Dearest ahimsa, how you make so much sense on all levels, but how hard it is to follow you. And oh how if you were a person, I’d probably punch you in the face out of frustration. In case you don’t know what ahimsa is, there are eight limbs of yoga, one of which is the yamas, and ahimsa or “non violence” is one of those. I won’t go any deeper into it which no doubt has some yoga scholars chomping at the bit, but many will take ahimsa to the level of trying to be environmentally friendly. You know, non violent towards mother earth and all her cute cuddly animals (mosquitoes don’t count according to the Buddha and neither do veggies because we can’t hear them scream). As such, it’s quite natural that yoga practitioners are purchasing “eco friendly yoga mats” in droves.
What IS “eco friendly” anyway? Well, let’s say that you’re my friend. And I punch you really hard in the face and break your nose. Am I being friendly? Of course not. Now let’s say that I punch you in the face but not as hard and only cause a nose bleed. Am I being friendly? To be friendly, I wouldn’t punch you at all. To be “eco friendly”, you cannot harm the environment, period.
What IS an eco friendly yoga mat? Well, let’s do a Google search for that since the internet would never lie to us, right? The first listing that catches my eye is for an eco friendly yoga mat made by a large, well known company. OOOOH! A click through to their website provides me with the following tantalizing description:
Bold is mine. “Made sustainably”. Now THAT is quite a claim.
Even if your “eco friendly” yoga mat is made from a natural substance such as rubber from a tree, if those trees are not raised organically, that means they are utilizing either (or both) synthetic fertilizer or synthetic pesticides. As each are petroleum based and petroleum is not a renewable resource, your yoga mats are not sustainable. And then of course there is all the environmental damage that non organic pesticides and fertilizers do. They kill the good bugs and microbes, pollute ground water and other fresh water supplies, create dead zones in the ocean, poison people, and the list goes on of NON eco friendly issues that surround them.
If you want to get even deeper into sustainability (I wish more people would) then by definition, anything that is shipped any distance by car, truck, train, ship, or plane is not sustainable. This is due to the fact that each of those modes of transportation utilizes petroleum and it is not a renewable resource.
To be truly sustainable, you have to make drastic changes in your life. If you’re not sustainable, are you practicing ahimsa? By purchasing a yoga mat that is not locally sourced from sustainable materials, are you violating ahimsa?
David Chapman is the owner of yogaforums.com, has a Masters in BS, a PHD in Hypocrisy, is a certified yoga teacher who is anything but, and likes short walks on the beach.