Trust me, I know the feeling. You walk into a yoga class where everyone seems to know what they are doing, you roll out your mat, get into down dog, and your hands slip right out from under you. How dangerous and embarrassing! In that moment you think “I must be out of shape, I must sweat more than the average person, I must have oily sweat, I’m clumsy, my mat is clearly made out of soap and ice, I don’t belong here, I am going to break a bone, and I will never be a yogi.” Ok, maybe that is a little exaggerated, but I’m sure we can all relate a little bit. Here is a hard truth: Sometimes in yoga, we slip! I have worked with yoga companies and studios for 7 years, and this is the most common concern I hear other than, “I’m not flexible enough for yoga”, but that’s another blog. So how do we fix this problem? Let’s start with the reasons WHY we are slipping and see if we can go from there.
- Lotions and Oils: Many of us have a morning routine that includes lathering the entire body with lotion or coconut oil. I’m not telling you to stop doing this. Moisturizing your skin is a good thing to do. I am, however, making the bold assumption that if you cover your body with oils, you may become more slippery when you sweat.
Suggestion: Save lotion time for after yoga or at least give those hands and feet a good scrub with soap and water before you step onto your mat.
- Pose Alignment: As we learn proper body alignment in our yoga practice, we slip less. Here is a personal example: When I started practicing yoga in 2007, I used a towel to help with my grip in hot yoga. I had to keep fixing it and straightening it out all through my practice, and at the end of yoga class, that towel was completely bunched up and wrinkled. This wasn’t because yoga towels were bad or because I wasn’t meant to do yoga. It was because I was a beginner. I hadn’t learned how to properly distribute my weight, how to move from my core, and how to align my body in my yoga poses yet. After a couple of years (yes, years) of practicing yoga, my towel stayed completely flat during my yoga classes. It actually got to a point where I didn’t even need a towel anymore. Sweat and movement were no match for my balancing and grounding abilities.
Suggestion: Have your teacher look at the poses where you slip the most. Do you slip every time you’re in down dog? Ask your teacher if they have any alignment tips. I’m sure she or he will love to help you, and it might just make all of the difference. Another suggestion is to just be patient and keep going to class. I know from experience that you will stop slipping with practice.
- Transition Momentum: Yes, it’s a thing. Transition momentum will cause you to miss out on lots of benefits from your asana practice, and it will make you slip. What I mean is in our yoga poses it is better to move from intentional muscular movements instead of momentum. I promise that this can even be done in a fast-paced flow class.
Suggestion: If you are slipping often on your mat, try moving without any momentum at all during your transitions from pose to pose. A tell-tale sign that you are using momentum is if your hands and feet make noise when they touch the ground. With the exception of your breath, try moving quietly on your mat.
The most common momentum slip I see is when yogis move from down dog to a warrior pose. Instead of swinging your foot to the front of the mat, fire up that core, round the spine, and slowly step your foot between your hands. Feel your foot ground on your mat before you lift your arms. Its ok if it takes a couple more breaths or a few more movements than the person next to you. It WILL be more challenging, more safe, and more effective.
- Skipping the Baby Steps: We know that when it comes to most things, you have to crawl before you walk. It can be exciting and inspiring to see those people in class jumping into handstands between every sun salutation, but try to remember that they started somewhere. Basic alignment and breath awareness are essential foundations for any practice. Even for advanced practitioners, it is important to start with the building blocks every time you practice. If you enter wheel pose without first learning where to put your hands, you could end up in a slippery situation!
Suggestion: Give that ego a chill pill. If there is an advanced pose or a transition you want to learn, try understanding the fundamentals first. For example if you want to learn headstand, first practice being in dolphin pose with your head on the ground and practice strengthening the core. If you want to jump or “float” gracefully to the front of your mat from down dog, first practice properly stepping to the front of your mat. Be patient with yourself and come from love! After all, it’s just yoga.
- Your Yoga Mat: Ok sometimes it really isn’t your fault. Some mats really are slippery! Any mats with a lot of plastic and rubber on the surface can get very slick.
Suggestion: Invest in a cork yoga mat. Cork becomes sticky when wet because it releases a waxy substance called suberin that creates a natural no-slip grip!
Keep your mat clean. Mats are porous, so keeping yours clean will be the key to maintaining its grippy surface. Cork is inherently antimicrobial, but you still have to do your part to keep those oils from building up on your mat. Every mat is different, but Yoloha’s DETOX spray is one of the best solutions to use on a cork mat.
- Fear: One of the best ways to stop slipping is to stop worrying about slipping. Remember that even if you do fall there is not far to go and you are not the only yogi who has ever slipped on a yoga mat. It’s part of the process, and you can rest assured that you will most likely survive a yoga mat fall. You already know that the slipperiness will subside after you eliminate those lotions and oils, learn proper alignment, take out transition momentum, stop skipping the baby steps, and invest in a good yoga mat.
Suggestion: Have some patience with your practice and enjoy the journey. You are on your mat, so you are making improvements. Everybody sweats. You are not clumsy. You DO belong in yoga class. Listen to your body and you will not get hurt. You are a yogi. You are love. You are enough. Now get a grip!