Three weeks ago, I attended my fifth and most recent yoga class. To be frank, it was not a good experience. I have found that the extreme heat and humidity at the studio where I have attended these few classes to be, at best, uncomfortable after practicing at home for so long, and, at worst, downright dangerous. I am generally annoyed by sweat on my face, and, unfortunately, I sweat a lot. As soon as I begin my practice, my palms and feet begin to sweat. Once things really get going, sweat drips down my arms and chest, and comes pouring forth from my thick mess of hair when pushing back into downward dog. Though I have been trying to come to terms with the sweat, and even enjoy the sweat, in the heated and humidified studio, it all becomes too much. A frightening array of puddles forms on my mat which I cannot avoid, and when wiped, are quickly replenished.
I received a Manduka Black Mat PRO for Christmas from my generous father this year. It actually arrived about a week before Christmas, which was good, because I was inordinately excited about getting down to work on my serious black mat. I scrubbed the mat with warm water and a mild soap, then sprayed it down with hot water before hanging it to dry. I was not about to allow some sneaky, slippery residue to get between me and my ultimate practice. The mat dried remarkably quickly (I never washed my old mat because it took a couple of days to dry completely! I chose the filth over two days without my mat. Lazy, or dedicated? You decide). This, too, was good because, again, I was really raring to go (I mean really ready. I wanted to kick yoga's ass all over my new mat).
So my first practice with the Black Mat was fun. The extra firm support the mat offered was noticeably more comfortable and stable than my old sticky mat. I noticed, particularly, that it didn't hurt my feet to jump back into chaturanga. Revolutionary! However, I did need to wipe my hands and feet occasionally to maintain a decent grip in down dog, though this was nothing new. My old mat required the same (I've been using the Black Mat for a couple of hours, 6 days a week, and have washed it again since then. It has gotten noticeably stickier). The next day, I attended the class I mentioned above, with my new Manduka mat. This practice was not nearly as fun.
The class was vigorous, as a Power Yoga class should be, but a little too infused with strengthening calisthenics for my taste. I have trouble considering such motions "yoga" (I realize that it's a fine line), and I tend to feel that these types of exercises in my practice are just a waste of energy. And at 85-90 degree temperatures and 50-60 percent humidity, there's no need to be wasting energy.
Soon into the class, my mat was covered in sweat. Some of the residue from the production process had apparently escaped the washing. I could see it mixing with the sweat. The resulting substance felt a bit like jelly to the touch. It was as slick as oil. Downward dog was not restful or rejuvenating, as it should have been, because I was constantly readjusting my hands. I was determined not to disrupt the flow by wiping my sweat too much, so I tried to power through it. Mistake! The heat began to give me a headache. I had not eaten the right foods that morning. I had certainly not had enough water to drink. I had never sweat so much in my life. I made it through the standing sequence, though I was not enjoying myself. My headache became almost unbearable, but I was determined to stay calm. Silence the fluctuations of the mind.
Then we arrived at the back bending sequence. Bridge pose was awful. My shoulders were tight from trying to keep my grip, and kept slipping out from beneath me. My headache got worse. I managed to do a couple of upward bows (at that point, I thought maybe they would help. Upward bow usually leaves me feeling bright and light as a feather), but my feet felt as though any shift in my weight and they would go shooting out from under me. The teacher asked us to come up on our toes. I didn't dare. After a seated forward bend, inversions. Oh no. I tried headstand. It was stupid. I should have stopped. Then he called for shoulderstand. I stopped. Shoulderstand, which so often leaves me in discomfort (I'm doing it wrong. I know that. I just can't seem to do it right) was the last straw. I opted to lie on my back with my knees bent, breathing, while the rest of the class lifted up, oblivious to my pain. I expected the teacher to ask me if I was alright, or at least offer me an alternative pose, since he had seen me do shoulderstand in the recent past. He didn't. I just layed there, and rejoined the class as we all rolled forward into navasana. I coasted through the rest of the class in a haze. Savasana did not relieve the headache, so I left, soaked in sweat, managing to whisper a "thank you" to the teacher on my way out.
It was just shortly after this class that I ordered a Manduka eQua mat towel, intent to end this damned slippage problem, which has plagued me in my practice for so long. My experience in that class was the breaking point. I felt unsafe on my mat. I couldn't allow that to happen again. The towel arrived yesterday, and I practiced with it last night for the first time. I have to say, I was hesitant to spend $40 on a towel, but now that I've used it, I'm pretty amazed. I was sure the thing would bunch up, fold over, and move around during my practice. It did not! It stayed perfectly in place, even during vinyasas, sloppy jump throughs, and seated poses. The grip was perfect, and the softness was an unexpected bonus that I had not considered (it felt especially lovely on my feet). Coupled with the Manduka Black Mat, the grip and support were really as close to perfect as I've ever experienced during a practice. I could not be more satisfied. I hope to test the true power of this holy union in one of those infernal, Amazonian jungle classes at the studio in the next week or two. I'll let you know how it goes.