Class #130: How To Set Your Towel!

Saturday, May  1pm

So we’ve just finished the spine stregthening series, and a girl on the opposite side of the room from me starts relentlessly futzing with her towel. Pulling on it, straightening, trying to get all the lumps out, YOU KNOW, all the stuff you do with your towel when it starts to get messy.

"What are you doing?" favorite teacher asks her, "Housekeeping? You don’t have to do any housekeeping here!"

The girl smiles but continues to futz.

"No really! You don’t!" favorite teacher continues, "I know, because I used to have the MESSIEST towel ever! It’s ok! And as you practice more, you’ll learn how to keep it neat!"

Favorite teacher is full of little tidbits like this. Which of course, is why she’s ‘favorite teacher’. She goes on…

"And then there are people like ALISON - yes Alison, I’m going to give YOU a hard time now - whose towels, even from the first day, are always flat like ICE!"


And it’s no accident! I am COMPLETELY NEUROTIC about them. I’ve even mentioned it on this blog before! I spend a ridiculous amount of time before class - probably five to ten minutes or more? - dedicated solely to Towel Set-Up And Maintenance. I mean, I have a SYSTEM. I have PROCEDURES. I have TRICKS, TIPS, and TECHNIQUES, not only for setting up the towels initially, but for keeping them neat throughout the class.

And hey, LUCKY YOU, because I’m going to share them all with you RIGHT NOW! So please, grab something cold from the fridge, kick back, and enjoy this edition of…



Preparation is key. Ok, so I am a FIRM believer in putting in the time before class starts to make sure you won’t have to adjust, alter, or otherwise futz with your towels AFTER class starts. Think of this as the way you would set up your asana. You don’t just whip yourself into Standing Bow Pose, right? There’s a lot of preparation involved! You have to shift your weight, drop your arm, grab the foot “from behind, from the inside”, lift your opposite arm, etc. So - at least in my mind - setting up your towels well and with care from the start is not CHEATING. In fact, it just reinforces everything else we learn in Bikram about practicing well and properly. So get to class 5-10 minutes early, and be prepared to prepare!

You gotta know whatcha workin’ with! Not all towels are created equal. If your studio is like mine, they have an assortment. Some are thicker than others, some slightly larger, some slightly smaller, some misshapen from being washed and dried hundreds of times, some virtually like new. You have to find out what YOUR towels look like. This is important because they are going to be your best friends for the next 90 minutes. So unfold them, roll them out, and take a look…

Lay it down… I like to take my first towel and lay it out TAG SIDE DOWN (if there is a tag) on the top of my mat, leaving about a three-inch gap from the top of the mat to the top of the towel. I call this the “Just In Case Gap”. WHY? Because it’s there JUST IN CASE you need to use your mat for traction at some point - say, in Triangle pose or something - that way you won’t have to touch your towel to get to it later! PRETTY SMART, EH?

…And streeeeetch it ouuuuuuut! THIS IS SUPER IMPORTANT! After your towel is laid out, stretch out the edges. This is important, because the edges are the first things to shrink when a towel is repeatedly dried, and this will cause little bumps and bulges all over!


So to stretch the towel, just pull the edges in opposite directions from top to botton and right to left on all sides.

Once you’re done with that, you can smooth and remaining wrinkles from the center. By this time, it should be looking pretty good…

Double your fun. I use two towels. If you can get away with using just one, then congratulations, you are a better man/woman than I!

So assuming you are like me and sweat like a beast require a second towel, here’s how you’ll do it. Or, ya know, how I do it.

Fold the bottom edge of your first towel up about six inches, and place your second towel under it. Stretch out the bottom towel like you stretched the top one. Fold the six inch flap from the top towel over the bottom towel, so there’s a little overlap. There will be significant towel overhang on the back of your mat, but that’s no problem. Just give this overlap a little accordion fold - it usually takes me about four folds - and leave the little folded stack at the back of your mat. It will probably be two to three inches wide. Smooth down the center surface of the second towel.

BOOOOOM!!! You’re all set up, and might I say, you’re looking GOOD!

Now, as for KEEPING it looking good, here are a few things to think about…

Dry towels stick to sweaty feet. Until you have a GOOD sweat spot going on your towel, be VERY careful and move VERY slowly when you lift your feet, lest you accidentally take your towel with you. I HAVE DONE THIS, AND IT SUCKS. Alternately, you can pre-moisten your towel a little with water from your water bottle before class starts. I’ve never done this, but I’ve seen it.

Extra movement = Extra MESS. There’s a reason they tell you to stand still between poses and to move as little as possible during the transitions! Granted, this reason is probably NOT “so you don’t muss your towel”, but it IS true that added movement, fidgeting, and squirming around will just make your space more messy. So, stand still! And when you DO move, do it with care and precision!

And finally…

If you MUST adjust your towel during class…  Make sure you do it between poses, and when the teacher isn’t looking. You know, so you don’t ruin your goody-two-shoes reputation as “The Girl/Guy Whose Towels Are Always Flat Like ICE!”