You may be familiar with wool jumpers and scarves, but do you know yoga mats can also be made out of wool?
Wool yoga mats are perfect for calm yoga types, such as Kundalini yoga, Yin yoga, Restorative yoga or yoga Nidra. The wool provides a warm, cosy and comfortable space for your practice. You can clean wool easily, but it does require more effort than other mats. The price of wool yoga mats varies depending on size, design, thickness and eco-friendliness.
In this article, we’ll explore what wool is, why a wool yoga mat is better than others, how to choose one and how to care for it.
What Is Wool?
Wool is a natural fibre; in fact, it’s merely sheep’s hair. Wool has a protective function for sheep; it protects them from the cold and warm weather. And the same all-weather properties are kept when an item is made out of wool.
The first records of wool are 600, 000 years old. Since then it has been used by humans to make roofs like the tents called Yurts in Mongolia, clothing, hats, rugs, blankets, decorations, and now yoga mats.
Wool has many properties that make it unique and far superior to synthetic fabrics. This is due to the wool hair structure itself.
Here you can see the structure of some natural and synthetic fibres:
Here are some of the most exciting qualities of wool:
- Stronger than stainless steel and thin as a human hair.
- Temperature regulator, warmer when cold, fresh when hot.
- Good insulator.
- Water repellent on the surface.
- Water absorbent if water gets to its core.
- 100% Biodegradable.
Wool is a sustainable and renewable product that has a minimal environmental impact. Sheep produce a new fleece every year that needs to be shaved. It is good for the sheep, the farmers and wool lovers.
One last note on wool fibres, wool has the natural odour of sheep, so your wool yoga mat may have a bit of sheep smell, which will take a couple of weeks to fade away.
Wool Allergies and Sensitivities
If you had experienced a bit of an itch when you put a woollen jumper, you know it isn’t comfortable to keep it on. It’s a common belief that when this happens, the person is allergic to wool. However, allergies are a lot more severe than just a little itch.
Allergies are severe immune reactions where the body goes into a shock, and you need to go to the hospital straight away, or you could die. Allergy to wool is possible but extremely rare.
So, What causes wool allergy? The answer is lanolin, a protective wax layer on sheep’s hair.
Lanolin is a substance commonly used in cosmetics, skincare, hair products and ointments for its moisturising properties. So, if you are allergic to wool, you would be allergic to these products.
So, What causes the itch in your skin when you wear a wool jumper?
Wool garments are made of different wool hair fibres’ sizes and thickness. Usually, this coarseness can irritate the skin, causing itchiness, redness, and urticaria. None of these is an allergic reaction, but of course, none of them is pleasant to experience.
Your skin may react to other things than the wool itself. It could be a reaction to synthetic dyes, or chemicals used during industrial wool manufacturing. Even though this is rare, it’s possible but unlikely.
Wool yoga mats can be great for people that are not sensitive to wool. If you are not sure, you can try to wear a wool jumper, non-merino wool, and see how your skin reacts; if nothing happens then, chances are you will be ok with a wool yoga mat.
If your skin reacts to wool, maybe other eco-friendly yoga mats are for you such as cotton yoga mats, cork yoga mats, or natural rubber.
If you feel you really want to give it a try to wool yoga mats, but your skin reacts to wool garments, try a Merino wool yoga mat. Because the skin reacts to the wool hair fibres’ coarseness, merino wool is the finest and thinnest of wool hairs. Merino wool will be soft and gentle to your skin.
Why Choosing Wool?
There are various reasons why you should choose wool as a material for a yoga mat. These reasons are divided in:
Wool is a natural, renewable and sustainable resource. Using wool reduces the use of fossil fuel and plastic contamination.
Every one of us can make a difference with every small choice we make in our lifestyle. Choosing wool over other synthetic materials is one of them.
Plastics and human-made synthetic fabrics use oil as a base for their production. Their manufacturing implicates different processes that are also polluting, as well as their disposal.
Most fabrics and plastics end up on landfills. They start the breaking down process releasing very toxic chemicals that damage our health and the environment.
Wool can be repurposed when you no longer like your wool mat.
When you no longer need it at all, you can compost it. It can break down in 1 to 5 years, and it will provide nutrients to the soil. This will complete the life cycle of wool.
Using natural fibres instead of synthetic ones is better for our health and the environment. Besides helps local producers to sustain their livelihood. Buying items that are handmade or handwoven is even better. It allows families to maintain their living while keeping their ancient traditions alive.
According to Kundalini yoga sheepskin keeps an environment free of electromagnetic waves from the Earth that may interfere with your practice.
Wool has anti-static properties that make it naturally repellent to electrostatic waves around you. This will help you have a more grounded environment for your meditation and yoga practice.
A wool mat or rug can keep your home free of pollutants. Wool’s structure is such that can trap pollutants at its core. According to some research, it is a natural purifier of your environment for up to 30 years.
The durability of wool surpasses that of many other natural and synthetic fibres. Wool fibre is stronger than steel. It can last a lifetime if care for.
Wool carpets and mats have a natural bounce, so they feel cosier when you walk on them.
Wool will keep its appearance over time. Wool yoga mats are some of the most expensive yoga mats available. But if you consider they may last well over 30-40 years. You can see their cost isn’t that crazy. Besides, they all have so many more advantages than other yoga mats, so it’s worth the investment.
Why Having a Wool Yoga Mat?
A yoga mat made of wool will give you a more grounded and close to nature experience. A wool yoga mat is the best option for Kundalini, Yin Yoga and meditation.
Here are the benefits of having a wool yoga mat:
- Wool gives you comfort during your yoga practice,
- Wool’s temperature regulative quality will keep you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cold.
- It provides you with a more natural base for your practice.
- It’s naturally water repellent.
- It’s fire-resistant. In fact, it’s the only fibre not required by law to be sprayed with fire retardants.
- It’s naturally resistant to mildew and dust mites.
- It’s naturally hypoallergenic.
- It doesn’t have any of the nasty chemicals known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s).
- It’s naturally anti-static due to its moisture absorption capabilities.
- Lasts a lifetime.
- Environmentally friendly.
Try buying any wool yoga mat from an organic producer if possible or from small artisan families that usually keep their sheep roaming in the mountain tops.
How to Choose the Best Wool Yoga Mat?
The best yoga mat is the one that satisfies all your needs for your yoga practice. You need to be clear in what you want out of a yoga mat before purchasing it.
Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing a yoga mat:
- How are you going to use it:
- The type of yoga you will use it for.
- The place of practice: indoors at home or in a studio; outdoors in the park or on the beach; or both indoors and outdoors.
The environmental impact and the ethical production of your yoga mat is something you should consider. In a separate article, we talk about the ethical and environmental effects of a yoga mat.
What You Need to Pay Attention to When Choosing a Yoga Mat
When choosing a wool yoga mat, consider the following aspects:
- Type of wool.
- Size: your mat should be at least the same length as your height. It’s best to have a longer mat than your height as you will more comfortable lying down in Savasana pose. Yoga mats usually come on a standard 60cm width, and some large sizes are 70cm. A wider mat is definitely more comfortable, but it may not be so great if you plan to take it to the studio where space may be limited.
- Thickness: the thickness of your wool yoga mat depends on where you are going to use it. A handwoven mat of around 10mm thick provides you with cushioning and comfort. However, a handwoven one may not be so soft on your knees as sheep wool, or sheepskin yoga mats which can be around 10-20mm thick.
- Type of wool material: here is where your preferences will come into play. I prefer the handwoven wool yoga mat. It’s highly durable and resistant to everyday use. It needs some special care when washing, but all wool yoga mats do.
- Design: Felted, sheepskin, organic sheepskin, sheep wool and merino wool yoga mats you can pretty much only choose the colour. Handwoven wool yoga mats can have a wide variety of designs and can be customised. The limitations are related to the difficulty of weaving the design.
- Eco-friendliness: the most eco-friendly wool yoga mats are the handwoven wool yoga mats and organic sheepskin. Handwoven wool yoga mats and organic sheepskins are the most eco-friendly.
- Price: each wool yoga mat has its price depending on its dimension, colour, eco-friendliness and how its made. The prices range from $60-850. So the price range is wide. It all depends on what you are looking for. The prices may sound expensive, but they really represent the hard work that takes to make each of them.
Which Is the Best Wool Yoga Mat?
The best wool yoga mat is the one that:
- Allows you to practice yoga comfortably and stably so that your practice is safe most of all.
- It’s large enough, around 80cm x 200cm, to provide you with plenty of room to do all the poses on your mat, without your hands or feet coming out of the mat every so often.
- It’s thick enough to give you plenty of cushioning and insulation from the flooring. Anything above 5mm is good enough. If the mat is too thick, it could limit the ease of transition between poses, as well as the stability you have on the mat while holding some poses.
Here at Yoga Signs, we are eco-friendly bias. We believe the impact our yoga practice has on the planet has to be positive, including the props, mats, and clothing we use for our yoga practice.
In my opinion, the handwoven wool yoga mat is the best option to choose for your yoga practice. It wins by a mile in the flexibility you have to select the colour, design, and size. And it also has a minimal impact on the environment during its production. It will last well over 30-40 years if looked after, and it’s 100% biodegradable.
The most eco-friendly wool yoga mats are the traditionally Handwoven Wool Yoga Mats and the Organic Sheepskin Yoga Mats. Check each separate article for the details.
How to Care for Your Wool Yoga Mat?
In general, washing wool must be done more kindly than with any other natural and synthetic fabrics. Just imagine is like washing your hair. You wouldn’t use harsh detergents, squeezed, stretched or rubbed it too hard.
Here are some guidelines to help you look after your wool yoga mat:
- Shake your mat frequently to remove any dust deposited on the top. For long hair wool mats like sheepskins and woollen yoga mats, you can use the vacuum in a low setting without the brush to avoid damaging the wool hair.
- If you notice the mat is slightly soil, just wash that little bit with a wool detergent or a very mild shampoo and pat dry.
- If you feel your wool mat needs a good clean, then you can do a full wash. Use wool fabric detergent without brighteners or conditioners.
- If you can wash it in a tub or the bath that’s possible, leave it soaking in cold water or up to 30 º C / 90º F for a few hours then step on it barefoot. If you choose to wash your mat this way, be mindful that you will need an outdoor space for it to air dry and that the wool yoga mat when wet will be very heavy.
- If there are heavy soil areas on your wool yoga mat, use a soft bristle brush and be gentle when you clean that area.
- If you use your washing machine, put in a gentle cycle or a wools cycle if possible. Ensure the water temperature is set to cold or to 90º F/ 30 º C.
- Do not use bleach
- Don’t tumble dry
- Let air dry completely.
- Natural fabrics will create a beautiful wrinkled texture when washed.
Wool is a natural material with excellent properties: it is durable, self-cleaning, dirt-repellent and flame-resistant. Besides, the production of the wool is sustainable, as the sheep are regularly shorn without suffering.
Here you have some of the properties of wool yoga mats that make them so amazing:
- Naturally anti-static
- Environmentally sustainable
- Naturally hypoallergenic
- Dust mite resistant
- Mildew resistant
- Fire resistant
- Lasts a lifetime
There are many options and types of wool yoga mats to choose from. They come in different sizes, shapes, designs, colours.
Some wool yoga mats are made industrially. Others are made manually and can take up to a couple of months to be finished. Whichever wool yoga mat you choose, be aware of their impact in the environment and your yoga practice.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Best Material for a Yoga Mat?
The eco-friendly yoga mat material is the best for you, your practice and the environment. Depending on the type of yoga you do, you will have a yoga mat material that performs better. The rue eco-friendly options are organic cork, organic cotton, handwoven wool, organic sheepskin and natural organic rubber.
Do Yoga Mats Cause Cancer?
PVC is a material used to make yoga mats; it’s one of the cheapest options. Scientific studies have related PVC to endocrine disruption, cancer and damage to the unborn babies. So, this is one of the materials that you must avoid.
How Much Should I Spend on a Yoga Mat?
It’s more of a personal choice and depends a lot on your budget. Besides the type of yoga you do, what you would be happy with, or if you want extra premiums that are nice to have, they go above the yoga mat’s performance.