Yoga Mats and Infections

Treat your yoga mat like a personal item and don't share it.
i Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

There are numerous reasons for practicing yoga, but picking up someone else’s germs is definitely not one of them. "Yoga Journal" says cleanliness is an essential part of the yoga self-discipline. Even though yoga studios clean and sanitize mats, floors and facilities, yogis can still develop infections. Don’t stop doing yoga because of the threat of germs, but do learn how these microorganisms are spread and what you can do to protect yourself.

What Types of Infections Can You Get?

If you are using a communal mat at the yoga studio, you are increasing your risk of developing viral infections such as plantar warts and herpes along with bacterial infections such as Staphylococcus and impetigo. Athlete’s foot, toenail fungus and ringworm are the more common fungal infections found lurking on yoga mats. Communal mats are also breeding grounds for the common cold and influenza.

How Are Yoga Mat Infections Spread?

According to "Yoga Journal", the majority of germs are spread through either direct contact with a person carrying the disease or indirect contact from touching an object or surface contaminated with germs. Bacteria will live on surfaces anywhere from hours to days after a contagious person was last in contact with them. That’s where the yoga mat comes into play. Most fungal, viral and bacterial organisms prefer the humidity and warmth of yoga mats. You touch your hands to your face, body parts and floor repeatedly during yoga poses, which increases the risk of infection. If you have either dry skin that is cracked or wet skin, you are even more likely to develop an infection.

How Do You Get Rid of Infections Once You Get Them?

The best way to take care of any type of infection is to visit your family doctor so she can diagnose the infection and prescribe appropriate medications. You can treat mild athlete’s foot with an infusion of neem leaves mixed with garlic oil and tea tree oil. Apply this to your thoroughly dried feet after showering. Neem, garlic and tea tree all have anti-fungal properties.

Preventative Measures

There are a number of preventative measures you can take to protect yourself and greatly reduce your chances of contracting an infection from a contaminated yoga mat. The first defense is to purchase and use your own mat and don’t allow anyone else to use it. Yoga gloves and socks will offer you additional protection. Unless you are apt to get overheated, keep your skin covered with long yoga pants and a shirt with sleeves. Use an alcohol-based skin sanitizer on your hands and feet before your yoga session and immediately afterwards. Scrub your mat regularly using a solution made of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. Keep your feet dry and use antiperspirant on them if necessary. Lastly, apply moisturizer to your skin to eliminate dry, cracked skin that makes it easier for germs to infect you.

the nest