21 Jul Corc Yoga and Their Love for a Country and Its Trees
In a time of need, Corc Yoga Founder Christine Moghadam and her family found solace and serenity in Portugal and quickly felt a connection to this place and its people, so much so that they felt a profound desire to give back to the community that gave them so much.
In 2016, Christine and her family went to Portugal to retreat and recover from the loss of a loved one. Together, they rested, healed and came closer together. Since then, Portugal has become a place of comfort and remedy for the Moghadam family.
While exploring this beautiful country, Christine came to discover the influence that cork has on the geography, economy and people. Portugal is the world’s largest exporter of cork, as its hot, arid climate creates an ideal growing environment for these trees to thrive.
“I was so drawn to everything about these cork trees. From the harvesting process, to supporting sustainability, to the livelihoods that are supported through this. It goes on and on,” said Corc Yoga Founder Christine Moghadam.
Christine’s fascination and curiosity guided her to the Portuguese Cork Association where she acquired resources and additional information on cork and the industry. Christine, however, was more interested in seeing the process for herself. Many farms were hesitant about allowing an outsider access to view and photograph their operation, though eventually, she found a farm that allowed her the privilege of witnessing a cork harvest.
The process of harvesting cork is mindful and spiritual. Cork can only be harvested three months out of the year, and each tree may only be harvested once every nine years to allow for proper regeneration. Those that harvest cork, it seems, are truly connected to the trees, and communicate with them, so they know when to harvest and how much.
“What’s amazing about the process is you’re in this field of cork trees, and the harvesters are there with just an old-fashioned axe. There’s no machinery involved, there’s no chopping of the trees, or harm done to the tree. What they do is they actually talk to the tree, and they ask the tree, ‘What will you give today?’ and they’ll wait for a little bit and the tree will communicate to them and they just know,” said Christine. “It’s an amazing process that the farmers have with the trees. They do it in such a gentle manner that that is what really moved me emotionally. It was that moment that I realized I was really passionate about launching Corc Yoga.”
It was Christine’s desire to both support this community, and share the beauty of cork with the global community through a powerful medium. As a yogi, she felt that the spiritual message of the cork would best be translated through a yoga mat—something you use to better yourself—rather than an accessory or piece of décor.
“I came up with yoga mats mainly because I really felt passionate about providing people with a similar experience as myself, and I didn’t want to create something like a cork purse or something that wasn’t as tangible. It felt like a yoga mat really provided all of the elements of the cork tree,” said Christine. “Really what it is, is when you’re on the yoga mat, you’re lying on the inside of the bark of the tree. These are live cells that you’re actually practicing on, so there’s no better way of connecting yourself to nature and to the cork tree than this…It’s a personal belief of mine that rubber mats actually create a barrier between us and nature. And so that’s why we wanted to provide something that connects us to nature.”
Once deciding on her product, it still took several attempts to find a farmer willing to partner with her. For Christine, she wanted to see where the cork was coming from, who was working with it and how it was being processed. Few were willing to let her be a part of this process.
“It probably took about ten different factories for me to find the right one that was really willing to jump on this project to partner with us. From there, that’s what inspired my curiosity to learn about the harvesting. We don’t want to be a brand that sells one more product to the community. Everything we do is purpose driven, and I really wanted to experience it firsthand for myself– test it, touch it, feel it, smell it before I can explain it to anybody,” said Christine.
Every Corc Yoga mat is made simply and purely with the bark from a cork tree. All mats are completely chemical-free and are naturally antimicrobial and hypoallergenic. Cork fibers are also nonslip and moisture-wicking for even the steamiest hot yoga classes.
“You’re actually laying on the inside of the bark of the tree, so it really can’t get better than that, without any chemicals, without anything harming your body,” said Christine.
Corc Yoga also makes great efforts to prioritize sustainability in the production and distribution of their product. The cork processing factory that they partner with is a third generation family-owned factory that operates on solar power and uses cork waste to fuel their machines. The factory is also able to recycle cork, and turn used Corc Yoga mats into new cork products.
Corc also refrains from using plastic to package any of their products, and instead uses a simple burlap ribbon with a recycled paper tag for labeling.
Beyond their dedication to sustainability and zero waste business practices, Corc’s founder has a strong passion for mental health awareness and donates a portion of all proceeds to mental health organizations in the United States and in Portugal.
“Mental health is a close passion of mine, particularly youth mental health. And so, we really wanted to combine yoga and mental health—the whole mind, body, soul—the whole wholistic perspective together. It just went hand-in-hand,” said Christine.
Corc Yoga partners with two mental health organizations. Youth Mental Health Project is based out of Connecticut and focuses primarily on providing resources to the parents of children with mental illness. Corc also works with another organization in Portugal that provides rehabilitation to men and women that are just coming to terms with treating their mental illness.
“My passion was really to support the cork industry in Portugal as well as mental health,” said Christine. “In Portugal, a lot of the time, it’s not until they’re in their 40’s and 50’s when they start to realize that they are struggling with mental health issues, depression, anxiety, drug addiction, alcoholism… so, two different demographics, but both are very strong passions of mine.”
Moving forward, Christine hopes to maintain a connection to mental health by launching an eco-retreat at the world’s first cork hotel in Portugal.
“The real purpose of this retreat is to bring people together from all over the world to practice together. We’ll be having influencers there as well to be leading the classes, but also bringing our community to the cork forest to have that whole experience,” said Christine.
Corc Yoga additionally launched a mat rental program as a means to sample their product, but also connect a greater community of yogis through the use of their mats.
“The idea is to really create a community. Each mat will have the name of a city in Portugal and then the person that rents it can write a note for the next person that will be using the mat, so it continues the story and continues to inspire other yogis.”
As they grow, Corc Yoga continues to inspire sustainable practices, both in life and in yoga.
“Our purpose isn’t to take over the other yoga mat brands, but it’s the story, and it’s supporting an industry. That’s why on our website we say it’s more than just a mat,” said Christine.