Technically these are not mats, but rather towels that go over the top of your mat. If you have ever noticed that your mat surface became slippery when you exuded a little bit of moisture (also known as sweat) then you can understand how these towels can be a big help to you.
There are several sizes from simple hand towels to full sized mat towels on the market, but the ones that interest me are the mat sized towels. Some of these towels are very thin microfiber that have no backing while others are thicker and more absorbent. Still other types of yoga towels have a sticky backing that could make them a substitute for a mat, possibly as a travel mat, or just make sure the towel stays in place on top of your mat.
Now even if you don’t typically find yourself in a situation where you are drenching your mat in sweat you may like another benefit of these towels. They can help to keep the surface of your mat clean. Take for example the typical floor that comes into contact with your mat. It might be spotlessly clean, but chances are it is not all that clean. This would especially be true in some of the more random or exotic locals where we might do yoga. After all, the yoga mat is not just for cushioning, it is there to provide a reasonably clean surface for your body to rest upon. In a way it is our magic carpet transporting us away from all that dirt and grime.
Since the surface of your mat is clean and the floor is dirty, what happens to the surface of your mat when you roll up your mat? I will tell you what happens. The part of your mat that was against the dirty floor is mushed onto your clean mat surface as you roll up your mat – the horror. There are several ways to deal with this.
Way number one: Pretend you did not just read what I told you and continue on in your ignorant bliss. Heck until the mid 90’s I did my yoga on those dirty floors without a mat. I miss the days before I began to obsess about those dirt particles.
Way number two: Fold your mat in half first so that the clean side touches the clean side and then roll up your mat. This keeps your pristine mat surface pristine. It also makes this hump in your mat that never truly goes away when you unroll/unfold it. It can make your mat harder to fit into your mat bag too. This way is also apparently contagious because I didn’t start doing this until I observed someone else doing it and asked them why they rolled their mat that way. Bam! Weird mat rolling cooties infected my brain and I have been afflicted with lumpy mats since then – that is until way number three.
Way number three: Get a mat sized yoga towel and place it over your pristine mat surface. Roll your mat the normal way and your yoga towel will be a barrier to all those floor dirt thingies that are threatening your mat. Of course you have to remember which side is the ‘clean’ side of your yoga towel so that you will always put that side against your yoga mat. With this method you will not have the weird roll hump, but you will have a somewhat larger mat roll to fit into your mat bag.
Way number four: Sanitize your mat surface before doing yoga. Now this is not something I am in the habit of doing, but I know others use some of those awesome smelling mat wipes for this purpose. Many other people wash their mats regularly too. You would think considering how much I seem to obsess about floor dirt that I would too, but nope. I seldom if ever wash my mat. Apparently I am a germaphobe, but not one who likes to be inconvenienced.
Now if you are interested in mat sized yoga towels, I have tried two different types and like them both:
The Prana Maha yoga towel is soft, lightweight and absorbent. It is very thin, so it won’t add much bulk to your rolled mat. You could even use the towel as a blanket since it is 78 inches by 26 inches. Fold up this towel and it makes a nice pillow for your head or cushion for a knee. This one comes in several colors and runs about $40.
It gets some nice reviews from Amazon.
My newest yoga towel is the Hugger Mugger Eco Bamboo yoga towel. This is thicker and more absorbent and also has a non-slip backing. The surface is more like a thin towel material than the microfiber of the Prana towel. Due to its thickness and the sticky backing, it adds quite a bit of thickness to the rolled up mat. I do like it as an option to use by itself as a travel mat. It also runs about $40.
So, there you have it. A story filled with thoughts about sweating and an obsessive worry about dirty floors followed by a happy ending with comfy blankets and absorbent towels. Seriously though, once you get one of these yoga towels you will wonder how you have lived without them.