My favorite part about any yoga class is the last ten minutes when we lie in Shavasana and practice gratitude. As someone with anxiety, I often struggle to sit in silence with my thoughts, but after an intense series of upward and downward dogs, I quickly melt into my mat. As I lay there, my body is soaking up all the bacteria that reside on my yoga mat (especially if I took a hot yoga class). When your mat is not sanitized, this pore-clogging bacteria can lead to breakouts on both your face and body.
“Yoga mats can harbor bacteria that can contribute to acne and skin infections, particularly if they are not cleaned properly,” says New York City dermatologist Hadley King, M.D. “Species of Staph and Strep bacteria can be found on yoga mats and can lead to skin infections like folliculitis or furuncles. And Propionibacterium acnes is a type of bacteria that can contribute to acne, and it also can be found on yoga mats,” she adds.
Species of Staph and Strep bacteria can be found on yoga mats and can lead to skin infections.
While most breakouts can be traced back to hormones, diet or lack of a quality skincare routine, yoga-related pimples can often be remedied with the proper mat cleaning techniques.
Wipe Down Your Mat
You should always use an antibacterial spray or wipe disinfectant to clean your mat after every session. German model Alisa Ahmann, a Y7 Studio devotee, likes to use natural sprays like Dr. Bronner Organic Lavender Hand Sanitizer on her mat, aside from just her hands. After spritzing onto your mat (do not overdo it), you can wipe it down with a clean towel.
Cynthia Rowley’s daughter Kit Keenan, who can always be found working out, prefers to use Greenshield Organic Surface Wipes. Mat wipes are the most convenient options and can quickly be tossed into a gym bag, but their main downfall is how much waste they can create. Most natural wipes are made with essential oils and citric acid or tea tree oil to disinfect.
Deep Clean Your Mat
King suggests washing your mat with antibacterial soap weekly to get the gunk out. One option is to hose your mat outside with water, scrub with a sponge and soap, then rinse. Another option is to submerge your mat in the bathtub for a few minutes. Use warm water and a tablespoon of antibacterial soap. Once the mat has softened, drain the tub and rinse the soap off by running it under the shower. For both options, make sure the soap is properly rinsed out and then let the mat air-dry. Do not skimp out on drying time, as the mat could develop mold. It takes around a day or two to dry out, so plan accordingly.
Throw Your Mat Into Wash
Once a month, King recommends an even deeper clean. Check the care label to be sure, but most mats can be thrown into the washing machine on a cold delicate cycle, but it is best to not throw in the dryer. “The heat of a dryer is likely to shorten the lifespan of a yoga mat, so I recommend air drying or use a low temperature in the dryer,” she adds.
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