You might have heard all the rage about cork yoga mats but there are differing opinions among many yogis I know about whether they are good or not. So, should you get a cork yoga mat?
Yes, you should consider getting a cork yoga mat but it depends upon your own needs. If you’re looking for something that is easy to keep clean and that stays grippy during sweaty yoga sessions, then cork might be a good choice.
Keep reading for a full list of advantages and disadvantages of cork yoga mats along with my own mat recommendations.
- 1. It becomes grippier as it gets wetter
- 2. Cork is antibacterial
- 3. Cork doesn’t absorb odors
- 4. Cork is naturally elastic
- 5. Cork comes from sustainable sources
- 6. Cork doesn’t contain latex
- 7. Cork feels good under your hand
Pros and Cons of Cork Yoga Mats
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of cork yoga mats so you can make an informed decision.
1. It becomes grippier as it gets wetter
One of the biggest advantages of a cork yoga mat is its ability to become more grippy as it gets wet, this is the opposite of many other materials.
It does this due to a natural compound called suberin that acts as a glue between cork and other surfaces such as your hands when wet. For this reason, cork is an excellent material for hot yoga, bikram yoga, or if you use yoga as part of high-intensity training.
2. Cork is antibacterial
Cork has been proven to have antibacterial properties. In one study, scientists found that after 90 minutes, the cork had reduced some of the most dangerous bacteria by 100%. (source)
In fact, cork is naturally mold and mildew resistant due to the suberin which makes up about 45% of its mass. (source)
basically, what I’m saying is, you don’t need to clean a cork yoga mat as often as other types which is great because nobody enjoys cleaning a yoga mat after a sweaty session.
Although, I would recommend giving it a freshen up every now and again.
3. Cork doesn’t absorb odors
Have you ever rocked up to a yoga class and been very conscious that other people may be able to smell your mat? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.
This is another benefit of a cork yoga mat as it absorbs very little water compared to other yoga mat materials, which means that it doesn’t absorb smells either.
4. Cork is naturally elastic
One of the key features you want in a yoga mat is for it to provide padding for your knees to make asanas like child’s pose more comfortable.
Cork has a honeycomb-like structure, this makes it naturally very compressible but it always bounces back to its original shape like elastic.
5. Cork comes from sustainable sources
Cork comes from the bark of a cork oak tree in Europe and Africa. It is generally considered to be quite sustainable as the trees are not cut down when the cork is harvested, the bark is usually stripped every 9 years and then grows back.
The cork usually comes from Portugal where cork trees are said to offset 10 million tons of carbon every year.
As it comes from a renewable source, it is biodegradable and completely recyclable at the end of its life without releasing any toxins into the environment.
However, cork yoga mats are rarely made from 100% cork since it’s not the softest material. Typically, the top layer will be cork and the bottom layer will be another material such as rubber or TPE.
This should be considered when you think about how sustainable your cork yoga mat will be and can vary between different brands.
6. Cork doesn’t contain latex
Whilst natural rubber is also a sustainable material used in yoga mats, one of the downsides to this is that it contains latex which can cause reactions in some people.
This is where cork becomes a valuable alternative that is still friendly to the planet and to your skin.
7. Cork feels good under your hand
My final reason why you should get a cork yoga mat is slightly down to personal preference but I think it feels more natural under your hand than some other materials such as PVC or even rubber which is also a natural material.
However, some people may disagree and there are other materials such as cotton that can also give you that natural ‘closer to the Earth’ feeling.
To give a balanced point of view, lets now look at some of the cons of cork yoga mats:
1. They are less grippy when dry
One of the biggest frustrations when you begin a yoga session on a cork yoga mat is that it takes a while to get going with the grip.
This is easily resolved by wetting your hands a little, but a water supply isn’t always available, especially if you’re in a class or doing yoga outdoors.
2. Cork yoga mats do not perform well when folded frequently
One of the benefits of rubber or foam yoga mats is that you can fold them over easily. This is ideal if you have a thinner mat and want some extra padding under your knees for certain poses.
However, with a cork yoga mat, you may be able to fold it, but if you continue to fold it in the sam replace, it will start to develop lines more easily than other mat materials.
This will vary by brand as it also depends upon the ratio of cork to other materials, but it’s something that’s more noticeable among cork mats.
3. There is less choice available, especially in the budget price range
One thing that I’ve found when shopping for a cor yoga mat is that there is far less choice available than other types of mats such as rubber or synthetic materials.
This is most profound in the cheaper price bracket. For example, TPE yoga mats are widely available around the £20 price bracket, whereas the cheapest cork yoga mat that is any good starts at around $45.
Best Cork Yoga Mats
So, now that we’ve established that cork yoga mats are a viable alternative to other materials, which cork yoga mat should you buy? Here are two options:
Best with Rubber Base: SNΛKUGΛ
I like this cork yoga mat from SNΛKUGΛ. It’s 4mm thick which is a nice size for using at home and taking to class. It’s not overly heavy at 2.8kg, although you won’t want to take it on vacation.
It’s made from a cork top with a natural rubber base which is another sustainable material. It’s only available in 72” so is suitable for users up to around 5’6”.
It also has alignment lines which I would recommend for beginners to help get correct posture during poses.
Best with TPE Base: Yoloha Original
If you’re looking for a different base material, perhaps because rubber activates your latex allergies, then this Yoloha cork mat is a great pick.
It’s 6mm thick and provides a nice amount of cushion for your knees, yet it’s still one of the lightest yoga mats I’ve seen at 1.13kg (2.5lbs).
Unlike the previous mat, it’s available in two sizes, 183cm (72”) and 203cm (80”), so it will be suitable for a broader range of people.
For more recommendations, see my full guide to the best cork yoga mats.
Are Cork Yoga Mats Good?
Yes, cork yoga mats are good for maintaining their grip when wet and are much easier to keep clean due to their natural antibacterial properties.
This is why they are popular for hot yoga where the room is heated above-average temperatures which results in lots of sweat on the mat.
Are Cork Yoga Mats Hygienic?
Yes, cork yoga mats are more hygienic than other materials because they have antimicrobial properties that allow them to naturally reduce bacteria and prevent mold or mildew from growing. As they don’t absorb much water, they are also great at preventing bad odors.
Are Cork Yoga Mats Better Than Foam?
Both cork and foam yoga mats have their advantages and disadvantages. Cork is great for maintaining grip when you sweat which makes them ideal for hot or bikram yoga. However, foam yoga mats tend to be cheaper, lighter, and softer than cork.
The YogaMad is founded by Mila, an avid yogini who is passionate about inspiring others to live their best lives while finding mind-body-soul balance. She has a background in business consulting but has left the corporate world in her quest to live out her dreams as a yoga nomad.