Best. Yoga Mat. Ever.

Best. Yoga Mat. Ever.

Ahimsa Asana Living Yoga Yamas

I bought my first yoga mat at a discount store. My main objective: find the cheapest one possible. It was a simple purple mat. There wasn’t anything special about it – except for the experiences I had on it.

Fast forward a few years into my practice, and buying a yoga mat was a much bigger production. Cost was still a factor, but there was a lot more things to consider. Grip, or stickiness, probably mattered most. After that, weight was a key issue. I wanted a mat that was solid and durable, but I didn’t want my shoulders to hurt from carrying it to and from the studio. But then of course, some of the lighter mats didn’t have enough cushioning. Purchasing a new mat had become a much more involved process.

Fast forward a few more years into my practice, and things are even more complicated! I find myself getting all philosophical about yoga mats.

Philosophy and mats – what?

The classical practice of yoga, as laid out by Patanjali in the yoga sutras, is an eight-limb practice. The postures, known in Sanskrit as asana, are one limb of the practice. The first limb, the very foundation of the practice, encompasses five practices that relate to how we engage with ourselves and the world around us. The first of those practices is the practice of ahimsa, or non-harming. In practicing ahimsa, we endeavour to restrain from harming ourselves, other people and animals, and our planet.

So, if a mat is harmful to the planet, is it appropriate to call it a yoga mat?

The problems with PVC

My first bargain mat was a simple purple mat made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), and it will likely be on this planet longer than I am. If you aren’t familiar with PVC, here’s a brief introduction:

Vinyl chloride, the chemical used to make PVC, is a known human carcinogen, according to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Workers in PVC manufacturing facilities and residents of surrounding communities are at risk from exposure to these chemicals which contaminate the water, soil and air around these facilities.

The manufacture and incineration of PVC also creates and releases dioxins, which cause a wide range of health effects including cancer, birth defects, diabetes, learning and developmental delays, endometriosis, and immune system abnormalities.


Here’s some more information on PVC from the David Suzuki Foundation’s Queen of Green:

Polyvinyl chloride is known to off-gas hormone disrupting phthalates. Phthalates are used to soften plastics. A study by the Centre for Health, Environment and Justice found that these chemicals are released into the air inside our homes, contributing to indoor air pollution. PVC shower curtains can release as many as 108 volatile organic chemicals. Some of these chemicals are associated with developmental damage as well as damage to the liver and central nervous, respiratory, and reproductive systems.


When we start to consider the harmful effects of PVC, it becomes clear that some yoga mats are not very yogic.

Explore less harmful mat options

The great news for yoga practitioners is that more and more mats are being made without PVC. Jade Yoga Mats, for example, are made with natural rubber and contain no PVC or other synthetic rubbers. Natural rubber is tapped from a tree, like maple syrup, and it is a sustainable, renewable resource. The company also plants a tree for every yoga mat they sell.

For me, a fantastic yoga mat supports my asana practice and my ahimsa practice. I don’t want the legacy of my practice to be plastic pollution. I practice yoga to support our collective health and well-being. A mat made with PVC is out of line with my intentions.

A mat that support my asana practice and our collective health and well-being – that is easily the best yoga mat ever.


10 Ways I Will Use Less Plastic

Ahimsa Awareness Living Yoga

Photo credit: Natesh Ramasamy,

A woman I know committed to living a year without acquiring any new plastics in 2010. Her name is Taina Uitto, and reading about her plastic-free adventures on her blog Plastic Manners had a huge impact on me; it made me realize how much plastic I used on a day-to-day basis. I have used considerably less plastic over the past 4 years because of her influence, but I have by no means been living plastic-free.

I recently went to see the premiere of a documentary film From the Waste Up: Life Without Plastic that she and her brother made about her transition to a plastic-free life. I have been re-inspired, and I am ready to commit to a further reduction of my use of plastics.

When Taina’s project began, I was primarily motivated to reduce my plastics use because of the devastating impact this non-destructible substance has on the environment and on the animals that mistake it for food. Since then, I’ve learned a lot more about how plastics affect our health. Plastics contain harmful chemicals that leach into the bloodstreams and tissues of almost every one of us, including newborns. I am now motivated to protect myself and my family from plastics.

I’m also inspired by the lifestyle of the people in Taina’s film. She challenged a number of other people to live plastic-free for a year and told their story in her documentary as well. Everyone found the lifestyle change challenging in the first couple of months, but as time went on, all the challenge participants told similar stories about life slowing down and feeling simpler. The message was clear: all these convenient, disposable products that are supposed to give us more time somehow do the opposite.

Here are some health-friendly and planet-friendly choices I am going to make:

1. No plastic shopping bags or disposable coffee cups

These days I use re-usable shopping bags and travel mugs 85% of the time, but every so often I will take a bag or a disposable cup out of convenience. Moving forward, if I can’t get something without creating this waste, I will go without.

2. No Take-out Trash

I don’t buy a lot of “To Go” food, but when I do, it is usually sushi and it creates a mountain of garbage – the foam/plastic containers, the soy sauce containers, and the plastic bag it comes in. I am going to save myself the cringe moment I have in response to the amount of waste, and either eat-in or use my own containers to take out.

3. Buy bulk with my own containers

At Whole Foods, you can bring your own containers, get them weighed, and use them to buy bulk (and then they deduct the weight of the container at the checkout). I have a lot of weighed containers, and when I do a bulk shop for bulk items, I take them all in and save the plastic bags. It’s awesome when I do – it is a great conversation starter, and most of the containers already have the bulk codes on them, so I don’t have to worry about noting down numbers. But when I want a small amount of one or two things, I have been taking the plastic bags and creating the unnecessary waste. I am going to stop.

4. Slowly transition plastics out of our kitchen

We were blessed with an infestation of pantry moths a few months ago. Why blessed? Because it prompted us to buy a ridiculous number of mason jars, and transfer most of our food storage to glass containers. We still have reusable Ziploc containers and various plastic tools in our kitchen. I would like to actively seek alternatives.

5. Buy plastic-free spray bottles and dish soap dispensers

Over the last couple of years, I have largely transitioned to homemade cleaning products – both for my home and for my body. But I put these homemade products into plastic containers. It’s better for the environment because they are not single-use containers, but I’m still touching plastic every time I use them. I would like to find alternatives that are friendlier for me.

6. Collect my plastic waste for a month

I believe awareness is empowering. If I collect my plastic waste for a month, I will learn more about the kinds of plastic pollution I am producing, which will help me figure out how to use less.

7. Give packaging more consideration in my purchasing decisions

I tend to avoid the blatantly horrible packaging – like toilet paper from Costco, where each roll is individually wrapped in plastic. But, I also have organic olive oil from Costco, which is in a plastic bottle, and olive oil is readily available in glass bottles. I am not going to factor out things like price or whether something is organic or local, but I am going give plastic packaging a bigger voice.

8. Try a plastic-free toothbrush

I vividly remember reading about Taina’s first experiences with a bone and boar bristle toothbrush. It did not make me want to use one. I feel a little queasy even thinking about it now. But, my ideas about what is gross and what is not have been challenged and proven wrong many times before (see point #11 for an example). So perhaps a year from now the idea of sticking a plastic stick in my month and rubbing it against my teeth and gums will disgust me instead.

9. Learn more about the different types of plastic

Most of us are familiar with the recycling symbol – the three arrows forming a triangle. But, what do the different numbers inside the recycling symbol mean? From my initial research, #2, #4 and #5 are considered okay for limited use, but #1, #3, #6 and #7 should be avoided. I look forward to learning more so I can make better informed decisions.

10. Shop for new plastic-free habits at The Soap Dispensary

I’ve heard so many wonderful things about The Soap Dispensary, but I haven’t shopped there yet. The Vancouver store featured quite prominently in Taina’s documentary because it helps people live plastic-free with a lot more ease. I am looking forward to making a trip to the store and learning new ways that I can use less plastic.

11. Have a plastic-free period

This extra point is to promote a plastic-free lifestyle choice I made a couple years ago. I went plastic-free on all products related to menstruation, and it is one of the best lifestyle decisions I’ve ever made. I started with Natracare Products, which are organic and plastic-free disposable products. They are fantastic, but the cost pushed me to consider non-disposable options like LunaPads and the Diva Cup. I now use a combination of the three – depending where I am and what I am doing. Somehow taking plastics and toxins out of menstruation transformed the experience from something kind of gross to something natural and almost beautiful. I know it may sound super corny, but it happened.

I have a feeling that these other lifestyle choices are going to end up feeling just as good!


Detoxify Your Body (Or the Kind of Foods Yogis Rub on their Bodies)

Ahimsa Living Yoga

sarah jamieson yoga

Have you done crazy things to detoxify your body?

When I hear about people doing a detox, it strikes me that they are often doing somewhat extreme and out of the ordinary things – like barely eating or only drinking lemon water or taking copious amounts of supplements. I’m curious about approaching detox in a less drastic and more maintainable way – simply by decreasing my exposure to toxins.

One way to significantly cut down on your exposure to toxins is to use toxin-free body-care and home-care products. A great rule of thumb is to avoid putting anything on your body that you wouldn’t put in your mouth. Last month, I wrote a post on Why Yogis Hug Trees and Rub Food on their Bodies, so this post – looking at the types of food that yogis might want to rub on their bodies – feels like an appropriate follow up.

Here are some of my favourite homemade – and toxin-free – recipes for body care:


Simple Skin Moisturizer

  • coconut oil

Rub it on your skin like you would any other skin moisturizing product. Your skin will likely seem a little oily at first, but the oiliness quickly fades.

Homemade Deodorant

  •   3 Tbsp coconut oil
  • ¼ cup baking soda

I got this recipe from another yogi, and she had suggested 6 Tbsp Coconut Oil, ¼ cup baking soda, and ¼ cup cornstarch, but I’ve been avoiding corn, so I decided to cut it out of the recipe. Coconut oil and baking soda has been working great for me so far.

Baking Soda Shampoo

  • 2 Tbsp baking soda
  • ½ – 1 Tbsp water

Mix water and baking soda in a small bowl and take it into the shower with you. Work the baking soda paste into your hair, and rinse and condition as usual. It took me a few washes to get used to shampooing with baking soda, but from the very beginning I noticed a “cleaner than usual” feel to my hair.

Apple Cider Vinegar Conditioner

  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 5 drops tea tree essential oil

I mix these ingredients in a spray bottle and keep them in the shower. Apple cider vinegar makes my hair really soft, and this mixture is supposed to be fantastic for decreasing dandruff.

Moisturizing Conditioner

  • ½ Avocado
  • Juice from half a lemon

Mix the avocado and lemon into a paste. Massage the paste into your scalp and rub it through hair. Leave on for 15-20 minutes and then rinse, shampoo and condition as normal. It didn’t happen to me, but I’ve been warned that lemon juice may lighten hair. If you don’t want to risk lighter hair, I would avoid this recipe.

Oily Hair Spruce Up

  • corn starch

If you hair is oily and you are running short on time to wash your hair or you just don’t want wet hair, sprinkle a little corn starch in your hair. As you first start to sprinkle, it looks like your hair is greying, but after brushing your hair a few times, the corn starch doesn’t show up and your hair will look less oily.

Here are some of my favourite homemade – and toxin-free – recipes for home care:

Window & Glass Cleaner

  • 1 part white vinegar
  • 1 part water

Works way better than any window cleaning product I have ever purchased.

Homemade Hand Love

This one isn’t food, but it is easy and awesome!

  • Add 1 part castile soap to 3 parts water.

I use Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castile soap, but you can get all different kinds of scents and you could add essential oils if you like. Add the mixture to a container with a pump.

Multipurpose Cleaner

In a 700ml container, add:

  • 250ml water
  • 150ml white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. castile soap
  • 10 drops tea tree oil
  • And, then fill the rest of the container up with water.

I recommend adding some water first because straight vinegar and castile soap react with each other. The castile soap solidifies a bit and turns white. It’s not a big deal because it settles back to a clear liquid, but it does take a couple days to “unreact”, so I like to avoid it in the first place.

Clean the Kitchen Sink

  • Baking Soda

Sprinkle baking soda in the sink and scrub. Works wonders!

These home made body and home care products are some simple ways that I keep toxins out of my body, my home, and our environment. They are a great way to practice ahimsa, the yogic practice of non-harming.

Do you have any favourite homemade recipes? Post them as a comment below – I would love to try them out!