Marianna Manson | Contributing Writer | Wednesday, 13 April 2016

These Are All The (Gross) Germs Lurking In Your Yoga Mat

These Are All The (Gross) Germs Lurking In Your Yoga Mat

The Debrief: Maybe yoga is actually really bad for you and your evening would be better off spent watching telly and eating Pringles. Maybe.

Yoga is the biggest thing since sliced bread. Probably almost literally.

Sure , it’s been a big deal for years, with JenAn and Gwenneth and hundreds of other beautiful high-profile women attributing their enviably toned bods to half an hours practice each morning (obviously nothing to do with pricey nutritionists and scary ex military personal trainers) It follows on that over the last decade or so, yoga has filtered through the societal ranks and is now broadly accessible to us mere mortals – my gym has 10 various yoga and pilates classes on just this afternoon and two of the girls in the office are planning on getting their downward dog on after work. A yoga mat under the (perfectly sculpted) arm is as an essential a fashion accessory as an oversized pair of sunnies.

Which is why we at the Debrief think it’s imperative to warn you, the discerning yogi, of the ominous dangers lurking in your favorite workout.

Or, more specifically, your yoga mat. Some amateur science enthusiasts over at US Elle have conducted some seemingly legitimate research which says that our yoga mats are harvesting shit-tonnes of gross bacteria, which have the potential to counter all the good stuff we’re doing for our health and wellbeing with the yoga itself. After sending samples collected from yoga mats across New York City (mecca for sweaty yoga-lovers, I assume) off to a lab to be analysed, they reported that (the average mat plays host to loads of illness-causing bacteria and fungi. Two common types of bacteria, Empedobacter braves and Micrococcus lutes, standardly found in the human respiratory system (meaning they can contribute to coughs and colds) showed up in droves. So if someone who is ill has had their face down on the mat, or spluttered or dribbled on it (it happens) during their cool down, it’s likely that that their lurgies will hang around for quite a while. And if you’re using a mat borrowed from a gym which hasn’t been cleaned for 4 or 5 uses, your chances of contracting something nasty are majorly increased.

What makes yoga mats particularly excellent breeding grounds for germs is the fact that they spend a lot of time being warm and moist (from hot, sweaty bodies), and are largely made up of little holes for aeration. These pockets are literally the perfect space for organisms to thrive, and with the rise of hot and Bikrim yoga, these bacteria are on track for world domination.

Most of this stuff is treatable with antibiotics, and isn’t dangerous unless you have an immunodeficiency disorder (undoing the health and wellbeing benefits I spoke about earlier? Yeah, that.) But Elle points out that there are more serious yucky things that turned up in their samples, like ‘strep, flesh-eating strep and varieties of staph.’

'Both staph (staphylococcus aureus) and strep (streptococcus aureus) can cause quite nasty infections,' says Clarissa Coveney, a researcher at Oxford University. 'Staph can be treated with antibiotics but MRSA includes a strain that is immune to them. Strep can even cause things like bacterial pneumonia and meningitis.'

The most obvious away to avoid illness is to bring your own yoga mat next time you go to class, and make sure you wash and dry it thoroughly between each use. But sometimes, it’s just too much of a pain in the arse to add a mat to rest of the copious amount of crap you have to lug around in your cavernous handbag each day.

Elle suggests skipping the gym if you’re ill, to reduce the risk of spreading infection.

Any excuse to spend the evening jamming on the sofa works for me.

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Tags: Health