Many yoga studios offer free use of communal yoga mats for members, but would you really want to use a free-for-all yoga mat over your own? Unsurprisingly, swab tests studio yoga mats, like other equipment at a regular gym, show that yoga mats are full of germs and bacteria.
Most bacteria found living on yoga mats could be harmless skin bacteria that are natural and should not pose any concern. But others could cause more serious ailments such as athlete’s foot and even herpes and e-coli!
Although some studios do their best to wipe down their mats at the start of each day or after each use, some may not be so vigilant. Although using communal yoga mats on a regular basis can bring you into direct contact with nasty germs, even your own personal yoga mat may harbour the same bacteria.
Proper care for yoga mat and good hygiene practices are all-important to keeping yourself healthy and clean during yoga so you can focus on your asana and Om in peace. Here are ten tips on how to clean your yoga mat properly:
1. Wipe down your mat and let it dry completely before rolling it up
Germs thrive in moist dark places so rolling it up while it’s still sweaty or wet from your yoga mat spray is the worst thing you can do. Whether you use disposable yoga mat wipes or a spray, make sure it air dries completely, or use a dry towel to wipe off all moisture before storing it after each use.
2. Wash your hands, feet, and face after yoga.
Proper personal hygiene is the best way to keep yourself germ-free. Your hands come into contact with so many surfaces that bacteria sticks to and your hands transfer that bacteria to all other surfaces you touch as well. Who knows how many hands and feet added to the colony of germs and bacteria that live on a communal yoga mat. Even if you don’t know what cleaning procedures your gym or yoga studio follows, you can keep those germs out of your body by giving your hands and feet a good washing with soap after your yoga session and remember not to touch your face until you have done so to prevent those germs and bacteria from entering your body through your nose, eyes, or mouth.
3. Wear clean clothes on a communal yoga mat or put a towel between you and the mat if you’re at a nude yoga class
Minimize the amount of skin contact you make with a communal yoga mat by wearing clean clothes to yoga class and/or putting a towel as a barrier between you and the mat at every class. Also change out of your sweaty yoga clothes after class not only to
4. Don’t go to the yoga studio when you’re sick
One sneeze or cough can spread bacteria which will get onto everyone else’s yoga mats. Help to minimize the spread of germs in your yoga community by giving yourself ample time to heal before going back to a group yoga class.
5. Spray your yoga mat with a bleach and water dilution or chlorine
Although we would love to exclusively use chemical-free, natural yoga mat sprays, unfortunately, they just won’t cut it for stronger, and more dangerous bacterial infections no matter how much tea tree oil it’s got in it. Consider giving your mat a good disinfecting spray and wipe down twice a month to minimize harmful chemical use and still keep your yoga mat and yourself clean and germ-free.
6. Wash your mat in a washing machine once a week
Check the label and care instructions of your mat before you put in the the machine though. Use a mild detergent and cold water setting. Hang it up to dry completely on a line before rolling it up again. It may also help to use a hot setting on your washing machine to kill any unwanted germs and bacteria – Just make sure the care label of the mat allows you to do this!
7. Don’t touch the lid or lip of your water bottle
Especially if you use a pull-top water bottle and don’t wash your hands first. All the bacteria from your mat can transfer to your mat to your water bottle and straight into your body when you drink. Luckily, your stomach and digestive track contains a multitude of good bacteria and acid to kill any minor invaders but it’s always better to keep dirty hands away from your water source.
8. Bring your own yoga props
It’s not only communal yoga mats that can harbour germs, fungus, and bacteria. Communal yoga mats are also thriving breeding grounds. Blankets, bolsters, blocks, wheels, and other yoga props are used just as much as yoga mats and often are washed even less. So if you use props in your yoga practice, you might want to bring your own to your next class or ask your studio what cleaning practices they follow for their props, if any.
9. Bring your own yoga mat
When you start to go deeper into your yoga practice, you may want to invest in your own yoga mat so that you can practice your asana and meditation wherever you are and not just in the yoga studio. Many mats are travel-friendly and even have anti-bacterial properties such as sustainable cork.
10. Ditch the mat, use a washable cotton rug
Yoga mats are a relatively new invention to yoga and toting one around has even become a status symbol and chic fashion accessory. But many who practice traditional yoga in India don’t even use mats. Many who have traveled to Mysore, India even swear by their hand-woven cotton yoga rugs which they practice on and easily toss in the washing machine or hand-wash regularly.
The good news is most of the bacteria that has been found living on communal yoga mats are relatively harmless and it’s really extremely rare to catch anything serious. But cases of skin infections and athlete’s foot have been on the rise for those who go to yoga classes so it’s best not to take your chances and always put a barrier between you and the mat when using a communal yoga mat at your next class.