I had a few questions from a recent grad regarding teaching yoga in a fitness environment, and I thought I’d share:

Question: Is it Safe to Practice Yoga on a Towel?

I have started teaching a yoga class at a gym, and the gym does not have yoga mats or any props and the class participants generally only use a towel or the carpeted floor when practicing. Do you think that this increases a risk of injury as they are not using a yoga mat and this can increase slipping when in poses such as Down Dog and Warrior where you need to grip the ground? Should I encourage participants to bring yoga mats?


I have had some experience teaching students on towels in gyms, corporate environments, and beachside.  I’m not sure that there is a greater risk of injury due to slipping (not that I have experienced) but where there is perhaps a bit of risk is in catching the feet up in the towel when trying to step forward into Warrior.  This risk is increased by wearing shoes.  So, you might recommend that people take off their shoes and socks for practice if they are working on a towel.  As a side note, yes, the towel is ‘slippier’ than the mat, but that does make for greater isometric (not-moving) contraction as in postures we have to work harder and engage more stabilizers to stay steady.  As well, because the towel tells us much more clearly than a mat that we are sliding our foot forward into Warrior rather than picking up the foot and stepping, this might improve technique.    To reduce risk overall, move slowly and deliberately through each Vinyasa and give them time to pick up, step, and ground before moving on.

Question: Is it safe for students to wear shoes in class?

I have had students prefer not to take off their shoes in class – as long as they are aware of the risks of flowing through movements on a towel and that they might catch up their feet (and perhaps for this reason not work on a towel for Sun Sals) then perhaps it’s a good idea to let them work up to bare feet in their own time.

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