Rug vs. Towel: Let's Duke it Out

I hesitate to write this because I like to think that my practice is independent of props and baubles, but it's no exaggeration to say that Manduka and their amazing products have played a considerable part in the development of my practice.  I'm a heavy sweater, always have been.  And I have chronically unstable joints, battered and bullied by years of horseback riding and running.  These factors combined, before Manduka came into my life, meant a slippery-slidy and painful practice:  no rolling over the toes (lest they scream in agony), no extended time on the knees, and absolutely no jumping.  Manduka changed all that.

The Black Mat Pro is my best friend.  We have a special, intimate relationship.  This mat cradles and coddles my sensitive joints.  It lovingly protects my once immobilized ankles and toes.  Practice on this mat has opened up a whole new world of Vinyasa possibilities and allowed my arm balancing practice to flourish without ruining my wrists.  We've got a good thing going on, the Black Mat and I.  But it's an open relationship.  We like to share... with the eQua towel, that is.  The Black Mat is great by itself, but traction is lacking for we sweaty yogis.

Enter the eQua.  I have two of these towels and I love them both.  The grip is superb, even when the towel is completely soaked (eeew, I know, but it happens) and, for the most part, it stays in place throughout the practice.  But now that I'm practicing Ashtanga, I'm finding that the incessant jump backs, especially on those days when lift off isn't quite so light, are dragging the towel around.  Sometimes it feels as though straightening the mat towel is an official part of the jump through to seated, and I don't like it.  It's distracting.  So I'm considering investing in a Mysore rug, and since Manduka has always been so good to me, I went there first.

Pictured to the right is the Shama yoga rug.  Hand-woven and constructed of 100% cotton, available in green or maroon (and by that I mean "acai" or "moss," obviously), this rug will set me back $45.  Is it worth it?  I proffer these questions to the Ashtangis out there:  does the weight of a Mysore rug keep it place?  And are those raised ridges annoying or helpful?

I'm put off by the ridges.  I can see myself developing severe neuroses regarding my stance and placement of the hands in the asanas.  Precision is good.  Anal retentive is bad.  Or perhaps both simply are.  In any case, I'm about to shell out the dough unless the interwebs (that's you!) have anything to say about it.  So, rug vs. towel: which takes it?


  1. I have a mysore rug and the Manduka towel (ok 2 of the older Manduka towels, one of the new Manduka towels and 2 yogitoes towels) . My jump throughs are not good and the towel helps me slide through. I like the old Manduka towel the best. I keep it in place with 2 binder clips at the back of the mat. The clips work perfectly. I dont use my rug because I get rug burn. The rug is heavy enough to stay in place on its own.

  2. Laura - Ha! That's quite a collection.

    The binder clips are a novel idea, though I'd need to put mine on the front of my mat. I find that not messing up my towel is practical motivation for me to work harder on my jump throughs, so I wouldn't want to take that from myself... I had already considered that rug burns might be a problem with the mysore rug, but again: that's real, practical motivation. It's a trade-off, but rug burns won't mess up my flow like a crumpled towel will.

  3. I have a few of the extra-long towels and a regular sized (eKo) mat. I'm able to tuck about 2" of the towel under each end of the mat, which holds the towel in place pretty well, despite my less-than perfect jumps.

  4. Hi Megan,

    I would slip and die without my rug. I'm a sweater too. I've always had a heavier rug and love the weight of it. Those ridges look like trouble, to me. I would do a search for "Mysore rugs" and skip the ridges. They're usually around the same price. I have 2 rugs, one is really heavy and I love it-- it's Prana. I got it for a super deal, so if you look for one, look for a place that offers free shipping!

    I don't have issues with rug burn or ripped toes or whatever, but my boyfriend does. He uses my rug to practice over here and he prefers the Prana- says it's softer. I must have lizard skin, I don't notice much of a difference between any of the thick, woven ones.

    Good luck!

  5. Walkfromoz - That's a perfectly practical solution. :)

    Evelyn - Interesting. I'm glad you agree that the ridges could be problematic. Beyond the potential for neuroses, I suspect they might catch on those sloppy jump-back days and be annoying during the standing balancing postures. I don't even like to stand on a wrinkle during the Utthita Hasta Padangusthasanas.

    I'll look elsewhere if I decide to go with a rug. As someone with very sensitive skin, I should probably be on the lookout for something on the softer side. Ripped toes? Ouch!

  6. I would go for it, whats the worst that could happen? You stop maneuvering between movements?

    As for the ridges, isn't the 'task' in practice to move beyond the superfluous and onto the deep, internal here and now? Possibly this just adds to the challenge of not only staying present but IN the body. Buy it, I say, and feel it. After all - isn't that the point?

    - Yogiray

  7. Well, Therese, I think the worst that could happen is that I'm out 45 bucks + shipping and handling for a rug that only causes me aggravation and distraction. As you say, the point is indeed to withdraw from the external. That's exactly why I'm looking for a mat towel/rug solution that won't add to the distraction.

  8. The yoga rug is one of the best kept secrets of the ashtanga community that is slowly making its way into other practices (bikram and others). As far as bunching up and sliding goes, the best thing to do is lay it on top of a normal yoga mat, this keeps it firmly in place on even the most polished floors during vigorous practices (ashtanga vinyasa). The surface is very consistent, and actually grips better as you start to sweat. It combines the best parts of a (dry) sticky mat and a towel into a great surface to practice on. Sometimes during practice when doing jump backs and jump throughs, a sticky mat can be your worst enemy when you are trying to slide across the surface. They are easier to wash than a yoga mat, and wont bunch up like a thin towel.

    The sticky mat is a prop, no different than a block. There are some poses that require hip/leg muscles such as wide legged standing series that a rug will force you to develop and may require a little bit of time to develop, but your practice will ultimately thank you for it.