Yoga Mat vs. Yoga Towel: Which Is Right for You?

Having trouble deciding between a yoga mat vs. yoga towel? No worries, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we’ll talk about yoga mat vs. yoga towel. We’ll help you decide whether to go for a yoga mat or yoga towel.

But before we jump into that, let’s first chat about what a yoga mat and yoga towel are, along with their benefits. Let’s get started!

Table of Contents

What is a yoga mat?

A yoga mat is a type of mat specifically designed for yoga practices. Yoga mats come in all sorts of materials and sizes, giving each type its own unique set of qualities.

For example, yoga mats made from PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) are grippier than those made from cotton. But cotton yoga mats are more eco-friendly than PVC yoga mats.

“PVC contains phthalates—a chemical compound that quickly evaporates. This chemical compound is harmful to you, your family, and even your pets. It has been known to disrupt your hormones,” said Ellie Smith, yoga teacher and founder of Ellie Smith Yoga.

She further noted, “It is also non-biodegradable, meaning all those chips you get from your mat as you practice don’t break down and cause harm to the planet.”

As for size, larger and thicker yoga mats tend to be heavier, making them less ideal for travel. But yoga mats that are too small may restrict your movements.

Yoga mats also vary in their extras. For instance, some yoga mats contain gel or memory foam, but some do not.

Why use a yoga mat?

Yoga mats have several benefits that can enhance your practice. Here are some of the benefits of yoga mats:


A yoga mat serves as a soft cushion between you and the floor. It provides comfort and reduces floor pressure on your joints or spine.

Although yoga is generally a low-impact exercise, certain poses may put pressure on your joints or spine.

This is especially true if you’re practicing on a hard floor. Using a yoga mat is even more important if you have joint sensitivity or issues.

Grip and stability

A yoga mat can provide a better grip to prevent slipping or sliding. This, in turn, helps you maintain a stable posture and prevent injury. “Mats are great for providing support and grip if that’s what you need,” said Bassanti Pathak, yoga instructor and director at Pathak Yoga.

A strong grip is even more important if you’re practicing on a slippery floor. Even a non-slippery floor can become slippery when you sweat.


A yoga mat can reduce your exposure to dirt and other contaminants on the surface. This is especially important if you’re doing outdoor yoga.


A yoga mat provides insulation from cold surfaces, so you don’t have to worry about feeling chilly during your yoga practice.

Alignment and Focus

A yoga mat helps create a defined space for your practice. It acts as a visual guide for alignment and helps maintain focus during the practice.

What is a yoga towel?

A yoga towel is a type of towel designed for use during yoga practices. But what sets them apart from regular towels? Well, let me break it down for you:

  • Yoga towels are generally more effective at absorbing moisture than regular towels. They also dry faster than regular towels.
  • Yoga towels often have a non-slip surface. This gives them a firm grip when used during practice on the yoga mat.
  • Yoga towels are often sized to fit yoga mats, making them the perfect cover. Regular towels come in various sizes, but they may not fit your yoga mat.

Now, there are at least two main types of yoga towels: yoga hand towels and yoga mat towels.

Yoga hand towels are compact, like around 16″ x 25″. In contrast, yoga mat towels are larger, covering the entire surface of a yoga mat.

Why use a yoga towel?

While not as essential as a yoga mat, a yoga towel can also enhance your practice. Let’s explore some benefits of yoga towels:

To keep sweat off your yoga mat

When doing yoga, it’s important to keep your sweat off your yoga mat, especially if you sweat a lot.

Too much sweat on your mat can make it slippery. This can mess with your grip and increase your risk of slipping.

Here’s where a yoga towel comes to the rescue. By placing your yoga towel on top of your yoga mat, you keep the sweat off your yoga mat.

Now, when it comes to this function, yoga mat towels tend to be more effective than yoga hand towels.

That’s because the yoga mat towel’s size often matches the yoga mat, so it can cover the entire yoga mat. In contrast, the yoga hand towel is much smaller.

To enhance your grip

A yoga towel can enhance your grip even if you’re using a yoga mat, as yoga towels often have a non-slip surface.

This is especially important in situations where the mat might become slippery due to sweat or other factors.

Layering a yoga towel on top of your mat can improve stability and help prevent slipping during your practice.

Since they can cover the entire yoga mat, yoga mat towels are often more effective in enhancing grip than yoga hand towels.

To manage your body sweat

Some people advise against wiping away your sweat during yoga, as it may disrupt your practice. Some also say allowing sweat to remain can help cool your body.

They may have a point. But in certain conditions, such as when sweat makes certain parts of your body slippery to maintain a pose, wiping it off becomes necessary.

A yoga hand towel can be useful to wipe off your sweat, especially if you’re already using your yoga mat towel to cover your mat.


Placing a yoga towel on top of a yoga mat can reduce your exposure to germs and other contaminants on the mat.

This is especially important if you’re using a shared yoga mat. For instance, during a yoga class where you use the studio’s mat.

It also minimizes the transfer of your sweat to the mat, helping to maintain a cleaner mat for the next user.

Yoga mat towels tend to be more effective in fulfilling this function than yoga hand towels, as they can cover the entire yoga mat.

To protect your mat

When you use a yoga towel on your mat, the yoga towel takes some of the wear and tear. It protects the yoga mat from direct friction and sweat during your practice.

Also, yoga towels are often easier to clean than yoga mats. Many of them are machine-washable. That’s not the case for yoga mats.

Since they can cover the entire yoga mat, yoga mat towels tend to be more effective in serving this purpose than yoga hand towels.

Extra cushioning

If your yoga mat isn’t thick enough for you, a yoga towel can provide extra cushioning on top of your mat.

Yoga mat towels are generally more effective in serving this purpose than yoga hand towels, as they can cover the entire yoga mat.

Comparing: Yoga Mat vs. Yoga Towel

yoga mat or yoga towel
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Now, let’s compare yoga mat vs. yoga towel. If you take a closer look at the benefits of yoga towels above, you’ll see they’re designed to be used with a yoga mat.

This is especially true for yoga mat towels. These towels are designed to be placed on a yoga mat during practice.

Some people, though, see this as interfering with the practice of yoga. “I actually find yoga towels a bit distracting to be placed on a mat during a practice because they tend to get bunched up and distract the practitioner,” said Bridget Sicsko, yoga instructor and speaker at Bridget Aileen LLC.

Now, there are some overlapping functions between yoga towels and mats, such as providing cushioning and grip. But these functions are meant to enhance those of the mat, not to replace them. “A yoga towel is there to supplement the mat, not replace it,” Smith noted.

This doesn’t mean a yoga mat excels at performing all the functions of a yoga towel. Yoga towels have a unique function that yoga mats lack: absorbing sweat.

So, besides their extra perks, a yoga towel is primarily used for managing sweat, while a yoga mat is designed to provide cushioning and grip.

Choosing: Yoga Mat vs. Yoga Towel

Now that we know they serve different purposes and aren’t interchangeable, it’s not about yoga mat vs. yoga towel anymore. It’s do you need them?

Do I need a yoga mat?

While some yoga styles can be done without a mat, commonly practiced yoga styles, such as Hatha and Vinyasa, typically use them.

So, if you plan to practice those common styles of yoga regularly, I would recommend getting a yoga mat.

Even if you don’t have any joint issues, a yoga mat can provide you with other benefits, such as enhancing your grip.

“I’d recommend yoga mats for all yoga practices—whether it’s yin, restorative, vinyasa, or even kundalini practice. It’s helpful to have a mat to provide extra cushioning, support, and a separation between the floor and your body,” Sicsko stated.

After all, yoga mats have become standard equipment for yoga. If you plan to take a yoga class at a studio, many yoga studios require the use of yoga mats.

Now, what if you already have a fitness mat? Well, fitness mats are typically thicker and offer better cushioning, but yoga mats tend to excel in grip.

If you’re still unsure about buying a yoga mat, perhaps you can borrow one from a friend to try it out beforehand.

Do I need a yoga towel?

The answer is that it depends. If you’re renting a yoga mat at a studio, using a yoga towel can be a good idea, especially for hygiene.

You may also need a yoga towel if you sweat a lot or practice sweaty styles of yoga, such as hot yoga or Bikram.

“Opt for a yoga towel when you’re sure you want to pursue sweatier practices like Hot yoga or Ashtanga yoga regularly,” said Smith.

Based on her own practice, Sicsko added, “When practicing Bikram or hot yoga where sweat is commonplace, I’d opt to bring a towel as well. Not necessarily to put on top of my mat, but more to wipe off sweat during my practice.”

But, check your yoga mat first. If you have a non-slip yoga mat that provides sufficient grip even when you’re sweating, you may not need a yoga towel.

“There are incredibly built, sweat-resistant mats that help the student avoid slipping during their practice,” noted Sicsko.

If you don’t sweat a lot or don’t practice sweaty styles of yoga, the decision to use a yoga towel depends on your personal preferences.

Remember that yoga towels have benefits beyond sweat absorption, such as protecting your yoga mat and improving your grip.

As for that yoga hand towel for wiping sweat, you can swap it out with a regular towel. Although those yoga hand towels do have some extra perks.

Final thoughts on yoga mat vs. yoga towel

It’s now clear that both pieces of equipment have their unique benefits. Yoga mats mainly provide cushioning and grip, while yoga towels excel in managing sweat.

If you practice common styles of yoga, like Hatha or Vinyasa, a yoga mat is your go-to sidekick. If you plan to take a yoga class at a studio, studios often insist on them too.

As for a yoga towel, it can be a valuable addition, especially if you sweat a lot or share mats with others.

In the end, it’s not about yoga mat vs. yoga towel. It’s about understanding how each can contribute to a more fulfilling yoga experience.

“Investing in the yoga mat of your dreams and a towel you love is investing in yourself. May you experience the absolute joy of yoga mats and towels as an additional wrap of love,” said Andrea L. Wehlann, a yoga teacher at Ganga Moon Yoga and author of two best-selling yoga books.

About the Author

Sasha Lizaveta
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Sasha Lizaveta is a fitness enthusiast and content manager at She advocates a conservative yet effective approach to fitness. She believes in the power of gradual changes to achieve long-lasting results. When not working out or creating content, she can often be found engrossed in books, playing with her cats, or travelling.

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