The Complete Guide To Using a Mysore Yoga Rug
Disclaimer: every person is unique and your needs should be evaluated on an individual basis with the help of your teacher. The following suggestions are only general guidelines and not to take the place of your own judgement or the directions of your teacher
I've been using a Mysore Rug in my own practice for 13 years so everything you read here comes from my own direct experience.
I've written a bunch of articles on the Mysore Rugs which I've put at the end of the post.
I'll start with some recommendations on using a rug followed by answers to the most common questions I get asked.
Since I practice Ashtanga Yoga I am writing from that perspective. The rug will work for other types of Yoga but the sequencing of Ashtanga is important which I explain in the first point.
Let's get started.
The most important thing to know about using a Mysore Rug in your practice is the difference between using a sticky mat because.....
1. When a sticky mat gets sweat on it it gets more slippery. When a rug gets sweat on it it gets more grippy.
A yoga rug is more similar to a yoga towel which we don't use because they are made of Microfiber (Point 4)
Many people are used to practicing on a sticky mat or something with "extra grip" (key word being extra) when they first start using the rug that is what they compare it to.
It's important to know that the two surfaces behave differently when dry or wet and then for you to adjust the surface for what works best for your practice.
The big X factor is sweat and humidity since it changes how grippy the surface is. Let me use the example from my own life of practicing in India vs practicing in Canada to show you what I mean.
India is hot. Really hot. Sometimes at 4:30 AM before even starting practice sitting in the room waiting to go in I'm already warm and on the verge of sweating. Or maybe I'm just nervous. Most likely a combination.
When Sharath calls "one more" I take my spot in the already full shala, lay my mat down then my rug on top of it. In this situation with the warmth of the room and my body my rug has plenty of grip. I can move through the standing series without the slightest feeling of it being it being too slippery. (I've also built up natural strength which I teach about here).
Now same situation in Jasper Alberta Canada. Im practicing alone, first person in the room, middle of winter.
Air is dryer, it's a lot cooler, no one has been in the room before me to warm it up, I'm not that nervous. In this situation with the lack of dampness the rug is not as grippy. In times when you find that the rug is too slippery you have a couple options.
- Spray some water on the rug where your feet and hands go and it will instantly have more grip. Just use the spray bottle people use for Kukkutasana
- Flip the rug up for postures where you need extra grip and use the sticky mat
- Start without the rug then once you are sweating enough put the rug down or put it down when the seated postures start. Putting the rug down when the seated postures start is the norm in Mysore. Personally there is a way I like better which I'll get to next.
2. Your Strength is a Factor
The other major factor on how and when in your practice you will use your rug is your own strength.
My favourite comparison to illustrate this is the sticky mat and chairs.
Because in the West almost no one sits on the ground a lot of us have lost the physical ability to do a flat footed squat. The technology of a chair supports our bodies and then we lose the ability to get into that shape.
In India the older generation can squat easily as you see in this picture here. (Taken by Anniela)
They haven’t spent their lives using chair technology so the body hasn’t lost the ability to go into the shape.
The sticky mat is the same thing. That “extra grip” is like the chair. It’s technology that is supporting your body and removing some of the work necessary to support yourself. Work that in my experience is essential to a strong and healthy practice.
In Ashtanga yoga we start with the standing postures. A lot of people think that these are just a warm up and tend to gloss over them which I think is fundamental error. I look at the standing postures as the foundation to the practice. To me they are the most important and provide the support for what is to come. I go into this more in the email series Strong Foundations
Back to the squat analogy. Not everybody is going to be able to do a full squat right away. If you have been using chair support for 30 years you can’t expect to get into a full squat overnight. The body doesn’t work like that. It takes time to adapt.
Slowly when our bodies are faced with a little more challenge they gain strength. This is known as the S.A.I.D. Principle. Specific Adaptations To Increased Demands.
It took me 3 years to get to the point where now I always have my rug down right from the start. Still on some days but very rarely I use the spray bottle to wet it if I notice I don’t have the strength.
So for some people that extra grip of a sticky mat is necessary in the beginning if the challenge of a less grippy surface is too much. No problem. One day at a time.
For others that extra grip might be too easy and the work they are skipping could be holding them back. In my experience it's one of the things that leads to back pain down the road which I talk about in the Strong Foundations series.
Of course each person is unique so you with the help of the teacher will have to decide what works best for you at this time.
3. I Recommend You Use the Rug Overtop of a Mat.
The problem with using the rug on it's own is that the surface of most yoga shala's are laminate or hardwood. They are slippery and then you put the rug on top and it doesn't stay in place. This is unsafe and I highly recommend you don't practice this way. The other issue that comes up is that the hardness of the floor come through in postures like Garbha Pindasana which doesn't feel good.
When using the rug on top of a mat then you can have something between you and the hard floor. This makes it a little softer to practice on, keeps a barrier between you and the floor which might have dirt on it and most importantly keeps the rug in place.
I recommend the Manduka Pro with lifetime warranty. These mats are indestructible so once you buy one you won't need another in your lifetime.
*if the surface you put your rug on is something like carpet or grass then the rug then it might work but use at your own risk.
4. What is the difference between a Yoga Rug & a Yoga Towel
The Mysore Rug is the original Yoga Towel. Before factories, machines and businessmen who don't do yoga got involved the teachers of your teachers all used Mysore Rugs.
Which one is better?
It's the big debate and not until recently was there a clear answer. With the new information coming out on how Microfiber is polluting the oceans the choice is clear.
Choose Natural Fabric Over Synthetic
Watch this video below or read my blog post on Microfiber pollution to learn why washing these synthetic garments is causing a major environmental disaster
Yoga Rugs are Heavier
This can been seen as negative in that rugs are heavier so you will have to carry more weight but I also prefer rugs for this reason. Since they are heavier they stay in place better overtop of your sticky mat while you are practicing. I find that I can make the transitions in my vinyasa's without having constantly fix my rug more than with a towel. When I used a towel it would constantly move around and get flipped over since it was so light.
How They are Made Matters (to me)
This isn't important to everyone so I'm not going to preach what you should do but to me it matters what type of surface I do my spiritual practice on. Often yoga towels and mats are made in factories by machines. Ekaminhale yoga rugs are made in small villages in India by hand on looms . There is real people taking time to create these rugs in a traditional way for you to practice on. To me that is important and why I would choose a handmade rug over a factory produced product. If you want to see how the rugs are made you read the post where I went to see for myself by clicking here
5. Will jumping back and jumping through be easier?
Yes. Your feet will slide through rather than catch and stick. Same with moving from down dog into upward facing dog. You can push through your toes and your feet will slide on the rug rather than stick to the mat. I'll post of a picture of what happened to one of my mats when I never used a rug.
6. Are sticky mats props?
Yes they are. They are technology that has only been around for a couple decades. Originally people didn't use mats because they weren't invented so they would do standing postures on the floor and then seated postures on a rug. To make it easier for people the sticky mat was invented. Easier isn't always better since by having a sticky mat you don't need to use your leg muscles as much. This may be necessary in some cases but unnecessary in others. I wrote a whole post explaining why and how it affects your practice. You can read the by clicking here
Questions about Ekaminhale Mysore Rugs
Why do natural dyes matter?
"One of the ways many yoga practitioners take their practice into the world is by being aware of what we eat and where we invest our time and money. We all know that organic food has more nutrition and is less stressful to the environment but did you know that the textile industry is the second largest polluter of water in the world? We don’t really think about it because we don’t eat our clothes, or our yoga mats, but this stuff actually matters." - Kikki Patterson
The biggest reason is the effect the other dyes have on the environment and the people using them. It's not a pretty picture and one I was totally unaware of until I started to learn about how rugs are made. A fellow yoga practitioner and expert in natural dying wrote a whole post on it here Why Natural Dyes Are Just Better
What size are the Ekaminhale Mysore Rugs?
The Organic Rugs are 77 Inches by 27.5 Inches or 198 cm by 170 cm.
They are about 1/8 of an inch thick maybe a little less.
Should I wash the rug first before use or may I use it for a few days before washing?
As for what to do first, wash or use? Either of the two works. However, we encourage soaking the rug first as this helps in setting the color and helps minimize or prevent bleeding on future washes. Also, if you wash it first, it will soften a bit.
Is the organic cotton used to weave the mats grown locally in India?
The Organic Cotton used is Non-GMO grown locally in India.
Blog Posts I've Written on Mysore Rugs
The Prana is There - How the Rugs Are Made - This post shows how the rugs are made in India. We went there ourselves to see and took all the pictures and videos plus met the people who make them click here for that post
Building Strength In Your Legs & Feet - This article explains how adjusting the surface level you practice on affects how much strength you will build and how it's important to know where you are at and then adjust if necessary - click here for that post
The Chair of Yoga. Why the Sticky Mat is A Prop - I couldn't have made this story up if I tried. The invention of the sticky mat and why it make be a prop you don't want in your practice - click here for that post