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The Great Yoga Mat Roll vs. Fold Debate…Are You Going to Roll That?

in Yogitorials


Call me crazy, but I get skeeved out over rolling my yoga mat. The mechanics seems natural, but, to me, the practice is ick. Not that I’m suggesting your yoga studios are anything but sparkling clean. I would never! And sure your feet carry enough tootsie tartar on their own (and I’m really not a germophobe, I swear!) but I just can’t do the mat rolling thing. (Note: This is not meant to be a diatribe against mat rollers. Just my silly opinion!)

Pink, purple, green, blue, whatever the hue, dear yoga mat, I don’t want to roll you. Here are a few (gross) reasons why:

Rolling a yoga mat is like eating a fruit roll-up you just just raked the leaves with.

Rolling a yoga mat is like licking a tootsie pop, rolling it around in the sand and then brushing your cat with it before giving it another lick. How many licks does it take to get to the center of a fuzzy pop?

Rolling your yoga mat is like taking a sponge, wiping the bottom of your shoe with it and then tossing it into the juicer for your after-class acai smoothie.

Rolling your mat is like taking your shower poofy thing, squeezing “Spring Sweat” body wash on it and then trying to make yourself clean with it.

Rolling your mat is like doing pranayama in a vacuum bag.

Rolling your mat is like rolling your body in honey and letting yourself loose in a kitty litter factory.

Rolling your mat is like using your body as a human-sized lint brush.

Rolling your mat is like eating a toe cheese sandwich with a side of Conjunctivitis.

Rolling your mat is like rolling sushi maki with bellybutton hair and fingernails and dipping it in swamp ass.

Rolling your mat is like a slip n’ slide on an episode of CSI.

Rolling your mat is like taking a swim in your neighbor’s sweat puddles who just had a huge portion of spaghetti with raw garlic and asparagus.


How do I carry my mat? Fold it, baby, then (maybe) roll. Not the ultimate answer, but I’d rather let those germs and juices make out together without any further interruption. I realize folding is not possible with all textures and thicknesses of yoga mat pedigree, but the next time you catch me rolling my own mat, will be the next time you see me eating a tofu salad off the seat of the 6 train.

Where do you stand on the great mat roll vs. fold issue?

[Ed. note: This is intended to be ridiculous. The word facetious may come to mind.]

[image source: www.yoga.am]




40 comments… add one
  • Carrie

    I assist hot yoga, all up in everyone’s sweaty junk for roughly 90 minutes, not too worried about my mat honestly…..

  • I fold my mat in the middle, dirty side to dirty side, and then roll it clean side to clean side. The big question is, what side do you consider the clean side?

  • Sarah

    Haha! I have literally NEVER thought of it like that. Ever. But now I will, thank you very much:) I can’t even picture what it looks like to fold it, or how you would do it. I’m intrigued though.

  • sharon

    Whether you fold it or roll it, it’s still dirty. Why not just use yoga mat cleaner?

    I was hoping this article would maybe give some tips about how not to have your mat curl up all the time when it’s rolled.

    • Alison Sykes

      Flip it over before you roll it up, ta da!

  • I fold my mat with the side *I* used in the center, then I roll it. Just bought a Jade mat and I’m getting all frazzled with the thought of how many people may be tramping on it during my next teacher training…I might just bring my good old “closed cell” mat that I can swab down after the training!

  • Maria

    Rolling your yoga mat would be like any of those things if yoga mats were intended to be eaten after class.

    • Great call! I was confused as to how your body possibly touching dirt and germs related to putting dirt and germs directly into your smoothie…

  • Suzi

    Glad to see I’m not the only one that has thought of this. I fold and roll my mat (“my” side in). I’ll shower it off once or twice a week and let it air dry. Nothing wrong with keeping things clean (and less stinky, too 🙂

  • Tiffanie

    I assumed since I cleaned the mat off (the side I sweated on) and roll it towards the now clean side any left over cleaner residue will kill anything gross on the non-clean side that was on the floor. Also, if I’m ever really skeevy about the cleanliness of my mat I would clean it prior to using it at the studio.

  • Heather A

    Uuuummmm, no one I know licks, tastes, or eats their mat.
    Why don’t you just clean it? Most studios I have been to offer a spray and towels with which to clean a mat. Or you can buy your own disposable wipies. I usually shower mine off once a week (just water, no soap) after using a mat and environmentally safe cleaner on it, then dry it in the sun. And if you shower regularly before your practice, then you are sweating fairly clean. Also, you could put a yogitoes towel over it, or some other towel when practicing then there is something to catch the sweat.

    good luck with whatever you do in your life.

  • i try not to think about it. i roll mine (lulu the mat) because folding causes terrible creases. i also try not to lick my mat. 🙂

  • michelle

    I clean mine with home made mat cleaner every time I use it. That way the germs are gone. Folding makes creases that I do not want and either way, folding or rolling does not matter if you clean it.

    • Anneliese

      Tell me your recipe for “homemade mat cleaner”? I spread my out once home, swipe on baby soap, then shower it off, and dry. Namaste’ 😀

      • Himix

        I tossed mine into the washing machine with some cider vinegar… it worked just fine. Wouldn’t recommend it for all mats tho.

  • Maria

    Um, okay. Folded vs. rolled? This is high-stress yoga, which seems unyogic – on the other hand, it’s unyogic for me to judge. But I’m reminded of something a running friend likes to say about running in rain: we’re not made of sugar.

    So, with that, skin is an amazing organ and can handle the heebie jeebies left on a yoga mat.

    But geez. Just wipe it down with water every once in a while or a nice scented yoga mat spray. Or launder occasionally as suggested. Relax and try to get comfortable with the smudge – it is everywhere, and this is part of what yoga asks us to do.

  • Therese

    I roll. It’s just too much trouble to do anything else. When I get home, I clean it and air it out and I take a shower too. People, we need to be exposed to some germs so our immune systems stay strong. I spray my mat with tea tree oil mixed with distilled water…smells good too. I don’t get sick very often and I don’t have any fungi growing on my body so I’m in a good place!

  • Stella

    Body hate much?

  • NoGermaphobeYogini

    Actually, rolling your mat is like rolling your mat – a sensible, no-nonsense way to prepare it for transport. I wash my body as needed and clean my yoga mat as needed. We do not live in a sterile environment and it would not be good for us to do so.

    Therapy is useless for a lot of things, but it is actually very good for dealing with phobias.

  • smiles4angels

    This is article is not even a debate. No pros or cons given to both sides.

  • Tmouery

    I roll mine, otherwise, it wouldn’t fit in the carrier that I have for it. Folding seems so impractical. And, whether you fold or roll, the germs are still going to be there unless you clean it before rolling it or folding.

  • Celeste

    I definitely FOLD IT! This is after spraying it with Manduka Mat Renew Yoga Mat Wash 😉 I don’t like the thought that the dirt on the floor is on the side where I rest my face on!

  • Jimmie White

    uhm wow what a strong reaction to a transportation method of a large piece of rubber /synthetic cushioning . I am an unashamed germaphobe (read former medic and emergency room employee) which is why I wipe my mat down and then roll it up and place it in a mat bag so the ick doesn’t transfer to all over my car arms etc. then I take it home and wash it with a tea tree oil mat wash kill those germs. seriously fold or roll or drag down the street just wash it and everything will be sunshine and rainbows

  • Amy

    I did not read all of the comments on this post, so forgive me if I’m repeating someone else’s thoughts. Let’s get real though, people practice yoga on the dirt in India. People have been practicing yoga without the benefit of any mat whatsoever for centuries. People have been practicing yoga on mats made of various materials without the benefit of cleaners for decades. Is there any documented proof of any illness, infection, or otherwise health-related problem via yoga mat? Being grossed out by your yoga mat is looking for a problem that doesn’t really exist. Not all germs are bad, not all bacteria is bad,; they help us to keep a healthier immune system. Don’t worry so much about the little things, and enjoy your yoga practice… dirty mat and all.

  • I think this is very funny – and meant to be. I really don’t understand all the condescending comments. Do yogis not have a sense of humor? Deep breaths, people.

  • Kdub

    I fold it in half (well about an inch short of halfway) then roll it up. By not folding it perfectly in half when I roll it up the ends are perfectly lined up…no matter how much try my OCD tendencies still kick in sometimes. 😉

  • Jax

    If its going in my suit case I find it fits better if I fold it. If I’m putting away all the mats after a yoga class I roll them. Many times I practice on the beach and use the sand as my mat. I also use yoga paws in my hotel rooms which are easy to throw in the wash. I just go with the flow.

  • Poonam

    This line of thought had never crossed my mind…. Been practising yoga for many yrs…same mat…never washed… I use it in the garden, yoga studio and just about anywhere…my dog sits on it , while I am meditating or doing pranayam. I have even had friends borrow it.
    Never had a problem…never been sick@ the mat…. never thought about it.

  • Becca

    I put an extra shower curtain rod in my shower and hung 2 tarp clips from it. Mat gets showered and hangs to dry after class. Simple.

  • Jessica

    Good thing this is meant to be ridiculous because there really is no viable option (rather than carrying your mat like a flag after class so it properly airs out/dries/drops off the foot fungus you smeared all over it during class). Rolling or folding, both mush the “germs” up and help them marinate a bit. Just clean your mat before you use it, use a towel, whatever you need to do to make yourself feel groovy.

  • Jessica Hanna

    My daughter left he unclean mat in her closet for the winter season and it started growing penicillin!~)

  • Lalalala

    It has crossed my mind, but I don’t worry about it. I wash my mat a few times a year. To my knowledge, I have never gotten sick. There are no shoes allowed in the studio, so it’s just foot germs.

  • Joe

    Spray first. then triangle fold and tie with oaken twine, untie then wash

  • I used to roll but after reading this list I think I’ll become a folder!

  • Meener

    I roll… and the mat is rolled up with it. And once I get home, everything gets washed and hung to dry. This is why I have multiple mats and towels: so that they always have sufficient time to dry and disinfect.
    It irks me to see people folding their mats after class- the mats droop over their arms, spilling their sweat and germs onto the floor, splashing onto me while I try to enjoy savasana.

    And, yes, I am a bit of a germaphobe.

  • Anneliese

    I’ve never been grossed-out by MY side of the mat after a class. (Just take it home, lay it out, baby-soap it, then rinse in the shower.) However, think about the STUDIO FLOOR side of the mat. Yuck. And when I roll that baby after class, I’m rolling WHATEVER is on that floor right into the side I practice on. Ewww. No question: I don’t get back on that thing until it’s been CLEANED. Namaste’ 😀

  • Stewart J. Lawrence

    Wow, this is really deep.

  • Kyle

    FOLD! I fold because it’s easier. Not that it’s a competition, but I’m headed out the door before the rollers are even half done with their mats. I started doing it for my outdoor mat because I didn’t want the sand and dirt making me slip. Then I realized the lack or curling on that mat and started doing it with all my mats. I’ve never noticed a crease, but I don’t try to stuff it in carriers.
    Also, I thought the author was being over the top and incredibly redundant in the repetitive statements it was just an opinion and light-hearted…. But looking at the comments I can see why. Yikes.

  • Rolling or folding, both mush the “germs” up and help them marinate a bit. Just clean your mat before you use it, use a towel, whatever you need to do to make yourself feel groovy.

    It irks me to see people folding their mats after class- the mats droop over their arms, spilling their sweat and germs onto the floor, splashing onto me while I try to enjoy savasana.

  • The thought crossed my mind…natural yoga, clean it before and after. lick if necessary. 😛 (not recomended).

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