Disclaimer: The brand sent me the product free of charge in exchange for my honest and candid review. Any opinions expressed in the post are my own.
As a yoga teacher, there's one thing I love as much as getting into a good sweaty yoga flow. It's discovering new amazing tools that make this flow safer, more comfortable, and more fun.
I've spent the last 50 days testing the most essential yoga prop in the yogis' arsenal - a cork yoga mat called Nature PRO by Union Yoga.
Keep reading to see where Nature PRO yoga mat triumphed—and where it fell short.
About the brand: Union Yoga is a Spanish-based team of yoga and nature enthusiasts on a mission to reduce the devastating environmental impact of the yoga industry. Their Nature PRO cork yoga mat holds a plastic-free certificate from European Vegetarian Union and is 100% natural, biodegradable, and easy on mother Earth.
Best for: sweaty indoor yoga and fitness practice
Top layer: natural Portuguese cork
Bottom: recycled natural rubber mixed with grounded cork
Weight: 1,35 kg
Size: 186cm x 66cm
Table of Contents
💗 What I liked most:
🛑 What could be improved:
All the materials used in Nature Pro are natural and biodegradable.
The top layer is made of cork, which is an awesome alternative to widely used synthetic materials.
Not only it's sturdy, antimicrobial, and easy to handle, but also truly eco-friendly.
The production of cork doesn't require cutting down trees. The bark is harvested manually without harming the tree, and it regenerates itself while absorbing CO2.
The cork for Nature PRO is sustainably sourced and turned into yoga mats in Portugal, which is another big plus. Spain is right around the corner, so the products don't have to travel half of the world. Less transportation = less emissions.
The bottom of Nature PRO is a cushy foam made of recycled rubber mixed with cork.
⚠️ Keep in mind that the bottom layer contains latex and shouldn't be exposed to sun and heat.
I did ask Union Yoga about recycled rubber, where exactly it comes from, and most importantly, how the bottom and top layers of the mat are binded together. Alas, I haven't received much info, except that all materials are harvested in Portugal.
Nature PRO arrived in a carton box with absolutely no plastic (whoop-whoop!).
Surprisingly, it didn't reek of rubber, which is a big fat thumbs up from me because I could skip the usual airing out/cleaning process and do some yoga straightaway.
I like the fact that most cork yoga mats don't really need "breaking in" like synthetic materials do. But I do suggest wiping the surface with the damp cloth before your first practice since there was a thin layer of cork dust on top.
With about 4 mm in thickness, Nature PRO hits a perfect spot between cushioning your joints and keeping you stable in balancing postures.
I especially loved the springiness of the bottom rubber layer. It sinks just the right amount to make weight-bearing postures more bearable (pun intended!) but jumps right back without leaving any imprints.
If you're looking for good insulation, Nature PRO checks this box too. I even let my newborn hang out on the mat on concrete without fear of her getting cold.
I've tested Nature PRO on various surfaces, including tile, concrete, and grass. While the mat is perfect for hard surfaces, I found it slightly too cushy for grass.
It just wouldn't lie flat, and balancing turned out to be a challenge.
Cork is supposed to be wet to grip. That's the whole point.
The wetter the hands - the better the grip. But my hands don't usually get sweaty, and yours probably either the moment you step on the mat.
So should you carry your water all the time? Well, you better do because hydration is key to any workout. But you'll be just fine without it since Nature PRO is surprisingly grippy when dry.
Now, you can't compare a dry cork surface to a modern sticky mat. Your hands and feet won't feel like they're glued to the surface, and you might experience an occasional hand slip in Downward Dog.
Dab some water on the surface to imitate sweat, and that's when the magic happens.
The moment the mat got slightly wet, the traction increased, and I felt much more secure and stable. If you're into Hot yoga or Bikram, you won't be disappointed.
There's not much to say here - Nature PRO is super lightweight.
With less than 1.5 kg/3 lbs, it is easy to tote around to and from the studio.
The only issue is that it doesn't stay rolled, so you can't just throw it in a tote bag while in a hurry. You either have to secure the mat with a strap or put it into a specially designed yoga mat bag that won't let it unroll.
I always thought that cork is a demanding material. After all, it absorbs all the sweat and body oil. Who on earth has time to clean that mess?
It turns out that cork contains a substance called suberin, which makes it impermeable to water (totally opposite of what I was thinking).
As a result, Nature PRO is a low-maintenance mat that basically cleans itself. I did wash it with a damp cloth from time to time to get the dust off.
Also, at some point, I got grass stains on the bottom. All my attempts to wash them off were in vain. Not that it's such a big of a deal, but I believe it should be mentioned.
Nature PRO is a yoga mat for minimalists. Except for a small logo and rounded corners, it's a no-frill, basic cork yoga mat.
The top layer has a nice textured look, and it adds character even to the simplest room.
Cork is a very sturdy material that can survive multiple "beatings."
For the purpose of testing the mat, I left it permanently unrolled. So not only it had to withstand my yoga sessions, but it's been walked on multiple times a day.
Here are a few observations:
That said, I have a bone to pick with the foam bottom. After about 2 months of use, it already shows a few microbreaks and scratches. Probably from the times I took the yoga mat outside.
Union Yoga has a nice promo video where a girl is taking the mat to practice on the rocks - trust me, not a good idea if you want to keep your mat in tip-top condition for a few years. As an option, you can take your old yoga mat or some cloth to place underneath for protection (though it seems like a lot of trouble to me).
I would also keep your Nature PRO away from your cat if you have one.
Despite the durability issues, I enjoyed using the Nature PRO and so will you if you:
That said, keep looking if you're: