Yoga Mat Vs Yoga Towel: Differences & Which One To Use?

If you’re new to yoga, or even just looking to branch out with your use of accessories, you’ve probably come across both yoga mats and yoga towels. While they might look or sound similar, when looking at yoga mats vs yoga towels, they are actually different types of accessories with different purposes.

As a certified RYT-200 yoga teacher, I think it’s extremely helpful to understand the different functions a yoga mat and a yoga towel serve. That’s why I put together this helpful guide! Let’s get started, so you can decide what you will need during your yoga practice.

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What Is a Yoga Mat?

Unless you’re a hardcore yogi who prefers to practice yoga on a flat surface, you’ll more than likely need a yoga mat for your practice. A yoga mat (pictured above) can help you stay stable on the floor, as well as provide cushioning for your hands and joints. Basically, it makes your yoga sessions more comfortable.

Yoga mats come in all types of thicknesses, depending on how much cushioning you need. You can also buy yoga mats in a variety of fun colors and designs to add a little style to your yoga practice (and be the envy of all your fellow yogis).

What Is the Purpose Of a Yoga Towel?

A yoga towel is a little different from a yoga mat in the sense that it’s not a necessity for sessions, and not every yogi has one. A yoga towel fits over your mat during practice to stop you from slipping due to moisture and sweat.

They absorb moisture, allowing you to enjoy your yoga sessions with the peace of mind that you’re much less likely to slip. They also help protect your yoga mat from wear and tear.

Yoga towels are multi-functional too. While the primary purpose is to soak up moisture, you can also roll up your yoga towel and bam – you’ve got a pillow to rest your head on during Savasana.

You don’t need to use a yoga towel during your yoga practices, but there are definitely benefits to using one. This is especially true if you’re a frequent attendee of hot yoga, which can increase the chance of slipping as a result of increased sweat.

Yoga Mat Vs Yoga Towel: What Are The Differences?

When looking at a yoga mat vs a yoga towel they serve different purposes. Yoga mats provide much-needed cushioning and stability during a yoga session. On the other hand, the primary purpose of a yoga towel is to stop slippage and yoga mat deterioration by soaking up moisture.

The materials used to make the two differ too. Yoga mats tend to be made of PVC or rubber, while yoga towels are typically made from fabrics such as microfibers or cotton.

Both yoga mats and yoga towels can be a fashion statement. Plenty of sellers focus on making their mats and towels as eye-catching as possible, so you can show off at your next yoga class. Both items are used to make your yoga practice more comfortable and help to avoid injury.

Reasons To Use Just a Yoga Mat

Some yogis prefer to use a yoga mat without a yoga towel. Here are some of the benefits of using only a yoga mat.

  • Provide less grip when dry. Many yoga towels increase grip when wet, but don’t provide as much grip when dry as a regular yoga mat. This means that although your yoga towel will reduce slippage, it can increase a different type of risk by not being grippy enough.
  • Not suitable for everyone. Sometimes a more relaxing session will end in little to no sweat at all. And some yogis are just less inclined to sweat than others. If you don’t tend to slip on your mat, you might find a yoga towel simply isn’t a necessity for you.
  • Can bunch up. If your yoga towel isn’t laid out properly or clipped to the side of your mat, it can bunch up. This is inconvenient and can also be detrimental to your yoga practice.

Reasons To Use a Yoga Towel With a Yoga Mat

Using a yoga towel with your mat is a personal decision. Let’s explore the reasons why you should consider using a yoga towel.

  • Reduces slippage. Slipping on a moist yoga mat is a recipe for disaster and potential injury. If you find that you sweat a lot when you practice yoga, or you participate in the (notoriously sweaty) hot yoga, you’ll be much more prone to slipping. Placing a yoga towel on top of your mat (as long as it’s properly attached) can significantly reduce the likelihood of slipping.
  • Multi-functional. While the main purpose of a yoga towel is to reduce slippage, that’s not the only thing it can be used for. You can roll up a yoga towel and use it to cushion parts of your body, such as the back of your neck or your knees.
  • Improve the condition of your mat. Over time, the top layer of your yoga mat can wear away, ruining the design and making it less effective. A yoga towel adds a protective layer to the mat, soaking up moisture before it can damage the mat underneath.
Yoga mats vs yoga towels what are the differences.

Can I Use a Yoga Towel Without a Yoga Mat?

While it’s not as common as using either a mat on its own or a yoga towel on top of a mat, you can in fact use a yoga towel on its own. One of the main reasons yogis might opt for a towel with no mat is that towels are more compact. If you’re traveling or a mat is too bulky to bring to class, a yoga towel acts as a more lightweight alternative.

If you do plan on using a yoga towel without a mat underneath, just make sure there’s sufficient grip so your towel doesn’t move around the floor during your practice! Look out for special anti-slip yoga towels and only use non-slip yoga towels with grip when you’re working without a mat. Be aware that using a slippery, non-grippy yoga towel can put you at risk of injury.

Best Yoga Mats & Yoga Mat Towels With Grip

I have actually written a few articles on this exact topic that include lists for the best yoga mats and towels for sweaty hands and feet and the best non-slip yoga towels. Definitely check those out for more help. Or, check out my top picks in the list below.

When figuring out if you need a yoga mat vs a yoga towel or both, it’s important to understand the function of each piece of yoga equipment.

If you find yourself frequently slipping during yoga sessions as a result of sweat making your mat a slippery mess, you’ll no doubt benefit from the addition of a yoga towel on top of your mat. If you don’t experience slippage and find that a yoga towel would add unnecessary thickness to the surface you practice on, you might decide you’re better off without one.

Remember, every yogi is unique, and just because other yogis choose to have or not have a yoga towel, you should make your own decision based on your needs. And before I sign off, since you are interested in yoga, you might want access to my FREE 10-day yoga challenge. Just fill in the form below to sign up.