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Yoga Towels—Are They Necessary?

manduka-yoga-towelsAfter reviewing the Manduka eQua yoga mat towel, I’ve had a reader ask me about the use of yoga towels. I decided to address his questions as well as other frequently asked questions which you might be wondering about in this post.

Do I Have To Use A Yoga Mat Towel in My Yoga Practice?

No but it can only benefit you.

If you’re a light sweater and do gentle types like Hatha yoga,  it’s enough you have a good quality mat. If you like you can use a yoga hand towel to wipe off sweat off your brow.

But for heavy sweaters or those who practice Hot or Bikram Yoga and vigorous styles such as Vinyasa, Power and Ashtanga yoga, you’ll find that a yoga mat towel will be very handy to stop slippage and add extra grip and traction to your yoga practice.

Why Not Use a Regular Cotton or Beach Towel For Yoga?

Yoga mat towels have specific features that are designed to be used for yoga. They are designed to match the size of most yoga mats whereas a regular cotton or beach towel is often too big, short, or too wide for your yoga mat.

Regular cottons towels usually take more than 24 hours to hang dry whereas most yoga towels are quick drying which a couple of hours so you can wash it by hand and let it air dry and have it ready to use for the next day.

Yoga mat and yoga hand towels last for years with regular use, whereas regular cotton or beach towels for yoga will definitely wear out much sooner which means you have to keep replacing it and spend more money than if you were to have purchased a yoga towel in the first place.

Cotton and beach towels also tend to bunch up during yoga whereas yoga mat towels are are designed to stay put on your mat. For example, the Yogitoes yoga mat towel has silicone nubs on its towel which keep the towel stay put on the mat when you’re jumping and dragging your feet.

Extend the Life Of Your Yoga Mat

Over time and depending on the quality and materials being made of, yoga mats will show signs of wear and tear. Some will even develop holes from regular use.

Unless you have an indestructible mat like the Manduka PRO or PROlite, using a yoga mat towel over your yoga mat will extend its lifespan which will not only save you money but will reduce the amount of yoga mats ending up in landfills.

A yoga mat towel will also protect your yoga mat from sweat stains which are unsightly and can breed bacteria if you don’t have a regular cleaning maintenance routine.

Barrier Against Sweat and Moisture

While cotton does absorb sweat and moisture, most yoga mat towels are made with microfiber fabric that’s more effective with sweat absorption and will prevent microbial growth and keep your yoga mat odor-free.

Sweat stains are a thing with yoga mats and if you’re the type who can’t find the time to clean and air out your mat after sweatfests, you’ll find using a yoga mat towel to be practical, hygienic and a huge time-saver.

Stop The Slippage To Get the Grip

While good quality mats (and depending what they are made of) can reduce slippage to a minimum, a lot of them can’t withstand excessive amounts of sweat without the mat becoming slick.

Those who do heated types of yoga often use a yoga mat towel because most yoga mats will become slick in high temperatures and humidity levels. The extra absorbency of the towel adds traction to footing and extra grip.  

Most yoga mats towels perform better when dampened with water before the beginning your yoga practice because they are made with a sweat-activated grip.

Cleaning is a Breeze

After reading my previous two points, you can figure that yoga towels are hygienic.

Let’s face it: it IS time consuming and quite some work to clean yoga mats, and especially when you do Bikram and Hot Yoga or you’re a heavy sweater.

While you can get a yoga mat like the Jade Harmony or Jade Fusion yoga mat that’s made with an open-cell structure and absorbs sweat and moisture into the mat, isn’t it gross and unhygienic to not clean it up afterwards with a yoga mat wash spray regardless?

Using a yoga mat towel makes way for an easy and fast cleanup and you can delay deep cleaning your yoga mat for longer periods of time.

Dangers of Renting Studio Yoga Mats

If you rent yoga mats at the studio, then placing a yoga mat towel towel over the rented mat IS A MUST to protect you from various skin infections.

While you can certainly do a quick cleaning of the public mat before class with the studio’s yoga mat wash spray, you still don’t know when was the last time it got a good scrub and deep cleaning.

With more people taking up yoga and using publics mats, doctors have seen an increase of warts, athlete’s foot, and even staph, ringworm and MRSA infections. The best way to protect yourself is to use your own yoga mat, but if you don’t want to be carrying one to class then DO invest in a yoga mat towel!

Dangers of Cheap (and Toxic) Yoga Mats

While doing yoga make us feel and be healthier, unfortunately there are many yoga mats on the market that aren’t great for our health. Some yoga mats, especially the cheap ones, are made with materials which emit harmful toxins during skin contact and inhalation which can cause cancer, birth defects, asthma, and other scary stuff. If you don’t want replace your yoga mat with a eco-friendlier choice, just place a yoga mat towel over it to protect yourself from toxins.

The Versatility of Yoga Towels…

As an Exercise Towel

Because these towels are quick-drying they are ideal to use for workouts where you repeatedly have to wipe yourself. Regular cotton towels will stay wet. If a yoga mat towel is too big for you, you can get a yoga hand towel.

As An Exercise Mat

If you forgot your yoga mat, you can use your yoga mat towel as an exercise mat for floor work. It’s not ideal but it can be used that way.

For Extra Cushioning

Some people also use yoga mat towels as extra cushioning when they don’t want to invest in a new yoga mat.

Also because they are compact, travel yoga mats are very thin and some yogis use a yoga towel for extra  cushioning and padding.

Express Yourself

You can express your individuality with yoga towels. The Yogitoes skidless yoga mat towel is known for its wide range of gorgeous prints and colors.

What’s The Difference Between a Yoga Mat Towel and A Yoga Hand Towel?

Yoga mat towels are designed to cover your whole mat and give you traction to both your hands and footing.

Yoga hand towels are designed to wipe your brow and sop up perspiration. You can also place your hands over the towel for extra grip but your feet stay put directly on the mat.

Why You Should Use a Yoga Towel – Summary

  • They are anti-slip
  • They provide a sweat-activated grip
  • They are compact and portable
  • Quick-drying
  • Easy to clean
  • Durable for many years to come (unlike regular cotton or beach towels)
  • Multipurpose uses (exercise mat, exercise towel, extra cushioning for travel yoga mats)
  • Gives you traction and grip to your hands and footing

Using a yoga mat towel will enhance your yoga practice by preventing slippage caused by sweat and yoga mat slickness caused by high temps and humidity in heated yoga classes. Your hands and feet will feel more comfortable resulting in increased performance on the mat.

Some Recommended Yoga Towels:

You’ll find reviews of the following yoga towels

Where to Purchase Yoga Towels?

You can purchase yoga towels at Yoga Outlet 


Are you considering trying out a yoga mat towel or yoga hand towel?

Leave a comment or question below.

PS: I respond to all comments.

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  1. Kyoko Kyoko

    I completely agree that a Yoga towel adds extra benefits to a Yoga practice. I like it especially for the protection of my Yoga mat. I don’t care much for the scent coming from my Yoga mat. Even though it fades away over the time, it still has some residue that makes me a little sick. So covering my Yoga mat with Yoga towel helps me stay focused on my Yoga practice.

    My Yoga mat does not have any design, so a colorful Yoga towel gives me some excitement and empowerment as if I am expressing myself.

    Thank you for the great info!

    • A yoga towel is definitely a means of self-expression, I agree. Unpleasant smelly yoga mats definitely take away from your practice. Thank goodness someone came up with the idea of yoga towels to save us from stinky mats. 😉

  2. Matts Mom Matts Mom

    You know, this was a lot of really great information. I have been wanting to start a yoga class at the gym, and the gal at the counter said I don’t need to bring anything for the class. After reading this, I know that I want to get my own yoga mat towel to take with me. Probably for most of the reasons you have listed. Thanks for all the great information!

    • You’re very welcome. I was surprised to find out about the health dangers of using public yoga mats but it makes sense.

  3. olina olina

    Thank you for the informative post. I am a light sweater. I have a good quality mat and I usually don’t use a yoga mat towel over it. After reading your post, I can see that using a yoga towel over the yoga mat will extend my mat’s lifespan and save money in the long run. And it definitely will help to keep my mat clean…

    • For sure! Ever since I got my Yogitoes, I’m in and out of the Hot Yoga studio in no time because I don’t spend my time cleaning it.

  4. Excelle Excelle

    Yoga mat towels are really ideal for those that use public studio mats. In this time and age, everyone should strive for good personal hygiene.

    This post will help anyone still in doubt of using a yoga towel for the first time as the benefits of having your own towel outweighs that of using a yoga mat that is in the public domain.

    I like that it’s easy to clean and it dries quickly too so maintenance is not a fuss.

    Nice post.

    • Thank you! Yeah personal hygiene is very important; we practice yoga to become healthy not sicker!

  5. Victoria Victoria

    This is great ! I did not know about yoga mat towels. I think I will invest in one because I have to use the mat at the yoga studio and I always feel that washing with the spray is not quite enough. It is great that they have silicone nubs underneath. Is there a brand that you would recommend better? Thanks for the info!

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