And why it’s the Yogi of all trees.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed that there is one material the yoga world loves to use. For everything, yoga mats, yoga blocks, studio floors, community boards where workshop announcements live, kombucha or wine bottle stoppers at post-practice hang-outs, and coasters for the shared space coffee table. Yes, that material is cork. And if you haven’t noticed it before, now you will see it everywhere.
7 Basic Benefits of Cork:
1.Beautiful: It’s the perfect natural and neutral colour for any space, with a bit of texture to keep it interesting.
2.Flexible: The natural formation of cork is honeycombed closed-cells which means it can be stretched and will always return to its baseline shape. This is what makes it a perfect wine bottle stopper - the cork will create a perfect seal by filling the space in the opening of the bottle. This is also a key element of our yoga mats.
3.Impermeable: The natural membrane of the cells in cork, called suberin, prevents it from absorbing water, sweat, anything oily, and dust. This means it is easy to clean, it won’t stink, it won’t degrade, and is hypo-allergenic. It’s anti-bacterial, it’s the reason why you can sweat all over the mat and it’ll self clean and not collect a funky smell. All things we love in a yoga mat - and also in a hot studio room.
4.Flame-resistant: The suberin coating also makes cork flame-resistant, and heat absorbing. This is what makes it perfect for a coaster.
5.Light: 90% of its volume is air, making it easy to carry.
6.Soundproof: The honeycomb structure is a master of acoustic insulation. We love this in a studio, where silence is an important part of practice.
7.Durable: Again, thank that honeycomb structure for being able to withstand a lot of impact, and a lot of downward-dogging.
A Sustainable Alternative
Cork comes from the outer bark of the cork oak ‘Quercus Suber L.’. Every 9 years, we harvest the outside of the tree, without ever having to cut down the oak. A single cork oak can continuously produce cork for 300 years. You got it: it’s a sustainable source of material. During its lifetime, cork will absorb and transform the same, if not more, amount of carbon dioxide it produces if burned, making it carbon neutral. Most of the cork harvest in the world comes from Europe - mostly Spain and Portugal. In these areas, the trees also prevent soil erosion in near desert terrain. The cork oak is an important part of the ecosystem and is doing its part to be kind to the environment.
These are all things we love about cork but, if you think we’ve skipped over one large part of why the yoga world just can’t get enough of it, you’re right.
Cork, The Yogi of all trees
Cork also has something to teach us. Once the tree has reached maturity, a cork oak will be stripped of its armour, every 9 years. Every 9 years, the oak gets a chance to reinvent itself. To renew. To be vulnerable. To give, selflessly. To contribute to the world. Every time a cork oak is harvested, the cork it produces over the next cycle is of higher quality. The cork oak is constantly improving itself. Growing itself, patiently. Noticing its flaws, and working on them for the next time around. It teaches us that we can exist in this world with care for the living beings around us. It teaches us that it is possible to create something with endless possibility, while being kind. The cork oak shows us that sometimes we have to part with our armour to enable growth, love, and community.
Maybe this is really corks most important contribution.