The traditional yogis that use animal skins or woven grass mats don't have sweaty hot yoga feet or slippery new mats to bother them when they practice – only staying still enough to experience divine consciousness.
On the other hand, most modern yogis also use natural materials for their mats – from cotton to jute and natural rubber – but may have issues with staying still during practice and require non-slip solutions so they're not screaming “Nama-Stay” during downward facing dog.
Enter a new natural material: cork.
Maryland native, Chris Willey, owner of Yoloha, yoga mats, was inspired to make his eco-friendly mats after attending a hot yoga class where the temperature was 95 degrees, and practicing on a plastic polyvinyl mat where he found himself slipping and sliding out of poses rather than sticking to the mat.
A long-time surfer and board maker, Willey had been using cork on the decks of the boards he created which provided a greater grip when they got wet. So, when he found himself slipping out of a sweaty down dog on a cheap plastic mat, his thoughts naturally flowed to cork as a solution.
After creating the initial prototypes in his family’s garage, Willey brought them into Yoga Vibez studio in West Ocean City, MD. Willey explains that he knew he was onto something special when the teachers would grab the cork mats before any students could get their hands on them.
“I now realize how a good yoga mat is so important to progressing in your practice," explains Willey. "Hearing comments and stories from customers of how their Yoloha mat has transformed their practice on an American made, eco-friendly mat makes all the hard work worth it.”
Willey explains that cork is comprised of suberin, a wax-like natural substance that becomes more easily gripped when wet, and, as a bonus, this same substance is also antimicrobial, killing the mold and bacteria that typically grows on yoga mats, making a cork yoga mat less “grody” after a hot yoga session or just general contact with dirty hands and feet.
Going natural was natural.
Willey explains that he was inspired by a number of his family members who worked for environmental organizations like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, where his Yoloha cork mats are currently used for the Living Classrooms programs for local children. Starting at a young age, his family made him more aware of the environment and taught him the importance of caring for the environment throughout his life.
“We went organic before it was even a term everyone used,” said Willey, “I was always made fun of in school for bringing in healthy lunches all the time. That’s where it all started.”
How are Yoloha mats made?
The Yoloha eco-friendly mats are made of cork, as the top layer, and recycled tires for the bottom layer –ensuring the mat won’t slide either.
Cork trees are one of the most sustainable plants on Earth, as just a few layers of the bark are removed every nine years, allowing it to grow back and be re-harvested, so no plants are harmed in the production of the cork.
To date, Willey has created nearly 2,000 Yoloha yoga mats, and is looking to create more useful cork products, including coffee mugs, lighter cork travel mats, and yoga bags made from an all-new cork fabric. Willey is even looking for new ways to repurpose his mat scraps.
Where can you find a Yoloha mat?
Willey will be going on the road this August 2014, to promote his mat around the New Jersey, New York, Maine and Canada, but there are a number of local stores and studios in Maryland that carry the mats: