For anyone who has ever taken a yoga class, you know that it can get hot and sweaty very quickly. And while taking a yoga class offers so many physical and mental health benefits, if you’re like me, you can’t help but wonder about all of the germs exchanged. Bacteria, viruses, and germs love the hot, humid, and sweaty environments that exist in yoga studios. And many people don't know that unlike gyms—that follow the International Health & Sports Club Association Guidelines—yoga studios aren’t subject to strict sanitary standards.
The bacteria and viruses in your yoga class.
Yoga mats are especially susceptible to the germs and bacteria present in a yoga studio and can linger long after savasana has ended. Bacteria can survive on a surface for several hours to days, while viruses can survive longer and even linger for weeks. Making skin contact with a dirty yoga mat covered in germs and bacteria can lead to skin infections, acne, toenail fungus and even transfer of the herpes virus and staph and strep infections in susceptible individuals. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are some ways you can minimize your exposure to these germs and keep your yoga practice clean and hygienic while focusing on all of the positive and beneficial aspects that yoga has to offer.
Cleaning your yoga mat.
First and foremost, invest in a quality yoga mat and make sure to bring it with you to every class—instead of using the yoga mats that the studio or gym provides to ensure you are practicing on a clean surface. You don’t know how frequently those yoga mats are being cleaned between classes, and you can cut out the guesswork by just bringing your own. If one person is sick and goes to yoga class, chances are those germs are still lingering on the mat and can be passed along to you. There are so many great yoga mat companies out there; some companies are even starting to make self-cleaning yoga mats that use silver technology to protect you from germs and lingering odors. Next, remember to disinfect your mat before and after each use. Even if you bring your own mat, you can’t guarantee how clean the floors are at the studio, and your mat has the potential to pick up germs from other people’s sweat and feet. Using a nontoxic cleaner, wipe, or spray and after each use will help minimize the spreading of germs and bacteria.
Reducing the spread of germs.
If you forget to bring your mat and you end up using a borrowed one, be sure to clean the borrowed mat with a disinfectant before and after you use it, lay a towel down on top of the mat so you minimize direct skin contact, and try to avoid touching your face during class. An average person touches their face about 18 times per hour, which greatly contributes to the passing of germs back and forth. After each and every yoga class, be sure to clean up and shower directly after class at the studio or gym. It doesn’t hurt to shower before class, too, if you have the time or give your hands and feet a quick rinse. If you have to wait until you get home to shower after class, be sure to at least wash your hands before you leave to clean off those germs.