yoga hygiene: a response

Today my studio published a guest post from Yoga Peach on how to maintain good hygiene when practicing hot yoga. When you are practicing hot yoga on a regular basis, having a good hygiene routine is a must. Having a daily practice can easily result in the accumulation of heaps of sweat-soaked yoga clothes, towels, and mats. When left wadded up in a car or in the bottom of a laundry basket, a real bacteria and odor problem can result.

I’d like to add a few points to the topic, and maybe even contest a few points made in Yoga Peach’s post.

1. You’ve Got Some Time
First, bad body odor is a result of bacteria growth. That means if you are clean and if your clothes are clean, you will not develop a bad odor during class, or in the hour or so after class. That means you *can* stop by the store for a quick coconut water purchase because, if you were clean to begin with, you probably won’t start to develop an odor until you’ve “sat in it for awhile,” which is not something I advocate…especially if you want to maintain a long-term yoga practice, friends, and loved ones.

2. Women Can Be More Sensitive to Odor
It seems that men tend to be less sensitive to odor than women. While I’m sure that I could link to quick research that supports my claim, I’ll just use this anecdote: my appliance repair guy recently told me that women are far more likely than men are to smell a gas leak in the house or an extinguished pilot light. The take away is that men who practice hot yoga need to be that much more diligent about cleanliness because what goes unnoticed by the man might be distractingly strong to the woman practicing next to him.

3. Launder Your Mat
Cleaning the mat is a must. In addition to wiping down the mat with your studio’s cleaning solutions, vinegar water, and/or other natural cleansers, did you know that most yoga mats can also be laundered in the washing machine? It’s true! Using a washing machine can be a great way to more thoroughly clean your yoga mat. (Disclaimer: You’ll want to double check the specs of your mat and your washing machine before proceeding.) This practice can reduce the overall lifespan of a mat, so it’s not a good option for daily cleaning. It’s more of a “once in a while” type of thing. I learned this “washing machine” tip from a fellow yogi who also laundered new mats to get rid of the slick, plastic film that some “sticky” mats have when they are brand new. If you use the washing machine, remember that you should let your mat dry completely before using it again. Because mats are made of varying degrees of thickness and materials, they usually take much longer to dry than lightweight towels. Plan accordingly.

4. Follow a Routine
I’m doing a 30-day Bikram challenge right now, so keeping up with hygiene is an essential daily practice. When I leave yoga, I follow a strict routine. I live very close to my studio, so I usually drive home and shower there. I immediately launder my towel and clothes and hang my mat to dry. If I cannot launder the clothes immediately, I hang them to dry. This is a daily (and somewhat time consuming) practice. However, if I do not practice this ritual, the various fabrics will develop an odor. It’s gross, I know, but it’s the reality of hot yoga.

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