The First Sticky Yoga Mat: A History

This entry was posted on Sep 12, 2018 by Charlotte Bell.

Tapas Original Mats
There was a time when yogis in America practiced on bare floors and bath towels. If you were lucky, your yoga class took place on a hardwood floor, one with a finish that had at least a modicum of friction. Reality was, most of us ended up sliding around on linoleum, wood, concrete or carpet.

Standing poses and Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) were an exercise in frustration. No matter how much we might have wanted to open our hearts, expand into the light, etc., we were always holding back, trying to keep from ending up in a heap on the floor.

Hugger Mugger to the Rescue

The first nonskid mats were introduced to the Iyengar Yoga world by Angela Farmer in the mid to late ‘80s. These mats were cut from European carpet underlay. They were a godsend to those of us who’d been struggling against slick floors. Before long these unattractive but functional institutional-green mats were in every class and workshop I attended around the country. But because these mats were not made to withstand human body chemistry and lots of movement, their surface began peeling under our hands and feet within a few months.

That’s when Sara Chambers, founder of Hugger Mugger Yoga Products, decided to develop a sturdier, stickier yoga mat. In 1990, she worked with a U.S.-based company to develop the Tapas Mat, the first-ever nonskid mat designed specifically for yoga. The same U.S. company still makes our Tapas Original and Tapas Ultra yoga mats. All the other mats on the market today are based on Sara’s original design for a yoga mat that could provide a stable, sticky surface.

Most yoga mats on the market are made from PVC. On the upside, PVC is incredibly durable. I still have a few Tapas Original Mats from the first batch Hugger Mugger sold in 1990, and they haven’t peeled or worn through. On the downside, most PVC is a petroleum-based product. Some PVC mats on the market contain toxic heavy metals and phthalates. Hugger Mugger’s Tapas Mats have never contained these substances.

Eco-friendliness is not simple. The balance for each yogi is to decide whether buying biodegradable, sustainable mats is more or less eco-friendly than buying a mat that you may never have to replace. This, of course, is a question that each of us answers for ourselves. It is why Hugger Mugger continues to offer many options. Sustainable options include mats made from PER (Polymer Environmental Resin), TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer), natural rubber, jute and PER, and a combination of vegetable oil- and petroleum-based PVC.

Any mat will last longer if it is cared for. Depending on what mats are made from, the care can be quite different. Here’s a list of all our mats:

PVC-based mats: Tapas Original Yoga Mat, Tapas Ultra Yoga Mat

PER-based mats: Tapas Travel, Nature Collection, Ultra Nature Collection, Gallery Collection Ultra

Natural rubber mats:  Para Rubber, Para Rubber XL

TPE mats:  Earth Elements 5 mm Mat

Natural fiber mat:  Sattva Jute Yoga Mat

Fabric mats: The Yoga Towel and Cotton Yoga Rug

Here’s a post that details how to choose the best yoga mat for your practice.

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11 responses to “The First Sticky Yoga Mat: A History”

  1. patrick says:

    Thanks for your valuable information. I agree!!! Life of any object whether it is a yoga mat or electronic gadget is directly proportional to its care by the owner. If you give value to your belongings and maintain them properly, they last very long. I prefer cloth mats over any other mats. They are quite comfortable and easy to wash. Get high quality yoga products from Yoga Mad, according to your need.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this great blog, its been a really very helpful read! I am very thankful to the you for giving this interesting post.

  3. […] on the floor and purchased and repurposed carpet interlay. And thus, the modern, sticky yoga mat was born. Not long after, this idea was brought to the masses and picked up by yoga mat company Hugger […]

  4. Very informative. This definitely helped me to choose a perfect yoga mat. Thank You.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this informative blog. It helped me choose the right yoga mat for me.

  6. Ryshel says:

    Hi, any idea how much the first yoga mats were sold for?

  7. […] to serve yogis and yoga teachers all over the world. Hugger Mugger technically introduced the first nonskid yoga mat in 1990. Until then, Hugger Mugger had made several yoga mats to suit the varying needs of […]

  8. […] The First Sticky Yoga Mat: A History Yoga Props vs. Your Ego How to Choose the Best Yoga Bolsters for Your Practice […]

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About Charlotte Bell
Charlotte Bell discovered yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. Charlotte is the author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. Her third book is titled Hip-Healthy Asana: The Yoga Practitioner’s Guide to Protecting the Hips and Avoiding SI Joint Pain (Shambhala Publications). She writes a monthly column for CATALYST Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. Charlotte is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, Charlotte plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and folk sextet Red Rock Rondo, whose DVD won two Emmy awards in 2010.