City-based Juru Yoga says no to PVC, and makes mats out of sustainable materials such as cork, natural rubber and jute
Tucked away in one of the quieter lanes of Alwarpet, is a space that looks like a home from the outside and smells like a godown from the inside. The fragrance of rubber is in the air at Puja and Sudarshan Borker’s Juru Yoga; the office doubles as a storehouse, holding several rolls of yoga mats, bolsters, ropes and belts — all made of materials such as Indian rubber, European cork, jute and buckwheat cotton.
Type ‘yoga’ on any image search platform and you’re likely to get men and women contorting their bodies, a peaceful look on their faces, as they refresh their chakras. The pictures signal themes of natural, organic wellness, but how does that hold up when the mats on which they are practising are made of PVC? In the much-needed shift towards sustainability, it’s to be expected that something as therapeutic as yoga, would follow too. However, Chennai-based Juru Yoga is one of the few Indian companies in this field.
The birth of an idea
Six years ago, Puja Borker had just started teaching yoga part-time, after getting her trainer’s certificate, in Bengaluru, when she noticed how after long periods of practising yoga, the sweat-covered PVC mat would start chipping off. “I remember, doing trikonasana, I couldn’t focus on my breathing at all. The whole time, I was trying to avoiding slipping,” she recalls. “After I wrapped up the session, I would see flakes sticking to my outfit and scattered on the ground. On top of that, the smell was horrible.”
Soon, she began researching on the ill effects of PVC and trying to find an alternative for it. The R&D for what would be established as Juru Yoga mats two years later, had begun. “The first product we developed was a blend of jute and rubber. We still sell that as a travel mat, because it is light, and sticks to surfaces, even in gardens and beaches,” she says.
She began using her own inventions in class, and soon, enquiries from students, fellow yogis and teachers came pouring in. “Seeing the response, I began setting up stalls at yoga festivals,” she says. Her products now include mats that are a blend of cork from Portugal and natural rubber from Kerala. “Cork makes them antimicrobial, washable and durable,” she says. The cork also goes into making blocks, yoga belts and straps.
She also sells cotton bolsters of cylindrical and rectangular shapes, and props such as an eye pillow. The inside of the cotton pouch of this pillow is filled with flaxseed and sprayed with a mild lavender aroma.
War against plastic
- It’s not just PVC mats Puja is against; her aim is to reduce the overall usage of plastic. “With every mat, we give away a bamboo straw as well, to reinforce the message. We work with artisans in Manipur for these straws,” she says, adding that they also plan to allow recycling of mats at a discount, so that they can be sent back to the manufacturing cycle.
“We are constantly in touch with other yogis, and do our research based on their recommendations,” she says. As an example, she pulls out their latest creation: the meditation pillow. “It is made of buckwheat and cotton. The buckwheat is designed to stay under the bottom, which is slightly raised, while the flatter cotton supports the thighs. The advantage with buckwheat is that it doesn’t retain heat,” she explains.
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