You shower after class. You wash your yoga clothes. But if you’re not cleaning your yoga mat you could be exposing yourself to dangerous germs.
Bacteria from your skin and floor can colonize on your mat causing infection. Not worried yet? Your yoga mat could be harboring more bacteria than your cell phone, which you’re directly exposing vulnerable areas of your skin including your face. Using a dirty mat can expose you to a myriad of diseases including the common cold and flu, rash, athlete’s foot, coryne bacteria that causes acne, planter’s warts (caused by the herpes virus) staff infections and even MRSA.
So what’s a yogi to do? The best protection is to purchase your own mat and bring it to class with you. Sharing mats greatly increases your risk of getting an infection. However, you can still get sick from your own germs and germs your pick up at the studio, so even if you have your own mat always clean your mat after class (see some of my mat cleaning tips here) and be sure it is completely dry before putting it away. I also recommend folding your mat in half before rolling it to keep the top as clean as possible. If you must borrow a mat, don’t rely on the student before you or the studio to have cleaned it for you. Take responsibility for your own health by cleaning the mat thoroughly before using it, preferably with an alcohol based cleaner or Lysol spray. Before you leave be courteous to the next student and give the mat a good wipe down after class. If you’re sick, consider skipping class and keep rashes, warts, etc. covered. Using products such as a personal mat towel, yoga socks, yoga mitts and keeping as much of your skin covered as possible can also reduce your exposer to unwanted infections. Finally, don’t forget the importance of good hand washing before and after class.
Keeping your mat clean is practicing saucha, or cleanliness, a key self-discipline in the yoga tradition and is just good hygiene. Don’t allow an infection from a dirty mat cause you to be uncomfortable or keep you from your practice.