The short answer to your question, can you do yoga on a towel is a resounding, yes! And if you are thinking about starting yoga practice for the first time, it’s a double ‘yes’!
Are you thinking of taking a yoga class whilst on holiday? Or perhaps you want to try out yoga before committing to the expense of buying a yoga mat? Maybe you want to get fit and not sure yet if yoga is right for you.
You may know that yoga has a very long history that goes back thousands of years. Back then yogis wouldn’t have used mats at all.
So if you want to go ahead and use just a regular towel then go ahead. You will probably find that you will want to advance on to a yoga mat later on, but in the beginning, or for times when you can’t use a mat, a towel, or even nothing at all is absolutely fine.
To be clear, when we talk about a towel, I refer to a regular cotton bath towel, that all of us will have.
Can you do yoga on a regular cotton towel?
As I said, in the history of yoga practice, mats are a relatively new invention.
Originally, yogis would not have used a mat. Apparently, animal skins were the preferred way back then. So yes, you can use a normal cotton towel for your yoga too.
Of course, it all depends on the type of ground you will practice on as to how comfortable you will find using a towel over a standard yoga mat.
Towels will slip around and bunch up on smooth flooring. You might find it easier without anything at all and instead use your towel rolled-up for cushioning knees, elbows, hands etc. depending on your needs.
If your reasoning for using a cotton towel over a mat is for portability. You might want to consider a specially designed yoga towel instead.
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What is a yoga towel?
Yoga towels are designed specifically to go over yoga mats.
Why use a yoga towel?
Yoga towels are most commonly needed for hot yoga where there is more moisture involved and you need something absorbent and with a good grip.
Yoga towels are a good idea if you are using a shared mat at a yoga studio, which might not be very clean.
Putting a yoga towel over the mat will stop you from catching nasty bugs such as verrucas, ringworm and all sorts of horrible stuff.
Yoga towels are usually of a thickness and texture that allows them to adhere to the mat and not slip off or move around during the practice. In some studios, you may be requested to put your own yoga towel on the shared mat.
A big advantage to using a yoga towel on top of your mat is that it should make your more expensive investment (the mat) last considerably longer.
Things to consider when buying a yoga towel
Yoga towels are generally more expensive than regular towels. They might come with a non-slip underside, or have corner pockets to keep them in place.
Here is a buying checklist to help you choose.
- Material – microfibre is best due to better absorbency.
- Size – make sure it fits the full area of your yoga mat.
- Quality – you want to make sure your yoga towel is durable and will last as long as you need it to.
- Non-slip – what features does the yoga towel have to help it grip to your mat?
What’s the difference between a yoga towel and a regular cotton towel?
The main difference between a regular towel and a specially designed yoga towel is that a regular towel might well be more than a hindrance than a help during your yoga practice.
If you were to use a regular towel over your yoga mat you might find it will bunch up and slip around. You might find yourself having to straighten it which would get in the way of your flow.
Yoga towels often have a non-slip base or corner pockets to keep them in place. They are sold in sizes to suit standard yoga mat dimensions which means they can cover the whole mat. That will be difficult to get right with a regular towel.
Yoga towels are usually more absorbent than regular cotton towels because they are often made of microfibre which is a man-made material with millions of tiny fibres that have unique abilities to hold moisture, oil and dirt.
If you are wondering whether buying a yoga towel could be a waste if you stop practising yoga, don’t forget that at the end of the day it can be used as a regular towel and will be just as absorbent if not more so.
Yoga towels make great beach towels!
Related reading: Yoga Towel VS Regular Towel – Why They Are Very Different
Can you use a yoga towel without a mat?
Yoga towels work best on top of a mat, but if you don’t have space to transport your mat then yes you can use a yoga towel on its own too. For more comfort, choose a thicker yoga towel for better cushioning or combine it with a rolled-up regular towel.
How to wash a yoga towel
Yoga mats are tricky to wash after each use, but if you pop a yoga towel over the top the job is made much easier because you can simply wash the towel instead.
Yoga towels are usually pretty easy to wash. Often they are made with a highly absorbent material called microfibre which is very easy to wash. Make sure you check the washing directions, but you should be able to toss it in with a normal load after each use.
How often should you wash your yoga towel?
It’s a good idea to wash your yoga towel after every practice, especially if you have been to a public class or a sweaty hot yoga session.
Alternatives for yoga mats
What if you don’t have a traditional yoga mat? Perhaps you are on holiday and don’t have space in your luggage, or have to take public transport to your yoga class?
Let’s take a look at some options for you!
A blanket or rug
If you have a spare blanket or a rug to hand it would make a good enough yoga mat provided you don’t find yourself slipping too much. Add a rolled-up towel for extra support.
A rolled-up towel
I find that rolled up towels are great to have to hand as extra cushioning for certain poses. You could use one on its own too at the beach or outside on the grass.
Yes, you can practice yoga on a regular cotton towel, or even with nothing at all!
Depending on the type of ground (smooth surfaces are the worst) you might prefer to use the towel rolled up for specific areas of your body that need extra cushioning. That way you won’t slip around on your towel and have it bunch up.
If you are asking about using a towel over a mat because you don’t want to carry a full-size yoga mat, consider using a yoga towel instead of a regular towel.
A yoga towel is generally thicker, more absorbent and has non-slip qualities that regular towels don’t have.