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PVC yoga mats are popular, but due to environmental and health concerns many yogis are moving toward more eco-friendly options. Mats made of natural rubber or thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) are classified as either closed cell or open cell, depending on their texture. The right natural mat for each practitioner depends on the style of yoga she prefers.
Open-cell yoga mats are porous and moisture-permeable. Since they absorb perspiration, they can be more comfortable in sweaty situations and maintain good traction. The main disadvantage of open-cell mats is that the moisture can be hard to fully clean, and over time can create a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. Because the material is less dense, open-cell mats also wear out more quickly, especially with heavy use.
Closed-cell mats are denser than open-cell mats. The impermeable texture makes them more resistant to wear. They are also considered more hygienic because they are waterproof and can easily be cleaned with water or cleaning products. However, the surface of a closed-cell mat can become very slick, especially under sweaty conditions like hot yoga, summer practice, or any routine that's very aerobic. This can be uncomfortable and also make the mat slippery and hard to practice on.
Choosing a Mat
Closed-cell mats are a good choice for those with a more relaxed style, who don't perspire much or require a great deal of traction during practice. Practitioners with a very demanding, sweaty or precise style often prefer open-cell mats. These can be kept acceptably clean for some time, but will probably have to be replaced sooner even under ideal conditions, due to wear and tear.
One workaround for this dilemma is combining multiple products. Some practitioners who have problems with sweaty mats like to use a closed-cell mat for durability and hygiene, then place a towel under their hands or feet to absorb moisture and provide traction. The towel can also be used to wipe the mat between poses. Yoga towels, with silicone or rubber grips on the back, are especially well-suited to this purpose.