Yoga Sutra 2.2: Samadhi bhavana arthah klesha tanu karanarthah cha.
Translation: The practice of yoga reduces afflictions and leads to samadhi.
Translation of the Translation: Get your game face on, intrepid yogi, and don’t forget to bring a towel. There is a reason why it’s called a yoga practice and not a yoga perfect.
“Girls don’t sweat, we glisten!”
It was the last thing I wanted to hear after a particularly humid class. Carefully grasping my friend’s slightly dewy hand with my immaculately pruned fingers, I peered deeply into her eyes through the slowly evaporating fog of my glasses.
Men don’t sweat, I gently replied. We marinate.
I then proceeded to wring my shirt out on her foot. It was very gratifying, and I truly felt one step closer to samhadi (feeling one with the world). I was younger then.
Sweating is awesome. The physical practice of yoga is designed to purify the body through a series of folds, twists, stretches, and balances. As the body moves, the muscles and organs release toxins. One of the main escape routes for these toxins is through sweat. The more toxic the body, there better chance you’ll get your sweat on. If you’re a meat-eatin’/ beer-drinkin’/ cigar-chompin’ yogi, your body might have a little more to work out than others.
Combine the fact that you’re wringing out your insides with the accumulation of heat from other bodies in a poorly-ventilated room, throw in a dash of genetic predisposition, and we have a prime candidate for rapid perspiration. It often isn’t pretty, especially if you’re one of those glisteners.
Sweating is a double-edged sword. We want to sweat because we feel the benefit of the practice. We don’t want the sweat because we’re vain. We do want the sweat because it’s healthy. We don’t want the sweat because nobody likes carrying home a soaked yoga mat (sponge) or a sopping wet shirt clinging to body hair.
At least I think nobody does….
What To Do?
1) Don’t panic. You aren’t the first yogi to sweat profusely, you won’t be the last, and it’s safe to say you probably aren’t the worst. If you freak out, you’ll probably just sweat more. The most important thing to remember is that it is perfectly OK to sweat during yoga. Don’t let it stop you.
2) Wear proper clothing. The long/short here is to find what works for you. Light, loose-fitting clothing that allows the skin to breathe will be the best. If you go cotton, expect that cotton to soak up sweat. If you wear sports gear, that gear will become very smelly. Avoid business suits, denim jeans, wool anything, and polyester everything. If it’s appropriate, consider not wearing a shirt. There, I said it. You don’t have to be the first guy to run into the studio bare-chested and ready to kick asana. If you’re cool with it, give it a try.
3) Bring a towel. This is a no-brainer. Don’t assume the studio is going to provide one. If the teacher gives adjustments, bring a separate towel just for them. You feel less self-conscious about receiving and they’ll be more inclined to give.
4) Yogitoes! Purchasing my first Skidless yoga towel literally changed my life. Before, every class was a dangerous mix of Twister and Slip-n-Slide. Essentially, it’s a thin beach towel with silicone nubs on one side that grip into the yoga mat. What really got me was that it doesn’t really start working until it gets moist. Most people like to pre-wet theirs before class. I prime mine with a stern glare and lascivious smile.
5) Flip your mat over. Drat…yoga soup again! Wait for the right time, quietly step off of your mat, flip it over, and then drop back into the class. Don’t make a big deal about it. Just do it. There, isn’t that better? Your hands don’t hate you anymore.
6) Grab a yoga strap. It’s looking pretty grim. You’ve forgotten your towel. Your shirt is completely soaked through. The mat has already been flipped to no avail! Your hands are squirking around like two angry oil wrestlers. Drastic times call for drastic measures. Grab a yoga strap and lay it across the top of your mat, running a few inches parallel to the front edge. When in downward dog, place the base of your palms below the strap, and the knuckles above it. It ain’t fancy, but it will definitely save your sweaty asana.
7) Clean up after yourself! If you really want to be that guy, I suggest leaving a few puddles on the floor after class. Bonus points if you don’t hang or wipe down a borrowed mat. Soon enough, you’ll be getting noticed for all the wrong reasons. Proper studio etiquette prevails here. They don’t swim in your pool, so… don’t sweat… on their mat. Yeah.
8) Use your own equipment. The idea of rolling around in sweat can be a little unsettling—especially if it’s not yours. Using your own mat has many benefits, ranging from hygiene to function. Most loaner mats get slick after a few drops—go buy yourself a fancy non-slip magic carpet (see #4), and see how your practice benefits..
9) Keep practicing and eventually it won’t matter. So what if you sweat profusely? Big deal. Yoga isn’t about how you look; it’s about how you feel. These tips should help you feel a lot better once the heat rises and the sweat starts to fall. Whether your body eventually sweats less or you end up getting used to that perpetual shine, the most important thing to remember is to keep going. A little sweat can go a long way.
10) Bring extra mustache wax. Obviously.
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