As practitioners of yoga we learn to be more conscious decision makers. We learn to listen to those quiet inner voices, to question the loud ones, to understand what our bodies need, how to be more kind, and how to benefit society from the inside out. We don’t simply do something because we were told or mimic others without first asking ourselves “why?”.Why, then, wouldn’t we be mindful when it comes to choosing one of the grounding elements of our asana practice: our mats? Allow me to provide you with some useful information so that you can do what you do best: make a mindful decision.
Cork is eco-friendly.
Cork, beyond being 100% natural, is nature’s renewable resource. The cork oak is mature enough to be harvested at 25 years of age, and can be harvested every 9 years until it is around 200 years old. Not only does the harvesting process not harm or kill the trees, but a harvested cork tree will actually emit twice as much oxygen into the atmosphere than one that has not been harvested. When a cork oak dies, all parts of the tree are used and there is no waste. Cork forests are among the world’s most biodiverse, and are home to endangered species of plants and animals. Yogis spend a lot of time on their mats and they take them everywhere. It is important to have a mat that doesn’t contain chemicals and toxins that can be inhaled and absorbed by our skin, or sent into the air, harming people and nature around us. The majority of our society has learned that production of plastics, artificial rubbers and other materials are harming our planet. With knowledge comes responsibility, and it is the duty of the conscious yogi to choose something natural, healthy, and sustainable. Yogis can relieve their conscious while practicing on a cork yoga mat.
Cork is functional.
Cork is without a doubt one of nature’s wonders. This material has a bubble wrap like cell structure that naturally allows it to be durable, flexible, buoyant, lightweight, compressible, expandable, and soft. This cell structure also naturally insulates both hot and cold. In its natural state, cork is flame resistant, and these trees have a history of being sole survivors in natural forest fires due to their nearly impermeable outer protection system. Cork secretes an oil called suberin when it is wet that not only creates a grippy surface, but also makes the cork antimicrobial, inhibiting growth of fungi, bacteria, and mold. This remarkable material is naturally resistant to nature’s elements, thus our everyday yoga practice (sweat, temperature change, mold, bacteria, wear and tear) don’t stand a chance! Cork is easy on the joints, firm enough to balance on, and naturally grips our feet. It’s as if nature said “Here you go yogis! I made this for you”.
Cork is timeless, reliable, and durable.
The history of cork is just as interesting as its properties. Cork was used as fishing tackle as early as 3,000 B.C. in China and Egypt, and 400 B.C. in Italy for footwear, floats, and roofing. We know this because remains of this ancient cork is still around today! This is not only a testament to the durability of cork, but also of its timeless function. The ancient Greeks and Romans dubbed cork as a noble and adaptable material. At one time only priests were permitted to chop down a cork oak. Some of the very first conservation laws in history were implemented to protect these trees because cork was highly coveted for building boat decks. The first microscopic images were taken of cork cells in England, which later led to the discovery of the cell. Don Perignon started using cork for champagne and wine stoppers back in the 18th century, and by the 1950s, cork was commonly used for walls and flooring in U.S. homes. Cork is currently used for hundreds of different products and the possibilities for its uses continue to reveal themselves.
Cork is harvested with love.
Despite rumors spread by plastic producers, there is in fact no shortage of cork. Yes, there was a time of political turmoil in Portugal that caused a slump in production, but now the cork forests are being more sustainably managed than ever before. There is currently enough cork to create wine stoppers for the entire world’s wine for the next century. Due to better forest management , new information, and accountability, there are now considerably more thriving cork oak forests than there were 15 years ago. Each time a 200 year old tree dies, two more saplings are planted. Cork farmers have learned from their history and greatlyimproved. The harvesting process itself is one that takes a great deal of skill, and most Portuguese cork farmers have been in the business for generations. Farmers only harvest from May-August, when the trees are at their strongest and least likely to be damaged. Portuguese cork farmers are not only skilled, but they love the trees on their farms, and are motivated to care for them to benefit generations to come. There are few goods on this earth that are cultivated and harvested with as much love and care as cork.
Now that you have all of the information on cork, you can make a mindful decision on what kind of mat you want to practice on. Why not choose the one that is eco-friendly, toxin-free, functional, reliable, durable, timeless, and harvested with love? Please leave your thoughts or questions below. Namaste!
Interesting in recycling cork to give back to this industry and our planet? Yoloha Yoga has partnered with Recork to regrind and reuse your wine corks. Read more here.