As a yoga devotee and general fitness fanatic, I often use communal exercise equipment when I’m traveling or unexpectedly drop into a class after work. I’ve been wondering lately about scientific studies specifically looking at surfaces such as yoga mats, but after a quick literature search it seems that knowledge is thin in this area. If you know of any papers, please do let me know, but in the meantime I found two interesting articles:
In this Philadelphia Magazine article, “Penn dermatology professor Elizabeth Grice, whose research focuses on skin-bacteria microbes, says that while there are no specific studies involving yoga mats, it’s likely that bacteria from your skin could get on your mat, colonize (ew), and cause infection. Since bacteria thrive in warm, dark, moist environments, rolling up your yoga mat while it’s still wet, from sweat or cleaning, is the worst thing you can do.” Grice advises us to never share our yoga mat, and says you should always try to bring your own equipment to class.
And according to another article in Yoga Journal, “Unlike restaurants (overseen by health departments) and gyms (following guidelines set by the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association), yoga studios aren’t subject to strict sanitary standards.” The article goes on to describe some good tips and best practices for reducing your risk of infections when going to yoga class, since not all studios have high cleanliness standards.
And then there’s the new trend of “Naked Yoga” – which just seems like a bad idea in general, given the fabric barrier and microbe protection that clothes usually offer…