LovEarth Yoga Mats, a new program established by Cate Peterson, a Sydney-based Oki yoga teacher and co-founder of YogaPass, intends to raise awareness of the environmental costs of yoga mats and make the availability of eco-friendly mats easier. Community yoga classes also benefit from the scheme, which asks yogis to donate old mats to those in need.

“Yoga is the practice of conscious behaviour, and the yoga mat is an unconscious part of most yogis’ behaviour,” says Peterson, adding that she hopes “to clean up the ecological footprint of the yoga community in Australia.”

Fully biodegradable, LovEarth Yoga Mats are made from natural tree rubber and jute, without toxic PVC, PER, TPE or dyes found in other mats. Available for purchase at www.yogapass.com.au, they are delivered with instructions for recycling at the end of their life, plus details on how the purchaser may donate their old mat to a nearby community group. In return, the donator will receive two YogaPasses, valued at $24, which can be used to trial classes at any of 340 yoga studios in Australia.

“Even if you don’t buy a new LovEarth mat, you can donate your old mat and we’ll give two YogaPasses in return,” says Peterson, who adds that the scheme is also about building community. “We’ll be telling the donators where their mats go and will be encouraging the recipients to  email and say how they’re using the mat,” says Peterson.

Community groups participating include Anahata Healing, which offers free yoga nationwide to those affected by cancer, and a YogaAid  program that provides yoga classes to intellectually disabled people.

Over the past year, YogaAid has held classes twice a week in Sydney for Sunnyfield Independence day centre participants, and after great success plans to offer classes at all 13 day centres. Johnson Hunter, YogaAid project manager, says that donated mats will enable more students to attend classes and practise at home. “We find their self-esteem is quite low, but when they’ve got their own mat

in their own space, you see it build up,” he says. “They learn the basics in class and take it home and show their parents or carers to get involved, too. We’ve had a great response from that.”

MOLLY FURZER