Yoga mats are typically the first thing people consider purchasing when they’re initially getting into the practice.
While many yoga practitioners do have their own mat, those new to the practice might wonder if it’s necessary to make this investment early on.
Generally speaking, it depends greatly on the type of yoga you’ll be doing as well as where you’ll be practicing. Can I use a yoga towel instead of a yoga mat?
What are towels for anyway?
If you’re practicing mainly at a studio, it’s likely that they’ll have mats available for you to rent or even use for free. If you’re practicing on your own outside or at the beach, a beach towel could potentially work even better than a mat!
When considering whether or not you can use a towel instead of a mat, it’s important first and foremost to specify the type of towel you’re referring to. A beach towel, for instance, can be great to use outside in place of a mat.
However, yoga towels are designed specifically to go over yoga mats to help absorb sweat and keep the practitioner from slipping.
Many yoga towels have little grips on the bottom so that they stick properly to the mat. Let’s dive a little deeper into yoga mat towels and find out how they can help in your practice!
What Are Yoga Towels? What Is the Purpose of a Yoga Towel?
Yoga towels—or mat towels—are specifically designed to place over your yoga mat. Mat towels are usually used in a heated room, during a power class, hot yoga, or anytime a practitioner thinks they’ll be sweating a lot!
Many mat towels are made from a mixture of nylon or polyester, while others can be made from recycled materials like plastic water bottles. These eco-friendly options are a really great way to support sustainability within the yoga community.
Mat towels are absorbent and sweat-wicking—crucial traits to have for doing their job right!
The purpose of a yoga towel or mat towel is simply to help keep the practitioner from slipping while they practice. This can be incredibly helpful not only in heated classes but also with a lower quality mat.
Older mats or mats that don’t have quite enough stickiness can sometimes be pretty slippery. Even in a non-heated class, with a low-quality mat, you might find yourself slipping around more than you’d like.
Mat towels can help alleviate this problem altogether.
Mat towels are also great for practitioners who might just like a little extra softness underneath their hands, feet, and knees. This, however, is really just a matter of personal preference.
Ultimately, yoga mat towels allow the practice to be more accessible. When you’re able to practice without slipping and sliding, distractions are minimized, making it easier for you to focus more on the actual practice and less on not falling.
This also means that you can find more stability overall and even strengthen your practice with a mat towel!
What Is the Difference Between a Yoga Towel and a Regular Towel?
When first starting out with yoga, it can all seem a little overwhelming—what products will you need, what products will you want, what products aren’t really worth the investment?
With so many questions in mind, it’s common to see someone new to the practice bring a regular shower or beach towel into the hot room to spread out over their mat. Essentially, they work in the same way, but maybe not as well.
Regular cotton towels are a little softer and more pliable than yoga mat towels. While mat towels do feel soft underneath your hands and feet, the material itself is a bit stiffer and more durable than that of a towel you would use to dry off with.
This means it will hold up better in a heated room, and it’s less likely to move around underneath you as you practice.
Mat towels are also much more absorbent than regular towels for the beach or shower. While these do a great job of drying you off, they aren’t sweat wicking. This makes a huge difference when sweat is actively dripping onto your mat!
Particularly in a heated room, you might be surprised by how much you actually sweat during class.
For many people—though it depends on how much you sweat—a regular cotton towel will easily get soaked through.
When the cotton towel is soaked with sweat, you’ll end up with nothing more than a soppy mess covering your mat. It won’t absorb any more sweat, and because it’s soaking, it won’t really help keep you from slipping either.
It will likely just get in the way of your practice, causing even more of a distraction.
However, a regular towel will also get in the way if you don’t sweat enough for it to really adhere to your mat. One of the great things about using a towel specifically designed for yoga mats are the silicone grips you’ll find a lot of times on the bottom side of the towel.
These grips will help keep your towel in place the entire time you practice, eliminating all of the distractions that come with getting your feet caught in a towel or a having a towel slide around underneath you while you practice.
Another great thing about yoga towels is that they’re designed to fit over yoga mats perfectly. The standard length of a mat towel is 68”—the same as a yoga mat itself.
Though beach towels are usually longer, bath towels range from 52” to 58” in length. This means even with a towel to catch your sweat, your hands and feet might not be able to be on it at the same time—particularly in poses like plank or downward facing dog.
If you want a towel there to help you keep from slipping, its lack of length will essentially defeat its purpose.
What Are the Best Yoga Towels?
While you can find less expensive mat towels at stores like Target and Walmart, typically the higher quality brand name options will work the best.
Some of the low-quality options tend to lack having a strong grip on the bottom and can slip and slide around quite a bit while you’re practicing.
Gaiam makes a microfiber hot yoga towel that’s made from a blend of polyester and nylon. It’s noted to be super-absorbent, drying in half the time of a cotton towel. This option is 68” in length, so it will fit perfectly over any standard mat. These particular towels are relatively inexpensive and you can typically find them in stores.
Hugger Mugger makes a bamboo mat towel that they do actually say can be used as an easy on-the-go mat if you’re traveling and need to save space in your bag!
This mat towel is firm, stable and because it’s made from bamboo charcoal fibers it’s also anti-microbial. A hygienic mat towel is a great thing when dealing with tons of sweat and bare feet!
Jade also makes a microfiber mat towel that is slip-free and extremely soft. Jade mat towels don’t actually have silicone grips on the bottom, but the polyester material is still able to grab your yoga mat and stay in place.
Manduka mat towels—called Yogitoes—are definitely in a higher price bracket than some other options, but they’re also a favorite amongst avid yoga practitioners. Their durable, firm material helps them stay exactly where you want them. Like other options, they’re 68” long, so they’ll fit perfectly on your mat.
These do have little silicone grips on the bottom that will keep your mat towel rooted down no matter how much you sweat. Yogitoes are high quality, so if you’ll be spending a lot of time on your mat—particularly in a heated room—these are definitely a great option.
They’re also made from no fewer than 8 recycled plastic water bottles, so you can feel good about your contribution while you practice!
No matter which mat towel you decide on, it’s a good idea to give it a little spray of water before your practice to help enhance its grip. A light drizzle or sprits—particularly at the top and bottom, where your hands and feet will be—can help hold the towel in place even more effectively.
How Do You Care for a Yoga Towel?
Taking care of your towel is so simple! Yoga towels or mat towels generally just need a wash in cold water as often as needed. Some brands say you can tumble dry with low heat, but hanging them up to dry is also a safe option.
Is It Necessary to Use a Yoga Towel?
Ultimately, whether you decide to use a yoga towel over your yoga mat or not is completely a personal preference. It depends largely on the type of yoga you’ll be doing as well as how much you typically sweat while practicing.
If you’re more interested in non-heated gentle yoga, it might not be necessary for you to use a towel unless you really just want an extra layer of softness between you and the mat.
If you know you won’t really be sweating during class and you do decide to use a mat towel, you might find that the towel is more in the way than anything. Mat towels typically need a little bit of dampness to really adhere to the surface of the mat underneath.
This means that when you aren’t sweating, the towel might just get rolled up underneath you if your hands or feet catch it as you move. Not only is this slightly annoying, but it can also be incredibly distracting.
Additionally, gentle classes usually don’t require too much standing or too many downward facing dogs, so it isn’t incredibly necessary to have a sticky mat or a towel that will help keep you from sliding.
If you usually sweat a lot during physical activities, you might find that you want to use the mat towel for a basic flow class even in a non-heated room.
Gentle classes usually have practitioners on the floor quite a lot, while basic classes—though not incredibly strenuous—do require lots of up and down movements and standing postures. This means that you’ll likely be sweating at least a little bit, but you’ll also have a higher chance of slipping if your mat isn’t sticky.
Often times older mats or low-quality mats won’t be sticky enough to keep you from sliding, and you might notice this annoyance if you’re moving around a good amount—even if the room isn’t heated.
If you’re practicing yoga in a heated room, you’ll likely need something to help keep you from slipping—whether it’s a high-quality mat with lots of stickiness already built in or a mat towel to help absorb the sweat as you move.
There are several mat brands that people do use in the hot room that doesn’t really require a mat towel, but it fully depends on what works for you.
A practitioner may not like a particular mat for one reason or another—the feel, the thickness, the way it works for them while they sweat, or even how sticky the surface of the mat is. Some may prefer to use a less sticky mat and pair it with the mat towel.
Additionally, even if your mat is incredibly sticky, there may come a point when you’re sweating so much that it just doesn’t even matter anymore, and you’re still slipping and sliding. Mat towels are great for the hot room because they absorb your sweat before it hits your mat at all, and they’re so easy to take care of!
Ultimately, the idea is to really be able to thrive in your practice, focusing on your breath, your physical body and on quieting your mind.
Slipping and sliding around on your mat can make it incredibly difficult to focus on anything more than not falling flat during your practice! Using a yoga mat towel can help alleviate this problem altogether. Give one a try and see how it works for you!