Brad's Iyengar Yoga Notebook

The Ancient Art of Blanket Folding

    If you want to become proficient in yoga in the Iyengar tradition, you must become absolutely neurotic about how your blankets are folded.   There is simply no other way.

    There are two main types of blankets in use in most Western yoga schools today -- the brown wool, "army-type" blankets that shed like English sheep dogs, and the Mexican blankets, also called "the cotton blankets" despite the fact they consist of 50% acrylic, 40% polyester, and 10% cotton.   Let's look at the folding of each type of blanket starting with the wool blankets.

    Each type of blanket has its own storage fold and it's important to learn how to fold the blanket into the storage fold.   The storage fold gets its name from the fact that we store the blankets after we use them folded in this way (as in the photograph at the top of this page).   The storage fold is the "Tadasana of the blanket."   When you take a blanket out of the storage pile, if it has been put away properly, it will be in the storage fold.   Unfortunately, with each type of blanket, there are several ways to mimic the storage fold that aren't quite correct.

    To make the storage fold for a wool blanket, begin with it unfolded completely.   One side is longer than the other (not shown well in the photos below).   In the fully-opened photo below, the left and right sides are the long sides.   First fold the blanket in half (joining the two short sides):

    Take care when folding your blankets that you match the sides evenly and spread out all of the wrinkles and rolls in the blanket.   That's part of the neurosis, but turns out to be very important in the end.   Next fold the blanket in half again, once again joining the two short sides:

    Finally, fold the blanket in half a third time, again joining the two short sides as below.   With those three simple folds, you have the storage fold (photo on right below):

    Note than the storage fold has a long dimension and a short dimension and, most importantly, a "neat" side (where the blanket fold is rounded) and a "loose" side (where the edges of the blanket are joined).   In the photos below, the neat side is in the front on the left and, turning the blanket around 180 degrees, the loose side is in the front on the right.   Distinguishing between the neat and loose sides of your blankets is crucial, as will become clear when we talk about how we use the blankets for support in asanas later on.

    Now take a look at the neatly folded blanket below.   It looks to be so nicely folded in the storage fold.   It has the same width and length as the storage fold, and sits on the storage pile in much the same way.   If you took it off the top of the storage pile, you might think it is in the storage fold, and in fact blankets are commonly haphazardly folded this way in yoga schools:

    But push the top fold of the blanket back just a little and you see this is not the storage fold at all:

    And if you continue to unfold it, you will see how it was perniciously folded to start with:

    The first fold had been made correctly, but then the subsequent two folds had been made length-wise rather than width-wise.   This may seem trivial, but if it is not clear already, the pseudo-storage-folded blanket above would have been far more unstable to use for support in, for instance, Sarvangasana, than a blanket in the correct storage fold.   This will become more clear when we talk about how we use the blankets for support in asanas later on.

    So go back and be clear about how to fold the wool blankets into their storage fold.   It's simple -- three folds made width-wise -- but easy to mistake; and if you attend classes at a yoga school, you will certainly find many blankets that are folded improperly lying in the storage pile.

    One fold we often make from the storage fold is to fold the blanket in half this time length-wise to make a bolster sort of shape:

    Obviously, this fold also has a "neat" edge (in the front on the left below) and, turning the blanket around 180 degrees, a "loose" edge (in the front on the right below):

    If you view this fold from the short ends, you will also see they have neat and loose sides, left and right respectively below:

    In the photo below, there are two blankets in this bolster-type of fold.   In the blanket on the left, the neat, short side is in front and the neat, long side faces toward the middle.   In the blanket on the right, the neat, short side is in the back toward the wall, and the neat, long side is again facing toward the middle.   Observing these differences is important because, if you will fold a blanket this way, you will see that the neat long edge is a bit taller than the loose long edge and the neat edge provides much firmer, more stable support, if you sit on that edge for instance.   The same is true of the short edges regarding height, firmness, and stability.

    So, suppose for giggles we stack two blankets folded in this bolster-manner.   there would be several different ways of stacking them.   Most importantly, you could stack the blankets so both of the neat, long edges were on one side (shown in the left photo below), or you could stack them so that the neat sides were on alternate sides of the stack (shown in the right photo below).   Note also in the left photo, the neat, short ends have been placed on alternate sides of the stack, whereas in the right photo, the neat, short ends have been put together and face the front:

    None of these permutations of stacking are "correct" or "incorrect."   They are all useful for different purposes.

    The best way to illustrate why knowledge of the ways of folding the blankets is useful is to show how the blankets are used to support different asanas.

    (The remainder of this page is under construction.   Thanks for your patience.)