By Jennifer Dixon MBA ERYT 500 –
First of all, I want to disclose that I do not get paid a dime for this review. I do have Affiliate links in this post which, if you purchase something using that link the studio is compensated, but I purchased my Manduka Eko Mat with my own money (YEARS ago) and I thought I’d write a little post about why I love it!
Tis the season to start thinking about gifts for your loved ones, and you may have a loved one that is really into Yoga. If so, before you go off and buy that person a yoga mat let me tell you something super dooper silly.
People are funny about their yoga mats. No lie.
I didn’t understand it when I first started practicing nearly 10 years ago. At the time, I used studio mats and then “upgraded” to a Target special. I don’t remember much about it, besides the fact that I had to use one of those non-slip towels on it in all the heated classes because, well, I always was slipping. So, about 15 non-slip towel purchases later (because, at the time, I didn’t have kids and what else did I have to spend my money on besides yoga towels –please note the sarcasm), I decided I would invest in a yoga mat…a “good” one.
That’s where it got interesting. When I would look around the studio, I saw a myriad of different yoga mats and sometimes I was allowed to try them. I didn’t feel “connected” to any particular yoga mat in any deep sense or anything cheesy like that, but trust me….I’m connected to my mat now!
I wasn’t sure what mat to get when I stumbled upon my favorite Eko Mat by Manduka for a steal at TJMaxx. (aka my favorite store on the planet). It was pretty expensive (for my novice yogi buying self, at like 50-60 bucks –it’s been years so I don’t remember) but I thought it was a pretty color and it felt like it wouldn’t slip too bad. Up to that point, I had never tried the Eko, in Manduka brand, only the Pro (that will be reviewed in another post.)
Since I knew Manduka was a good brand and it seemed ok, I went for it and laid the money down. That was nearly 8 years ago. My beautiful blue Eko mat is still around and I still use it almost daily. The wear and tear is evident, as are the sweat stains and (now) the stains of having children that love to practice their “oga” with me. Every now and then, I have some piling, but I’d say after 8 years of hard life, it’s allowed to do that.
In the 8 years that I have been using and traveling with this mat, I have grown unashamedly attached this mat. I practiced my first Drop back on this mat. I FINALLY got (and then re-got times 2) my binds in the Marichiasanas on this mat. I got to practice with some pretty “cool” yogis on this mat, and it’s been to some pretty exotic places with me. What I didn’t understand about yoga mats when I first started was that the mat would be a physical manifestation of the personal practice that is yoga. I have face planted on this mat countless times and cursed more than I’m proud of (sometimes even out loud). The mat experienced some of my heart breaks and greatest joys. It’s funny, but the blue mat has somehow become a part of my life–an example of it, from the last 8 + years.
That’s why, if you’re going to buy someone a yoga mat, I want to warn you….it may take some time for the person to fall in love with it or even use it. If your friend has been practicing for years on a mat, you may not understand it, but even with the chips and stains, that mat is so incredibly intertwined with the practitioner, it may be hard to give the mat up for your friend. (which is why I have 3 other REALLY nice mats that I rarely use.)
Why the Manduka Eko Yoga mat is so stinking awesome.
I will give you some stats from the Manduka website first, then I will give you personal reasons why it’s awesome.
- Standard: 7.0 lbs; 71” x 26”; 5 mm thick
- Most durable natural rubber yoga mat on the market.
- No PVC or harmful plasticizers.
- Made from biodegradable, non-Amazon harvested, natural tree rubber with non-toxic foaming agents and non-AZO dyes.
- 99% latex free.
- All post-industrial scrap is thoughtfully collected and utilized in the production of other materials creating a zero waste manufacturing process.
- Ok, so I get it, 7 lbs is not the lightest mat on the market. It’s quite the bear to lug around, and I totally get it. When I practiced in the city of Philadelphia regularly and had to walk blocks and blocks with that puppy on my shoulder, i was wishing it was a travel mat, BUT, the 5mm thickness is a LIFE SAVER on a hardwood practice surface (what I typically practice on.)
Some folks really love a thinner practice mat, but, maybe I’m the “oldest” 30 something (almost 40, sigh…), but this home girl does not like the pressure on my knees or back (that’s why I had to quit running) let alone the impact on my wrists and elbows that comes with a thinner mat. Yes, a firmer surface is much easier for balance, but the fact is, if you can balance on a softer surface, you’ll be a balance rock star on a harder surface.
- The second bullet speaks volumes…the most durable natural rubber yoga mat…Hands down, I have to agree. My mat has seen near daily use for almost 9 years and it has been packed in the oddest travel bags known to man, and still come out no more rough for the wear. This mat is hands down AMAZEBALLS durable.
- So ya, I love the planet and want it to be around for my kids, so I like the fact that it’s at a zero waste facility and the fact that it’s sustainable and doesn’t have any bad stuff in it makes me be cool with my kids horsing around on it.
I am a slightly above average in height female and definite athletic build, I gained and lost around 130 lbs on this mat (between my two pregnancies) and didn’t feel cramped on this mat at all. In fact,I sometimes wanted to cut the mat down some to cut weight (which I have known several folks to do) but the idea of cutting my mat seemed like I was cutting a child so I couldn’t do it. (see, I told you, yoga people get oddly attached to their yoga mats!)
Here’s a link to the closest thing to my mat I could find that Manduka is carrying today:
Function of the Manduka Eko Mat
Right out of the wrapping the Manduka Eko Mat did exactly what it was designed to do. If I got a little slippery, the mat stopped it. Sometimes don’t like to have any slip in their mat, so this may not be a great choice for them, but I LOVE the fact that there is a little give in this mat. When I roll over on my toes during a vinyasa, this mat gives just enough to let me feet slide back (when I am actively pressing them down and into the mat.) Some mats are so sticky it’s basically impossible to roll over your feet (esp if you want to keep the skin on the bottom of your toes).
Because it is 5 mm thick, it gives you enough cushion if you do try to jump forward and back, but it’s not like you’re on a trampoline or anything. It helps to absorb some of the pressure from the direct hits, so if you’re falling out of an inversion, your toes don’t get quite so whacked. On a hard surface, like Hardwood or Concrete Floors, the 5 mm isn’t too soft to interfere with balance, but if you use this mat on the Zebra mats found in some yoga studios, or a super soft carpeted surface, you may feel a little less unstable. Again, if you can balance in that scenario, you can balance anywhere!
I have used this mat nearly daily for over 8 years and it has been stored mostly in my house but sometimes it was left in the car overnight(s) (shhhh!) and the mat is still holding up well. I plan to take it with me on my next trip–or trips, either rolled up or rolled and folded. The mat does weigh 7 lbs and does take up some space in your suitcase so be careful when flying. (I have had to choose between a sweater and my yoga mat before. (I still have the mat.)
I have only two complaints about my Eko mat. Because it is natural rubber, there are naturally occurring ridges in the surface. This can make some of the sweat or misc “other” stains kind of “get in there” and are nearly impossible to get out. I used to really care, and now, like my car, those stains are like a right of passage. My other complaint is that it is a little heavy, but I will take it for the support, so I guess it’s really just one major complaint.
If you buy an Eko mat, know that you have a mat that can last you a decade (I know I certainly want mine to). Some yoga mats that are much more expensive are manufactured to only last you 18 months – 2 yrs. This Manduka Eko mat claims to be the most durable yoga mat on the market, and they mean it. Mine is almost 10 years old and I believe it will make it! When you do use your mat, try not to leave it in your car because that breaks down the rubber faster and just wipe it off with vinegar water and a rag. The harsh chemicals aren’t good for you or the rubber, so embrace those stains and just rock your practice, friend!
Let me know what you think of your mat! Send me photos! I will be reviewing some other pro level mats in the coming articles so you can make your own educated decision when it comes to mat shopping. Until then, keep on practicing!
If you’re looking for a studio to practice in, and you’re in the Chattanooga, TN area, be sure to stop by Thrive Yoga and Wellness. We are located in the ‘burbs’ of Chattanooga in a great little shopping center with plenty of parking. Thrive Yoga and Wellness is a warm and welcoming environment that is friendly to every level yogi and we want you to feel the embrace of a welcoming community from the first time you step in our studio. If you are not located in our area, but still want to check out our studio and our teachers, head on over to our youtube channel or even check out our online Yoga Membership Platform! You’ll get exclusive practices and one-on-one time with me to help you grow your practice, no matter where you are! I can’t wait to practice with you!