Ah, the gym. What a place.
The evolution of gyms in the last twenty years is an entire story of its own. Gyms have evolved. Many gyms started out as smelly rooms with low lights and a bunch of random fitness equipment. Now there are multi-story, multi-room gyms with music, field trips, classes, trainers, food, spas, even DJs. Yep, live DJs at the gym.
For most of you though, the gym is a welcome place to find your zone, get in it, and stay there for a while to strengthen self-confidence, push your body’s performance, and release endorphins so you walk away relaxed and happy.
While gyms have been going through this long and somewhat strange metamorphosis, gym equipment has been evolving along with them. Fitness clothing is fashionable and made from exotic space-age materials. Bags come in all shapes and sizes and are filled with everything from bottles with nutritional supplements to masks that restrict oxygen and simulate training at high elevation. Fitness bags have evolved from general purpose duffel bags to sport-specific: tennis bags that carry two tennis rackets, yoga bags that carry rolled up yoga mats.
One of the best things to come along in the evolution of gym bags is a solution for separating dirty clothes (OK Bikram practitioners, yes, we mean SWEATY clothes) from clean clothes. Dirty clothes were a real issue before bag manufacturers figured this one out. What were you supposed to do with your stinky top with sweat marks under the arms and radioactive socks that needed to be quarantined from everything else in your bag until you could throw them directly into the washing machine? (The towel trick was the best go-to solution: get out of the shower, bunch up your sweaty clothes, roll them up in the towel, stuff it all into your gym bag, maybe spray the whole mess with some body spray, and hope for the best.)
If you practice hot yoga, you know what we’re talking about here. After a good strong Bikram practice, it’s sometimes difficult even to peel your clothing off. And there’s absolutely no way that outfit is making it through another practice without a thorough wash.
But it’s not just Bikram or hot yoga; a nice long asana practice in any kind of warm weather will likely leave you sweaty enough that your practice clothing will be headed right for the washing machine. And if you have a good bag, you’re lucky enough to have either a separate compartment or a standalone bag inside the bag to toss your sweaty yoga clothes inside for the trip home.
Which brings up a question: which is better, stuffing your dirty gym clothes into a separate compartment in your bag, or stuffing them into a separate bag that you then stuff into the bigger bag? The better one is probably the standalone “wet bag”. First of all you can wash the wet bag on its own when it gets funky, instead of having to wash your entire gym bag when the sweaty clothes compartment gets funky. Second, you can smush the wet bag into a small lump in the bottom of your bag if you want to make room for other stuff in the bag, And third, you can leave it out altogether if you have no need for it that day or you want to multi-purpose your bag for something else (we’re big fans of this idea).
Now here’s where the problem comes in. Until recently, there wasn’t really a bag that was made for holding sweaty clothes, and a yoga mat, and maybe even some clean clothes too. Sure, you could get by with a big duffel bag that was big enough for a mat, do the towel trick to separate your gym clothing from everything else, and deal with it all when you got home. Or maybe use a small bag to stuff your dirty clothes in, and put the small bag in the big bag. But this only goes so far.
Most likely, you were using two different bags or backpacks to get the job done: a yoga mat strap or mat bag for your mat, and a backpack or gym bag for your clothes, toiletries, and so on.
In other words, there are gym bags that can come along for the ride to asana practice, and there are yoga bags that can come along for the ride to the gym, but they’ve always lived in somewhat separate worlds. Getting them to play along nicely together, well…no one had got around to solving that problem.
A big part of this problem is the simple question of how on earth a gym bag is supposed to accommodate a yoga mat. Truth be told, yoga mats are not the easiest shape to deal with, and definitely not easy to adapt to normal gym bags. No one wants to fold their mat, but rolling it up makes it a long thin shape that doesn’t fit anywhere easily.
So for most yogis, the first question when looking at a bag for the gym or a yoga class is almost always, “Where does the mat go? Where’s the mat compartment?” This is often followed by questions like “Will it fit a yoga block? How about a water bottle? How about two mats rolled up together?” Yep, we’ve asked those questions too. A lot.
And if the mat’s not enough of a boggle, add the sweaty clothing problem in to the mix and who knows where you’ll end up. Until recently, it wasn’t anywhere good.
So putting these problems together, you could describe the ideal yoga gym bag as something that will easily accommodate a yoga mat, and that will also keep your sweaty gym stuff away from the rest of your not-sweaty stuff. Put this all together into one bag or backpack and your trips to asana practice will hopefully be more unified. And unity after all is the purpose of our yoga practice, both on and off the mat.
Have we solved this problem? Well, that’s for you to decide. We think we’ve done a pretty good job addressing this whole gym-yoga dualism thing. If you want a gym bag with a yoga mat compartment, you’ve got one. And if you want to think about it as a yoga mat bag with enough room for a bunch of gym stuff, that’s cool too.
Bonus: solving the problem of gym bags living in harmony with yoga mats and sweaty clothes has a beneficial side effect: it also solves other related problems. Problems like how to bike to yoga class with your mat. How to keep your water bottle or yoga block nearby without using bags in ways they’re not intended. How to combine all of your bags and backpacks and purses and toiletry pouches together into something that does everything you need, and does it well.