Why Your Yoga Mat Is a Breeding Ground for Bacteria (and What You Can Do About It)
This article originally appeared on Yoganonymous.com.
Dear Yoga Mat,
You are nasty.
Dr. Robert Lahita was recently interviewed by ELLE, where he disclosed what actually happens inside the fibers of your yoga mat. Lahita is a Rutgers University professor of medicine, has a PhD in microbiology, and is a regular yoga practitioner who gives real-life advice on what you can do to minimize the potency of the bacteria breeding ground, also known as your yoga mat.
Lahita describes the yoga mat as an "inanimate object used to spread an infection." He states that yoga mats are "perfect incubator[s] for many of our skin infections." Why? "The [rented] yoga mat is a very fertile source for infection, mainly because people sweat on them and they rarely are cleaned."
This goes for most studio mats, but not so much personal mats. Studio mats are subject to use by multiple people before they get a chance to be cleaned, which means they have chance after chance to be exposed to viruses, bacteria, and fungi—like staph infection, and ringworm.
ELLE reporter, Melissa Locker, did her own swab tests on rentable mats in New York City, and what she found may surprise you. Her yoga mats tested positive for "micrococcus luteus, and empedobacter brevis."
"Micrococcus luteus lives in human mouths, noses, and upper respiratory tracts, meaning that someone had probably coughed or sneezed all over the mat without cleaning it afterwards. While m. luteus is gross, it's mostly harmless for those with healthy immune systems." The same goes for the other bacteria found in the mats, empedobacter brevis, which typically causes infections in those who have compromised immune systems.
What does Dr. Lahita have to say about this? "Many of these organisms [found on the mats]…live on the skin and are fairly harmless. I advise people to clean their mats with a Lysol spray or bleach diluted in water [to kill off] scarier bacteria, like staph and MRSA."
Bringing your own mat is a sure-fire way to reduce your risk of picking up unwanted bacteria, but be sure to be diligent with your own mat's cleaning as well—your neighbor's misstep onto your mat may be tracking athlete's foot!