The 10 Best Yoga Towels
What Does That Yoga Towel Really Collect?
Sweat may seem simple enough. It is the salty water on your skin that is easily absorbed by a yoga towel during your practice. The process of sweating is actually a bit more sophisticated than that and has evolved into one of the body's smartest ways to eliminate waste while simultaneously cooling itself down.
There are over 2.6 million sweat glands on the average human body and most are activated during times of physical exertion when the body heats up rapidly. Sensing that the body is overheated, the brain signals two specific sweat glands into action; the eccrine and apocrine glands. Eccrine glands are most commonly associated with sweat. They cover most of the body and open directly onto the surface of the skin. By secreting sweat onto the skin, the body cools itself back down to its desired temperature through the action of evaporating this sweat. Exercise is not the only reason the body sweats, however. Sweat may be triggered when a person is stressed, anxious, fearful, or even simply excited.
The content of sweat is a bit more complex than commonly understood. Most people understand sweat to be a mixture of sodium and water. While minerals such as sodium, chloride, and potassium do make up a large amount of sweat released by the eccrine glands, sweat also releases a great number of cellular metabolic waste from the body via the apocrine glands. These glands are generally located where there is a greater concentration of hair follicles. Areas like the scalp, underarms, and genitals contain more apocrine glands, which produce different components in their sweat.
The sweat from the apocrine glands contains all the same salts and water, but also adds in fatty acids and byproducts of the body breaking down proteins, such as ammonia and urea. Sweat is also known to contain natural antibacterial and antiviral compounds like dermcidin, which protect the skin from infection.
Oddly enough, none of the components of sweat actually smell. It is the bacteria on the surface of the skin which break down the sweat secretions and cause the scent commonly referred to as body odor. Using a yoga towel during your practice helps to remove sweat and wastes from the body before they can be broken down by the skin's bacteria, thereby reducing the smell from a workout like hot yoga.
Yoga Towels And Hot Yoga
Perhaps the greatest use for a yoga towel is in the realm of hot yoga. Professionally known as Bikram yoga after it's founder Bikram Choudhury, hot yoga is a series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises carried out over 90 minutes in a room which is heated to 40 degrees Celsius. According to Choudhury himself, Bikram yoga allows the body to best stretch and tone; relieving stress, healing chronic pain, reducing inflammation in the joints and back, and promoting weight loss.
In a hot yoga session, one thing is for certain: the body sweats profusely. Most studios opt for a soft carpet instead of the traditional hardwood floor, to reduce the impact on the body. These carpets also serve a secondary, albeit unofficial purpose. They collect copious amounts of sweat from practitioners. Many practitioners opt for closed cell foam or polyvinyl chloride mats, and sweat simply runs off of these substances and into the carpet. The result is studios which often have a semi-permanent odor to them, despite the carpets being cleaned regularly.
Yoga practitioners opt for yoga towels for two main reasons. Firstly, yoga towels add an additional layer of cushioning which is vital to a pain-free experience in a highly active Bikram routine. Yoga towels also collect sweat from the body. Those not wishing to contribute to the smell of a hot yoga studio consider yoga towels a matter of personal hygiene.
Yoga Towels Or Yoga Mats: Which Do You Need?
While hot yoga is most commonly associated with yoga towels, the truth is they are beneficial for all types of yoga practitioners. On a hardwood surface, yoga mats are used to provide cushioning against the hard floor and give the user a work space for their asanas during the class. Keeping the poses organized onto a specific space, such as a yoga mat, helps to keep both the body and mind focused, rather than worrying over positioning of the body. Yoga mats also provide the user a slip-free space for strong poses such as warrior II and downward-facing dog.
Some yoga practitioners choose to replace mats with yoga towels. In addition to providing the same cushioning and organization of a yoga mat, yoga towels are also absorbent, providing added assurance during intense Bikram or Ashtanga routines.
Both beginners and advanced practitioners can benefit from using a yoga towel in addition to their mat. The added versatility of using the two together provides unequaled comfort and safety assurance in any yogic practice designed to keep the body healthy. Rather than use one or the other, both yoga mats and yoga towels should be seen as necessary components of the modern yogi's arsenal.