finish. I often think about the people who have to make this stuff, and how it negatively impacts their health and the health of the communities around the production plants. 

I don't know that much about Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE), except that it's a synthetic rubber and claimed to be recyclable and biodegradable. That being said, I know that if I threw a TPE mat in my recycling it would not be recycled. It would obviously not be allowed in the municipal compost either. The term "biodegradable" is very loose. Maybe only some of the components of the mat are biodegradable, or they might only break down into smaller pieces in an appropriate facility, and definitely not in a landfill or in the ocean. And many TPE mats contain some sort of polyester or "plastic" as well. Plastic does not biodegrade--its forever, we just can no longer see some of it because it photodegrades into tiny little pieces and becomes "micro-plastic". TPE is super sketch. You watch, someone will expose something even more awful about it. I mean, people use to think PVC was safe... 

If you're not doing hot yoga, the most sustainable mats out there are made from 100% cotton or hemp. The bamboo and jute mats that I found unfortunately contained PER (poly environmental resin) which is a synthetic material.

If you are doing hot yoga, having a grippy mat is kinda crucial as sweat can make things slippery. The only mat that is sort of sustainable is a 100% natural rubber mat from Jade Yoga that doesn't contain PVC, TPE, PER, or EVA. They do say that their mats contain man made components, but they won't tell the consumer what exactly those components are. I don't find this very transparent. On a positive note, they're made in the USA--so no overseas high pollution and transportation carbon emissions. They also plant a tree with every mat purchase and are working on a program that will accept old yoga mats to be recycled. I'm in the market for a new mat myself as mine is from my pre-circular living days and is definitely made of PVC! So gross. It makes hot yoga slightly less appealing to know that everyone's mats, including my own, are off-gasing chemicals (I just threw up in my mouth a little).

Click here to find out exactly how to repurpose (upcycle) your mat. Donation is always a good choice as well (homeless shelter, foster youth, yoga studios, friends).

2. The Mat Cleaner. Opt for a non-toxic yoga mat disinfectant by making your own! I use this all the time, and it leaves my mat free of any unwanted bacteria after each yoga session. Letting your mat dry out in the sun after you've cleaned it also kills bacteria. Please note that some yoga mat companies don't recommend exposing their mats to sunlight. 

3. The Water Bottle. It's essential to stay hydrated, especially during a hot yoga class, as you're loosing a lot of water and salt to sweat. It's simple to bring your own reusable water bottle instead of purchasing a single use plastic one. Hot Tip: This comes from one of my amazing yoga instructors, Maddy Casteel and it makes perfect sense. To replenish and hydrate the body after a hot yoga session, add lemon and bit of sea salt to your water! 

4. The Clothing. Before adding new clothes into the waste cycle, see if you're able to purchase what you need second hand. If not, opt for yoga clothing that is not made from synthetic materials. Organic and fair trade hemp, bamboo, linen, and cotton are greener options over the popular poly blends that are leading the market. Every time we wash synthetic clothing, plastic microfibers are entering into the waste stream and doing some serious damage. 

5. The Deodorant. When we exercise, most of us sweat which is healthy. We are removing impurities and toxins from the body which improves our overall physical health; plus our skin looks and feels great! Instead of using an antiperspirant deodorant that's filled with parabens, phthalates, aluminum, and a slew of other toxic chemicals --opt for homemade deodorant that will allow your body to sweat in the healthiest and least smelly way possible. I've been making and using my own deodorant for over a year—it's truly amazing!

6. Hang Dry Your Clothes. After a hot yoga session your towel and clothes are completely soaked. Instead of throwing them into the washer and doing a small load of laundry which wastes water, I hang them out to dry outside. After they are dry, I put them in my hamper and wash them only when I have a full load. 

I raise a sweaty hand and solute you!