Manduka eKO Mats

Natural rubber, non-slip eco-friendly yoga mat.

  • Made with natural tree rubber, without the use of ‘harmful plasticizers’, and are manufactured in a zero-waste process
  • Features tri-layer technology that creates a mix of grip, durability, and slip-resistance
  • Potential for a lingering rubber smell
  • Natural rubber (25 percent recycled), polyester and cotton (and jute, in the Terra mat)
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Product overview

Manduka are a big name in yoga mats, thanks to their ever-popular ‘Black Mat’, the Manduka Pro. Unfortunately, the Pro is made with PVC. So, although it carries a lifetime guarantee and claims to be made with an emissions-free process, it doesn’t make the cut for the ecoHome directory.

The Manduka eKO series just barely makes the cut, though, because these mats are made with natural tree rubber, without the use of ‘harmful plasticizers’, and are manufactured in a zero-waste process (according to Manduka). All of Manduka’s rubber mats are said by the company to be free of toxic chemicals, dyes, and phthalates, made with rubber from sustainable sources, and manufactured using non-toxic foaming agents to make the rubber soft and pliable. These rubber mats are reinforced with a blend of polyester and cotton.

The Manduka eKO mat features tri-layer technology that creates a mix of grip, durability, and slip-resistance. A stretch-resistant center binds the two layers together to improve durability. The standard eKO mat measures 71” long and 26” wide and has a sealed-cell surface, meaning that it doesn’t absorb moisture (and bacteria) like many open-cell rubber mats. As such, it is more durable than open-cell rubber mats.

This rubber mat gets lots of praise for its performance as it has a lot of natural grippiness. The ‘tread’ of the mat helps keep it dry and gives it plenty of traction, but some people find that it’s a good idea to use a Manduka eQua towel on top of the mat during a very sweaty hot yoga session. The towel clings to the mat and makes for even better grip while keeping you dry and comfortable.

The Manduka eKO has similar cushioning to the Manduka Pro. The mat weighs 7 pounds, making it a little lighter than many rubber mats. It also folds up pretty small for better portability and storage.

One downside with this mat is the potential for a lingering rubber smell. Airing the mat out (not in direct sunlight) and cleaning the mat can help, but it may still take weeks or months for the smell to dissipate, and the smell may transfer to your hands and body. Thankfully, the natural rubber smell is not as bad as that of synthetic rubber, but it does seem to be more of an issue with the Manduka eKO than with the Prolana Rubber and Wool Mat and with the Hugger Mugger Para Rubber Mat.

Manduka also make the eKO Lite, which is the same as the regular eKO but thinner (4 mm vs. 5 mm) and smaller. It measures 68” by 24” and weighs 4.5 pounds and is a good option for smaller folks and anyone who travels or carries their mat around town. And, if you’re looking for a really thin travel yoga mat, consider the 1.5 mm thick eKO Superlite which weighs in at just 2 pounds but is the same width and length as the other eKO mats.

You might want to pair your eKO mat with the Manduka Journey ON Commuter Yoga Mat Strap for extra eco-cred. This strap system is lightweight and sustainable, and is made using recycled bottles, requiring 66 percent less energy to produce, according to the company. The carrier can fit all mats, has an easy gravity cinch closure, and features a padded shoulder strap for comfort. Manduka also make yogitoes from recycled plastic bottles.

While Manduka mats are ever-popular and the company talks a good talk about eco-friendliness, they are disappointingly thin on certifications and evidence for their claims. The brand asserts that they are all about making a ‘world of difference’, so it’s hard to understand why they are not totally transparent about the materials used to make their mats. There are no third-party test results available for these mats and no company reports demonstrating specific environmental management systems to account for their claims to be zero-waste and non-toxic. They also lack any certifications that would offer reassurance for the company’s highfalutin eco-friendliness claims.

On the plus side, Manduka do give back to the community, with a recent partnership helping to raise money for the Susan G. Komen organization which helps support people with breast cancer. It would be nice to see third-party testing of Manduka products, though, to verify that their mats and accessories are free from carcinogens.

Manduka eKO vs. Hugger Mugger Para Rubber Yoga Mat

The Manduka eKO range offers good performance and durability but seems to be smellier than many other natural rubber mats and there are some criticisms that it loses its grippiness after just a few months. And, while the company makes a big stink about their eco-credentials, there’s nothing substantial to back these up and there’s a worrisome lack of transparency around what’s actually in the mats themselves. As such, the Prolana or Green Earth mats (if you’re in Europe or traveling there) may be better options, or you might consider a Hugger Mugger Para Rubber Mat or the Liforme rubber mat which has an interior layer of cushioning for added comfort. If you’re a hot yoga enthusiast or a sweatier practitioner, consider the Gurus Roots Mat which is made from rubber and cork.

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