Many say that yoga is just the newest fitness fad, like running was in the 80s, but its ease of entry and growing popularity seem to indicate differently. Gyms and yoga studios across the nation are offering dozens of classes, from Hatha for beginners, to Bikram and Vinyasa for the yogi looking for a more intense experience. As more and more interested parties begin taking part in classes, risks associated with yoga tend to increase. There’s an invisible risk that is becoming more and more common in yoga studios and classes.
Just about anyone who currently practices yoga has spent time in a gym-setting at some point in their lives, whether it be riding a stationary bike to burn some calories, or pushing out extra reps on a weight machine. Sweat is a common sight, and gym staff does it’s best to keep machines clean, but it’s inevitable that a machine may not be disinfected thoroughly by the time you jump on for your set. While we all may be collectively grossed out at the thought of someone else’s sweat touching us on a bench or row machine, take a minute to consider what other areas of the gym may be covered in someone else’s sweat.
While devoted yoga enthusiasts usually own a personal yoga mat that they bring with them to classes, many of the 20 million who participate aren’t as devout, and simply grab a mat from the pile in the corner of the class. Without getting too gross, imagine the person who used that mat before you had just ran 6 miles on the treadmill before their class, ran in, ripped off their shoes and socks, and got right into the swing of the class. This is an all too common occurrence, and a recipe for infection.
The New York Times contacted a number of national gym chains to inquire about their policies for cleaning yoga mats, and found that most aim to clean their mats “thoroughly” once per week. The definition of cleaning varies from gym to gym, with one major chain claiming mats are wiped with a disinfectant every other day and are machine washed twice a month. Another gym manager, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed that their mats were machine washed “maybe every other month.” With unsafe cleaning and disinfecting practices seeming to be common around the nation, what can you do to protect yourself from infections such as staph, MRSA, athlete’s foot, Strep and even the common flu?
1. Purchase a Personal Yoga Mat-Being able to control who uses your mat (only you!) is key to minimizing yourself to potential infectious contaminations. When purchasing a mat, consider the amount you will use it, space it takes up (for home or studio use), thickness and texture, as well as how easy it is to clean after use.
2. Equip Yourself with EPA-Approved Disinfectant Spray-Sure, gyms often provide a spray bottle with some concoction of cleaner that may or may not have disinfecting qualities, but do you know that it really works? What’s to say the person before you used it? Consider purchasing a personal bottle of workout disinfectant that you keep in your gym bag and use during workouts or yoga classes. Clear Gear Sports Spray is one of the most comprehensive disinfectant sprays available to the public. It protects against over 40 infections, viruses, and fungi, and is available in 8oz, 24oz, and comes in bottles that will easily fit in your gym bag.
3. Avoid Carpeted Yoga Studios-Lovers of Bikram may not be happy to hear this, but having carpeted floors in a 100+ degree room with dozens of people pouring sweat is a hotbed for infection! As displayed by the NY Times report, most gyms don’t follow as rigorous of a cleaning regiment as they should, and cleaning and disinfecting a carpeted floor is a much more time-consuming task that wiping down equipment and washing yoga mats.
Hopefully with some of this newfound knowledge, yogis will be able to help others, both newcomers and veterans alike, protect themselves from a very preventable experience of infection while practicing yoga in a studio or gym. Have any other suggestions on ways to prevent infection while taking part in yoga? Leave them in the comments below!