You might have seen these beautiful brightly colored blankets in a yoga studio. Ever wonder what they are for? Today, we’ll be reviewing the uses and benefits of Mexican blankets in yoga practice.
They may look simple, but Mexican blankets are one of the most versatile yoga props out there. And after years of using them, I can no longer imagine my practice without them!
The texture of these blankets is great for creating extra friction, making yoga safer and more accessible. Mexican blankets can be shaped in a number of ways to support your asana practice. Plus, they keep you cozy and look great—what’s not to love?
Once you experience all the amazing benefits of Mexican blankets for yourself, your yoga practice will be completely transformed.
What Are Mexican Blankets?
Mexican blankets, also known as sarape, saltillo, or falsa blankets, are woven rectangular blankets, featuring traditional designs of Mexico and Guatemala. They range from thick and heavy covers to light decorative throws.
Most Mexican blankets have multi-colored stripes with angular patterns, featuring triangle or diamond shapes. Some blankets have more complex designs and a wider selection of colors. The edges of a Mexican blanket are typically framed with a fringe.
History of Mexican Blankets
Mexican blankets have been around for hundreds of years, even though they haven’t always performed the same function. Historically, sarapes (alt. spelling “serape”, or less frequently, “zarape”) were used as an affordable piece of warm clothing for working-class people in Mexico and Guatemala.
This garment originated in the Coahuila area, located in northeastern Mexico. In fact, sometimes these blankets are referred to as saltillo blankets, after the city of Saltillo, which is the capital of Coahuila.
As well as being used for keeping warm, Mexican blankets are a great way to add a splash of color to the room. If you live in an apartment, they can serve as stylish rugs that absorb the noise and keep your downstairs neighbors happy. Over the last couple of decades, Mexican blankets have become a popular yoga prop, and here’s why:
First and foremost, Mexican blankets are treasured for their versatility. They can be manipulated into a variety of shapes, so instead of buying an array of yoga equipment, you could get creative with your blanket!
Unlike the bulkier options, Mexican blankets can be neatly folded (or rolled up) and tucked away at the end of your practice.
A Prop That Keeps on Giving
Let’s face it, even the most dedicated practitioners don’t spend more than a few hours a week practicing yoga. The good news is, your Mexican blanket can be used in other situations, such as camping, having a picnic, or getting cozy in front of your TV.
How to Use Your Mexican Blanket During Yoga
Under the Yoga Mat
The majority of modern yoga mats were designed to connect with your skin and stop you from slipping. However, the relationship between your mat and the floor does not follow the same rules. If your yoga mat tends to move throughout the session, consider placing a Mexican blanket between your mat and the floor.
Having an extra layer under the yoga mat provides you with additional cushioning. This action has the added benefit of keeping your mat clean, especially if you practice outdoors.
If you have sensitive joints, you probably find certain asanas uncomfortable or even downright painful. As a yoga teacher, I always strive to make this practice inclusive and open, and a Mexican blanket is a great way to do so!
Placing a folded blanket underneath your wrists, knees, or back can make a world of difference. Next time you find yourself in a tabletop position, give it a try! Your joints will thank you.
As well as making basic positions more accessible, a Mexican blanket can provide support in advanced poses, such as Shoulder Stand (Salamba Sarvangasana) or Plow Pose (Salasana). To alleviate the pressure on your neck, place a folded Mexican blanket under your shoulders and watch the magic happen.
Seated poses are heavily featured both in the physical asana practice and in meditation practice. If you find it difficult to stay upright in a Cross-Legged Seat (Sukhasana) or Staff Pose (Dandasana), sit up on a folded blanket (or several). By lifting your seat, you are reducing the pressure on your lower back and hamstrings. You are also making the whole process more pleasant and enabling yourself to focus on your mind.
This technique extends to kneeling poses, too. If your knees or ankles feel tight in the Hero Pose (Virasana), you could place a rolled-up or folded blanket between your ankles.
In Place of Other Props
Source: Candace Cabrera
In yoga, we often find ourselves in a situation where we need extra support. I know I do! And while in a fully equipped studio we might reach for a block or a bolster, most of us don’t want to clutter the house with various yoga equipment.
Thankfully, Mexican blankets can be rolled, folded, or stacked to perform the same function as another yoga prop. This is especially relevant for slow-paced, restorative practices where you may spend an extended amount of time in each pose.
Due to their thickness and tightly woven texture, Mexican blankets can even be rolled up and used in place of foam rollers. They won’t be as firm, but they can still provide relief for your muscles and myofascial tissues.
Restorative poses such as Corpse Pose (Savasana) or Legs-up-the-Wall (Viparita Karani) usually take place towards the end of your practice. At this point, your body starts to cool down, and let’s face it, there is no relaxing in shivering Savasana!
Covering up with a Mexican blanket will not only keep you warm, but will also make you feel safe and nurtured.
A Visual Guide
Although meditation is often performed with the eyes closed, it is not the only way to focus. For example, mandalas are often used as a tool to reach the state of meditation by concentrating on colors and patterns.
Mexican blankets usually feature stripes and repeating geometrical shapes. Looking at your blanket can help you achieve a similar effect as looking at mandalas.
Get in the Mood for Yoga
There have been many complex studies to determine the psychological effects that colors have on our state of mind. In a traditional Mexican blanket, the widest stripes are made with a primary color, which is interwoven with complementary colors and prominently featured throughout the design.
The perception of color depends on personal, cultural, and situational factors, but if a certain color improves your mood and prompts you to move your body, you might pick a sarape that features that hue.
You may opt for more hushed tones for a meditative practice, such as beige, pink, purple, or gray.
Where can I get a Mexican yoga blanket?
Your options depend on your location and budget. It goes without saying that if you want a traditional Mexican blanket, the best place to buy one is in Mexico, more specifically the state of Coahuila. You may also find Mexican blankets in a local ethnic store or a yoga studio.
There are also plenty of retailers online, ranging from small artisan stores to large-scale marketplaces.
What are Mexican blankets made of?
Traditionally, sarape blankets were made of natural materials, such as wool, cotton, and agave fibers. Although you can still find authentic Mexican blankets created with wool and cotton blends, many modern iterations are made from polyester or acrylic fabric.
How do I care for a Mexican blanket?
The maintenance of your blanket heavily depends on the material it is made of. If your Mexican blanket has a label, it should specify whether the piece is machine washable. If it is, easy-peasy.
Fold the blanket in half and shove it into the washing machine. Make sure to set the machine to a cycle that won’t shrink or damage the material. You can even wash several Mexican blankets together, provided that their colors don’t clash. When buying from a small retailer, you should be able to ask for advice.
Furthermore, make sure to keep your blanket dry to prevent mold and deterioration. If you have pets that might damage the blanket (I’m looking at you, Mr. Whiskers!), be sure to put it out of your pet’s reach between uses.
And now that you know what to do… what are you waiting for? There is no such thing as too many Mexican blankets!