Who Makes the Best Cork Yoga Mat?

I’ve used a cork yoga mat since 2015. I bought it after being fed up with using regular mats in a hot yoga studio. Hot yoga people always have to use towels with a grippy back to avoid sliding all over the mat when things get sweaty.

As one of the sweatiest of the sweaty, this never worked for me. I did some reading and discovered Yoloha cork yoga mats. At $119, it was a pricey proposition.

But it worked. I didn’t slip and/or slide. It was by far better than the other mats I’ve used since started taking yoga classes in 1999.

Most yoga mats will make you slip and slide in a hot yoga class – unless you use a towel, which has its own drawbacks.

Just shortly before the pandemic kicked in, I did something stupid. I left my mat at the studio where it disappeared before I could return and bring it home.

Now, Yoloha was one of the first ones making a name in cork yoga mats back in 2015. I wondered if anyone else caught up.

Testing the VIRGIN PULP Best Cork Yoga Mat

I found a VIRGIN PULP Best Cork Yoga Mat on Amazon for about half the price of a Yoloha.

I also had some credit on Amazon, so it turned out to be pretty much free. There’s a character in one of my favorite movies who says “Anything free is worth saving up for.” That’s not so true in the case of this yoga mat.

best cork yoga mat
The close-up shows where the VIRGIN PULP cork yoga mat is shedding surface area.

I noticed when I got it that it was far lighter than my original Yoloha, and the grain of the cork was far smaller. It was also a far thinner cork surface. This worried me right from the get-go.

The VIRGIN PULP proved my instincts right. While it was decently grippy, the cork surface started to flake nearly immediately.
It was so bad that I took the rare step of writing an Amazon review to warn people away. Here’s what I had to say:

After only three uses, pieces of the cork are flaking to reveal the material underneath. That’s right – three hot yoga classes, and it’s already coming apart. See the gray areas in the photos.

Also, this mat is about four inches shorter than I’d prefer (I’m 6’2). It’s also very squishy and lightweight, so it tends to move around and even fold.

My last cork mat was from one of the more expensive brands. It lasted seven years, and the cork layer was far thicker. That made a more durable, stable cork mat.

On the plus side, this mat is very grippy when wet.

But wait, there’s more: The VIRGIN PULP mat doesn’t absorb water well. Sweat pools on the surface, which makes all manner of farty noises when you’re doing anything that involves being on your back. Look, I DON’T NEED MORE FARTY NOISES IN MY LIFE!

Back to the Original

My fury at the VIRGIN PULP mat did not go unnoticed. Since my birthday was coming up, my wife grabbed a Yoloha Original Air Cork yoga mat for me.

When I opened the box, I was a little concerned. It was way thinner and lighter than my old version of the same mat (seriously, that old mat was a TANK). It wasn’t much different in weight than the VIRGIN PULP disaster. One thing that gave me hope was that the cork grain seems much larger
and sturdier than the bargain-basement brand.

best cork yoga mat
Here you can see the difference in the grain size of the cork bits. Yoloha on top.

I managed to get in a few hot yoga sessions at Hot Yoga University before the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down. They recently opened under new management – and with some awesome new practices that will be good even after the pandemic days.

It’s as grippy as the original, and not a single piece of the cork surface has flaked off. The grip is superior to the VIRGIN PULP cork yoga mat, but maybe not quite as grippy as the original. I wonder if this is because its thinner surface doesn’t absorb sweat quite as easily. Like the VIRGIN PULP mat, the current iteration of the Yoloha Original Air allows more sweat to pool. This again results in some questionable noises emanating from my mat; it’s not quite the beans/broccoli/eggs diet sound of the cheaper mat, but it farts noticeably.

Another nice feature: It’s a few inches longer than the VIRGIN PULP. Great for tall people!

The Verdict on the Best Cork Yoga Mat

The Yoloha Original Air Cork Yoga Mat is superior in quality to the cheaper alternative. My last Yoloha lasted years rather than weeks, so spending more is a wise decision.You’ll wind up keeping it far longer. And if you’re debating a cork yoga mat versus a regular matt and a quality yoga towel, the prices aren’t that different from each other.

That said, I’m open to anyone who wants me to put their cork yoga mat to the test. But if I’m spending my own money, I’m sticking with Yoloha at this point. It just seems to be the best cork yoga mat out there.

Review: Bhujang Collection Men’s Yoga Gear

men's yoga gear
The Viper shorts from Bhujang Collection are a great example of men’s yoga gear. (photo from the YogaForMen.com site)

Finding men’s yoga gear isn’t an easy task. Ever since I first learned how to down dog back in 1999, I’ve been pretty much wearing regular athletic shorts. For years, my go-to shorts for yoga were the cotton/bamboo blend shorts from tasc performance. I also have a pair of Prana shorts that I use often. I still like them both, but they still had a few things that kept them from being perfect yoga shorts.

Contrast this dilemma with the ladies – they have a pretty dizzying array of yoga gear. It’s almost too much, and that’s just at Lululemon (a place which puts me off for a number of reasons that could deserve a blog post of their own). All I wanted was some good men’s yoga gear, starting with shorts.

These days, I take only hot yoga classes. Some poses involve bracing a leg against another part of my body. So when I’m slippery with a coat of sweat, things don’t stay where they belong. My number-one problem area is that bit of leg right about the knee – where none of my shorts cover.

I got frustrated, and searched online for men’s yoga gear. One of my top results was a website called yogaformen.com. They have a bunch of different brands, but it was the Bhujang Collection shorts that grabbed my attention: They have full-length pants, and some shorts -- some of which cover that problem area above the knee.

The lowest price is $54, and they go up to $120. I know, know – that sounds like a lot. But get this: the Bhujang Collection men’s yoga gear is all made in the United States. By that, they mean the fibers are spun here. And it’s all knitted here.

Speaking of fabric and fibers, one of the key ingredients to the Bhujang Collection men’s yoga gear is MicroModal, which they call an eco-friendly fabric. Beechwood fiber is its key ingredient. (UPDATE May 17: I accidentally forgot to wash them after one class. I picked them up for my next class, gave a sniff … and no gross odor. I even accidentally wore them inside out, and they still felt great. Is there nothing these shorts can’t do?)

Men’s Yoga Gear in the Studio

OK, I’m a cheapskate. So I bought the cheapest Bhujang Collection shorts – the $54 Limited Edition Viper shorts. I got the long version in a large size (for the record and to see what might fit you, I’m 6’2, 205 pounds with a 34-inch inseam).

I typically wear underwear – usually my tasc performance ventilated compression shorts – with shorts that don’t have built-in underwear. But that didn’t quite feel right with the Bhujang Collection Viper shorts. So I skipped the undies, and everything felt just right.

The Bhujang Collection shorts are designed to fit a bit tight, but without infringing on your plumbing. In the yoga studio, they stayed put on me during inversions. When I had to put a foot or elbow or whatever on that now-covered spot above my knee, all the parts stayed in place – no slipping! This makes it a lot easier for me to deal with that damned "flying pigeon" pose that I hate so much. Maybe I won’t even hate it as much in the future.

According to the YogaForMen.com site, the Viper shorts are a bit more athletic in fit and a bit less plush in the fabric than the other Bhujang collection shorts. To me, that means that they’re not only the cheapest option, but also the best for my hot yoga needs.

The bottom line: If you need some men’s yoga gear, give the Bhujang Collection a try. Start with the Viper shorts if you lean toward hot yoga, or one of the Cobra shorts/pants if you prefer non-heated yoga. Skip the undies, go to your studio and revel in the comfort. I haven’t worn my tasc or Prana shorts to a yoga class since my first session with the Viper; I still use them for weightlifting, but the Viper is just a far superior, purpose-built example of men’s yoga gear.

Ordering

Super-smooth process at YogaForMen.com with quick delivery. You can’t ask for much more. And if you do, you’re just getting greedy.

Three Gross Odors from the World of Sports

Greg Lemond Alpe D'Huez deodorant
Back off: This guy won’t stop to poop even if he has dysentery. (photo by Steve Selwood)
A PR person from a major deodorant company emailed me a few weeks ago. She wanted to send me some deodorant samples of a new formula designed for athletes -- so I could review it and write all sorts of high praise about how this deodorant made my life better. I wasn’t very interested in the pitch – I mean, how do you really test a deodorant in any objective way? So I offered her an alternative: Her company could sponsor a fun post about the three most hideous odors in sports. It would actually be interesting, if a bit edgy for our staid, well-established smelly-good company (betcha AXE would’ve jumped on it).

Well, I never heard from her again. But I decided to do the post anyway. No sponsor? No problem!

Cam Ward 2008 deodorant
By the time you hit the NHL, does your sense of smell even work anymore? (photo by Dan4th Nicholas (Flickr))
Alright, onto the list!

The Hot Yoga Dutch Oven

OK, even though I like yoga a lot, I can see how you can object to classifying it as a sport. Let’s leave that alone for now. I promise you, the Hot Yoga Dutch Oven is a legitimate stench. It happens when someone (ahem) goes to a hot yoga class. He then leaves his sweat-saturated yoga towel and shorts in his car overnight. He then goes out to his car the next morning – and gets hit in the face with the decaying-school-of-mackerel smell of wet, fermenting yoga gear.

This is obviously worse in summer.

I don’t know why I ever did this more than once. That’s really all it should take to learn my lesson. I guess it’s the same neurological short circuit that has made me burn the roof of my mouth on countless slices of way-too-hot pizza over the years.

The Goalie Bag Miasma of Doom

There are lots of reasons why you shouldn’t be a hockey goalie -- or allow anyone you know or love to do so: The mental anguish of letting in a goal, putting yourself in harm’s way, the absurd cost of equipment. But tops on my list is the smell.

Every piece of goalie gear is a utopia for funk that loves to stink. Now imagine putting all that gear together, throwing it into a dark bag, zipping it up and letting it sit. Oh, you think spraying that with some sort of smelly-good stuff will do anything? Ha! It laughs at your spritz of Febreeze and then ramps the stinkiness to 11 (it’s been awhile since my last This is Spinal Tap reference).

Opening that goalie bag unleashes pure disgustingness into the air. Remember when Han Solo sliced open a dead tauntaun and shoved Luke Skywalker into it to keep him from freezing? That’s about right.

The Tour de Crap

The Tour de France is pretty much the legalized month-long torture of about 200 spindly armed nutjobs with unearthly bike-handling skills. It’s bad enough as it is without a guy at the front of the pack flinging soupy feces on the trailing pack.

That’s the scenario the peloton dealt with in the 1986 Tour de France. Greg Lemond picked up a nice case of dysentery and clawed to the front. He did not stop for a squat in the bushes. He let fly from the saddle of his bike.

In the pre-Internet era, I read a quote from fellow American Bob Roll that said "His sickness was coming out of his shorts." The story went onto describe how Lemond’s diarrhea flowed over the waistband (or is it now a wasteband?) of his shorts. It would fall onto the rear tire, which would then launch it all over the trailing riders.

I’ve been able to find that reference on the Internet – the closest I’ve found was a far-more genteel "Only brown stains down the backs of his legs betrayed how acute was his distress."

Fortunately for the cute girls who have to pose with the stage winner and give him a kiss on the cheek, Lemond did not make the podium for that stage.

What horrific sports-related smells would you add to my list?

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Gear Review – Tasc Performance

I have a reflex action every time I see someone sporting those oh-so-trendy Lululemon workout clothes -- a shake of the head. An eyeroll. A muttered-under-my-breath exhalation of "sucker."

Go to any yoga studio or CrossFit gym, though, and you’re sure to see people who paid upward of a hundred clams for the privilege of sporting that omega logo on their workout duds. Why they’re so willing to shell out when there’s a company like Tasc Performance, I’ll never know.

I picked up a bunch of Tasc’s bamboo gear during a blowout sale at Sports Authority -- back when Tasc was known as Thriv (neither name is very good, but I think Thriv fits the eco-friendly vibe better. Clearly, this company needs hard-core, visionary branding consultants.).

Here’s the deal: Bamboo fiber is allegedly less stinky when exposed to sweat than my typical synthetic gear. And it’s soft – like polish-your-camera-lens-with-it soft. I ran a wide range of gear through the ringer -- two fitted t-shirts, two pairs of gym shorts and a pair of fitted boxer-briefs. I didn’t pay more than $20 for any single item (on-sale, but retail prices were still reasonable).

All were ludicrously comfortable. And yes, I noticed that I smelled far less worse when wearing Tasc gear. Here are a few observations about each item.

Hybrid fitted SS Crew – The sleeves are a bit long, coming slightly below the biceps. But that’s no big deal. Perfect performance and fit for yoga, CrossFit, running -- just about anything that breaks a sweat. I can’t think of a single improvement.

Shorts – Off-the-charts comfort, but I want the exact same shorts with two changes: Lose the built-in underwear, and add pockets. Getting rid of the undies means they’ll pair well with the Ventilate compression shorts. Other than that, these are very close to perfect.

Ventilated compression shorts – I wish all my underwear fit this way. But I noticed immediate wear in the meshy area up-front. Nothing should develop a hole by its second use, so some quality control should be high on Tasc’s list.

Other stuff to note: Tasc’s website is a touch clunky; I’m hitting items in the drop-down menu that don’t seem to take me anywhere. The company could also improve and focus its social media efforts: Tasc needs to interact, not just talk about its products. Social media sells me on organizations. A strong social media can encourage me to try a product that I can’t otherwise get my hands on -- the unexpected find of cool bamboo stuff at Sports Authority was fortunate happenstance on both our parts. But I think Tasc needs to work the social media hard to get its name out there more. Especially vital since Tasc sells on its website.

I also wouldn’t mind seeing some pants for hiking and some for yoga, along with socks. This bamboo thing is for-real, and what body part needs anti-stink support more than our feet?

Tasc could use some Twitter followers. Get over there and get them talking!

Sanskrit to Celebrity Yogis: 10 Things I Hate About Yoga

Yoga that doesn’t mess around. (Photo credit: GO INTERACTIVE WELLNESS)

I took my first yoga class in 1999. I found a lot to like about it. I could feel my body snapping back into alignment. It even helped my concentration – at the time, I played a lot of hockey. After a yoga session, I’d strap on the goalie pads and the puck seemed bigger and slower.

On the flip side, I found out there some things I hate about yoga. An aborted session at At One Yoga in Phoenix (more on that in a future post) really brought this to the forefront of my mind.

1. Sanskrit Chanting – Exactly what is the point of that Sanskrit song that so many yoga classes start out with? I don’t speak Sanskrit, and I’m frankly not there for a "spiritual" experience. And besides, whoever said "chanting" begat "spirituality?" I grew up going to Catholic mass, so I’ve had a bellyful of unneeded verbal repetition. Let’s get to the good stuff!

2. The overly soft, nurturing, gentle yoga teacher voice – Exactly where do some yoga teachers get that overly measured, breathy voice? It sounds ridiculous. And I say that even though one of my favorite teachers uses it. Coming from male teachers makes it even worse – I always hear them as Mr. Van Driessen from Beavis & Butt-head.

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