In an ongoing search for the perfect yoga mat, I’ve just purchased Manduka’s latest offering, the new eKO® ultra-grippy mat. Here it is, airing outside so the latex stink will dissipate as soon as possible. I can’t wait for my first yoga practice on this mat.
It’s too stinky to use right now, but what I like about this mat are the following features (based on Manduka’s claims):
- ultra-grippy surface (new texture as you may be able to see in this photo)
- rubber base for cushioning and resiliency
- a stabilizing inner core, to keep the mat from deforming
- longer life than most natural rubber mats
- closed-cell construction versus open cell (so sweat won’t get permanently captured within the cells)
- zero-waste manufacturing process
Based on a quick test yesterday, the ultra-grippy surface has a lot of promise. I can’t wait to see how it will respond to sweaty hands and feet in the middle of an extended vinyasa flow practice.
I also liked my initial impression of its resilience, balanced by the stability. It appears less likely to lose its shape during practice than the mat I’m replacing. The new mat is also 8 inches longer than my aging Jade Harmony mat.
Goodbye to Jade Harmony
For the past two years I’ve brought a Jade Harmony Pro mat to class. We’ve been good friends, and have shared a lot of wonderful practices together several times a week. It came with me to a weeklong yoga retreat in Mexico, which may have shortened its life, I’m sad to say.
Like all natural rubber mats, it has deteriorated, despite my care to keep it out of the sunlight and clean it regularly. There are now permanent ripples at both ends of the mat. Even if they have no performance impact, the ripples distract my drishti.
If the studio is heated, or was heated during the prior class, the mat quickly deforms under my feet in standing poses. This makes it harder to maintain stability.
I really like the relative light weight of the Jade Harmony — a joy to carry to and from class.
The new eKO mat will weigh about 75% more than the Jade, in part because I chose a longer eKO mat. At 79 inches, it’s about 8 inches longer than the Jade — an important factor, given my height. I thought long and hard about carrying the extra 3–4 pounds, but decided eKO’s features were a good trade-off, versus the option of buying a new Jade Harmony.
Stay tuned. I’ll report on how well it performs after I’ve had some practice experience on the new mat.
Update. I’ve aired the mat outdoors for 3 days and the room-filling stink has gone. I can still smell the rubber when my nose is a foot away, so I’ll smell it during practice. I’ve taken it to one class, and the surface is very grippy, as promised. This was the first 60-minute vinyasa flow class that I was able to do without needing a towel to dry my sweaty hands. That said, the rubber mat does stretch out under my feet in warrior poses, so it’s not as stable as I had expected. The cushioning is nice. Net net: Manduka’s new eKO mat is a very good mat for people who prefer rubber mats — but not the all-around perfect mat.
Update #2. Two, or is it three?, weeks later the mat is still noticeably stinky. I’ve aired it outdoors a few more times, but most often I drape it over a chair in a spare room after class. Since my first report, I’ve taken several classes with this mat, and appreciate its functionality. For super sweaty practices I still need to use a micro-fiber towel under my hands, but my feet no longer slip. My biggest criticism is the long, lingering burnt rubber smell that permeates the surroundings wherever the mat is aired after class. The smell is also hard to ignore during savasana or any pose where your nose is on or near the mat.
Update #3. Somewhere around the 3-month mark, the annoying rubber smell finally disappeared. I don’t know if the smell disappeared as a result of weekly deep cleanings with an organic soap compound, or regular airings outdoors in a well-ventilated area. Personally, I believe it took many hours of airing outdoors to dissipate the smell. Now that it no longer stinks, this is my go-to mat for class. I always bring the eKO mat to class, and leave my heavier Black Mat Pro for use in my home practice area.