Many of your workouts are done in sneakers. Boot camp? Lace up the sneakers. Hitting the treadmill? You’ll need those running shoes. At other times, however, a barefoot approach is required. Pilates, barre and yoga classes will likely all be taken barefoot. And they will also involve the use of a yoga mat.
What’s Lurking in Your Apparently Clean Yoga Mat
Whether you borrow a mat or bring your own to class, it might not be as clean as you think it is. In fact, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) could be lurking in between the grooves, just waiting to infect you with…plantar warts.
When you make direct contact with any form of HPV, it can infect your skin through a scratch or minor wound. Once you are infected, you will notice a thickening of your skin; soon afterward, one or more plantar warts will emerge.
In the early stages of infection, HPV can be hard to detect—the infection may look like a series of pinpoints on the bottom of your foot. At other times, the infection manifests as a thickening of your skin, interrupting the normal series of lines on the bottom of your foot. If you notice warts at this stage, it’s a great time to see your podiatrist, so you can diagnose and treat them before they become large and painful and, more importantly, before they start to spread!
Of course, we have an even better suggestion for you: protect your feet from this invasive infection with preventative care and proper cleaning! Not sure how to do this? Just read on for detailed instructions.
The Right Way to Maintain Yoga Mat Hygiene
Before you come to your mat, give your hands and feet a nice wash with soap and warm water. This will stop many germs from coming into contact with—and getting absorbed by—your mat.
After every practice, run a damp cloth on your mat to wipe it down. Spray water on the cloth, not the mat, and begin wiping, paying extra attention to the spots where your hands and feet have left their marks. Allow your mat to fully dry before you roll it up.
While these wipe downs are important, they aren’t sufficient to fully protect you from lingering viruses. For yogis who practice on a regular basis, you should properly wash your mat at least once a month.
You can do the thorough cleanse with a ready-made cleaner, and use the instructions provided there. Or you can make your own solution.
Taking a specially designed cleansing solution, gently spray your mat or apply the cleanser with a soft sponge. When it’s time to rinse it off, the easiest way to get your mat fully clean is to simply stick it in the shower until all the solution runs off.
Roll your mat up with a towel on top to absorb the bulk of the excess liquid, then unroll your mat and hang it up until it’s fully dry. Now your mat is squeaky clean, wart free and ready to use!
Proper Yoga Mat Storage
Now, before we sign off, a final note on mat storage. Have you ever noticed that, in the yoga studio, your mats are left hanging up between uses? That’s a great idea at home as well. Instead of storing yoga mats rolled up (which is, admittedly, convenient for space constraints) leave it unrolled whenever you can, so fresh air gives it breathing room. A constant, tight roll, especially if you left any moisture on the mat after its last wipe down, could create a perfect breeding ground for foot fungus.
So remember: clean hands and feet; water wipe downs after every practice; monthly deep cleans; and proper storage, and you should be on your way to a wart-free barefoot practice.