Dirty Little Secrets of a Yoga Mat

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Yoga is supposed to be restorative and promote good health and well-being, so would it surprise you to know that the mats you’re practicing on are filthier than a toilet seat in a public restroom?

The subject of cleanliness inside a yoga studio is a topic not often discussed, however there is a very real risk of contracting infections from yoga mats and floors not properly disinfected (spoiler alert: most studios aren’t doing it properly).

According to the Vice President of Beth Israel Medical Center, Dr. Robert Lahita, “[People can transfer] herpes infections, and you can get plantar warts from the herpes. You can get staph infections, MRSA being the worst, or impetigo, which is a strep infection. And there’s coryne bacteria, that causes acne. Then there’s all sorts of toenail funguses that can be left on the mat,” Lahita says.

Add to this that many yoga studios are kept at warm temperatures and you have a veritable incubator for these fungi and bacteria to grow and multiply.

Whether you own a studio or just attend classes, you owe to to your clients and to yourself to ensure mats and floors are properly disinfected to protect from all those fungi and bacteria lurking on the mats and in the pools of sweat on the floor.

If you own your own studio:

  1. Make sure that all mats and flooring are sprayed down with an EPA-registered broad-spectrum quaternary disinfectant - don’t worry your students won’t need a gas mask - many come in nice, light scents or unscented.

  2. Ensure that the chemicals are allowed proper “dwell time” or the time that it takes to actually kill these bacteria and fungi - it’s not just spray and wipe, often times these chemicals have dwell times of up to 10 minutes.

  3. Floors and mats (both sides) must be cleaned in this manner between each and every class to protect all students equally from harmful infections.

If you practice at a yoga studio (but don’t own one):

  1. Bring your own mat if possible

  2. Question the studio as to what their cleaning and disinfection procedures are and keep an eye out between classes to see what cleaning is actually being done.

  3. If you forget your mat or cannot bring your own, wipe down the front and back with liquid alcohol disinfectants that also contain a detergent, such as Lysol spray, Handi Wipes, or any disinfectant that uses an alcohol- or chlorine-based formula. Please remember that soap and water or vinegar (like many naturalists tout) are not effective in killing many bacteria, viruses or fungi.

  4. Wear socks unless standing on your own, clean mat. Unfortunately many studios merely Swiffer the floors between classes (or do nothing at all) - leaving the floors caked with germs that can transfer to you via your bare feet.

Conclusion

By practicing some mindful cleaning, yoga studios can be a better, safer place for everyone and you can Chaturunga in peace.